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As we previously noted here, the SJC earlier this year issued its opinion affirming Judge Leibensperger’s decision in a matter arising out of the EMC-Dell merger. Taken together, those decisions set a landmark in Massachusetts corporate governance law by delineating the fiduciary duties of directors of Massachusetts corporations and differentiating them from Delaware’s precepts. EMC’s counsel, Tom Dougherty and Kurt Hemr, published an insightful Special Commentary about those decisions as a preface to the 2017 edition of CSC Lexis/Nexis Massachusetts Laws Governing Business Entities Annotated. We recommend the Special Commentary to our readers, which can be found here.

Note: Nutter filed an amicus brief with the SJC in this matter on behalf of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

Judge Salinger addressed an issue that divides federal district courts: Do state courts have subject matter jurisdiction over covered class actions under the Securities Act of 1933? Judge Salinger answered, in Fortunato v. Akebia Therapeutics, Inc., et al., that state courts have concurrent jurisdiction over these claims.

As we previously noted, Judge Kaplan invalidated a directive issued by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR). Directive 17-1 would have required internet vendors outside of Massachusetts to collect and remit sales taxes to the DOR where certain thresholds of product sales into Massachusetts were met. Judge Kaplan ruled that because the directive substantially altered the rights and interests of internet vendors, the directive amounted to an improperly imposed regulation. That was chapter one.

In the American Catalog litigation, Judge Kaplan invalidated a directive issued by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR).

Although this blog focuses on BLS cases, a recent decision from the First Circuit merits attention here. The case highlights a key difference between federal and state practice on Chapter 93A claims, which are as commonly asserted in Massachusetts civil litigation as streets are jammed with traffic in Boston. In Full Spectrum Software, Inc. v. Forte Automation Systems, Inc., the First Circuit ruled that there is a right to a jury trial for Chapter 93A claims pending in federal court, at least in certain circumstances. The Supreme Judicial Court decided years ago in Nei v. Burley, in contrast, that no such right exists in connection with Chapter 93A claims pending in Massachusetts state courts.

The BLS’ new Administrative Directive 17-1, effective March 1, 2017, gives the litigation bar new guidance on venue in the BLS—and practical instruction on how to effect transfers either into or out of that court. While all these procedures were already embedded in the various statutes, rules, and cases, this new administrative directive consolidates this procedure in one place.

Posted in Courts

This summer, the Boston Bar Association hosted its annual “Business Litigation Session Year in Review.” The current BLS bench—Judges Sanders, Salinger, Kaplan, and Liebensperger—shared tips for attorneys practicing in the BLS. Here are four takeaways from that event:

Judge Kaplan reported the following question to the Massachusetts Appeals Court: “May a government agency invoke a termination for convenience clause contained in a procurement contract for the purchase of goods for the sole reason that it has learned of an opportunity to purchase the same goods at a lower price from another vendor?”

The question arose in a dispute between A.L. Prime Energy Consultant, Inc. (Prime) and the MBTA. In July 2015, Prime was awarded a two-year supply contract to provide the MBTA with Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel (ULSDF) after a public bidding process. A year later, the MBTA terminated the contract under the termination-for-convenience clause.

In IBEW Local No. 129 Ben. Fund v. Tucci., the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) affirmed a decision by Judge Leibensperger of the BLS dismissing a class action brought by EMC shareholders against EMC board members. The plaintiff alleged that the board members violated their fiduciary duties when they approved the sale of EMC to Dell for $64 billion. Affirming Judge Leibensperger’s decision, the SJC held that directors of a Massachusetts corporation generally have a unitary duty to act in the best interests of the corporation, rather than dual duties that run to both the corporation and its shareholders.

The Superior Court updated its Administrative Directive governing the BLS to broaden the scope of the types of cases that the BLS will preside over. This new directive signifies that the BLS is open to hearing almost any complex civil case—not just quintessential business cases.

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