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Justices answer certified question

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The Indiana Supreme Court Monday answered the certified question sent to them by the U.S. District Court in New York about what standard should be applied in determining whether a director is “disinterested” under Indiana Code Section 23-1-32-4(d).

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York certified the question of “What standard should be applied in determining whether a director is ‘disinterested’ within the meaning of Indiana Code § 23-1-32-4(d), and more specifically, is it the same standard as is used in determining whether a director is disinterested for purposes of excusing demand on the corporation’s directors under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.1 and Rales v. Blasband, 634 A.2d 927, 936 (Del. 1993)?”

The justices accepted the question in November 2009. The question comes from the case, In re ITT Derivative Litigation, Sylvia B. Piven, et al. v. ITT Corp., et al.,  No. 94S00-0911-CQ-508. One of ITT’s business units supplies night vision equipment to the military; ITT was charged and fined because it exported military technology to other countries in violation of the U.S. State Department restrictions. The instant case is a derivative action, on behalf of ITT, brought by ITT shareholders against ITT directors. The plaintiffs want to recover the criminal fines and penalties paid, alleging that the directors violated fiduciary duties by not monitoring and supervising management of the unit.

Shareholder Robert Wilkinson didn’t make any demand on ITT’s board to pursue the claims; shareholder Anthony Reale did. The board appointed a Special Litigation Committee to consider whether the corporation should pursue the claims in question, and the District Court ruled the three, independent, outside directors appointed to the committee were not “disinterested” under I.C. Section 23-1-32-4.

The high court held that the Indiana Business Corporation Law employs the same standard for showing a “lack of disinterestedness” both as to the composition of special board committees under the statute and to the requirement that a shareholder must make a demand that the corporation’s board act unless the demand would be futile.

The District Court properly concluded that in assessing the futility of a demand, Indiana law determines whether a director is “disinterested” by asking whether a derivative claim poses a significant risk of personal liability for the director, which is the Rales standard, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

“Determining that a named director is ‘interested’ as respects all claims save for the outright frivolous would likely preclude most directors from serving on an SLC which considers shareholder demands,” wrote the chief justice. “Ousting directors from such roles on a broader basis than that mandated by Rales undermines the intent of Indiana’s BCL.”

Neither the statutory language nor the policies underlying the BCL suggest that the standard for showing a lack of disinterestedness under the statute should be more “plaintiff-friendly” than the showing required in the demand futility context, the justice continued.

Justice Frank Sullivan did not participate in answering the certified question.
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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