PQA won a stunning victory on April 22, 2009 in a civil matter pending before Judge Daniel M. Waldman in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Monmouth County, in which the plaintiffs were seeking $245 million in damages from PQA’s client. PQA was retained in July 2008 to defend a client in a highly-publicized case brought in Monmouth County by the shareholders of a subsidiary of his former employer, an international securities firm that is publicly traded on the NASDAQ exchange.
The suit alleged a breach of fiduciary duty and claimed damages in the amount of $245 million, which the plaintiffs’ contended was the loss in the value of their shares attributable to the alleged breach. The allegations in the New Jersey action mirrored allegations that were the subject of an earlier filed New York matter as well as those asserted in an arbitration proceeding before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”). PQA’s client was separately represented in those matters by Stephen Harmon and Matthew Aaronson, Esquires, of the New York City office of Troutman Sanders, LLP.
Before the plaintiffs could commence discovery in New Jersey, PQA moved to dismiss the New Jersey action on three grounds: (1) the filing of the suit in New Jersey violated the forum selection clauses contained in the shareholders agreement, option agreement and employment contract to which the parties were bound; (2) the New Jersey court should defer to the courts of New York pursuant to the first-filed doctrine, as recently enunciated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Sensient Colors, Inc. v. Allstate Insurance Co., Inc., 193 N.J. 373 (2008); and (3) the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claims against PQA’s client because the claims they asserted were derivative of the claims of the corporation of which they were shareholders, and could only be brought directly by that entity.
On April 22, 2009, Judge Waldman handed down a 31-page opinion, deciding in favor of PQA’s client on each of the above three issues, and dismissing the case in its entirety. PQA Managing Partner Ken Pringle argued the motion before the Court, and was assisted on the brief by PQA Associate Denise O’Hara.
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