Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. v. Gulian et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re motion to dismiss. Signed by Judge Leonard P. Stark on 9/30/14. (ntl)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
STANLEY BLACK & DECKER, INC.,
C.A. No. 12-1342-LPS
DAVID T. GULIAN;
JOHN A. ROBERTS;
ERIC N. RUBINO;
MANUEL A. HENRIQUEZ;
MARK S. DENOMME;
and ROY Y. LIU,
Raymond J. DiCamillo, RICHARDS, LAYTON & FINGER, P.A., Wilmington, DE.
Joseph W. Hovermill, Joseph L. Beavers, Matthew R. Schroll, Alexander P. Creticos, MILES &
STOCKBRIDGE P.C., Baltimore, MD.
Attorneys for Plaintiff Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.
Gary W. Lipkin, DUANE MORRIS LLP, Wilmington, DE.
Matthew A. Taylor, James H. Steigerwald, Robert M. Palumbos, Lynne E. Evans, DUANE
MORRIS LLP, Philadelphia, PA.
Attorneys for Defendants David T. Gulian, John A. Roberts, Eric N. Rubino, Manuel A.
Henriquez, Mark S. Denomme, and RoyY. Liu.
September 30, 2014
STARK, U.S. District Judge:
Pending before the Court is Defendants David T. Gulian, John A. Roberts, Eric N.
Rubino, Manuel A. Henriquez, Mark S. Denomme, and RoyY. Liu's (collectively,
"Defendants") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.' s ("Stanley'' or "Black
& Decker" or "Plaintiff') Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (D.I. 16) For the
reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion to
Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants on October 8, 2012, alleging securities
violations and common law tort claims, in relation to Black & Decker's acquisition through
merger oflnfoLogix, Inc. ("InfoLogix"). (D.1. 1) On March 1, 2013, Defendants moved to
dismiss Plaintiffs claims for failure to state a claim. (D.1. 11) On April 5, 2013, Plaintiff
responded to Defendants' motion by filing its First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). (D.I. 14) On
May 6, 2013, Defendants moved to dismiss the FAC for failure to state a claim. (D.1. 16) The
parties completed briefing on the motion to dismiss on June 17, 2013. (D.I. 17, 18, 19) The
Court heard oral argument on the motion on November 25, 2013. (D.1. 23) ("Tr.")
In August 2010, Stanley began negotiations with officers and directors of InfoLogix to
potentially acquire the company. (D.I. 14 at ii 26) Stanley sought to acquire lnfoLogix on a debtfree basis. (Id. at ii 32) As a result of the negotiations, Stanley agreed to acquire lnfoLogix for
an enterprise value of $61,158,724 ("Stanley Acquisition"). (Id. at ii 27) On December 15,
2010, Stanley entered into a merger agreement ("Merger Agreement") with InfoLogix and
executed a Purchase and Sale Agreement ("PSA") with Hercules Technology I, LLC ("HTI") and
its parent company, Hercules Technology Growth Capital, Inc. ("Hercules"), which had advanced
money to InfoLogix in the course of the Stanley Acquisition. (Id. at W33, 36, 42) At all times
relevant to the Stanley Acquisition, Defendants Gulian, Roberts, and Rubino were senior officers
and directors of InfoLogix, and Defendants Henriquez, Denomme, and Liu were senior officers
and directors of Hercules. (Id. at W3-8) Between the fall of2009 and closing of the Stanley
Acquisition on January 18, 2011, Defendants Henriquez, Denomme, and Liu served as directors
on the board of directors of InfoLogix as well. (Id. at W 16-18) The Closing Memorandum for
the Stanley Acquisition was executed by Defendants Gulian, Roberts, and Rubino on January 18,
Before the Stanley Acquisition took place, InfoLogix had engaged two other financial
advisors, SSG Capital Advisors, LLC ("SSG") and Thomas Weisel Partners Group, Inc.
("TWP"), to help it secure financing. (Id.
22, 24) InfoLogix's engagement agreements with
SSG and TWP required it to pay certain success fees. (Id. at W23, 25) These fees were not
disclosed to Stanley. (Id.
79(e)) After the Stanley Acquisition, the two firms were owed
outstanding fees totaling nearly $5 million. (Id.
1, 49) When SSG and TWP demanded
payment, Stanley investigated the claims and negotiated a settlement with SSG for $800,000 and
with TWP for $3,538,856, totaling $4,338,856. (Id. at W50, 52-54, 56-58) Consequently,
Stanley alleges that while it negotiated to acquire InfoLogix on a debt-free basis, instead it
absorbed nearly $5 million of transaction-related liabilities. (Id.
LEGAL STAND ARDS
Motion to Dismiss
When presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), courts conduct a two-part analysis. See Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, courts separate the factual and legal elements
of a claim, accepting "all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but [disregarding] any
legal conclusions." Id. at 210-11. This first step requires courts to draw all reasonable inferences
in favor of the non-moving party. See Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 500 (3d Cir. 2000).
However, the Court is not obligated to accept as true "bald assertions," Morse v. Lower Merion
Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997), ''unsupported conclusions and unwarranted
inferences," Schuylkill Energy Res., Inc. v. Pa. Power & Light Co., 113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir.
1997), or allegations that are "self-evidently false," Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 69 (3d Cir.
Second, courts determine "whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to
show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief."' Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. This is a context-specific
determination, requiring the court "to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at
679. At bottom, "[t]he complaint must state enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal evidence of [each] necessary element" of a claim. Wilkerson v. New Media
Tech. Charter Sch. Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).
"[W]hen the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of
entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should ... be exposed at the point of minimum
expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court." Bell At!. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 558 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). Finally, although a non-fraud claim
need not be pled with particularity or specificity, that claim must "give the defendant fair notice
of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Id. at 545.
Applicable Pleading Standards
The sufficiency of pleadings for non-fraud claims is governed by Rule 8 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
Claims alleging fraud or mistake are assessed under Rule 9(b ), which requires that "a
party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake," Fed. R. Civ.
P. 9(b ), although "[m ]alice, intent, knowledge, and other condition[ s] of mind of a person may be
averred generally," Tellabs, Inc. v. Makar Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 319 (2007).
For private securities fraud causes of action, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act
("PSLRA") "imposes a heightened pleading requirement of factual particularity with respect to
allegations of fraud." In re Rockefeller Ctr. Properties, Inc. Sec. Litig., 311 F .3d 198, 216 (3d
Cir. 2002). The PSLRA requires plaintiffs asserting a § 1O(b) claim under the Securities and
Exchange Act of 1934 to "state with particularity both the facts constituting the alleged violation,
and the facts evidencing scienter, i.e., the defendant's intention 'to deceive, manipulate, or
defraud."' Tellabs, 551 U.S. at 313 (citing 15 U.S.C. § 78u-4(b)(l)-(2)).
Plaintiffs FAC consists of five causes of action: Count I, alleging primary securities
fraud liability under federal law, against Defendants Gulian, Roberts, and Rubino; Count II,
alleging secondary securities fraud liability under federal law, again against Defendants Gulian,
Roberts, and Rubino; Count III, alleging common law fraud against Gulian, Roberts, and Rubino;
Count IV, alleging negligent misrepresentation against Defendants Gulian, Roberts, and Rubino;
and Count V, alleging civil conspiracy against Defendants Gulian, Roberts, Rubino, Henriquez,
Denomme, and Liu. (D.I. 14)
Defendants seek dismissal on several grounds. Defendants contend that Counts I-IV
should be dismissed against all Defendants because they fail to adequately plead that the alleged
misrepresentations caused Plaintiff to suffer economic loss. With regard to Defendant Rubino
individually, Defendants contend that Counts I-IV fail to plead a misrepresentation, that Count I
additionally fails to plead scienter, and that Count II fails to plead control person liability.
Defendants further argue that Counts III and IV against Defendants Gulian, Roberts, and Rubino
improperly attempt to convert contractual breaches into tort claims of fraudulent and negligent
misrepresentation. Finally, Defendants argue that Count V against all Defendants fails to plead
an overt act as well as malice, and is also barred by the intraconspiracy doctrine. The Court
discusses each of these grounds below.
Count I against All Defendants 1
Economic Loss and Loss Causation
In a typical § 1O(b) private action, a plaintiff must prove "(1) a material misrepresentation
or omission by the defendant; (2) scienter; (3) a connection between the misrepresentation or
omission and the purchase or sale of a security; (4) reliance upon the misrepresentation or
omission; (5) economic loss; and (6) loss causation." Stoneridge Inv. Partners, LLC v.
Scientific-Atlanta, 552 U.S. 148, 157 (2008) (citing Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336,
341-42 (2005)). In the context of§ lO(b), loss causation requires a plaintiff to "show both that
(1) the plaintiff entered the transaction at issue in reliance on the claimed misrepresentation or
omission (transaction causation) and (2) the defendant misrepresented or omitted the very facts
that were a substantial factor in causing the plaintiffs economic loss (loss causation)." McCabe
v. Ernst & Young, LLP., 494 F.3d 418, 425 (3d Cir. 2007); see also Berckeley Inv. Grp., Ltd. v.
Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 222 (3d Cir. 2006). "Ordinary pleading rules are not meant to impose a
great burden on a plaintiff, but it should not prove burdensome for a plaintiff suffering economic
loss to provide a defendant with some indication of the loss and the causal connection that the
plaintiff has in mind." Dura, 544 U.S. at 337.
Defendants contend that the FAC fails to adequately plead two elements of the § 1O(b)
and Rule 1Ob-5 cause of action: (1) "economic loss" and (2) "loss causation." In Defendants'
Without explanation, Defendants assert that Counts II, III, and IV are all based on the
same misrepresentation as Claim I, and further assume that those separate counts must also
satisfy the pleading requirements of "loss causation" required for the § 1O(b) claim alleged in
Count I. (D.1. 17 at 4) Count II concerns secondary liability under§ 20(a), while Counts III and
IV are state law claims for fraud and negligent misrepresentation. Defendants provide no support
for their supposition that § 1O(b) claim pleading requirements govern these distinct claims.
view, the FAC alleges only that Plaintiff paid an inflated sales price for InfoLogix, or,
alternatively, that Plaintiff did not receive what it bargained for, neither of which satisfy the
pleading standard as a matter oflaw under Dura and McCabe. (D.I. 17 at 5-7) By contrast,
Plaintiff rejects this characterization of the pleadings and argues it alleged a concrete,
compensable harm, in that it negotiated to acquire "a debt-free company" but instead acquired a
company with "significant outstanding liabilities." (D .I. 18 at 8) The Court agrees with Plaintiff
that the two elements are adequately pled.
Despite Defendants' view to the contrary, Plaintiff has not alleged it satisfies "loss
causation" simply by alleging it paid an "inflated sales price," a theory that has been rejected
under Dura and McCabe. In Dura, 544 U.S. at 340, the Supreme Court analyzed the "loss
causation" element of a § 1O(b) claim in which the plaintiffs alleged that, in "reliance on the
integrity of the market, [the plaintiffs] ... paid artificially inflated prices for Dura securities,"
and further alleged that the plaintiffs suffered damages as a result. Critically, the complaint did
not allege that Dura's share price fell after the truth became known about false statements
regarding pending FDA approval ofDura's spray devices; instead, the complaint relied purely on
an allegation of inflated purchase price. See id. at 347. The Court held this insufficient,
[A]s a matter of pure logic, at the moment the transaction takes
place, the plaintiff has suffered no loss; the inflated purchase
payment is offset by ownership of a share that at that instant
possesses equivalent value. If, say, the purchaser sells the shares
quickly before the relevant truth begins to leak out, the
misrepresentation will not have led to any loss. If the purchaser
sells later after the truth makes its way into the marketplace, an
initially inflated purchase price might mean a later loss. But that is
far from inevitably so. When the purchaser subsequently resells
such shares, even at a lower price, that lower price may reflect, not
the earlier misrepresentation, but changed economic circumstances,
changed investor expectations, new industry-specific or
firm-specific facts, conditions, or other events, which taken
separately or together account for some or all of that lower price.
Id. at 342-43. As a result, the Court held that "in cases such as this one (i.e., fraud-on-the-market
cases), an inflated purchase price will not itself constitute or proximately cause the relevant
economic loss." Id. at 342.
By contrast, in McCabe, 494 F.3d at 433, the Third Circuit stated that Dura "fraud on the
market" securities cases did not directly control. The defendant, Vertex, failed to register the
shares it offered in consideration for its acquisition of plaintiff, ATS, such that ATS "could not
simply turn around and re-sell the unregistered Vertex shares they had received." Id. The Court
of Appeals proceeded to analyze ATS's "loss causation" pleading, which was predicated on the
fact that after closing, when the share price dropped, ATS alleged it learned of Vertex's (a)
failure to pay its vendors, (b) failure to properly manage expenses, (c) breach of various payment
and stock registration obligations, and (d) failure to properly manage its business. See id. at 421.
Although ATS's § lO(b) claim was not precluded by Dura, the Third Circuit found "the logic of
Dura persuasive" to the matter before it, citing Dura's reasoning that "the logical link between
the inflated share purchase price and any later economic loss is not invariably strong," but
"[g]iven the tangle of factors affecting price, the most logic alone permits us to say is that the
higher purchase price will sometimes play a role in bringing about a future loss." Id. at 432-33
(quoting Dura, 544 U.S. at 342-43) (emphasis added).
Here, the propositions regarding inflated share price in Dura and McCabe are inapposite.
Nowhere does Plaintiff plead that the loss it suffered occurred due to inflated share price. (See
generally D.I. 14) As pied, the "loss causation" here is that Defendants' misrepresentation that
there were no "outstanding transaction-related liabilities" caused the Plaintiff to take on a
company that actually had "$5 million in transaction-related liabilities." (Id. at ii 49)
Accordingly, Plaintiff's pleadings here are not of the type involved in Dura and McCabe, in
which the "tangle of factors affecting price" of stocks severed the causal link between "inflated"
stock price and the alleged misrepresentation. 2 Because Defendants cannot point to any authority
that so broadly extends Dura' s proposition beyond transactions involving allegations of inflated
share prices, Defendants' argument will be rejected.
Direct or Derivative Claim
Alternatively, Defendants argue that Plaintiff, as a shareholder of InfoLogix, is attempting
to manufacture economic loss by electing to pay InfoLogix's obligations to SSG and TWP and,
as a consequence, lacks standing for suing on what are properly characterized as derivative
claims. See Kauffman v. Dreyfus Fund, Inc., 434 F.2d 727, 732 (3d Cir. 1970) ("A stockholder
of a corporation does not acquire standing to maintain an action in his own right ... when the
alleged injury is inflicted upon the corporation and the only injury to the shareholder is the
indirect harm which consists in the diminution in value of his corporate shares.").
The flaw in Defendants' argument is that the alleged injury- economic loss due to
misrepresentation - was not inflicted on InfoLogix. Defendants - directors and officers of
With regard to the pleading standard for "loss causation," the McCabe Court
distinguished between (i) typical "fraud-on-the-market" § 1O(b) actions, in which a "plaintiff
must show that the revelation of that misrepresentation or omission was a substantial factor in
causing a decline in the security's price, thus creating an actual economic loss for the plaintiff,"
McCabe, 494 F.3d at 425-26, and (ii) non-typical § 1O(b) actions, "where the plaintiff does not
simply allege that the price of a publicly-traded security has been affected" and, consequently,
''the factual predicates of loss causation fall into less of a rigid pattern," id. at 426.
InfoLogix (D.I. 14 at ml 3-8)- are not alleged to have made any misrepresentations to lnfoLogix.
In turn, the injury is not indirect harm to shareholders through diminution of InfoLogix's shares.
Rather, the alleged injury here is economic loss from a misrepresentation made to Stanley during
the acquisition oflnfoLogix. (Id. at ml 79, 83, 88) While Stanley is now a shareholder of
InfoLogix, the FAC alleges an injury inflicted directly on Stanley. Hence, this action does not
involve a derivative claim.
Count I against Rubino 3
Defendants contend Stanley fails to allege in Count I "a misrepresentation" by Defendant
Rubino. The PSLRA requires "the complaint shall specify each statement alleged to have been
misleading, the reason or reasons why the statement is misleading, and, if an allegation regarding
the statement or omission is made on information and belief, the complaint shall state with
particularity all facts on which that belief is formed." 15 U.S.C. § 78u-4.
The Court finds Plaintiff satisfies the requirements of the PSLRA pleading standard.
Stanley pled that Defendant Rubino, in his capacity as Chief Operating Officer ("COO"),
"executed the Closing Memorandum, which set forth the payments all parties would make at the
Stanley Acquisition closing." (D .I. 14 at ~ 5; see also id.
41) As required by the PSLRA, the
FAC goes on to specify the statements alleged to be misleading and the reasons why they are
misleading. Particularly, the FAC pleads "[a]s expressly set forth in the documents underlying
Defendants once more conflate the pleading requirements of the § 1O(b) claim in Count I
with the standards applicable to Counts II, III, and IV. As noted above, the Court rejects this
position. (See supra. n.1.) Furthermore, as explained below, the Court finds that Count I
adequately pleads "a misrepresentation" against Rubino under the heightened PSLRA standard.
these transactions, all parties specifically intended that Stanley would acquire a company
without any outstanding transaction-related liabilities," and "[p ]ursuant to Section 5.11 of the
Merger Agreement, InfoLogix was obligated to pay all of its transaction-related expenses
incurred prior to the Stanley Acquisition closing date, including compensation owing to any of its
:financial advisors." (Id. at iM! 32-33) (emphasis added) Attached to the FAC, the Closing
Memorandum states "[p]ursuant to Section 5.11 of the Merger Agreement, all of the Expenses
incurred by the Company have been paid prior to Closing." (Id. Ex. C at § F) As Plaintiff notes,
the defined terms of the Merger Agreement were expressly incorporated into the Closing
Agreement and define "Expenses" as "all expenses and fees ... incurred by any party" in
relation to the Stanley Acquisition. (D .I. 18 at 11) (emphasis added)
The Court concludes Plaintiff has adequately pled the "misrepresentation" element in its
§ 1O(b) action against Rubino.
Defendants also contend the FAC fails to adequately plead that Defendant Rubino acted
with the requisite scienter. To establish liability under § 1O(b ), "a private plaintiff must prove
that the defendant acted with scienter, 'a mental state embracing intent to deceive, manipulate, or
defraud."' Tellabs, 551 U.S. at 319. Accordingly, under the applicable pleading standard, "the
complaint shall, with respect to each act or omission alleged to violate this chapter, state with
particularity facts giving rise to a strong inference that the defendant acted with the required
state of mind." 15 U.S.C. § 78u-4 (emphasis added); see also Tellabs, 551 U.S. at 321 ("The
'strong inference' standard 'unequivocally raise[ d] the bar for pleading scienter. '"). A complaint
will create a "strong inference" sufficient to survive "only if a reasonable person would deem the
inference of scienter cogent and at least as compelling as any opposing inference one could draw
from the facts alleged." Id. at 324. "The inference that the defendant acted with scienter need
not be irrefutable, i.e., of the 'smoking-gun' genre, or even the 'most plausible of competing
inferences,"' but it must be "more than merely 'reasonable' or 'permissible' - it must be cogent
and compelling, thus strong in light of other explanations." Id.
The Court agrees with Defendants that Plaintiff's FAC fails to meet this heightened
pleading standard for sci enter. Stanley alleges that as COO of InfoLogix, Rubino executed the
Closing Memorandum, (D.I. 14 at iii! 5, 95), and knew of the fees owed to SSG and TWP as a
result of attending board meetings in 2010 "in which the subject of possible transactions and
financial advisors was discussed" (id. at if 84(b)). In particular, Plaintiff points to two board
meetings: a January 19, 2010 InfoLogix board meeting at which two members of SSG "provided
the Board with a summary of their recent activities related to seeking potential strategic
alternatives for InfoLogix" (id. at if 61), and an August 2010 meeting at which a member of SSG
"led a discussion of a proposed term sheet offered by a strategic buyer recently received by SSG"
(id. at if 70). Analyzing the pleadings collectively, see Tellabs, 551 U.S. at 323, there is nothing
to indicate that the terms of the SSG and TWP engagements were discussed at either board
meeting, especially in relation to the Stanley Acquisition; indeed, the FAC itself establishes that
negotiations with Stanley did not begin until after those board meetings (D.1. 14 at if 26).
Without more, these allegations do not allow a reasonable person to deem the inference of
scienter "cogent and at least as compelling as the opposing inference" that Rubino attended these
meetings with SSG and TWP but fees specifically related to the Stanley Acquisition were not yet
Defendant also pleads that Rubino had a personal financial motive to effectuate the
Stanley Acquisition as quickly as possible (id. at if 76), but this does not amount to an adequate
pleading of sci enter under the PSLRA either. See Institutional Investors Grp. v. Avaya, Inc., 564
F.3d 242, 277 (3d Cir. 2009) ("[The] conclusion that 'motive and opportunity' may no longer
serve as an independent route to scienter follows also from Tellabs's general instruction to weigh
culpable and nonculpable inferences.").
As a result, the Court finds Plaintiff has not sufficiently pled sci enter for its § 1O(b) action
against defendant Rubino. Count I for primary liability against Rubino is, therefore, dismissed.
Secondary Liability Against Rubino (Count II)
Count II of the FAC alleges control person liability against Rubino for violation of
§ 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. § 78t(a). An action for control person
liability under § 20(a) requires that a plaintiff establish: "(1) an underlying violation by a
controlled person or entity; (2) that the defendants are 'controlling persons;' and (3) that the
defendants were in some meaningful sense culpable participants in the fraud." In re Digital
Island Sec. Litig., 223 F. Supp. 2d 546, 560 (D. Del. 2002) aff'd, 357 F.3d 322 (3d Cir. 2004).
Underlying violation by a controlling person or entity
As an initial matter, Defendants contend that secondary liability cannot be imposed on
Defendant Rubino because Stanley has failed to state a claim for a primary violation of the
securities laws under§ lO(b). (D.I. 17 at 11) (citing In re Aetna, Inc. Sec. Litig., 617 F.3d 272,
285 (3d Cir. 2010) ("Because we find there was no violation under Section lO(b), and no other
violations are alleged, there is no controlling person liability under Section 20.")).
However, as noted above, Defendants have not successfully attacked the sufficiency of
pleadings as to Plaintiffs§ lO(b) claims against Gulian and Roberts. Furthermore, Defendants
have not challenged the sufficiency of the allegation that Gulian and Roberts "had control over
the day-to-day management and policies of InfoLogix and approved the [documents] containing
the various referenced factual misrepresentations and omissions." (D.I. 14 at if 95) Therefore,
Plaintiff has adequately pled "an underlying violation by a controlling person or entity."
Controlling Persons and Culpability
Defendants next argue that the pleadings fail to allege "control or culpable participation"
by Rubino. Because the legal conclusion that a defendant is a control person cannot be accepted
as true without factual support, the PLSRA's heightened pleading standard "requires that a claim
under Section 20(a) state with particularity the circumstances of both [i] the defendants' control
of the primary violator, as well as of [ii] the defendants' culpability as controlling persons." In re
Digital Island Sec. Litig., 223 F. Supp. 2d at 561.
Plaintiff here has pled with particularity the circumstances of "the defendants' control of
the primary violator." Plaintiff has alleged Rubino was the COO of InfoLogix (D.I. 14 at if 5),
was actively involved in the daily activities of the company (id. at if 95), attended board meetings
led by members of SSG about possible transactions (id. at if 84(b)), and was actively responsible
for the execution of the Stanley Acquisition by signing the Closing Agreement (id. at if 79(d)).
While courts have found that position - such as being a director - is not alone sufficient to
establish control over a particular transaction, see In re Digital Island, 223 F. Supp. 2d at 561-62,
the Court finds here the additional alleged facts, especially Rubino's execution of the Closing
Agreement, are sufficient to plead Rubino had control.
The PSLRA also requires the pleadings allege with particularity the circumstances of "the
defendants' culpability as controlling persons." On this point Stanley's pleadings are inadequate.
Stanley provides no allegations as to how Rubino specifically knew about the fees owed to the
financial advisors. (See D.I. 17 at 13) As discussed earlier, the pleadings only speak of two
board meetings Rubino attended at which potential transactions were discussed, but without any
specific reference to the fees owed to SSG or TWP for the Stanley Acquisition. Conclusory
allegations about culpability ''utterly lacking in any details as to when or how this occurred" are
not sufficient; "[a]t best, the complaint alleges a factual predicate for the individual defendants'
knowledge of the purported misstatements." In re Digital Island, 223 F. Supp. 2d at 563 ("Such
allegations alone are insufficient to establish Section 20(a) culpability.").
The FAC does not meet the PSLRA pleading standard for this necessary element of its
secondary liability claim. Consequently, the Court dismisses Count II against Defendant Rubino.
Fraud and Negligent Misrepresentation (Counts III & IV)
Choice of Law
The parties dispute whether Pennsylvania or Connecticut law controls the analysis for
Plaintiff's common law claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation (Counts III & N). In
exercising supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's pendent state law claims, the Court applies
the substantive law of the forum state, see Felder v. Casey, 487 U.S. 131, 151 (1988) (applying
Erie doctrine to pendent claims), and, therefore, Delaware's choice oflaw rules govern this
inquiry. See Sys. Operations, Inc. v. Scientific Games Dev. Corp., 555 F.2d 1131, 1136 (3d Cir.
1977) (citing UMW v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966)). Delaware uses the "most significant
relationship" test of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws ("The Restatement")§ 145(1).
See Travelers lndem. Co. v. Lake, 594 A.2d 38, 40 (Del. 1991).4
Delaware's choice of law rule follows§ 145(1) of the Restatement, which provides that
the governing law is "the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the occurrence
and the parties" under the principles stated in § 6. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Patterson, 7
A.3d 454, 457 (Del. 2010). When applying the seven general factors set out in § 6, 5 courts
contemplate the following four "contacts": "(a) the place where the injury occurred, (b) the place
where the conduct causing the injury occurred, (c) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of
incorporation and place of business of the parties, and (d) the place where the relationship, if any,
between the parties is centered." Id. (discussing§ 145(2)).
With regard to fraud and misrepresentation claims in particular, subsequent decisions,
while not controlling, have also applied § 148 to the general analysis under § 6. See
Pennsylvania Employee, Benefit Trust Fund v. Zeneca, Inc., 710 F. Supp. 2d 458, 475 (D. Del.
Some courts have read Delaware's choice oflaw inquiry as requiring a two-part analysis,
with the initial prong being that a court "compare the laws of the competing jurisdictions to
determine whether the laws actually conflict." Mills Ltd. P'ship v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 2010
WL 8250837 (Del. Super. Nov. 5, 2010) (citation omitted); see also In re Teleglobe Commc 'ns
Corp., 493 F.3d 345, 358 (3d Cir. 2007). The parties have articulated an existing conflict
between Pennsylvania's "gist of the action" doctrine and Connecticut's "economic loss rule."
(D.1. 17 at 13-16; D.I. 18 at 16)
Section 6(2) provides seven factors relevant to the choice of law inquiry:
(a) the needs of the interstate and international systems, (b) the
relevant policies of the forum, (c) the relevant policies of other
interested states and the relative interests of those states in the
determination of the particular issue, (d) the protection of justified
expectations, (e) the basic policies underlying the particular field of
law, (f) certainty, predictability and uniformity of result, and (g)
ease in the determination and application of the law to be applied.
Patterson, 7 A.3d at 457.
2010). Section 148(2) provides that when ''the plaintiffs action in reliance took place in whole
or in part in a state other than that where the false representations were made," the court will
consider the following contacts, among others, to determine which state has the "most significant
relationship" to the occurrence and the parties:
(a) the place, or places, where the plaintiff acted in
reliance upon the defendant's representations, (b) the place
where the plaintiff received the representations, (c) the
place where the defendant made the representations, (d)
the domicil, residence, nationality, place of incorporation
and place of business of the parties, (e) the place where a
tangible thing which is the subject of the transaction
between the parties was situated at the time, and (f) the
place where the plaintiff is to render performance under a
contract which he has been induced to enter by the false
representations of the defendant.
(Emphasis added) Courts applying both § 148 and § 6 first examine "the tentative conclusion
reached by applying the § 148 factors" and then measure it "against the principles of§ 6 to
determine whether that forum actually has the most significant relationship to the underlying
tort." Zeneca, 710 F. Supp. 2d at 470 (applying§ 148(2) factors first and finding§ 6 factors did
not undermine conclusion that law of forum where plaintiff resided and where plaintiff relied on
alleged misrepresentations by purchasing product there had most significant relationship to the
In light of the pertinent factors, the Court finds that the law of Connecticut has the most
significant relationship to Plaintiffs claims and therefore governs. With regard to the§ 148
See also At/. City Elec. Co., Inc. v. Estate ofRiccardo, 682 F. Supp. 2d 498, 505 (E.D.
Pa. 2010) (analyzing New Jersey choice oflaw by first assessing whether§ 148 factors point to
particular jurisdiction and then considering if§ 6 considerations "gin up or diminish the values
ascribed to the contacts relative to the issue presented") (citing P. V. ex rel. T. V. v. Camp Jaycee,
962 A.2d 453, 463 (2008)).
factors, Plaintiff acted in reliance on Defendants' alleged misrepresentation in large part in the
state of Connecticut (D.I. 14 at iMf 44, 45, 48) and the Court is persuaded that this factor carries
particular weight. See Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 148 cmt. f ( 1971) ("When
plaintiffs action in reliance is taken pursuant to the terms of an agreement made by the plaintiff
with the defendant ... the place of reliance is a more important contact than it is in other
situations, such as where the plaintiff, without the knowledge of the defendant, purchases certain
equipment from a third person.") (emphasis added). Relatedly, Plaintiff is domiciled in
Connecticut, where it is incorporated and maintains its principal place ofbusiness. 7 (D.I. 1 at 2)
As for the third§ 148 factor, Defendant did make the representations from Pennsylvania
and New York, where counsel for InfoLogix and Hercules were located, respectively. (D.I. 19 at
5-6) However, because a majority of the negotiations for the Stanley Acquisition took place via
conference call (D.I. 14 at if 44), Plaintiff received those representations through its principal
corporate representatives, who were located in Connecticut, Maryland, and Indiana during the
Stanley Acquisition (D.I. 18 at 7). The "place where the plaintiff received the representations"
constitutes "approximately as important a contact as does the place where the defendant made the
representations,"§ 148 cmt. g (1971), and the Court, therefore, finds these factors essentially
balance out one another. See also Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws§ 148 cmt. h (1971)
("The making of the representations provides a more important contact when the representations
See Zeneca, 710 F. Supp. 2d at 472 (citing§ 148 cmt. j) ("[W]hen a plaintiff acted in
reliance in one jurisdiction, 'this state will usually be the state of the applicable law, with respect
to most issues, if (a) the defendant's representations were received by the plaintiff in this state, or
(b) this state is the state of the plaintiffs domicil or principal place of business, or (c) this state is
the situs of the land which constituted the subject of the transaction between the plaintiff and the
defendant, or (d) this state is the place where the plaintiff was to render at least the great bulk of
his performance under his contract with the defendant.").
are made only in one state than when they are made in two or more.").
To the extent InfoLogix and its assets can be considered "a tangible thing which is the
subject of the transaction," this factor weighs in favor of applying Pennsylvania law. But this
factor does not outweigh the fact that Plaintiff acted in reliance on the misrepresentations
primarily in Connecticut, where it received the representations and maintained its principal place
Finally, the Court does not find that the any of the§ 6 factors weigh against its conclusion
based on the§ 148(2) factors that Connecticut has the most substantial relationship to the
underlying tort. Therefore, Connecticut law applies.
The Economic Loss Rule 8
Defendants' contend Connecticut's "economic loss rule" bars Plaintiff from pleading its
tort claims of fraud and misrepresentation, as such causes of action cannot sound in both tort and
in contract. 9 (D.I. 19 at 7-8) However, the economic loss rule "generally applies only to
contracts for the sale of goods." Aliki Foods, LLC v. Otter Valley Foods, Inc., 726 F. Supp. 2d
159, 165-66 (D. Conn. 2010) (explaining "the origin of which 'lies not in the broad common law
of torts or contracts, but in the narrower, express provisions of Article 2 of the Uniform
Commercial Code, which establishes special rules governing the remedies available for breaches
of commercial contracts for the sale of goods'") (citation omitted). Furthermore, even in the case
Given that Connecticut law governs, Defendants' arguments related to the gist of the
action doctrine under Pennsylvania law (D.I. 17 at 13-16) are moot.
Under Connecticut law, fraud requires: "(l) that a false representation was made as a
statement of fact; (2) that it was untrue and known to be untrue by the party making it; (3) that it
was made to induce the other party to act on it; and (4) that the latter did so act on it to his
injury." Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. v. Beckett, 850 A.2d 145, 166 (2004).
of"hybrid transactions," in which the seller supplies both goods and services and a court finds
under the "dominant factor" test the sale of the material is the "essence of the transaction," courts
have carved out exceptions to the economic loss rule, particularly for intentional torts such as
fraud. Id. at 166 (quoting Nora Beverages, Inc. v. Perrier Gr. ofAm., 164 F.3d 736, 747 (2d Cir.
1998)). Indeed, the Supreme Court of Connecticut has allowed such claims to sound in both tort
and contract. See, e.g., Williams Ford, Inc. v. Hartford Courant Co., 657 A.2d 212, 222 (1995)
("[A] remedy on the contract is independent of a remedy for negligent misrepresentation. The
dealerships were not barred from pursuing a negligence claim solely because they also might
have had a breach of contract claim.").
Here, the transaction at issue was not a straight sale of goods, and the economic loss rule
is inapplicable. Even under a "hybrid transaction" theory - and assuming the Court found the
tangible assets of InfoLogix to constitute the "essence of the transaction" under the dominant
factor test- Plaintiffs Counts III and IV plead the intentional torts of fraud and
misrepresentation, which are typically outside the scope of the economic loss rule.
Consequently, the Court is unpersuaded by Defendants' argument that Plaintiffs intentional tort
claims are precluded as a matter of law by the economic loss doctrine. The Court denies
Defendants' motion to dismiss Counts III and IV on this basis.
Civil Conspiracy (Count V)
The elements of a civil action for conspiracy under Connecticut law are: "(1) a
combination between two or more persons, (2) to do a criminal or an unlawful act or a lawful act
by criminal or unlawful means, (3) an act done by one or more of the conspirators pursuant to the
scheme and in furtherance of the object, (4) which act results in damage to the plaintiff."
Macomber v. Travelers Prop. & Cas. Corp., 894 A.2d 240, 254 (2006). 10 For a civil conspiracy
claim, Rule 8(a) requires a plaintiff to include a "short and plaint statement of the claim showing
that the pleader is entitled to relief." Parker v. Google, Inc., 242 F. App'x 833, 839 (3d Cir. July
10, 2007) ("[T]he District Court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing [civil conspiracy]
claims for failing to comply with Rule 8(a).").
Defendants argue that Plaintiff has neglected to plead facts indicating that all Defendants
committed an act done by one or more of the conspirators pursuant to the scheme and in
furtherance of it. With regard to Defendants Gulian and Roberts, the Court finds Plaintiff's
pleadings are adequate.
Plaintiff alleges that Roberts sent an email on June 23, 2010, weeks before the Stanley
Acquisition negotiations began, to Gulian stating, "Hercules has been asking about all the
engagement letters, and I committed to working them through. We are not going to address the
TWP agreement, think it is better to let it hang out there. No sense in waking the sleeping dog."
(D.I. 14 at iii! 68, 133(c)) The pleadings allege a specific act coordinated between Roberts and
Gulian to conceal at least the TWP fee, which is a facially plausible "act" in furtherance of the
object of the conspiracy. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (holding claim is facially plausible "when
"There is no independent claim of civil conspiracy .... To state a cause of action, a
claim of civil conspiracy must be joined with an allegation of a substantive tort." Larobina v.
McDonald, 876 A.2d 522, 531 (Conn. 2005). As the Court is denying Defendants' motion to
dismiss Count III-IV, Defendants have not supported their contention that Plaintiff has failed to
plead an underlying tort to satisfy this requisite element in Count V. (D.I. 17 at 19-20) In
addition, Defendants have failed to show that Connecticut law requires a party pleading civil
conspiracy to plead "malice," so to the extent Defendants fault Plaintiff for failing to plead
malice (D .I. 17 at 18-19), this argument fails.
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged").
As for the remaining Defendants - Rubino, Henriquez, Denomme, and Liu - Plaintiff
relies generally on paragraphs 59-74 and paragraphs 131-139 of the FAC to satisfy the "overt
act" element. However, other than pleading attendance at board meetings at which SSG
presented information on some of its activities in pursuing potential transactions with parties
interested in InfoLogix (D.1. 14 at if 70), there is no indication Rubino or Henriquez committed
any act "in furtherance of the object" of the conspiracy. The pleadings allege that Denomme and
Liu were aware that the SSG and TWP engagements were "never terminated" (id. at if 64), but
the pleadings allege no act or omission by these defendants thereafter. Rather, the pleadings
focus on specific activities of Roberts, and to a lesser extent, Gulian, to carry the Stanley
Acquisition forward. Otherwise, the pleadings only generally allege that all Defendants entered
into "an unlawful and tortious agreement and conspiracy'' (id. at if 131 ), which, without more,
falls short of the pleading standard, see Harvey v. Loftus, 505 F. App'x 87, 90 (3d Cir. Nov. 27,
2012) ("[I]t is a longstanding rule in the Third Circuit that a mere general allegation ... of
conspiracy or collusion without alleging the facts which constituted such conspiracy or collusion
is a conclusion oflaw and is insufficient [to state a claim]." (alteration in original)).
As a result, after separating the factual and legal elements of the claim and accepting all
of the FAC's well-pleaded facts as true, the Court finds that the pleadings against these four
Defendants - Rubino, Henriquez, Denomme, and Liu - are insufficient to state a plausible claim
for relief, as they fail to adequately plead an overt act in furtherance of the object of the
conspiracy. See Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
Intracorporate Conspiracy Doctrine
Finally, Defendants contend that Count V is barred as a matter oflaw by the
intracorporate conspiracy doctrine and should be dismissed in its entirety. The doctrine provides
that "employees acting within the scope of their employment cannot conspire with each other or
with the corporation that employs them." Harp v. King, 835 A.2d 953, 971 (2003). "[F]or a
claim of intracorporate conspiracy to be actionable, the complaint must allege that corporate
officials, employees, or other agents acted outside the scope of their employment and engaged in
conspiratorial conduct to further their own personal purposes and not those of the corporation."
Id. at 974. To determine whether an employee has acted within the scope of employment, courts
look to whether the employee's conduct: "( 1) occurs primarily within the employer's authorized
time and space limits; (2) is of the type that the employee is employed to perform; and (3) is
motivated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the employer." Id.
"Ordinarily, it is a question of fact as to whether a willful tort of the servant has occurred
within the scope of the servant's employment ... [b]ut there are occasional cases [in which] a
servant's digression from [or adherence to] duty is so clear-cut that the disposition of the case
becomes a matter oflaw." A-G Foods, Inc. v. Pepperidge Farm, Inc., 579 A.2d 69, 73 (1990);
see also Harp, 835 A.2d at 974-75 (treating inquiry as question oflaw where "there is nothing in
the record from which a fact finder could conclude that the defendants' allegedly tortious conduct
had occurred outside the scope of their employment").
Plaintiff has pled that each Defendant acted with "an independent, personal financial
incentive" to deceive the Defendant, entirely separate from any purpose of serving its employer,
InfoLogix. (D.I. 14 at -,i 75) The present case is not one in which the servant's digression from
or adherence to duty is "so clear cut that the disposition of the case becomes a matter oflaw." It
remains a question of fact for the factfinder as to whether Defendants' alleged personal financial
incentives were so strong as to cause them to act "outside the scope of their employment."
Thus, Defendants' motion to dismiss Count V for failure to state a claim is denied with
respect to Defendants Roberts and Gulian and granted with respect to Defendants Rubino
Henriquez, Denomme, and Liu.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants'
motion to dismiss. An appropriate Order follows.
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