MACREADY, et al v. TCI TRANS COM. AG, et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE MARY A. MCLAUGHLIN ON 10/11/11. 10/12/11 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(ti, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MICHAEL MACREADY, et al.
TCI TRANS COMMODITIES,
A.G., et al.
October 11, 2011
This suit arises from a sales contract between the
plaintiff Kennett International Corp. (“Kennett”) and TCI Trans
Commodities A.G. (“TCI Switzerland”), a Switzerland-based
corporation that is now bankrupt.
The plaintiff seeks to recover
outstanding debts incurred by TCI Switzerland from the defendant,
a New York-based corporation called Trans Commodities, Inc.
The plaintiff claims that the two
companies are so intertwined or interrelated that through the
“alter ego,” “enterprise entity,” or “single entity” theories of
piercing the corporate veil, the plaintiff can reach the assets
of Trans Commodities.
This case was filed in 2000 but was in suspension for
many years pending bankruptcy proceedings involving TCI
Switzerland and then settlement discussions between the parties.
In November of 2009, the Court permitted discovery and then
dispositive motions on the issue of the defendant’s liability
under a veil piercing theory.
The defendant moved for summary
The Court will grant the defendant’s motion for
Summary Judgment Record
Kennett entered into a sales contract with TCI
Switzerland in 1996.
The terms of the agreement are defined by
three one-page letters exchanged in early October of 1996 by
Michael Macready, the owner of Kennett, and Julian Connor, an
employee of TCI Switzerland.
Mem. of Law of Pl. in Opp. to Mot.
of Def. (“Pl. Opp.”), Decl. of Michael Macready (“Macready
Decl.”), Ex. A.
Between 1996 and 2000, Kennett acted as a commissioned
sales agent for TCI Switzerland.
The plaintiff brought this suit
in 2000 for commission payments that were not made. In the
original complaint, Macready was named as a plaintiff, and Seymon
Kislin (“Sam Kislin” or “Kislin”), David Kislin, Henry Kislin,
and Elliot Asher were named as individual defendants.
complaint was amended two months after filing.
complaint named only Kennett as a plaintiff and only TCI
Switzerland and Trans Commodities as defendants.
TCI Switzerland entered bankruptcy proceedings in 2001
and the plaintiff was unable to recover from TCI Switzerland the
Trans Commodities was created in 1992 by Kislin
although Kislin had been using the name “Trans Commodities” in
commodities trading work he was doing as early as 1990.
1992 until 1997, Kislin was the sole shareholder and CEO of Trans
In 1997, Kislin gave his stock ownership to his two
children, Regina and David Kislin.
Around 2000, David Kislin
became the sole shareholder of Trans Commodities.
time, Kislin remained on Trans Commodities’s board of directors
and was the company’s CEO.
Mem. of Law in Supp. of Def. Mot. for
Summ. J. Def. Mot. (“Def. Mot.”), Decl. in Supp. (“Kislin Decl.”)
Trans Commodities’s Relationship With TCI Switzerland1
TCI Switzerland was created in 1993 by Ansgar Felber.
When founding TCI Switzerland, Felber worked with Kislin, who had
contacts with Russian metal suppliers.
In exchange for contact
with these suppliers, Felber offered Kislin guaranteed purchasing
levels from those companies as well as the opportunity to choose
members of the TCI Switzerland Board of Directors.
Kislin and George Benninger, Kislin’s attorney, were on the board
of directors of TCI Switzerland from its formation until it
The parties dispute the nature of the relationship
between TCI Switzerland and Trans Commodities. For the purpose
of this summary judgment motion, the evidence is read in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party, Kennett.
In 1998, Ansgar left TCI Switzerland.
Bolinger took over as CEO and Connor took control of sales and
purchasing for TCI Switzerland.
Kislin was never an employee or
a director of TCI Switzerland.
Kislin Decl. ¶¶ 5, 10, 12, 16-18,
Trans Commodities entered into a Consulting Agreement
with TCI Switzerland in 1995.
Trans Commodities provided
logistical support to TCI Switzerland, particularly regarding the
collection of unpaid debts from customers in the United States.
Kislin Decl. ¶¶ 13-14.
Trans Commodities’s interaction with TCI Switzerland
extended beyond mere support.
E-mails from David Kislin to
Connor in early 1999 show that Kislin authorized hiring and
firing of some TCI Switzerland employees.
In addition, Connor
spoke with Kislin every day, sometimes multiple times a day,
about TCI Switzerland’s trades, shipments, profits, and other
Pl. Opp., Decl. of Julian H. Connor (“Connor Decl.”) ¶¶
7, 19, Ex. JCH 2 a-b.
Connor believes that Trans Commodities had
“absolute control” over the hiring, firing, and steel trade
determinations of TCI Switzerland and that steel contracts were
only made by TCI Switzerland after they were sent to Trans
Commodities for approval by Kislin.
In 1997, Connor was informed
by Kislin that Trans Commodities would “take over direct control
of the claims and rejections process” for TCI Switzerland.
Connor Decl. ¶¶ 4, 6, 13.
While executing Kennett’s contract with TCI
Switzerland, Macready spoke daily with Sam or David Kislin or
Elliot Asher, a Trans Commodities employee.
On two letters to
Macready, Asher lists Trans Commodities below his signature line,
and the address is listed in New York, but the letterhead is that
of TCI Switzerland.
Another letter to Macready likewise lists
the employee as that of Trans Commodities but is on TCI
Macready Decl., Exs. B, C-1 to C-3, C-5.
In late 2000, Trans Commodities withdrew approximately
one million dollars belonging to TCI Switzerland from a lockbox
in a Manhattan bank.
This money was eventually returned by Trans
Commodities to TCI Switzerland.
See Pl. Opp., Ex. F David Kislin
Dep. 124-125; Macready Decl., Exs. E-5, E-6, E-8.2
Kislin’s Relationship with TCI Switzerland
Separately from Trans Commodities, Kislin personally
had a relationship with TCI Switzerland.
Kislin provided advice
to Ansgar regarding purchase pricing and market trends and
continued to advise Bolinger and Connor after Ansgar left.
The defendant contends that it properly had authority
over the money, which it secured because of financial
irregularities with TCI Switzerland. David Kislin Dep. 123-24.
The plaintiff argues that Trans Commodities did not have a right
to hold the money. See Macready Decl., Ex. E-5.
Kislin Decl. ¶¶ 12, 16, 26. Kislin also attended TCI Switzerland
Board Meetings, as an “Informal Member” of the Board.
Macready Decl., Ex. E-11.
Kislin may also have been the owner of Tanacross B.V.
(“Tanacross”), which owned TCI Switzerland.
Minutes from a TCI
Switzerland board meeting list Kislin as the owner of Tanacross
and a power of attorney document directing Tanacross is signed by
Connor Decl. ¶ 5; Macready Decl., Exs. E-4, E-12.
declaration submitted in a different lawsuit, Kislin states that
Trans Commodities had a branch office in Switzerland, although he
does not refer to TCI Switzerland directly.
See Pl. Opp., Ex. A
Kislin EFC Decl. ¶ 7.3
In addition, other Kislin-owned companies interacted
with TCI Switzerland.
These companies include Trans Commodities
Food AG (“TCI Food”) and Redy Corp.
Several documents from the
files of TCI Switzerland demonstrate movement of funds between
TCI Switzerland and TCI Food and Redy Corp.
See Macready Decl.
Exs. E-10, E-11, E-13.
Notably, neither Kislin nor other Kislin owned
companies are defendants in this action, nor is the plaintiff
attempting to reach Kislin’s personal assets.
The extent of
The parties dispute this fact. Kislin claims no
knowledge of the ownership of Tanacross. Kislin Decl. ¶ 12. The
Court concludes that the plaintiff has raised a triable issue on
the question of Tanacross’s ownership.
Kislin’s personal control over TCI Switzerland and TCI
Switzerland’s interaction with other Kislin companies is only
material to the plaintiff’s effort to pierce the corporate veil
to the extent that this evidence could cause a reasonable jury to
conclude that TCI Switzerland and Trans Commodities were
The parties dispute the law applicable to the question
of piercing the corporate veil.
The plaintiff argues that New
York law should apply to this issue, while the defendant argues
in favor of Pennsylvania law.
A federal court sitting in a diversity action applies
the choice-of-law analysis of the forum state in which it sits,
A party is entitled to summary judgment if there “is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of any genuine issue of material fact, which may be
satisfied by demonstrating the party who bears the burden of
proof lacks evidence to support his case. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A fact is “material” if it
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law and
“genuine” if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party
based on the evidence presented on that issue. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In making its
determination, the court must consider the evidence in a light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Sheridan v. NGK Metals
Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 251 n.12 (3d Cir. 2010). Once a properly
supported motion for summary judgment is made, the burden of
production then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 250.
in this case, Pennsylvania.
Klaxon v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co.,
313 U.S. 487 (1941); Hammersmith v. TIG Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 220,
226 (3d Cir. 2007).
When Pennsylvania courts consider issues of
corporate law, the first step is usually an application of the
Internal Affairs Doctrine, codified at 15 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4145.
See, e.g., Banjo Buddies, Inc. v. Renosky, 399 F.3d 168, 179 (3d
Cir. 2005); Guinan v. A.I. DuPont Hosp. for Children, 597 F.
Supp. 2d 485 (E.D. Pa. 2009).
The parties agree that the
Internal Affairs Doctrine does not apply in this case and does
not govern the Court’s choice of law determination.
Therefore the Court moves to Pennsylvania’s general
choice-of-law analysis to determine what law should apply.
Choice of Law
When there is no explicit or implicit choice of law
among the parties, as is the case here, Pennsylvania choice-oflaw determinations proceed in three steps.
First, the court must
consider the laws of the relevant forum states in order to
determine “if there is an actual or real conflict between the
potentially applicable laws.”
Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at 230.
a threshold matter, the court “must determine whether these
states would actually treat this issue any differently.”
Prods. & Chems., Inc., v. Eaton Metal Prods. Co., 272 F. Supp. 2d
482, 490 n.9 (E.D. Pa. 2003).
If a comparison shows “there are relevant differences
between the laws,” then the court moves to the second step:
examining “the relevant policies underlying each law, and
classify[ing] the conflict as a ‘true,’ ‘false,’ or an
Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at 230.
application of either state’s law would not implicate the
interests of the other state, there is a “false” conflict, and
the court should apply the law of the interested forum.
other hand, if the laws of either state would be impaired by the
application of the other’s law, a “true” conflict exists.
“unprovided-for” situation occurs where neither state’s interests
are implicated in the dispute.
Id. at 230 n.9.
If there is a “true” conflict, the court moves to the
The court must determine “which state has the greater
interest in the application of its law.”
Id. at 231 (internal
Courts should consider the factors in the
Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws as well as a
“qualitative appraisal” of the interested states’ policies.
The Law of New York
While New York courts “disregard corporate form
reluctantly,” New York law has long recognized piercing the
corporate veil when two corporations operate as a “single entity”
(also referred to as the “alter ego” or “agent” theory).
Labs. v. Dataword Corp., 680 F. Supp. 110, 111 (S.D.N.Y. 1998);
see also William Wrigley Jr. Co. v. Waters, 890 F.2d 594, 600-02
(2d Cir. 1989); Walkovszky v. Carlton, 18 N.Y.2d 414, 418 (N.Y.
1966) (recognizing piercing the veil on the theory that “a
corporation is a fragment of a larger corporate combine”).
New York’s Veil-Piercing Test
In New York, there is a generally recognized two-part
test in order to pierce the corporate veil on any theory.
plaintiff must show “(1) complete domination of the corporation
in respect to the transaction attacked; and (2) that such
domination was used to commit a fraud or wrong against the
plaintiff which resulted in plaintiff’s injury.”
Morris v. N.Y.
State Dep’t of Taxation & Fin., 82 N.Y.2d 135, 141-42 (N.Y.
1993); see MAG Portfolio Consultant, GMBH v. Merlin Biomed Group
LLC, 268 F.3d 58, 64 (2d Cir. 2001)(citing and applying this twopart test); E. Hampton Union Free Sch. Dist. v. Sandpebble
Builders, Inc., 884 N.Y.S.2d 94, 98-99 (N.Y. App. Div. 2009)
The New York Court of Appeals explicitly held that
“[w]hile complete domination of the corporation is the key to
piercing the corporate veil . . . standing alone, [it] is not
There must also be a showing of “a wrongful or unjust
act toward plaintiff.”
A plaintiff “seeking to pierce the
corporate veil must establish that the owners, through their
domination, abused the privilege of doing business in the
corporate form to perpetrate a wrong or injustice against that
Morris, 83 N.Y.2d at 142-43.
Although the Morris
standard requires this close connection between the defendant’s
fraud and the harm alleged by the plaintiff, the test does not
require that the defendant acted with the specific intent to harm
Id. at 143.
One of the most instructive cases on the application of
New York law to a claim of single-entity veil piercing is
Passalaqua, a decision by the Court of Appeals for the Second
Wm. Passalacqua Builders, Inc. v. Resnick Developers
South, Inc., 933 F.2d 131, 138-41 (2d Cir. 1991).
considered whether the plaintiff could pierce the corporate veil
of a defendant corporation which was one of many corporations
owned and operated by the Resnik family.
The court considered
ten factors, in addition to the totality of the circumstances, in
determining corporate domination of the corporation by the
These factors included (1) the absence of corporate
formalities, (2) inadequate capitalization, (3) whether corporate
funds were used for personal rather than corporate uses, (4)
The Passalaqua court, writing two years before the New
York Appeals Court in Morris, held that the plaintiff could
prevail upon a showing of either domination or fraud. Because
Morris clearly requires both elements to be proven, the Court
does not rely upon this holding of Passalaqua. The court’s
analysis of the facts remains persuasive.
overlap in ownership, officers, directors, and personnel of the
corporations, (5) common office space, (6) the business
discretion afforded to each corporation, (7) whether the
corporations dealt with one another at arms length, (8) whether
the corporations were treated as independent profit centers, (9)
the payment or guarantee of debts of one corporation for another,
and (10) the use of property of one corporation by another.
The plaintiff provided evidence of financial records,
bank accounts, tax returns, board meetings, employee
compensation, and contracts between the corporations.
this evidence, the court concluded that a reasonable jury could
find sufficient domination of the corporation by the Resnick
family and corporations to justify piercing the corporate veil.
Id. at 139-40.
Applying New York Law to This Case
The Court first considers the issue of domination.
plaintiff must show that Trans Commodities dominated TCI
The Court starts with the factors listed by the
Despite relying exclusively upon Passalaqua in
its summary judgment motion, the plaintiff has not addressed many
of these factors.
The record contains no evidence about the
corporate formalities or capitalization of either TCI Switzerland
or Trans Commodities.
There is no evidence alleging personal use
of either companies’ corporate funds.
The two companies did not
share common office space.
The only evidence addressing the
contractual relationships between the two corporations is the
consulting agreement the parties entered into in 1995 which
itself provides little detail of the nature of the relationship.
The plaintiff does not present evidence on the treatment of the
profits and debts of each corporation or the use of property of
one corporation by the other.
The plaintiff has presented evidence on two of the
factors: overlap of ownership and directors and the business
discretion of each corporation.
David Kislin was an owner of
Trans Commodities and a director of TCI Switzerland.
also a genuine issue of material fact on whether Kislin owned TCI
Switzerland through Tanacross.
In addition, evidence suggests
that Trans Commodities directed some TCI Switzerland business
decisions, including hiring, firing, and purchase choices.
The plaintiff has presented evidence of a close
relationship between TCI Switzerland and TCI Food and Redy Corp.
However, these corporations are not defendants in this suit, nor
is there evidence of the relationship between these corporations
and Trans Commodities.
These documents do not raise a triable
issue of domination of TCI Switzerland by the defendant in this
case, Trans Commodities.
Given the limited evidence presented by the plaintiff,
no reasonable jury, considering the totality of the
circumstances, including the Passalaqua factors, could conclude
that Trans Commodities dominated the corporate affairs of TCI
Equally as important, the plaintiff has not adduced
evidence that Trans Commodities’s alleged domination of TCI
Switzerland was used to commit fraud “against the plaintiff which
resulted in plaintiff’s injury.”
Morris, 82 N.Y.2d at 141-42.
The plaintiff offers no evidence of a connection between Trans
Commodities’s interactions with TCI Switzerland and the latter’s
inability or refusal to pay the plaintiff.6
Even if the
plaintiff could show complete domination of TCI Switzerland by
Trans Commodities, the plaintiff has not alleged that Trans
Commodities “through [its] domination, abused the privilege of
doing business in the corporate form to perpetrate a wrong or
injustice” against the plaintiff.
Morris, 83 N.Y.2d at 142-43.
The plaintiff contends that the Kislin family
unlawfully siphoned millions of dollars out of TCI Switzerland
and into a corporation located in Dublin, Ireland. Connor makes
this assertion without any explanation of his basis of knowledge
of the Dublin corporation. Connor Decl. ¶¶ 10-11. Evidence
considered at summary judgment must be admissible or capable of
being reduced to admissible evidence. Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(c)(1)(A). Even if the Court were to accept this allegation as
admissible and true, it does not raise a triable issue of fact
that Trans Commodities committed wrongdoing. None of the Kislins
are defendants in this suit, nor is any Irish corporation.
As in New York, “there is a strong presumption in
Pennsylvania against piercing the corporate veil.”
Inc. v. Aultman, 669 A.2d 893, 895 (Pa. 1995).
Pennsylvania law, the Court of appeals for the Third Circuit
directs “any court [to] start from the general rule that the
corporate entity, should be recognized and upheld, unless
specific, unusual circumstances call for an exception.”
Zubik, 384 F.2d 267, 273 (3d Cir. 1967).
rejected attempts to disregard the corporate form “outside
traditional attempts to impose liability on shareholders.”
survey by the Court of Appeals found, for example, that the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court has frequently refused to disregard
the corporate form between parent and subsidiary corporations.
See Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors v. R.F. Lafferty &
Co., 267 F.3d 340, 353 (3d Cir. 2001) (collecting cases).
Notably, “there is no definitive test for piercing the
corporate veil” in Pennsylvania.
First Realvest Inc. v. Avery
Builders, Inc., 600 A.2d 601, 604 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1991);
Kellytown Co. v. Williams, 426 A.2d 663, 668 (Pa. Super. Ct.
Instead, using a flexible approach, “Pennsylvania law
requires consideration of the totality of the circumstances in
order to determine whether the corporate veil should be pierced.”
Castle Cheese, Inc. v. MS Produce, Inc., No. 04-878, 2008 WL
4372856, at *32 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 19, 2008).
As a general matter, “the corporate form ‘will be
disregarded only when the entity is used to defeat public
convenience, justify wrong, protect fraud or defend crime.’”
First Realvest, 600 A.2d at 601 (quoting Sams v. Redevelopment
Auth., 244 A.2d 779, 781 (Pa. 1968)).
A court can disregard a
corporate entity without a specific showing of “fraud, illegality
or wrongdoing” so long as “it is necessary to avoid injustice.”
Rinck v. Rinck, 526 A.2d 1221, 1223 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1987).
The Single Entity Theory in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania treats classic veil piercing, which occurs
“where the individual or corporate owner controls the corporation
to be pierced and the controlling owner is to be held liable”
differently from the “quite distinct” claim for “single entity”
or “enterprise entity” liability.
Under the single entity
theory, “two or more corporations share common ownership and are,
in reality, operating as a corporate combine.”
Miners, Inc. v.
Alpine Equip. Corp., 722 A.2d 691, 694-95 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1998).
The Miners court is the highest court in Pennsylvania
to consider the single entity theory.
While noting that this
“theory . . . has yet to be adopted in Pennsylvania,” the court
nonetheless determined that the plaintiff did not allege
sufficient facts to pierce the corporate veil under this theory.
See id. at 695; see also Advanced Tel. Sys. v. Com-Net Prof'l
Mobile Radio, LLC, 846 A.2d 1264, 1278 n.9
(Pa. Super. Ct. 2004)
(acknowledging this holding of Miners as good law).
Following Miners, courts applying Pennsylvania law have
been split on whether to consider single entity theory claims.
Some courts have held that because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
has not recognized the single entity theory, it is not an avenue
of liability available to plaintiffs.
See, e.g., Bouriez v.
Carnegie Mellon Univ., No. 02-2104, 2005 WL 3006831, at *19-*20
(W.D. Pa. Aug. 6, 2008); E-Time System, Inc. v. Voicestream
Wireless Corp., No. 01-5754, 2002 WL 1917697, at *12 (E.D. Pa.
Aug. 19, 2002).
Other courts have held that because the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court has not explicitly foreclosed the use
of the single entity theory, the theory can be pursued by
See, e.g., Gupta v. Sears, Roebuck and Co., No. 07-
243, 2009 WL 890585, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 26, 2009); Ziegler v.
Del. Cnty. Daily Times, 128 F. Supp. 2d. 790, 794-96 (E.D. Pa.
Still other courts have applied a single entity theory
In both Gupta and Zeigler, the courts refer to the
“single entity” and “integrated enterprise” theory as alternate
tests. See Gupta, 2009 WL 890585, at *2; Ziegler, 128 F. Supp.
2d at 796 n.18. The integrated enterprise theory, however, is
not Pennsylvania state law. The theory was developed by the
Court of Appeals two years before Miners to determining the
liability of a parent corporation for its subsidiary’s actions in
the context of an employment discrimination suit under New Jersey
law. Marzano v. Computer Sci. Corp., 91 F.3d 497 (3d Cir. 1996);
Delacruz v. Piccari Press, 521 F. Supp. 2d 424, 429-30 (E.D. Pa.
2007). The integrated enterprise tests is applicable to labor
without discussing the Miners decision.
See Castle Cheese, Inc.
v. MS Produce, Inc., No. 04-878, 2008 WL 4372856, at *32 (W.D.
Pa. Sept. 19, 2008) (applying a “single entity” claim in which
the plaintiff showed that “in all aspects of their business, the
two corporations actually functioned as a single entity and
should be treated as such”).
Research reveals no court, however,
applying Pennsylvania law which has found in favor of a plaintiff
on a single entity claim.
In one case, a federal court considered whether the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court would adopt the single entity theory
if squarely presented with the issue.
In Schwab, the trustee of
a bankrupt limited liability company sought to reach the assets
of a separate company owned by the same two principals as the
Schwab v. McDonald (In re LmcD, LLC), 405 B.R. 555, 564-65
(Bankr. M.D. Pa. 2009).
The court considered other state court
rulings, the conservative approach Pennsylvania courts take
regarding piercing the corporate veil, and that Pennsylvania
courts have allowed veil piercing in some cases.
concluded that “the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would likely adopt
the ‘single entity theory’ . . . to prevent fraud or injustice.”
law and is distinct from the veil-piercing test at issue in this
case. See Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 486
(3d Cir. 2001); Bouriez, 2005 WL 3006831, at *19.
Applying Pennsylvania Law to This Case
This Court will consider the single entity theory
described in Miners but does not need to determine whether the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court would adopt this theory.
factors described by the Miners court are “ identity of
ownership,  unified administrative control,  similar or
supplementary business functions,  involuntary creditors, and
 insolvency of the corporation against which the claim lies.”
Miners, 722 A.2d at 695.
See also Schwab, 405 B.R. at 564-65
(considering these factors).
The Court begins with the first factor, unified
Kislin was the sole shareholder of Trans Commodities
between 1992 and 1997.
Kislin may also have been the owner of
Tanacross, and thus the owner of TCI Switzerland.
raised a disputed issue of fact regarding common ownership of the
There is also evidence of the second factor, unified
Trans Commodities and TCI Switzerland
were located in different countries and had different employees.
Trans Commodities employees, however, occasionally acted on
behalf of TCI Switzerland and used TCI Switzerland letterhead to
The third and fifth factors are not in dispute.
companies engaged in commodities trading and TCI Switzerland is
insolvent and unable to meet its debts.
The plaintiff, however, does not present evidence
sufficient to satisfy the fourth factor, that of involuntary
An involuntary creditor is one "who did not
rely on anything when becoming [a] creditor,” for example, a
Schwab, 405 B.R. at 566.
The plaintiff voluntarily
entered into a sales commission relationship with the defendant.
The plaintiff could have inspected the financial structure of TCI
Switzerland and discovered potential risks before entering the
In addition, Macready regularly communicated with
employees of Trans Commodities, including Sam and David Kislin
But Kennett did not seek to alter its contract to
include Trans Commodities or the individual Kislins as obligors.
Pennsylvania courts do pierce the corporate veil to
prevent fraud or avoid injustice.
As discussed above, the
plaintiff has not presented evidence which, even read in a light
most favorable to it, raises a triable issue of fact on fraud or
wrongdoing perpetrated by Trans Commodities.
Because the plaintiff is a voluntary creditor who
appears to have significant knowledge about the company he
contracted with, even if this Court were to find that the
Pennsylvania would adopt the "single entity" theory and apply the
test laid out in Miners, the Court concludes that no reasonable
jury could find that the plaintiff is entitled to pierce the
corporate veil of TCI Switzerland under Pennsylvania law.
There is No Conflict of Laws
The Court concludes that as applied to this case, there
is no relevant difference between New York and Pennsylvania law.
Although the tests Pennsylvania and New York use to determine if
a corporate veil can be pierced on the single entity theory
differ, under either state’s law, the plaintiff has not adduced
sufficient evidence to raise a triable issue of fact.
does not need to move to the “deeper choice-of-law analysis.”
Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at 230.
Under either state’s law, the
defendant is entitled to summary judgment.
An appropriate order shall issue.
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