Dasho v. Susquehanna Corporation

Decision Date26 June 1967
Docket NumberNo. 15839.,15839.
Citation380 F.2d 262
PartiesWilliam DASHO, Dasho-Rogers, Inc., an Illinois corporation, and Maurice H. Schy, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. The SUSQUEHANNA CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation et al., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Lawrence A. Jacobson, Ira S. Kolb, Adolf Loeb, Chicago, Ill., for appellants.

Paul N. Rowe, John B. King, Theodore R. Boehm, Indianapolis, Ind., Baker & Daniels, Indianapolis, Ind., of counsel, for Indiana Farm Bureau, et al., amici curiae.

Philip A. Loomis, Jr., General Counsel, Walter P. North, Associate General Counsel, Jacob H. Stillman, Martin D. Newman, Attys., Securities and Exchange Commission, Washington, D. C., amicus curiae.

Harry T. Ice, R. Stanley Lawton, Donald F. Elliott, Jr., Indianapolis, Ind., Ice, Miller, Donadio & Ryan, Indianapolis, Ind., of counsel, for Hansford C. Mann and Edith G. Mann, amicus curiae.

Samuel Weisbard, Stephen C. Sandels, Chicago, Ill., McDermott, Will & Emery, Chicago, Ill., of counsel, for defendant-appellee, Howard J. Lauhoff.

Melvan M. Jacobs, Robert O. Mansell, Charles D. Leist, Alfred P. Bianucci, Chicago, Ill., Milton H. Gray, Lionel G. Gross, Louis E. Rosen, Chicago, Ill., for all defendants-appellees other than Howard J. Lauhoff.

Harold C. Stuart, Dickson M. Saunders, Tulsa, Okl., for defendants-appellees Ralph A. L. Bogan, Jr., Edward O. Boshell, M. M. Hardin, A. D. Martin, Harold G. Mason, J. Earle May, Hugh C. Michels, Aksel Nielsen, D. W. Reeves, R. C. Schenk, Harold C. Stuart, Albert W. Thomson and Francis C. Woolard.

Joseph A. Sommer, Santa Fe, N. M., for American Gypsum Co.



William Dasho, Dasho-Rogers, Inc., an Illinois corporation, and Maurice H. Schy, plaintiffs, have appealed from an order of the district court entered June 30, 1966, dismissing a derivative action brought by plaintiffs, as shareholders of The Susquehanna Corporation, against (inter alia) its officers and directors, charging a conspiracy to defraud Susquehanna in the sale and purchase of securities in violation of § 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C.A. § 77q, § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C.A. § 78j, and of rule 10b-5 of the Rules of Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC").

On December 21, 1965, plaintiffs had filed a third amendment to the complaint adding count II, in which they alleged inter alia that defendants caused Susquehanna to distribute a false proxy statement on or about November 12, 1965, violative of § 14(a) of the 1934 Act, which led to stockholder approval of Susquehanna's merger with defendant American Gypsum Company, a New Mexico corporation.

Although not so designated on its face, the complaint filed October 22, 1965 was referred to by the district court and by the parties as count I, and is so referred to in this opinion.

Defendants moved to dismiss both counts. Although there was no ruling as to count II, which is not a part of this appeal, the district court sustained defendants' motions to dismiss count I, and, in so doing, made reference to a proxy statement attached as an exhibit to count II.

From the sworn complaint, as amended, these facts appear: Susquehanna on June 30, 1965 had outstanding 2,763,035 shares of stock, traded in the over-the-counter market. It had about 8,755 shareholders. Its principal assets were cash, short-term investments, and the ownership of subsidiary companies engaged in activities such as mining and processing of ores, operation of a bus line, production of sulphuric acid, vanadium pentoxide and an aggregate used in the manufacture of concrete. Its current assets at the end of its fiscal year on June 30, 1965, amounted to $13,730,081, which was about 15 times its current liabilities of $917,331. It also had an income tax carry forward credit of about $12,000,000, acquired in connection with the liquidation of a railroad.

During the year before April 19, 1965, Susquehanna was managed by defendants George M. Bard, Ralph A. L. Bogan, Jr., Edward O. Boshell, J. Patrick Lannan, Howard J. Lauhoff, Harold G. Mason, J. Earle May, Hugh C. Michels, R. C. Schenk, Franklin B. Schmick, Harold C. Stuart, Arthur M. Wirtz, and Francis C. Woolard, here referred to as "the Lannan group", who individually owned or controlled 436,297 shares on that date. They were directors or officers, the dominant shareholders being Lannan, chairman of the board, and Schenk, president and director.

(a) It further appears from said complaint, upon information and belief, that the Lannan group, in complete disregard and in derogation of their duty to Susquehanna and to its other shareholders, and intending unjustly to enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage of Susquehanna and its other shareholders, agreed and conspired among themselves, and with defendant Herbert F. Korholz, acting for himself and Gypsum, to cheat and defraud Susquehanna and said other shareholders out of property and property rights having great value. This was to be done by causing Susquehanna to acquire by indirection 435,000 shares of its own stock, all or a substantial part of which were owned or controlled by the Lannan group, at a price about $1,740,000 in excess of the fair market value of such shares. This result was to be accomplished through the device of a sale of the shares by the group to Gypsum, acting through Korholz, its president and majority stockholder, followed by a merger into Susquehanna. An inducement to Korholz was the transfer of control of Susquehanna, by seriatim resignations of Lannan group directors, and the substitution of Korholz and his nominees. Success of this plan depended upon the re-election of the group as Susquehanna directors at the annual stockholders' meeting on April 19, 1965. To carry out this plan, the group solicited proxies pledging its own reelection to the Susquehanna board. These solicitations contained misrepresentations of fact, in furtherance of the conspiracy, pleaded with particularity in the complaint.1 With the proxies so obtained, the group elected to the board thirteen of its members. Of the defendants here who were Susquehanna directors, all were present at that meeting, but none did anything to inform the shareholders of the real plan of the Lannan group to merge with Gypsum. A dissident group of shareholders (the "Kansas City Group"), representing about 328,000 shares, cumulated their votes and placed defendants A. D. Martin and Albert W. Thomson on the board.

On May 19, 1965, defendants Lannan and Korholz issued a press release stating that Lannan and "major Susquehanna shareholders" had sold 435,000 shares of Susquehanna which they owned or controlled to Korholz acting on behalf of Gypsum, for $6,525,000 in cash.

The vacancies on the Susquehanna board were filled by electing Korholz as chairman and defendants Hardin, Nielsen and Reeves, as members thereof, they being the nominees of Korholz.

The foregoing transfer of control of the Susquehanna board was averred in count I to be in furtherance of the conspiracy.

(b) Count I alleges that, in furtherance of the conspiracy, in May 1965 the Kansas City group threatened to sue, charging corporate mismanagement, and defendants caused Susquehanna to exchange 140,000 shares of Vanadium Corporation stock owned by Susquehanna for 222,107 shares of Susquehanna owned by the Kansas City group, plus $300,685 in cash. This exchange was on a basis which undervalued the Vanadium stock by $700,000, the profit realized by the Kansas City group two weeks later on a resale of that stock to the Vanadium Corporation.

Korholz owned or controlled 56% of the outstanding voting stock of Gypsum. He secured the passage of resolutions by the directors of the two corporations, recommending merger of Gypsum into Susquehanna, on the ratio of 1.9 shares of Gypsum for 1 share of Susquehanna, a ratio averred in count I to represent a gross overvaluation of the Gypsum stock. Although included in the assets of Gypsum were the 435,000 Susquehanna shares purchased from the Lannan group, Gypsum purchased these shares with funds borrowed from a bank, which loan was in effect assumed by Susquehanna under the merger agreement. Thus, if the merger were consummated, Susquehanna would have acquired 435,000 shares of its own stock at a price of about $1,740,000 in excess of the fair market value thereof.

Plaintiffs in count I sought, inter alia, to enjoin the Gypsum-Susquehanna merger, to recover for Susquehanna the $1,740,000 premium realized by the Lannan group on the sale of the 435,000 shares of Susquehanna, and to surcharge defendants with $700,000, the amount by which they undervalued Susquehanna's holding of Vanadium shares, in the exchange of such shares owned by the Kansas City group.

While defendants moved to dismiss count I on the ground that plaintiffs were not purchasers or sellers of securities, plaintiffs point out that they sued derivatively, asserting a cause of action belonging to Susquehanna, the corporation injured by the wrongful acts of its officers and directors, which is the real party-plaintiff.

Plaintiffs contend that, under the facts alleged by them and the decided cases, the "issuance" by a corporation of shares to be exchanged for shares or assets of of another corporation constitutes the issuing corporation either a seller or a purchaser of securities entitled to the protection of the securities laws. In addition, it appears from a brief which we permitted to be filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission as amicus curiae, that the question presented here is not whether a purchase or a sale was made by an individual Gypsum or Susquehanna shareholder, but that the issue is whether there was a purchase or a sale by Susquehanna itself. We are impressed by the argument of the Commission that the proposed merger of Gypsum into Susquehanna involved both a...

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