West Virginia State Court begins civil contempt proceedings involving Massey Energy Board
Earlier today, the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia issued a "rule to show cause" as to why the Massey Energy Company (NYSE: MEE) Board of Directors should not be held in civil contempt for violating a June 30, 2008 court order. Today's order initiates civil contempt proceedings against current Massey Energy directors, including Chairman Don Blankenship, granting the request that Motley Rice LLC and Charleston, WV attorney Andrew MacQueen filed last Friday on behalf of a Massey Energy shareholder.
The June 30, 2008 order at issue incorporates a May 20, 2008 settlement agreement "as operative terms and provisions."As explained in the May 20, 2008 agreement, it resolved a shareholder derivative case filed on July 2, 2007 alleging that the named Massey Energy officers and directors had breached fiduciary duties to Massey Energy in connection with their alleged failure to implement adequate controls to ensure the company's compliance with applicable laws and regulations concerning worker safety and environmental protection. As part of that settlement agreement, the Board and the company were required to implement certain corporate governance reforms.
Fundamental to the order and settlement was a company-wide reporting system for compliance with mine safety laws, rules and regulations," stated Motley Rice attorney Badge Humphries. "We have presented to the court the evidence available to us that the Board has violated those provisions. Through this proceeding, we intend to uncover the full nature and extent of any violations.
In issuing the rule to show cause, the court stated that the "Plaintiff has made a prima facie showing that the Directors have violated the June 30, 2008 Agreed Order and Final Judgment" and announced its intentions to "conduct a hearing at which the Directors shall have an opportunity to show cause why they should not be held in civil contempt."The court set a scheduling conference for May 12, 2010 on the matter.
The firm also filed a new shareholder derivative lawsuit, on behalf of the same client, against Massey Energy officers and directors for post-May 20, 2008 conduct.As stated in the complaint, the purpose of the lawsuit is to hold the named Massey Energy officers and directors personally accountable for breaches of fiduciary duty leading to the Upper Big Branch tragedy and associated damages to the company and to prevent similar accidents from recurring. Through a shareholder derivative lawsuit, a stock owner can stand in the shoes of a company and assert its claims under certain circumstances, which are alleged to exist in this case.
One of approximately 70 coal mines operated by Massey Energy Company, West Virginia's Upper Big Branch coal mine suffered a massive explosion on Monday, April 5, 2010 that took the lives of 29 miners, making it the most fatal U.S. coal mining disaster in four decades. Alleged to have been caused by an accumulation of coal dust and methane gas, the explosion has prompted both federal and state investigations into the disaster as well as Massey Energy Company's operation of it mines in regards to compliance with environmental and worker safety laws and regulations. Both the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety & Training have begun extensive investigations. West Virginia's Governor has also appointed a former top federal mining official to conduct a third, independent probe.
All inquiries regarding this litigation should be directed to Motley Rice attorney Badge Humphries (KY, SC, TX) at +1 843.216.9253.
About Motley Rice LLC
Motley Rice LLC is one of the nation's largest plaintiffs' litigation firms. Motley Rice attorneys gained recognition for their work on behalf of asbestos victims, the State Attorneys General in their landmark litigation against Big Tobacco, and the 9/11 families in their groundbreaking lawsuit against terrorist financiers. With more than 60 attorneys and hundreds of staff, the firm continues to handle complex litigation, including cases in the areas of securities and consumer fraud, shareholder rights, aviation disasters, catastrophic injury, asbestos-related and other occupational disease, environmental hazards and contamination, human rights and pharmaceuticals and device defects.The firm is headquartered in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and has additional offices in West Virginia: Connecticut; New York; Rhode Island and Washington, DC.