Articles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court

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Plaintiffs James Adams, Stanley Dye and Ed Holcombe were all shareholders in Altrust Financial Services, Inc. They sued Altrust, the Peoples Bank of Alabama (collectively, Altrust) and Dixon Hughes, LLC, Altrust's public-accounting firm, for violating the Alabama Securities Act. Altrust is a holding company that fully owns, controls and directs the operations of the Bank. Altrust and the Bank share common officers and directors and issue consolidated financial statements. Shareholders voted to reorganize the company in 2008 from a publicly held company to a privately held company. The move would have freed the company of certain reporting obligations imposed by the federal Securities Exchange Act and allowed the company to elect Subchapter S status for tax purposes. Relying on information in a proxy statement, Plaintiffs elected not to sell their shares of Altrust stock and instead voted for reorganization. Plaintiffs alleged that the proxy statement and financial reports contained material misrepresentations and omissions that induced them to ultimately sign shareholder agreements that made them shareholders in the newly reorganized Altrust. Plaintiffs contended that if (in their view) instances of mismanagement, self-dealing, interested-party transactions and "skewing" of company liabilities had been fully disclosed, they would have elected to sell their shares rather than remain as shareholders. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that Plaintiffs' allegations were not specific to them but to all shareholders, and as such, they did not have standing to assert a direct action against the company. Because Plaintiffs did not have standing to assert claims against Altrust, they also lacked standing to assert professional negligence claims against the accounting firm. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings.