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D&O litigation digest: UBS Financial Services faces complaint; Texas city sued

The number of securities-related lawsuits filed in the U.S. has been rising rapidly in recent years, particularly after M&A transactions and other significant corporate developments are announced.

S&P Global Market Intelligence tracks these cases filed against companies in our covered industries. The following information is compiled on a best-efforts basis twice monthly.

Biotechnology

A verified stockholder derivative complaint against certain Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. officers and directors seeks to remedy millions in damages to the firm caused by participation in a fraudulent scheme of promoting the off-label uses of two drugs, in addition to utilizing misleading promotional strategies.

Electric utilities

The U.S. government, as well as North Carolina and Virginia environmental agencies, filed a civil lawsuit against Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary Duke Energy Carolinas LLC for environmental damage from the 2014 coal ash spill at its retired Dan River plant. The civil action was brought against Duke Energy Carolinas for "damages for injury to, destruction of, or loss of natural resources, including the reasonable costs of assessing such injury, destruction, or loss, resulting from the release of hazardous constituents of coal ash when liquefied coal ash spilled into the Dan River on February 2, 2014, at and from the Dan River Steam Station near Eden, Rockingham County, North Carolina."

Investment banks

UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico and a stockbroker are facing a complaint filed by an investor that alleges that the plaintiff was misled regarding his entrusted investments by concentrating the investor's funds in Puerto Rico bond funds and not disclosing the risks associated with the investments in those funds.

Oil and gas exploration and production

A complaint accuses Amplify Energy Corp. and some board of directors of violations of the Securities Exchange Act in connection with the merger between Amplify and Midstates Petroleum Co. Inc. According to the suit, critical information was purposely concealed or manipulated to obtain Amplify's shareholders' votes in favor of the merger. The suit seeks to prevent the accused from finalizing the merger unless the information is revealed to Amplify's shareholders before their meeting.

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Kinder Morgan Inc. subsidiaries filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a Texas city ordinance the company said was designed to obstruct its 2.1-Bcf/d Permian Highway natural gas pipeline project. According to the lawsuit, the federal Pipeline Safety Act prohibits municipalities from enforcing ordinances involving safety standards and practices for pipeline transportation. The companies asked the court to prevent the city from implementing and enforcing the ordinance, as "any delay in constructing the pipeline will result in the waste of natural resources, pollution, and other adverse consequences for energy consumers," they said.

Specialized consumer services

A verified stockholder derivative complaint accuses certain Weight Watchers International Inc. board members of breach of fiduciary duty, waste of corporate assets, unjust enrichment and violations of the Securities Exchange Act. Specifically, the defendants are accused of improper accounting practices resulting in financial damages and loss of reputation to the company.