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In Re Adelphia Communications Corporation Securities and Derivative Litigation v. Deloitte & Touche Llp

December 21, 2011

IN RE ADELPHIA COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION SECURITIES AND DERIVATIVE LITIGATION W.R. HUFF ASSET MANAGEMENT CO., L.L.C., ET AL.
v.
DELOITTE & TOUCHE LLP, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McKENNA, D.J.,

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO

A number of the defendants in this action -- W.R. Huff Mgmt. Co., L.L.C., et al. v. Deloitte & Touche LLP, et al. (03 Civ. 5752) -- move, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 17(a)(3), for an order dismissing, for lack of standing, the claims of fifty-eight plaintiffs.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Huff Asset Management Company ("Huff") initially brought this action on behalf of its investment clients against, inter alia, Adelphia Communications Corporation, its underwriters, banks, auditors, and law firms. (Third Am. Compl. ("TAC") ¶ 1.) Huff filed suit in its own name, pursuant to its authority to act as investment advisor and attorney-in-fact for its clients. (See Decl. of Max R. Shulman in Support of Defs.' Joint Mot. to Dismiss, Jan. 11, 2010 ("Shulman Decl."), Ex. 1; Pls.' Mem. of Law in Opp'n to Defs.' Joint Mot. to Dismiss the Claims of Fifty-Nine Pls. Named in the Third Am. Compl. Pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 17(a)(3) of the Fed. R. of Civ. P. ("Pls.' Mem."), Mar. 5, 2010, at 2.) The original complaint was filed on June 7, 2002, in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. (Shulman Decl., Ex. 1.) An amended complaint was filed on June 14, 2002. (Id., Ex. 2.) On or about August 1, 2003, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred the action to this district for inclusion in the above identified multidistrict litigation. (Docket No. 1.*fn2 ) On or about December 12, 2003, plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint ("SAC"). (Shulman Decl., Ex. 8.) In 2005, this Court denied defendants' motion for dismissal, which was sought on the ground that Huff did not have standing to sue on behalf of its unnamed beneficial owner clients. In re Adelphia Comm. Corp. Sec. & Deriv. Litig., Nos. 03-MDL-1529, 03-CV-5752, 2005 WL 2087811 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 30, 2005), adhered to on recons., 2005 WL 2667201 (S.D.N.Y. Oct 19, 2005). The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Huff lacked constitutional standing to bring suit as a plaintiff in this action. W.R. Huff Asset Mgmt. Co., L.L.C. v. Deloitte & Touche, LLP, 549 F.3d 100 (2d Cir. 2008). Subsequently, this Court dismissed the SAC and granted Huff leave to move to amend its complaint. In re Adelphia Comm. Corp. Sec. & Deriv. Litig., Nos. 03-MDL-1529, 03-CV-5752, 2009 WL 1490599 (S.D.N.Y. May 21, 2009).

On January 30, 2009, Huff filed the proposed TAC, naming 156 of its investment clients as plaintiffs (see TAC ¶¶ 68-210), and argued that the naming of such plaintiffs should relate back to the date of commencement of the original action, June 7, 2002, pursuant to, inter alia, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(a)(3). (Mem. of Law of Pl. W.R. Huff Asset Mgmt. Co., L.L.C. in Supp. of its Mot. for Relief from J. and for Leave to File a Third Am. Compl. Substituting the Beneficial Owners as Pls. Pursuant to Rules 60(b), 17(a), and 15 of the Fed. R. of Civ. P., Jan. 30, 2009, at 14-15.) This Court granted Huff's motion, allowing the TAC to relate back to the date of the original complaint, but recognized that there were still "threshold factual questions that defendants should have the right to discovery on." Adelphia, 2009 WL 1490599, at *7. In granting Huff's motion, this Court thus imposed the condition that defendants were entitled to expedited and limited discovery to determine which plaintiffs had executed valid powers of attorney as of the date of commencement of the action. Id.

Defendants now move for dismissal on the ground that numerous plaintiffs, who did not provide Huff with valid powers of attorney prior to commencement of suit, were improperly added to this action and that the complaint therefore must be dismissed as to them. (Mem. in Supp. of Defs.' Joint Mot. to Dismiss ("Defs.' Mem."), Jan. 11, 2010, at 11-12.) Defendants argue that seven plaintiffs failed to have their powers of attorney acknowledged properly, nine plaintiffs never executed powers of attorney, and forty-two plaintiffs executed powers of attorney after Huff filed suit. (Id. at 14-17.)

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

A complaint should be dismissed if it "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted". Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court ordinarily accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." In re Parmalat, 501 F. Supp. 2d 560, 572 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (citing Levy v. Southbrook Int'l Invs., Ltd., 263 F.3d 10, 14 (2d Cir. 2001)). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "the plaintiff must provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient 'to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). It is not the court's function "to weigh the evidence that might be presented at a trial but merely to determine whether the complaint itself is legally sufficient." Festa v. Local 3 Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 905 F.2d 35, 37 (2d Cir. 1990).

B. Plaintiffs Whose Powers of Attorney Were Not Acknowledged, or Were Acknowledged After Commencement of This Action

Defendants move to dismiss the complaint as to seven plaintiffs due to defects in the acknowledgment of their powers of attorney. Defendants allege that plaintiffs (1) Jeffrey L. Bassock, (2) Hope Yampol, (3) Richard Miller and (4) HOWW, L.L.C. failed to have their powers of attorney acknowledged. (Defs.' Mem., Jan. 11, 2010, at 10 n.16, Appx. A.) Defendants also contend that plaintiffs (1) Fred Galland, (2) XL Investments, Ltd., and (3) XL Re Ltd. executed their powers of attorney prior to June 7, 2002, when the original complaint was filed, but did not have them acknowledged until after that date. (Id., n.14, Appx. A.)

Under New Jersey law, "[a] power of attorney must be in writing, duly signed and acknowledged" by an appropriate officer. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 46:2B-8.9 (West 2011); see also N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 46:14-2.1, 46:14-6.1 (West 2011).*fn3 An acknowledgment is not an insignificant formality. It is "[a] formal declaration made in the presence of an authorized officer, such as a notary public, by someone who signs a document and confirms that the signature is authentic." Black's Law Dictionary 23 (7th ed. 1999) (definition 4).

A specifically designated officer*fn4 may acknowledge a power of attorney only when the signer appears before him and "acknowledge[s] that it was executed as the maker's own act." N.J. Stat. Ann. ยง 46:14-2.1 (West 2011). In the case of a signer who executes a power of attorney on behalf of a corporation or legal entity, "the maker shall appear before a [specified] officer . . . and state that the maker was authorized to execute the instrument on behalf of the entity and that the maker executed the instrument as the act of the entity." Id. The acknowledgment process thus serves to give greater assurance to anyone affected by the document in question that it has been executed by the proper individual. Here, each power ...


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