Blackstone's Police Operational Handbook 2014: Law by Ian Bridges, Fraser Sampson

By Ian Bridges, Fraser Sampson

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The derivative action was the only legal remedy then available to shareholders, and in the first decades of the twentieth century its use increased. 34 THE RISE OF THE ENTREPRENEURIAL LITIGATOR In principle, a derivative action is really two actions: first, there is an action brought in equity to allow the shareholder to supplant the board of directors and sue in the corporation’s name, and, second, if the court permits the action to proceed, there is the suit in law to obtain a recovery on behalf of the corporation against those defendants who typically are alleged to have breached their fiduciary duties to the corporation.

20 For these reasons, other plaintiff ’s firms eventually overtook his, as we shall see. Although Pomerantz’s prominence and high recoveries motivated others to imitate him, few, if any, of his contemporaries ever approached his level of success. The plaintiff ’s bar then consisted of solo practitioners and very small firms. Economically, they lacked the financial resources to carry a derivative action for an extended period, gambling on the hope of an eventual, but uncertain, contingent fee. Even more importantly, they did not have the size or scale to diversify their risk by developing a portfolio of similar cases so that they were not dependent on the outcome of a single case.

He had his defenders. ”15 36 THE RISE OF THE ENTREPRENEURIAL LITIGATOR This last characterization needs emphasis. Venner might often identify a violation of corporate law procedures that a company had engaged in, but rather than press his derivative action to its conclusion, he would typically reach a private settlement, selling his shares back to the company or its controlling shareholder and dropping his suit. Other minority shareholders were thus left out in the cold (as Judge Frank duly noted).

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