The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER
Barrington D. Parker, Senior District Judge:
This memorandum opinion sets forth the Court's final ruling on the claims of former employee shareholders of U.S. News and World Report, Inc. ("U.S. News" or "Company") to proceeds from the sale of the corporation. The Company was purchased in 1984 by Mortimer Zuckerman, a Boston real estate developer, for a price of $ 176 million. Plaintiffs contend that during the period prior to the sale, when they were entitled to and did receive their share of the value of the Company's stock, the true worth of the stock was wrongfully concealed, that its appraised value was otherwise manipulated and miscalculated by defendants, and that they were deprived of the stock benefits and profit-sharing interests to which they were entitled. The litigation has been hotly contested. Serious and unsettled questions arising under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq., are involved in this proceeding. While other legal issues are also presented under federal securities law, and the common law of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment and negligence, the questions arising under ERISA clearly predominate.
Throughout the course of the proceeding, counsel have ably briefed and argued in both their written memoranda and oral presentations the factual and legal issues involved. The questions presented for resolution have been fully considered. For the reasons set forth below in its factual findings and conclusions of law, entered pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a), the Court determines that plaintiffs have failed to support their claims, that judgment should be granted defendants on all counts, and the consolidated complaints dismissed.
The Complaints and Pretrial Motions
This litigation involves two consolidated complaints brought against U.S. News and several other defendants. Charles S. Foltz and others are plaintiffs in the first; David B. Richardson and others are plaintiffs in the second. At all relevant times, the Company produced and published the weekly news magazine, U.S. News and World Report. The Company also operated book and newsletter divisions; they were not particularly profitable and are of no great consequence to these proceedings.
Defendant U.S. News, organized at all relevant times under the corporate laws of the State of Delaware,
is headquartered in the District of Columbia. Other named defendants are certain former directors of U.S. News;
the Madana Realty Company ("Madana"), a wholly-owned U.S. News subsidiary; the U.S. News Profit-Sharing Plan, an employee benefit plan as defined by ERISA § 3(34), 29 U.S.C. § 1002(34); and American Appraisal Associates, Inc. ("American Appraisal"), an appraisal firm transacting business in the District and organized under the laws of the State of Delaware. American Appraisal performed the year-end appraisals of the U.S. News stock that are at issue here. A group designated as Save the Fund was allowed to intervene as defendants. The group includes currently employed or recently separated or retired U.S. News employees interested in preserving and eventually receiving that portion of the sale proceeds held back from distribution from the Plan by order of this Court.
Over the three-year period during which these consolidated proceedings have been pending, discovery efforts have been thorough and extensive. Even so, many of the factual and legal issues originally presented were significantly narrowed by pretrial proceedings and motions for summary judgment.
By agreement and consent of all counsel, issues of liability and damages were bifurcated for separate trial.
The claims remaining after entry of partial summary judgment in each case were considered in an extended bench trial. The matters remaining in Foltz included: (1) claims for benefits due and owing from the Plan, under ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B);
(2) claims for breach of fiduciary duty against U.S. News, the director-defendants and American Appraisal, under ERISA § 502(a)(3), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3);
(3) claims against U.S. News, the director-defendants, and American Appraisal for violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. § 78j(b), and Rule 10b-5 of the Securities and Exchange Commission, 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5;
(4) claims for common-law fraud against U.S. News, the director-defendants, and American Appraisal; and (5) claims for common-law breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, negligence and negligent misrepresentation against U.S. News and the director-defendants.
The matters remaining in Richardson included: (1) claims for benefits due against the Plan under ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B); and (2) claims against U.S. News and the director-defendants for negligence and negligent misrepresentation.
At the conclusion of plaintiffs' case-in-chief on the issue of liability, defendants filed motions for dismissal and judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b). In addition to opposing those motions, plaintiffs in the two actions filed motions to amend their complaints, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(b), on the theory that the facts actually litigated tended to support additional causes of action. The motion to amend the Foltz complaint was denied. The Richardson plaintiffs were granted leave to add section 502(a)(3) ERISA claims against the U.S. News defendants for their alleged failure to have the Plan's holdings of U.S. News Class A stock properly appraised.
In an oral bench ruling, the Court granted in part defendants' motions, thus limiting the claims in both proceedings to those against the Plan for benefits due under ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B) and against U.S. News and the director-defendants for breach of fiduciary duty under section 502(a)(3) and for negligence. See Transcript of Proceedings, vol. 54 at 10,316-36.
All claims against American Appraisal were dismissed. An extended discussion of the ruling is presented infra pp. 25 ff.
As discussed above, plaintiffs in the consolidated actions seek to recover retirement benefits allegedly owed them under the Company's profit-sharing and stock bonus plans. Because ERISA affords an aggrieved plaintiff a right of action against a covered plan, plaintiffs brought an action for unpaid benefits directly against the Plan. With respect to their bonus stock interests, however, they must and they do seek recovery of monies allegedly owed them from U.S. News itself.
In addition, plaintiffs charge that the director-defendants, in concert with American Appraisal, acted both deliberately and negligently to cause their retirement benefits to be undervalued. Accordingly, plaintiffs seek recovery in the alternative from those defendants.
History of U.S. News and World Report, Inc.
A. Events Occurring Before the Class Period
U.S. News & World Report, Inc. was formed on June 1, 1962 from the reorganization of the U.S. News Publishing Corporation ("U.S. News Publishing"), a Company established in 1933 by David Lawrence. Prior to the 1962 reorganization, all voting stock of U.S. News Publishing was held by Lawrence's three adult children, subject, however, to a voting trust, controlled by Mr. Lawrence as sole voting trustee. The non-voting stock was held in part by two trusts established for the benefit of Lawrence family members, and in part by certain employees who had been afforded an opportunity to buy stock. By 1962, 28 employees or members of their families owned 34 percent of the outstanding shares of the 1933 corporation.
The 1962 reorganization was undertaken with the intent and purpose that U.S. News would be owned entirely by its employees. Mr. Lawrence and the Company's Washington, D.C. counsel, the firm of Covington & Burling,
took the necessary steps to achieve that end, including an independent appraisal of the fair market value of the corporate shares and the submission of a request to the Internal Revenue Service that the proposed reorganization would not result in the loss of the tax-qualified status of the Plan, which Mr. Lawrence had established prior to 1962. The U.S. News Certificate and Articles of Incorporation ("Articles of Incorporation") also assured that the Company would remain employee-owned. Article Fifth, PX 2 at 7-12. Under the reorganization plan, U.S. News purchased the shares of U.S. News Publishing held by members of the Lawrence family at a price of $ 50 per share, determined by an appraisal performed by American Appraisal as of May 31, 1962. Consideration was paid partly in cash and partly in notes. Employees who individually held stock in U.S. News Publishing exchanged their stock for shares in U.S. News equivalent in value to what they had previously owned. The value of the U.S. News shares received by the employee stockholders was also determined to be $ 50 per share by the May 31 appraisal. U.S. News then sold to the Plan 30,000 shares of stock, again at a price of $ 50 per share.
After the reorganization, U.S. News had two classes of stock, "Class A" and "common." Each class had the same voting and liquidation rights. All Class A stock was owned by the Profit-Sharing Plan, and the stock would automatically be converted to common stock if it passed into the hands of anyone other than the Plan.
Immediately following the reorganization, 130,800 shares of U.S. News stock were outstanding: 30,000 shares of Class A stock were held by the Profit-Sharing Plan, and 100,800 shares were held directly by the employees who had previously owned stock in U.S. News Publishing. The 30,000 shares purchased by the Plan constituted approximately a 23 percent interest in U.S. News. It was contemplated, however, that the Plan would own a larger percentage with the passage of time and that it would eventually own nearly all the outstanding stock. This was so because shares owned by the 28 key employees would be redeemed as they reached the retirement age of 65, with each redemption increasing the Plan's percentage of the reduced amount outstanding, until ultimately the Plan would own all but the relatively small number of common shares.
In 1966, the Plan purchased an additional 20,000 shares of Class A stock at a value of $ 80.00 per share, again determined by American Appraisal. This gave the Plan approximately 45 percent of the 110,574 shares then outstanding. During 1971, the 50,000 shares came to constitute a majority of the outstanding stock of the company, due to the repurchase by the company of outstanding common stock from employees who retired, died, or otherwise terminated their employment.
The reorganization plan did not contemplate any change in the actual control and management of the company, since all the common stock was placed in a voting trust with Lawrence as sole voting trustee. Thus, as sole voting trustee, he had the legal authority to elect the directors, both before and after reorganization. Mr. Lawrence served in that position until his death in 1973, at which time substitute trustees were named, in accordance with the voting trust instrument. In 1967, the Plan's Class A holdings were placed in the voting trust as well.
The persons responsible for the reorganization anticipated that employee ownership of U.S. News would take several forms: (1) the 28 employees who had been stockholders of U.S. News Publishing would hold shares of U.S. News & World Report ("key employee stock"); (2) since more widespread ownership by employees was desired, the Plan, in which most of the employees participated, would hold all the Class A stock; (3) the Company would institute a "stock bonus" program, issuing shares to employees every fifth year.
The U.S. News Profit-Sharing Plan provided income to employees upon their retirement, death, or separation from U.S. News.
Each employee who had attained the age of 25 and who had served for at least one year was entitled to participate. An employee became fully vested in the Plan after 10 years' service. The Plan was the primary means through which each employee secured an ownership interest in the Company. The employees could not, without the financial resources of the Plan, purchase all of the stock of U.S. News Publishing previously held by members of the Lawrence family. Thus the Plan's purchase of U.S. News stock permitted all employees to participate in the beneficial or economic ownership of the Company even though they did not have legal title to any shares individually. The Plan was always regarded as a conduit through which employees generally could participate in the growth of the Company. Benefits statements instructed Plan participants how to calculate the number of shares equivalent to their undivided interests in the Plan. See, e.g., DX 94, 95. In addition to the Class A stock, the assets of the Plan also included other investments made with funds received in the form of cash contributions from U.S. News. The value of those investments is not at issue here.
Under the stock bonus program, common stock was issued to employees at five-year intervals beginning after the fifth anniversary of employment, and in amounts based on salary and length of service and on the appraised value of the Company's stock. The stock bonus program was thought to have psychological advantages over indirect ownership through the Plan, although each employee's bonus stock holdings were of a much lesser value than his Plan account.
In 1968, Mr. Lawrence instituted a deferred compensation program under which a specified number of shares of "phantom stock" were awarded to certain senior Company executives. The program was designed to give senior managers a greater incentive for superior performance. That program is discussed further, infra slip op. at pp. 28-31.
B. Events Occurring During the Class Period
1. Real Estate Acquisitions
At the time of the 1962 reorganization, Madana had acquired three to four acres of partially developed real estate in the West End of Washington. Madana owned the land until late 1981, and approximately 75-80 percent of the holdings were used for U.S. News business operations, including a headquarters building, an employee cafeteria, and employee parking facilities. 26 Tr. 5089 (Sweet); 31 Tr. 6272-73 (Naimoli). The remaining portion was subject to commercial leases to third parties.
Before 1973, development of the real estate was not feasible because of zoning uncertainties, the character of the neighborhood, and the pendency of various proposals that would have required public use of portions of the land. See, e.g., DX 118 at 2; PX 371 at 2. During the early 1970s, U.S. News and other West End property owners actively participated in proposing to local government officials a coherent development plan. In December 1974, the District of Columbia Zoning Commission promulgated zoning law revisions, changing a substantial portion of the Company's holdings from commercial to commercial-residential, while increasing the permissible "floor area ratio ("FAR").
The remainder of its property continued to be zoned residential. U.S. News was not wholly satisfied with some aspects of the Commission's decision, for example, height restrictions on certain residential real estate adjacent to Rock Creek Park. Challenges to the rezoning decisions generally, including the height restriction, and lawsuits by other dissatisfied landowners continued for years after the decision was rendered, through late 1977.
In any event, during 1974 and immediately thereafter, the Company had no definite development plans for the real estate. While its directors and management were aware of the potential value of the real estate, they had no intention of selling those assets at that point in time. The appraiser who performed the year-end valuation for 1974, Mr. C.E. O. Walker, called as a witness by the Foltz plaintiffs, offered convincing testimony and cautioned, as an experienced professional, that any realizable value should be attributed to the real estate only "if it was evident that the controlling interest had a firm and clear intent to dispose of the real estate within a very short or reasonable period of time[, that is,] absolute evidence . . . not mere development plans." 23 Tr. 4524. See also 23 Tr. 4505-12. Mr. Walker was highly qualified to give this opinion. He had previously served as international president of the American Society of Appraisers and was also a member of the College of Fellows of that organization. 23 Tr. 4493-95.
In 1977, U.S. News management further explored with officers in the mortgage and trusts department of Riggs National Bank the financial feasibility of developing its real estate. Riggs advised that the Company's financial condition was not sufficiently strong and cautioned against undertaking any significant real estate developments at the time. On the strength of that advice, the Company deferred further consideration of building a new corporate headquarters and of pursuing any other development plans. Management discussed its hesitancy about immediate development with the employees, explaining further that if such developments were undertaken, they wanted to be certain that they would protect the Company from uncertain swings in its publishing-related business and assure a source of profits from which contributions could be made to the Plan. See, e.g., PX 11 at 23, Question and Answer Session ("Q & A") at 2.
In early 1978, U.S. News again discussed real estate development plans with Carr Company representatives. Several alternatives were considered including development of part of the land, a partnership arrangement with a developer, and relocation of U.S. News headquarters elsewhere. These alternatives did not materialize into binding development plans.
During the class period the U.S. News directors kept American Appraisal fully informed of all real estate acquisitions and their considerations regarding development of the property. American Appraisal representatives were familiar with the location, size and use of the property; knew that the property had great potential and unrealized value; and discussed in their annual interviews with U.S. News officers the plans and considerations regarding possible development.
The working papers of the appraisers referenced contemplated developments of the property as presented in the 1976 Carr report. Their subsequent work papers and annual reports leading up to the 1981 joint partnership agreement with Boston Properties, Inc. likewise reflected full knowledge and awareness of those important events.
However, until the development plans matured into a firm and clear intent to build within a reasonably certain time frame, the realizable value of the real estate was not reflected in American Appraisal's annual reports or the Company's financial statements. This approach was supported by credible testimony of representatives from American Appraisal. See, e.g., 23 Tr. 4505-12, 4524 (testimony of C.E.O. Walker). When more precise decisions were reached and it became certain that plans and discussions had ripened and definite goals and timetables were set, these facts were reflected in the annual valuations performed by American Appraisal in the last several years of the class period. In interviews with the appraisers who performed the 1979 valuation, U.S. News announced that it expected to make a decision on developing its real estate within the next year. PX 77. Indeed, the appraisers were told that there was a strong likelihood that the Company would participate in some type of venture and that real estate prospects were very promising. Id. The 1979 American Appraisal report reflected these discussions, noting that
management has recently begun studying various alternatives in the development of the company-owned real estate. There is a good possibility that after development, U.S. News will have a significant income producing property(s). While the development of the real estate, and income therefrom, may be several years away, some weight must be given to this potential income source in valuing the common stock shares of U.S. News.
In preparing the 1979 report, American Appraisal understood that U.S. News might decide to develop its real estate, and it considered the realizable value of the real estate not currently needed in U.S. News' publishing business to be a reasonable "proxy" for estimating the effect that possible future development might have on an investor's assessment of the value of U.S. News stock. Id. at 15-16.
Throughout this litigation, plaintiffs have challenged the uses to which the West End real estate was put. They charge that the U.S. News defendants should have regarded the property as an excess asset -- beyond the Company's reasonable needs -- and that instead they purposely decided and otherwise failed to utilize the land at its highest and best economic use. All of this, plaintiffs assert, was accomplished to their detriment and financial loss. Defendants have responded that the original real estate purchases were made "to protect [the Company's] right to grow." See, e.g., PX 38, Q & A at 4. Several of plaintiffs' experts offered testimony as to what they regarded as excess real estate, which in their view the Company could have developed without interfering with its publishing business. Their testimony and analysis, however, was incomplete and flawed; they failed to consider fully the problems and uncertainties encountered by U.S. News before 1973 and continuing in lesser degree until the mid-70's, as discussed supra, slip op. at pp. 13-16. Those problems precluded any type of realistic development plans. Much more important and significant was the fact that their testimony presupposed that the interests of the plaintiffs and other shareholders similarly situated should have been valued on a control basis. See infra slip op. at pp. 44-83.
One of plaintiffs' several contentions is that the defendant-directors, as fiduciaries, were derelict in failing to discharge their duties in determining and deciding U.S. News policy and keeping abreast of and knowledgeable about corporate affairs. This, they assert, was particularly true with respect to the annual appraisals performed by American Appraisal. The Court finds that such a claim is not supported by the record. The directors as a whole possessed varied abilities, training, and experience. Accordingly, they appropriately relied upon each other and, where necessary, on each other's particular expertise. This was true in many areas of the Company's business affairs.
Other than John Sweet, two other members of the board of directors were particularly knowledgeable, important and active participants in the day-to-day operating and long-range development of corporate affairs. Bert Padrutt and his successor, Raymond Naimoli, played central roles during the class period in their position as treasurer and chief financial officer. Their fellow board members recognized the training, experience, intelligence and expertise that they brought to their office. The other directors who testified at trial all asserted that they relied upon Padrutt's, and then Naimoli's, judgment and advice in matters relating to the requirements of the assignments undertaken by American Appraisal, major decisions relating to use of the real estate, corporate finances, and other matters involving business decisions as they related to and impacted on the employee shareholders and Plan beneficiaries.
Padrutt was a certified public accountant with more than 15 years experience when he entered on duty as controller and later treasurer. Before joining U.S. News, he had worked with the Ernst & Ernst accounting firm (now Ernst & Whinney) and had been involved in their annual audits of U.S. News. During his tenure as chief financial officer, he regularly conferred with representatives of American Appraisal when they undertook their assignments, and he made the department heads and other directors available for conferences with the appraisers. He also reviewed and discussed with the appraisers their final reports to ensure that he understood their basic assumptions, that they were appropriate and well documented and that the final report could be supported and defended.
Naimoli was hired as chief financial officer in mid-1980. Like Mr. Padrutt, he possessed academic credentials and prior professional experience which equipped him for the position. As an accredited public accountant he had a previous and widening work experience with a major accounting firm, the Arthur Young Company. He also served for approximately 10 years as corporate controller for Scholastic Magazine, a reputable publication. Because U.S. News was experiencing unusual changes when he entered on duty and because of his recent introduction to U.S. News and to the appraisal of its closely held stock, he proceeded cautiously but with a recognition of immediacy. As did his predecessor, Naimoli consulted with Don Harris about the facts surrounding the 1962 reorganization, particularly the methodology to be employed in valuing U.S. News' stock.
As a first assignment he reviewed prior efforts of the Company to develop its real estate with the hope of placing such efforts on a firmer track. See 30 Tr. 5982-84. In this connection U.S. News retained the law firm of Arnold & Porter in late 1980 to study development possibilities. In turn, Arnold & Porter hired the Julien Studley Company, a marketing consultant group, to assist in planning and to estimate current and projected values from development of the real estate. In January 1981, Arnold & Porter submitted an analysis of possible avenues for development, together with an optimistic report from Studley. Two alternatives were advanced for consideration: an immediate all-cash sale or a joint venture. On April 9, 1981, U.S. News distributed a prospectus developed by Arnold & Porter and Studley, soliciting a joint venture partner to develop its real estate. The Carr Company did not consider the proposal particularly attractive and did not submit a bid. Even so, on August 11, 1981, U.S. News signed a letter agreement with Boston Properties, Inc., providing for a series of limited partnerships to develop all of U.S. News' real estate parcels in the West End.
In December of 1983, an unsolicited offer was made to purchase the Company for $ 1,000 per share. The highest value at which the U.S. News stock had been appraised up to that point was only $ 470 per share. The employee-shareholders were advised and made aware of these developments. Accordingly, with the consent of a majority of the beneficial owners of its stock, U.S. News solicited bids for sale of the corporation during the following spring. The winning bid was that of Mr. Zuckerman, a principal of Boston Properties. The magazine was subsequently sold in October of 1984 for $ 176 million, or roughly $ 2,800 per share.
2. Acquisition of Other Assets
In addition to its real estate holdings, U.S. News acquired in 1975 and 1976 a minority stock interest in Atex, a supplier of photocomposition equipment to the magazine industry. While that stock was carried on the books at cost throughout the class period, when it was exchanged in 1981 at a significant profit for stock in the Eastman Kodak Company, the transaction was in part reflected in the 1981 annual appraisal. In 1978, U.S. News acquired a minority block of stock in Publishers Phototype, Inc., another photocomposition company. In 1981, U.S. News made other investments and acquisitions, primarily in the phototypesetting field. American Appraisal's treatment of these assets is considered infra, slip op. at pp. 84-91.
The Foltz complaint was filed in February 1984, when previously retired employees learned from newspaper accounts that the December 1983 offer of $ 1,000 per share had been made. See 2 Tr. 216-18, 274-75 (Foltz). The Richardson suit followed and was filed in July of 1985. It was consolidated with Foltz in March of 1986 for pretrial proceedings and trial.
While sometimes lost sight of, the central issue requiring resolution in this litigation has always been the propriety of the methodology employed in appraising the U.S. News stock. Plaintiffs maintain that the annual stock valuations, performed for U.S. News by American Appraisal, were not only grossly inaccurate throughout the class period, but were the result of collusion between those two defendants. Their basic quarrel with the appraisals is that they did not value the Plan's stock holdings, which constituted a majority of the Company's outstanding stock, on a control basis. This alleged failure, in turn, resulted in the minimization or exclusion from the appraisals of the value of the Company's non-operating assets, primarily the real estate.
As analyzed by the Court in its summary judgment opinion entered in Richardson, plaintiffs' claims in both actions fall more or less neatly into two categories. See 639 F. Supp. at 599. The first comprises claims premised upon intentional or fraudulent conduct and includes claims for breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty under ERISA § 502(a)(3), securities and common-law fraud, common-law breach of fiduciary duty, and unjust enrichment. The second encompasses claims based upon negligent, imprudent, arbitrary or capricious conduct and includes claims for benefits due under ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B), for breach of the fiduciary duty of care under ERISA § 502(a)(3), and for negligence and negligent misrepresentation. The effect of the Court's summary judgment decision in Richardson and of its ruling on defendants' Rule 41(b) motions in Foltz was to dismiss all those claims premised upon intentional or fraudulent conduct, on the grounds that there was no evidence in the record that any of the defendants engaged in any course of conduct designed deliberately to undervalue the Company's stock. See 639 F. Supp. at 603-10; 54 Tr. 10,326-27, 10,328-33.
What remains are plaintiffs' allegations that U.S. News, the director-defendants, and the Plan acted negligently or unreasonably in accepting American Appraisal's valuations for each of the class years. The second portion of the trial as to liability, commencing with the beginning of defendants' case-in-chief, dealt extensively and exclusively with whether the appraised values were reasonable in light of the circumstances. In this connection, plaintiffs and defendants presented several expert witnesses each. Their testimony addressed the issue of whether what was done during the class period conformed to acceptable and recognized procedures and standards 'and was otherwise appropriate and, if not, what should have been done. Defendants also presented an additional expert, Mr. Chester Gougis, who had undertaken an independent, "blind" appraisal of the Company's stock during each of the class years. His testimony was proffered to corroborate American Appraisal's valuations.
After consideration of the expert testimony presented, the Court is not persuaded that the appraisal methodology was improper or flawed, or that the per-share price arrived at each year by American Appraisal did not fall within a reasonable range of acceptable values. Having decided that the appraised values were reasonable, the Court must and does conclude that their acceptance and use by U.S. News was reasonable and thus cannot form the subject of any cause of action. Accordingly, the Court determines that plaintiffs have simply suffered no redressable injury, initial appearances aside. The Court also concludes that, because the Plan stock was reasonably valued on a minority-interest basis, the common or bonus stock was necessarily properly so valued.
The Court now presents its findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to defendants' motions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b), which dealt solely with the issue of intentional or fraudulent conduct. It then addresses the controversial and central issue dealing with the appropriate appraisal methodology.
A. Defendants' Motions to Dismiss and for Judgment Under Rule 41(b), Fed. R. Civ. P.
The Court's bench ruling on defendants' Rule 41(b) motions served to narrow further the issues remaining to be considered following plaintiffs' case-in-chief. The initial findings announced from the bench were not detailed. It is thus necessary to flesh out the findings of fact and conclusions of law in greater depth as contemplated under Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a). In expanding upon its previous oral ruling, the Court again notes that, "in a case tried without a jury, the trial court is not required to consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff in determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 41 made at the completion of the plaintiff's case." Woods v. North American Rockwell Corp., 480 F.2d 644, 645-46 (10th Cir. 1973). "Rather, the court is required to weigh all the evidence, resolve any conflicts and . . . decide itself where the preponderance lies." Albright v. United States, 558 F. Supp. 260, 264 (D.D.C. 1982), aff'd, 235 U.S. App. D.C. 295, 732 F.2d 181 (D.C. Cir. 1984).
The bench ruling eliminated from Foltz all claims premised upon intentional or fraudulent conduct -- that is, claims for securities and common-law fraud, common-law breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment, as well as claims for breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty under ERISA § 502(a)(3). All such claims had previously been considered and eliminated from Richardson on summary judgment, so that the bench ruling in Foltz placed both cases on equal footing.