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California Board Gender Quota Law Challenged In Federal Court

Cydney Posner at Cooley LLP wrote last week about a new challenge to California's Board Gender Quota law.  The lawsuit, Creighton Meland v. Alex Padilla, Secretary of State of California, was reportedly filed in federal district court in California by a shareholder of OSI Systems, Inc.  According to OSI's most recently filed Form 10-Q, the company is incorporated in Delaware, its principal executive offices are in California, and its shares are traded on The Nasdaq Global Select Market.  The lawsuit alleges violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

As this case progresses, one question might be whether the plaintiff's claim is direct or derivative.  OSI is not named as a party to the lawsuit and the plaintiff alleges that the law injures his "right to vote for the candidate of his choice, free from the threat that the corporation will be fined if he votes without regard to sex".  The Delaware Supreme Court's test for whether a stockholder's action for breach of fiduciary duty is derivative or direct asks two questions:

"Who suffered the alleged harm--the corporation or the suing stockholder individually--and who would receive the benefit of the recovery or other remedy?"

Tooley v. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Inc., 845 A.2d 1031 (Del. 2004).  Although the corporation will be fined and the fine suffered by all of the stockholders, the plaintiff is alleging that he is being injured by being denied the freedom to vote without regard to sex.  Presumably, that injury would be removed if the law is enjoined.

Interestingly, OSI does not appear in the California Secretary of State's listing of SB 826 corporations published earlier this year.  According to the proxy statement filed by OSI last month, all of the current directors are men, but a female has been nominated for election at the upcoming meeting.  

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Corporate Governance, General Corporation Law

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