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In re Massey Energy Company Derivative and Class Action Litigation

Court of Chancery of Delaware

May 4, 2017


          Date Submitted: February 8, 2017

          Stuart Grant, Cynthia A. Calder, and Michael T. Manuel of GRANT & EISENHOFFER P.A., Wilmington, Delaware; Mark Lebovitch and David Wales of BERNSTEIN LITOWITZ BERGER & GROSSMANN LLP, New York, New York; Gregory M. Nespole and Benjamin Y. Kaufman of WOLF HALDENSTEIN ADLER FREEMAN & HERZ LLP, New York, New York; Nadeem Faruqi of FARUQI & FARUQI, LLP, New York, New York; Co-Lead Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

          Kevin G. Abrams, Matthew L. Miller, and Michael A. Barlow of ABRAMS & BAYLISS LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Ronald S. Rolfe and Julie A. North of CRAVATH, SWAINE & MOORE LLP, New York, New York; Attorneys for Defendants James B. Crawford, Robert H. Foglesong, Richard M. Gabrys, E. Gordon Gee, Bobby R. Inman, Dan R. Moore, Stanley C. Suboleski, and Lady Barbara Thomas Judge.

          Kenneth J. Nachbar and Ryan D. Stottmann of MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; William W. Taylor, III and Steven N. Herman of ZUCKERMAN SPAEDER LLP, Washington, DC (on behalf of Don. L. Blankenship); Peter H. White of SCHULTE ROTH & ZABEL LLP, Washington, DC (on behalf of Mark A. Clemens and Jeffrey M. Jarosinski); Stephen E. Baril of KAPLAN VOEKLER CUNNINGHAM & FRANK PLC, Richmond, Virginia; Stephen P. Anthony of COVINGTON & BURLING LLP, Washington, DC (on behalf of Christopher Adkins); Attorneys for Defendants J. Christopher Adkins, Don L. Blankenship, Mark A. Clemens, Jeffrey M. Jarosinski, and Baxter F. Phillips, Jr. Kevin G. Abrams, Matthew L. Miller, and Michael A. Barlow of ABRAMS & BAYLISS LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Greg A. Danilow and Caroline H. Zalka of WEIL, GOTSCHAL & MANGES LLP, New York, New York; Attorneys for Defendant Linda J. Welty.

          Donald J. Wolfe, Jr., Matthew E. Fischer, and Jacqueline A. Rogers of POTTER ANDERSON & CORROON LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Victor L. Hou of CLEARY GOTTLIEB STEEN & HAMILTON LLP, New York, New York; Attorneys for Nominal Defendant Alpha Appalachia Holdings, Inc.


          BOUCHARD, C

         In April 2010, an explosion occurred at Massey Energy Company's Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, killing 29 miners. It was the worst mining disaster in the United States in 40 years, but it was not the first serious accident at a Massey mine. Within weeks of the explosion, stockholders of Massey filed numerous derivative lawsuits, seeking to recover damages on behalf of the company for fines, judgments and other harm it would suffer because of the alleged failure of Massey directors and officers to make a good faith effort to ensure that Massey complied with mine safety regulations.

         A series of government and private investigatory reports concluded that the Upper Big Branch mine tragedy was a direct result of Massey's systematic and willful violations of federal and state safety regulations. The disaster later led to the criminal conviction of several Massey executives, including its former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Don Blankenship, who resigned in December 2010.

         On January 27, 2011, after a lengthy sale process during which multiple strategic parties were solicited to bid, Massey entered into a merger agreement with Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. If Massey stockholders approved the merger, they would receive a combination of shares of Alpha common stock and cash then estimated to be worth approximately $7 billion in exchange for their shares of Massey stock, and Massey would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alpha. The merger consideration represented a 27% premium over Massey's stock price on the day before the Upper Big Branch disaster.

         Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction against the proposed merger. Their central grievance was that the Massey board failed to transfer their pending derivative claims into a litigation trust for the exclusive benefit of the Massey stockholders rather than allowing the claims to pass to Alpha as the acquiror of Massey.

         On May 31, 2011, then-Vice Chancellor Strine denied the motion for a preliminary injunction. Relevant here, he found based on an extensive record that "there seems little doubt" that plaintiffs' derivative claims would survive a motion to dismiss but that plaintiffs also were likely to lose standing to pursue those claims if the merger was consummated.[1] In particular, then-Vice Chancellor Strine noted that plaintiffs were unlikely to satisfy either of the two narrow exceptions to the continuous ownership rule for maintaining derivative standing that the Supreme Court enunciated over thirty years ago in Lewis v. Anderson.[2]

         After receiving the approval of Massey's stockholders, the Massey-Alpha merger closed in June 2011. For the next five years, this action was stayed, initially at the request of prosecutors because of ongoing criminal investigations, and later because of Alpha's bankruptcy filing in 2015.

         After Alpha emerged from bankruptcy in 2016, the Court was asked to decide motions to dismiss that the defendants had filed. By this point, the operative complaint asserted two claims against fourteen former directors and officers of Massey for breaching their fiduciary duties by "causing Massey to employ a deliberate and systematic business plan of willfully disregarding both internal and external safety regulations."[3]

         The allegations underlying both claims are identical. The first claim was styled as a direct claim for "inseparable fraud" based on dictum from a 2010 Delaware Supreme Court decision in Arkansas Teacher Ret. Sys. v. Caiafa.[4] The second claim was styled as a derivative claim. For the reasons discussed below, I conclude that both claims must be dismissed.

         Although Count II contains numerous detailed allegations that would state a viable derivative claim for relief under Caremark, it must be dismissed because plaintiffs lost standing to pursue the claim under well-settled Delaware law that stockholders of Delaware corporations who transfer their shares as a result of a merger lose standing to litigate the derivative claims unless one of two narrow exceptions applies. Neither exception applies in this case, however, as then-Vice Chancellor Strine foretold in 2011, and as plaintiffs effectively concede.

         The plaintiffs' putative "direct" claim (Count I) also must be dismissed. As explained below, our Supreme Court clarified in 2013 that the theory of "inseparable fraud" does not constitute a third exception to the continuous ownership rule and that, in order to state such a claim, the challenged conduct preceding a merger must itself form the basis of a direct claim. Here, despite plaintiffs' best efforts to transform their case from a derivative action to a class action, application of the Tooley test for distinguishing between direct and derivative claims leads to the conclusion that Count I is, in reality, a derivative claim to remedy corporate mismanagement that caused injury to Massey. Count I thus meets the same fate as Count II, and must be dismissed.

         Although the net result of this decision is that plaintiffs will not be able to press what otherwise would be a viable derivative claim, that result is equitable in my view. Alpha paid a substantial sum in 2011 to acquire all of the assets of Massey. One of those assets is the derivative claim at issue in this case. It thus is appropriate that Alpha, which assumed considerable liabilities when it acquired Massey in the wake of the UBB disaster, have the right to exercise control over the property it paid to acquire, if for no other reason so that it may mitigate the considerable liabilities it assumed when it acquired Massey.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts in this opinion come from the Verified Stockholder Fourth Amended Class Action and Derivative Complaint filed on October 17, 2014 (the "Complaint") and the May 31, 2011 memorandum opinion denying plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction (the "May 2011 Opinion"), [5] which is referenced in the Complaint. Any additional facts are either undisputed or subject to judicial notice.

         A. The Parties

         Nominal Defendant Massey Energy Company ("Massey" or the "Company") was a Delaware corporation that maintained its corporate headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. On June 1, 2011, Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. ("Alpha") acquired Massey in a merger transaction pursuant to which Massey became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alpha (the "Merger"). Massey is now known as Alpha Appalachia Holdings, Inc.

         Before the Merger, Massey was the largest producer of Central Appalachian coal, and the fourth largest producer of bituminous coal in the United States. Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Company owned the Upper Big Branch ("UBB") mine.

         Plaintiffs consist of two pension funds and two individuals who allege they were stockholders of Massey at all times relevant to this action. Defendants consist of fourteen individuals who served at various times as directors or officers of Massey before the Merger.

         Defendant Don L. Blankenship was a Massey director from 1996 through December 31, 2010, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board from November 30, 2000 through December 31, 2010, and President from November 2000 until November 2008.

         Defendant Christopher Adkins was Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Massey starting July 2003. Throughout the relevant timeframe, Adkins was responsible for all underground mining operations at Massey, including those at UBB.

         Defendant Mark A. Clemens was Massey's Senior Vice President, Group Operations from July 2007 until the Merger.

         Defendant Jeffrey M. Jarosinski was Massey's Chief Compliance Officer since December 9, 2002 and Vice President, Finance since November 30, 2000. Jarosinski was also Chief Financial Officer between November 30, 2000 and December 9, 2002.

         Defendant Baxter F. Phillips, Jr. was a Massey director from May 2007 and was President from November 2008 until the Merger. Phillips succeeded Blankenship as Chief Executive Officer on January 1, 2011.

         Defendant Bobby R. Inman served as a Massey director from 1985 until the Merger. Inman was appointed as the Company's lead independent director and assumed the Chairman role when Blankenship left the Company.

         Defendants James B. Crawford, Robert H. Foglesong, Richard M. Gabrys, E. Dan R. Moore, Stanley C. Suboleski, and Lady Barbara Thomas Judge, each served as non-management directors of Massey since at least 2008, and were on the board at the time of the UBB disaster and when the board approved the Merger.

         Defendant E. Gordon Gee was a member of the board from November 30, 2000 until July 1, 2009, during which period he served as a member of the Safety Committee. Defendant Linda J. Welty was appointed a director of Massey on August 16, 2010.

         B. Massey's Institutional Hostility Toward Miner Safety

         Between November 2000 and December 2010, Don Blankenship ran Massey as the Company's CEO and Chairman of the Board. "Although Massey, like most other public companies, had a majority of independent directors, Blankenship was, by any measure, a high profile and dominant CEO" with an "'autocratic' management style."[6]

         Blankenship believed that "when it came to a miner's safety, Blankenship knew best, "[7] and had a combative relationship with the Mining Safety and Health Administration ("MSHA"), a division of the United States Department of Labor and the key agency responsible for ensuring mine safety and regulatory compliance. In a 2005 internal memorandum, for example, Blankenship instructed Massey's Deep Mine Superintendents to "ignore" certain safety measures in favor of maximizing coal production:

If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (i.e.-build overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever), you need to ignore them and run coal. This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that the coal pays the bills.[8]

         Although Blankenship later issued a clarification, "at the very least it was rational for Massey managers and employees to perceive that if you wished to stay or get ahead at Massey under Blankenship, then the priority of profits over safety was one not to be questioned."[9]

         Massey as a company manifested Blankenship's hostility toward regulatory compliance and safety in numerous ways. Massey had a practice of sounding an alarm to notify mine employees of approaching MSHA inspectors up to forty-five minutes ahead of time so that workers could "spruce things up."[10] There was a practice of manipulating gas monitor reports by taking multiple monitors into a mine and reporting only the lowest reading. The Company took steps to minimize the number of reported job-related injuries by encouraging miners not to fill out the required paperwork. Those who complained of these practices allegedly were terminated. The MSHA concluded that Massey even maintained two separate sets of production and maintenance books, recording safety violations in the UBB mine in one internal set of books while providing another set to the MSHA during required inspections that concealed those violations.

         An electrician at the UBB mine recalled in a New York Times interview that "[i]t was all about production. If you worked for them, you didn't ask questions about whether some step like running a cable around the breaker was a smart idea. You just did it."[11] A veteran foreman claimed that "I have had guys come to me and cry. Grown men cried-because they are scared."[12]

         Massey's record reflected its cavalier attitude toward worker safety. In 2006, two miners died in a conveyer belt fire at Massey's Aracoma Coal Co. mine after ventilation controls were removed. In 2007, a jury awarded a former Massey safety inspector $2 million in punitive damages, back pay, and emotional and reputational damages, after Massey fired him in retaliation for reporting to the MSHA unaddressed safety violations at a Massey mine.

         In 2008, following a joint MSHA and FBI investigation, "Massey pled guilty to criminal charges including one felony count for willful violation of mandatory safety standards resulting in death, eight counts for willful violation of mandatory safety standards, and one count for making a false statement."[13] Massey agreed to pay approximately $4.5 million in criminal fines and civil penalties, then the largest financial settlement in the history of the coal industry. Reports surfaced after the plea that Blankenship was informed about the unsafe conditions that led to the Aracoma fire as few as six days before the tragedy, but did nothing.

         Also in 2008, Massey settled a derivative action accusing Blankenship and the rest of the board of disregarding federal and state safety and environmental laws. As part of the settlement, the Massey board formed a new committee, the Safety and Environmental Committee, that was required to give quarterly safety reports to the Board on Massey's compliance with mine safety laws.

         In 2009, the MSHA assessed 10, 653 citations against Massey, an all-time high. The number of MSHA citations against Massey for safety violations had increased every year between 2005 and 2009. Even before the UBB tragedy, Massey had more coal mine fatalities than any other U.S. coal operator from 2000 through the end of 2007, and the most recorded safety violations out of any United States mining company between 2000 and 2009, despite it being only the sixth largest coal producer in the United States.

         In 2009, four Massey mines had injury rates more than twice the national rate. Remarkably, UBB was not among them, despite receiving 515 citations and orders in 2009 totaling $897, 325 in penalties, and another 124 citations in 2010 just prior to the disaster. Over 39% of the 2009 citations issued at UBB were for "significant and substantial" violations.[14]

         According to a MSHA report on the UBB tragedy, the "MSHA issued more orders under Section 104(d) of the Act ('unwarrantable failure' violations, which indicate higher negligence and gravity than some other types of citations) at UBB than at any other coal mine in the country in fiscal year 2009."[15] Also in 2009, the MSHA issued 48 "withdrawal orders" suspending mining activity at the UBB mine on the basis of "'repeated significant and substantial violations that the mine operator either knew, or should have known constituted a hazard, ' 'nearly 19 times the national rate' for that category of violation."[16] In March 2010, the UBB mine received 53 MSHA citations, including ten for ventilation problems, two for failure to maintain adequate drill dust control and respirable dust standards, and seven related to the accumulation of combustible materials.

         In the months after the inauguration of President Obama in January 2009, when prominent union players with ties to a 1984 union showdown at Massey assumed important positions at the MSHA, Blankenship's attitude towards regulators deteriorated further. At a 2009 Labor Day function in Washington, D.C., for example, Blankenship told a crowd: "I also know Washington and state politicians have no idea how to improve miner safety. The very idea that they care more about coal miner safety than we do is as silly as global warming."[17]

         C. The UBB Disaster

         On April 5, 2010, an explosion at the UBB mine killed 29 miners. It was the deadliest mining disaster in the United States in 40 years. The tragedy prompted investigations by the State of West Virginia, the United Mine Workers of America, and the MSHA, which culminated in the McAteer Report in May 2011, the UMWA Report in October 2011, and the MSHA Report in December 2011.

         The McAteer Report, commissioned by former West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin in the days following the blast, attributes the explosion to "the ignition of a small amount of methane gas" that was then "fueled by coal dust that had been allowed to build up for miles through the mine."[18] The report found that this "minor" methane ignition would not have culminated in tragedy had mine operators complied with basic safety requirements:

Small methane ignitions do not have to turn into major explosions if mine operators adhere to basic safety measures, such as maintaining adequate ventilation systems, removing explosive coal dust from mining operations, spreading required amounts of rock dust and ensuring that water sprays on mining equipment are kept in good repair and function properly. Because these basic safety systems failed at UBB, a minor flare-up of methane led to the nation's worst coal mining disaster in 40 years.[19]

         The McAteer Report described in painstaking detail Massey's numerous and blatant failures to properly implement legally mandated safety precautions, and how those failures led directly to the deaths of 29 miners. The Report squarely laid the blame for the tragedy on Massey's management:

Ultimately, the responsibility for the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine lies with the management of Massey Energy. The company broke faith with its workers by frequently and knowingly violating the law and blatantly disregarding known safety practices while creating a public perception that its operations exceeded industry safety standards. The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris. A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coalfields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk-taking. The April 5, 2010, explosion was not something that happened out of the blue, an event that could not have been anticipated or prevented. It was, to the contrary, a completely predictable result for a company that ignored basic safety standards and put too much faith in its own mythology.[20]

         This conclusion-that Massey knowingly flouted the law and caused the UBB disaster by ignoring safety requirements and actively subverting regulatory enforcement-was shared by both the MSHA and the UMWA Reports.[21]

         In the weeks following the explosion, Massey stockholders filed derivative suits in West Virginia and Delaware asserting claims for breach of fiduciary duties against Massey directors and officers for disregarding mine safety regulations and failing to address poor safety conditions. In response, on August 16, 2010, the Massey board created an "Advisory Committee" of two newly appointed independent directors, Linda J. Welty and Robert B. Holland III, who were charged with making recommendations on whether Massey should pursue the derivative claims, and whether Massey should change any "management, operations, practice and/or policies."[22]

         D. The Alpha Merger

         On April 26, 2010, less than one month after the UBB disaster, Michael Quillen, Alpha's board Chairman approached Blankenship about a potential business combination with Massey. Alpha was America's third largest coal producer and had shown an interest in acquiring Massey in the past. By the time Quillen reached out, Massey's stock price had dropped from $53.05 on the last full day of trading before the UBB disaster, to $43.61. Blankenship responded that he did not support a deal with Alpha due to the depressed value of Massey's stock, but agreed to inform the board of Alpha's interest. As then-Vice Chancellor Strine commented in the May 2011 Opinion, "[o]ne senses from the record that Blankenship had no desire to do a deal with Alpha or anyone else that resulted in him not being CEO of the resulting entity."[23]

         On May 3, 2010, the Massey board decided that a business combination with Alpha at that time would not be in stockholders' best interest. Despite the setback, on August 11, Alpha sent Massey a non-binding proposal to buy all of Massey's outstanding stock in an all-stock transaction that valued Massey at $37.19 per share, a 20% premium over Massey's then-market price of $30.99. The Massey board concluded that the offer was inadequate and rejected it later that month.

         By the fall of 2010, while Blankenship "was espousing the bullish view that Massey had an extrinsic value of at least $90-100 a share, " that "selling right after the Disaster was imprudent, " and that he "should lead any consideration of an alternative." [24] During this period, lead independent director Bobby Inman and other outside directors increasingly became of the view that it was time for Blankenship to step down, and that remaining independent may not be the best course.

         On September 13, 2010, Alpha made another non-binding all-stock offer to purchase Massey, this time for $41.07 per share, a 26% premium over the then-market price of $32.49. On September 28, the two parties met to discuss the proposed combination. At the meeting, Inman clarified to Alpha that the Massey board was open to strategic alternatives, regardless of Blankenship's statements to the contrary. On September 30, Inman further urged Alpha to continue discussions regarding a potential transaction and emphasized that the decision on whether to pursue a deal was for the board and not Blankenship to make.

         On October 12, 2010, the independent directors unanimously resolved to establish a strategic alternatives review committee to consider strategic opportunities and to make recommendations to the board about potential transactions. The committee consisted of independent directors Inman and Richard Gabrys, along with Baxter Phillips, a director and Massey's President. Pointedly, Blankenship was excluded from the committee but his subordinate (Phillips) was included. The committee retained Perella Weinberg Partners LP as its financial advisor. On October 19, the Wall Street Journal published an article about Massey's openness to considering strategic alternatives.

         During this period, Blankenship's support among the directors deteriorated. Not only did Blankenship oppose the board's decision to explore a possible sale of the Company, Blankenship's hostility toward regulation had not dimmed in the face of the intense media and government scrutiny that Massey attracted in the wake of the disaster, and he continued to stir controversy with openly-defiant public statements.

         In November 2010, after Blankenship denounced the MSHA at a Massey press conference, the board had Inman convey to Blankenship the independent directors' "unanimous view" that he must "stop his public assaults on [the] MSHA."[25] On the evening of November 20, the Advisory Committee on the UBB-related derivative actions delivered a progress report to the other independent directors, stating that Massey's safety protocols remained suboptimal and that "a change in top leadership was required to build the Company's reputation, regain the confidence of shareholders, regulators and public officials, and be in a position to enhance the Company's safety and compliance performance."[26]

         On November 21, at Massey's quarterly board meeting, Blankenship agreed to retire after a confrontation with Inman:

At the quarterly Board meeting on November 21, Blankenship presented his 5-year strategic stand-alone plan for Massey. Blankenship also expressed his continued dissatisfaction with what he perceived were 'constraints' on his ability to 'run the company as he wanted' and to continue his public fight with the MSHA. Blankenship's long-time supporter, Inman, told Blankenship he should consider retiring if he was not comfortable with the situation. Blankenship acceded, and the Board instructed counsel to draft a severance agreement, which when finalized, ultimately permitted Blankenship to receive roughly $12 million in severance.[27]

         Later that evening, Perella Weinberg briefed the strategic alternatives committee on the various strategic options, including Massey's standalone plan. The board issued a press release the next day announcing that it was engaging in a "formal review of strategic alternatives, " though "there can be no assurance" that a transaction would result.[28] The committee solicited bids from Alpha, ArcelorMittal, S.A., Arch Coal, Inc., and WuSan International Steel, all of whom were strategic acquirors who had expressed past interest in acquiring Massey. Alpha and Arch ultimately submitted bids.

         On December 3, 2010, Massey announced Blankenship's retirement, effective December 31. The board appointed Phillips to replace Blankenship as CEO, and Inman to succeed him as Chairman.

         On December 10, Arch and Alpha each submitted initial bids that impliedly valued Massey's stock at $70.89 and $60.51 respectively. On January 3, 2011, Alpha and Arch commenced due diligence.

         On January 14, Perella Weinberg informed the board that as of January 12, the competing bids represented purchase prices of $74.70 for Alpha and $74.99 for Arch. Perella Weinberg "determined that the synergies that could be achieved through a combination with Alpha exceeded those that were possible or likely with Arch."[29] Perella Weinberg also advised the board, which was considering whether Massey's standalone prospects were superior to the third-party offers, that both bids "materially exceeded" the $68 "upper reach of what [Massey] could achieve" on its own.[30] The board also considered the fact that Massey rarely reached its own projections and that the UBB disaster had damaged Massey's reputation for competence and integrity. The board ultimately concluded that a sale would deliver more value to stockholders and instructed Perella Weinberg to ask Arch and Alpha to submit their final bids by January 24, 2011.

         On January 24, Arch submitted a reduced final offer valued at $55.50 per Massey share. "Despite that loss in leverage, the Board was able to negotiate a further increase in Alpha's already higher bid:"

Thus, Alpha's final bid was 1.025 Alpha shares plus $10.00 in cash for each Massey share. This bid represented $69.33 per share based on Alpha's January 26, 2011 closing stock price, a 25% premium to Massey's closing stock price on the same day of $55.26, a 95% premium to Massey's last closing price before the October 19, 2010 Wall Street Journal article reporting that Massey was exploring strategic transactions, and a 27% premium to Massey's stock price immediately preceding the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine.[31]

         On January 27, 2011, the board unanimously approved the Merger with Alpha, which closed on June 1, 2011.

         E. Criminal Liability for the UBB Disaster

         On December 6, 2011, Alpha entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice relating to its criminal investigation of the UBB disaster. The agreement required Alpha to (1) invest at least $80 million in remedial efforts to improve health and safety at legacy Massey operations; (2) pay $48 million into a trust to fund research and development projects to improve miner health and safety; (3) not contest and to resolve certain MSHA proceedings, including all proceedings related to the regulatory violations and explosion at UBB; (4) pay $46.5 million in restitution to the families of the 29 miners who were killed and two miners who were injured in the UBB disaster; and (5) fully cooperate with the criminal investigation. Alpha also settled a class action lawsuit against Massey for securities fraud for $265 million.

         Since the UBB disaster, multiple Massey employees have pled guilty or been convicted of criminal charges for their roles in the UBB tragedy. On December 3, 2015, a federal jury convicted Blankenship of conspiracy to violate federal ...

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