IN RE MASSEY ENERGY COMPANY DERIVATIVE AND CLASS ACTION LITIGATION
Submitted: February 8, 2017
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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
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. The second claim was styled as a
derivative claim. For the reasons discussed below, I conclude
that both claims must be dismissed.
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.
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.
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.
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"),
which is referenced in the Complaint. Any additional facts
are either undisputed or subject to judicial notice.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Mark A. Clemens was Massey's Senior Vice President, Group
Operations from July 2007 until the Merger.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Massey's Institutional Hostility Toward Miner Safety
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
believed that "when it came to a miner's safety,
Blankenship knew best, " 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
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.
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."
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." 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.
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." A veteran foreman claimed that "I
have had guys come to me and cry. Grown men cried-because
they are scared."
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.
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." 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.
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.
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.
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"
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." 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." 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.
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
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
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." The report found that this
"minor" methane ignition would not have culminated
in tragedy had mine operators complied with basic safety
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.
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
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.
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."
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."
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.
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."  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.
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.
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.
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
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." 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."
November 21, at Massey's quarterly board meeting,
Blankenship agreed to retire after a confrontation with
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
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. 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.
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.
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
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." 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. 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.
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.
January 27, 2011, the board unanimously approved the Merger
with Alpha, which closed on June 1, 2011.
Criminal Liability for the UBB Disaster
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.
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 ...