The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge
MDL No. 2021 MISC No. 09-162
OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT
Pending before the court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant, The CIT Group/Equipment Financing, Inc. ("CIT") seeking to dismiss Counts Nine and Twelve*fn1 of Plaintiff's Complaint. (Docket No. 90 at 8-cv-1518 and Docket No. 70 at 9-mc-162).*fn2 Plaintiff, Marc S. Kirschner ("Kirschner"), in his capacity as Liquidation Trustee of the Le-Nature's Liquidation Trust, filed a Brief in Opposition thereto. (Docket No. 107).
There is also a Motion for Judgment on the Pleading pending filed by Defendants, Marshall Financial, Inc. and Marshall Investments Corporation (collectively "the Marshall Defendants"). (Docket No. 92 at 8-cv-1518 and Docket No. 72 at 9-mc-162).*fn3 Therein, the Marshall Defendants adopt and incorporate by reference the arguments raised by CIT in its Motion to Dismiss.*fn4 Kirschner filed a Brief in Opposition thereto incorporating by reference his Brief in Opposition to CIT's Motion to Dismiss.*fn5 (Docket No. 105). After careful consideration of the same, said Motions (Docket Nos. 90 and 92) are denied as more fully set forth below.
I assume the following facts are true: Plaintiff is a trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court. The debtor is Le-Nature's Inc. ("Le-Nature's" or "the corporation"). Le-Nature's was a beverage manufacturer, bottler and distributor based in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Gregory Podlucky ("Podlucky") was the chief executive officer of Le-Nature's, its majority shareholder, and the chairman of its board. Complaint, ¶¶ 1-34.
Podlucky's brother, Jonathan Podlucky, served as the chief operating officer, David Getzik served as the chief financial officer, Robert Lynn was the executive vice president, and Andrew Murin was an adviser to Podlucky. Podlucky's brother, Getzik, Lynn and Murin were all members of Le-Nature's board of directors and all were nominated to the board by Podlucky. Complaint, ¶¶ 35-37. At times, these individuals are collectively referred to as "the Insiders."
Le-Nature's produced its first beverage product in 1992, and by 2005, claimed to be producing nearly 60 different products. The growth in the alleged variety of products it sold purportedly spurred growth in its gross sales, net sales and profits. However, Plaintiff has asserted that between 2002 and 2005, due to a fraudulent scheme advanced by Podlucky along with the Insiders, Le-Nature's reported sales were grossly disproportionate to its actual sales. Complaint, ¶¶ 42, 44-45.
These inflated sales figures enabled Le-Nature's to raise capital with the assistance of Defendants, in particular, Wachovia Capital Markets, LLC d/b/a Wachovia Securities, Wachovia Bank, National Association (hereinafter referred to collectively as "Wachovia"), Krones AG, Krones Inc., Heinz Sommer, and Dr. Volker Kronseder (hereinafter, collectively referred to as "Krones"), CIT, and Marshall. Together with Podlucky and the Insiders, these parties engaged in a form of a "Ponzi"scheme -- constantly raising money and incurring ever-increasing debts to refinance investors while cultivating the illusion of a legitimate profit-making business. ¶¶ 1-2.
Specifically, Kirschner alleges that Krones inflated prices on equipment for new Le-Nature's bottling lines and assisted Podlucky and the Insiders in securing financing based on these inflated prices. Kirschner asserts that CIT and Marshall knew the equipment prices were inflated but still arranged for "synthetic lease" equipment lease financing based on the bogus prices and that Krones, CIT and Marshall reaped significant fees by using these inflated figures while Podlucky and the Insiders received the excess revenue from the inflated pricing. ¶¶ 11, 13, 16-18, 134-142.
In addition to the actions of Krones, CIT and Marshall, from April of 2003 through December of 2005, Wachovia arranged a series of credit facilities for Le-Nature's. In an effort to secure lenders for each facility, Wachovia assisted Le-Nature's in the preparation and distribution of a "Confidential Information Memorandum," but these memoranda materially misrepresented (among other things) Le-Nature's sales and profits. These credit facilities were supposed to generate funds for expansion of Le-Nature's production lines. Although Le-Nature's did expand its production lines by expanding the capacity of its Latrobe, Pennsylvania plant in 2003 and by building a new bottling plant in Phoenix, Arizona in 2005, Plaintiff asserts these expansions were unnecessary given the false sales figures and further believes the credit facilities were undertaken to finance and prop up Le-Nature's slumping operations. Complaint, ¶¶ 42-46, 60, 62, 72, 76, 81, 96.
In May of 2006, the minority preferred shareholders (who were represented by three independent directors on the Le-Nature's board), initiated an action in the Delaware Chancery Court against the corporation, Podlucky, his brother, Murin and Lynn.*fn6 In June of 2006, the Chancery Court entered a preliminary injunction restraining Le-Nature's company from taking certain steps, such as making capital expenditures in amount in excess of $1,000, without minority shareholder approval. Complaint, ¶ 48.
In October of 2006, Le-Nature's preferred minority shareholders were told that Podlucky had converted funds deposited by one of the corporation's equipment lessors, AIG. This information was passed to the shareholders upon AIG's discovery that Krones had transferred nearly $20 million of AIG's deposit to Le-Nature's based on a forged AIG letter "authorizing" the transfer of funds. On October 20, 2006, following the revelation of the forgery, the Delaware Chancery Court issued a temporary restraining order and on October 27, 2006, the Court approved the preferred minority shareholders' request for the appointment of a custodian for Le-Nature's. The Delaware Chancery Court named Kroll Zolfo Cooper, LLC ("KZC") as custodian.*fn7 On November 1, 2006, the managing director of KZC filed an affidavit with the Chancery Court detailing financial discrepancies at Le-Nature's. Also on November 1, 2006, several of Le-Nature's creditors initiated involuntary bankruptcy proceedings. Complaint, ¶¶ 49-53.
Since the initiation of the bankruptcy proceedings, the investigation led by Kirschner has uncovered two separate accounting systems at Le-Nature's: one system ("Navision") tracked actual sales, accounts payable, inventory, etc. while the other system ("Real World") contained primarily fraudulent numbers to which only Podlucky and one Le-Nature's employee (Ms. Andreycak) had access. In addition, a secret room was discovered at the Latrobe bottling facility which held safes that contained jewelry purchased by Podlucky. Podlucky also purchased over 8,000 Lionel model trains and was building a mansion for his personal residence. ...