Hemispherx: Kessler Topaz Unwinds Fee-Shifting Bylaw, Improper Executive Compensation

This derivative action challenged improper bonuses paid to two company executives of this small pharmaceutical company that had never turned a profit.

In response to the complaint, Hemispherx’s board first adopted a “fee-shifting” bylaw that would have required stockholder plaintiffs to pay the company’s legal fees unless the plaintiffs achieved 100% of the relief they sought. This sort of bylaw, if adopted more broadly, could substantially curtail meritorious litigation by stockholders unwilling to risk losing millions of dollars if they bring an unsuccsessful case. After Kessler Topaz presented its argument in court, Hemispherx withdrew the bylaw. Kessler Topaz ultimately negotiated a settlement requiring the two executives to forfeit several million dollars’ worth of accrued but unpaid bonuses, future bonuses and director fees. The company also recovered $1.75 million from its insurance carriers, appointed a new independent director to the board, and revised its compensation program.

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