The opinion of the court was delivered by: FISHER
Lawrence Reilly and George Solomon, two former directors of Texas Plastics, Incorporated, (hereafter TPI), defendants in a stockholder's derivative suit on the basis of their former positions, have applied to this Court for indemnification pendente lite for legal expenses they incur in defense of this suit.
The former directors argue that since Texas law is silent as to the authority to indemnify directors pendente lite, this Court should look to New Jersey law for guidance, as set forth in General Rule 44 of the District Court for the District of New Jersey. That Rule allows the Court to look to the "procedure and practice of the Courts of the State of New Jersey" for guidance if no rule or statutory provision especially prescribes proper procedure.
In a matter of this nature New Jersey law, N.J.S. 14A:3-5, subsections (6) and (7), allows a court to grant a director payment for expenses "in advance of the final disposition of the proceeding upon receipt of an undertaking by or on behalf of the corporate agent to repay such amount unless it shall ultimately be determined that he is entitled to be indemnified." Under General Rule 44, the directors urge that this procedure is the one the Court should follow.
I disagree. TPI argues that the subject of pendente lite indemnification is one of substance rather than of practice or procedure of the New Jersey Courts and therefore General Rule 44 should not be used. Determining whether something is a matter of substance or one of procedure is a very difficult process, as can be seen by the discussions in such cases as Guaranty Trust Co. of New York v. York, 326 U.S. 99, 65 S. Ct. 1464, 89 L. Ed. 2079 (1945); Byrd v. Blue Ridge Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc., 356 U.S. 525, 78 S. Ct. 893, 2 L. Ed. 2d 953 (1958), and Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 85 S. Ct. 1136, 14 L. Ed. 2d 8 (1965). There is no need to make such determination here. General Rule 44 cannot be used because of the limitations which the Rule itself places upon its use. The practice and procedure of the New Jersey Courts can be considered only if doing so would not be "inconsistent with the Constitution, the Federal Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure, and these Rules, or any applicable statute". For this Court to apply the New Jersey law here it would be acting inconsistently with the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S. Ct. 817, 82 L. Ed. 1188 (1938) and the Full Faith and Credit Clause of that document.
What this Court must do is to look to New Jersey law, including its conflicts rules, to see what its Courts would do in this situation. Klaxon v. Stentor, 313 U.S. 487, 61 S. Ct. 1020, 85 L. Ed. 1477 (1941); Neville Chemical Co. v. Union Carbide Corp., 422 F.2d 1205 (3rd Cir. 1970). However, no reported cases indicate whether New Jersey Courts would apply New Jersey or Texas law here, so the Court must apply what it thinks New Jersey law is, giving proper regard to all relevant considerations, including other state court rulings. "In this respect, it may be said to be, in effect, sitting as a state court." Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Estate of Bosch, 387 U.S. 456, 465, 87 S. Ct. 1776, 1783, 18 L. Ed. 2d 886 (1966).
After following the prescription in Bosch, supra, I am confident that New Jersey would apply Texas law if faced with the situation presently before this Court. Cases from elsewhere and commentators universally have held that when a suit involves the internal affairs of a foreign corporation a state court will usually apply the law of the state of incorporation. In re Columbia Hotel Co., 29 F. Supp. 848 (D. Mich. 1939); Comments, Sec. 313 Restatement Conflicts of Laws 2d, 20 C.J.S. Corporations § 1882. Additionally, by-laws may be considered contracts between a corporation and its members, Elisian Guild, Inc. v. United States, 412 F.2d 121 (1st 1969), and ordinarily in New Jersey the construction of a contract will be governed by the law of the state in which the contract was made. Nelson v. Insurance Co. of North America, 264 F. Supp. 501 (D.N.J. 1967); Buzzone v. Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co., 41 N.J. Super. 511, 125 A. 2d 551 (App. Div. 1956), aff'd 23 N.J. 447, 129 A. 2d 561 (1957).
Texas law, however, is silent on the subject of providing pendente lite indemnification payments to corporate directors, so again, the Bosch formula must be followed, this time to determine Texas law. In essence then, this Court, as a Federal Court in this District, must determine what the New Jersey Courts would think the Texas Courts would think about the issue here when neither of them has considered the matter. Professor Wright in discussing this type of situation in his Hornbook on Federal Courts, comments that it "merely highlights the unreality of the process". Wright, Federal Courts, p. 235.
The Texas indemnity statute, Article 2.02, subd. A of the Texas Business Corporations Act, V.A.T.S., provides in relevant part:
"(E)ach corporation shall have power:
(16) To indemnify any director or officer . . . of the corporation . . . against expenses actually and necessarily incurred by him in connection with the defense of any action, suit, or proceeding in which he is made a party by reason of being or having been such director or officer, except in relation to matters as to which he shall be adjudged in such action, suit or proceeding to be liable for negligence or misconduct in performance of duty, but such indemnification shall not be deemed exclusive of any rights to which such director or officer may be entitled, under any bylaw, agreement, vote of shareholders, or otherwise."
Under the most recent change in the MBCA in 1969 a director can be given expenses pendente lite, but only if that action is voted by a disinterested board of directors or by the shareholders. Sec. 5(d) and (b). No ...