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Speaks v. U.S. Tobacco CoOperative, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

September 13, 2017

TERESA M. SPEAKS, TOBY SPEAKS, STANLEY SMITH, EDDIE BROWN, ROBERT POINDEXTER, MIKE MITCHELL, ROY L. COOK, ALEX SHUGART, H. RANDLE WOOD, ROBIN ROGERS and DANIEL LEE NELSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
U.S. TOBACCO COOPERATIVE, INC. f/k/a FLUE-CURED TOBACCO COOPERATIVE STABILIZATION CORPORATION, Defendants.

          ORDER PRELIMINARILY APPROVING SETTLEMENT

          THE HONORABLE JAMES C. DEVER, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         WHEREAS, Plaintiffs and Defendant ("U.S. Tobacco" or "Defendant") have entered into a "Stipulation and Agreement of Class Action Compromise, Settlement and Release" (herein the "Settlement Agreement") intended to resolve, on a global basis, this litigation in the Court against the Defendant arising out of claims inter alia, that the fundamental purposes for which U.S. Tobacco was created had ceased to exist, and that the actions of U.S. Tobacco were unfair and would have the effect of divesting or eliminating the value of Plaintiffs' alleged equity interests in U.S. Tobacco. The Plaintiffs asserted a claim for distribution of U.S. Tobacco's, assets, a claim for declaratory judgment, or, alternatively, a claim for judicial dissolution of U.S. Tobacco. U.S. Tobacco denies Plaintiffs' allegations; and

         WHEREAS, this Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter and all Parties to this proceeding and venue is proper in this district; and

         WHEREAS, the proposed Settlement is the result of arm's-length negotiations between the Parties and not the result of collusion, bears a probable reasonable relationship to the claims alleged by the Plaintiffs and the litigation risks of Plaintiffs and Defendant, and the proposed settlement is within the range of possible judicial approval; and

         WHEREAS, the Court has reviewed the papers filed in connection with the Motion and considered all supporting evidence in the record and as presented by counsel; and

         WHEREAS, the Court is satisfied that the terms and conditions set forth in the Settlement Agreement are fair and satisfy the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 23, and the Court is exercising its discretion in preliminarily certifying the Class for settlement purposes only and has not determined whether the Action could be properly maintained on behalf of a Class for purposes of trial; and

         WHEREAS, the Court recognizes that the Released Parties have preserved all of their defenses and objections against and rights to oppose certification of the Class if the proposed Settlement is not finally approved by the Court following the Final Approval Hearing or any appeals:

         IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AS FOLLOWS:

         1. All capitalized terms used in this Order shall have the same meanings assigned to them in the Settlement Agreement.

         2. The terms of the Parties' Settlement Agreement are hereby preliminarily approved, subject to further consideration thereof at the Final Approval Hearing provided for below.

         3. The Court finds the Settlement is sufficiently fair, reasonable and adequate to justify notice to those affected, along with an opportunity to be heard, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e).

         4. With respect to the Settlement Class, the Court finds that the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a) have been satisfied for settlement purposes in that: (i) the Class Members are sufficiently numerous so as to make joinder of all Class Members impracticable; (ii) there are questions of fact and law that are common to all members of the Class; (iii) the claims of the Named Plaintiffs are typical of the claims of the Class; and (iv) the Named Plaintiffs will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the Class.

         5. With respect to the Settlement Class, the Court further finds that the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3) have been satisfied for settlement purposes in that: (i) questions of law and fact common to the Class Members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members; and (ii) a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of this controversy.

         6. The Court therefore grants preliminary approval to the Settlement. The Settlement shall be submitted to Class Members for their consideration and for a Final Approval Hearing pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e), as provided below.

         7. The Court preliminarily certifies, for settlement purposes only, the following . Settlement Class:

All individuals, proprietorships, partnerships, corporations and other entities that are or were shareholders and/or members of U.S. Tobacco at any time during the Class Period, without any exclusion, including any heirs, representatives, executors, powers-of-attorney, successors, assigns or others purporting to act for or on their behalf with respect to U.S. Tobacco and/or the Settled Claims.

         8. The Court preliminary finds that Named Plaintiffs have claims typical of Class Members and are adequate class ...


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