The University of Texas has described the Galveston Moody family as “among the most distinguished Texas families”. According the website of the school’s Moody College of Communication, the “Moodys established one of the most prosperous entrepreneurial and philanthropic legacies in the country”. The family’s varied business interests generate great revenue, and now an equally massive family fight.
Robert Moody recently filed a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against his younger brother Ross Moody, and other board members of Austin-based National Western Life Insurance Company. The suit is a shareholder “derivative action”, which is a lawsuit brought by a shareholder of a company (in this case Robert) on behalf of a corporation (National Western) against third parties who allegedly damaged the company (in this case Ross and the rest of the board).
The suit claims that Ross Moody, while President of the company, decided to dramatically increase the company’s sales of life insurance policies to citizens of Brazil. As a result, Brazilian policy sales dramatically increased.
Robert then alleges that, in 2015, the company revealed for the first time that Brazilian authorities had imposed an approximately six billon dollar penalty against it, for the alleged unlawful sale of insurance in Brazil without a license. This, he claims, was one of the largest corporate penalties in American history.
Robert alleges that, at no time prior to beginning the increased sales did Ross or the board receive an attorney’s opinion on the legality of the Brazilian sales, despite a US National Association of Insurance Commissioners recommendation to do so. As a result, the petition claims, National Western “unlawfully engaged over 300 Brazilian insurance brokers to solicit insurance on their behalf”.
The suit claims Ross and the other board members breached their fiduciary duties to the company by, among other things, failing to adequate investigate, failing to obtain legal opinions on the legality of the Brazilians sales, refusing his demands for action and generally acting under “the heavy influence” of Ross. The suit seeks a number of corporate actions, including the removal of Ross and other board members. He also asks the 122nd District Court in Galveston to award him money damages, including the amount of the fine.
The board members and company have hired superstar level defense counsel who have come out swinging in their defense. Ross and the board’s answer claims that Robert’s suit is “driven by personal grievances”. The company’s answer contains a lengthy list of complaints against Robert, and alleges that his suit is motivated by “resentment” of Ross. It complains about, among other things, Robert’s business practices and expense account expenditures.
The suit is in its early stages, but promises to be an all out legal war, and one in which a great deal of Moody family dirty laundry will be dredged up.