Roberts v. TriPlanet Partners LLC et al.

The District Court properly exercised its discretion in entering (1) a default judgment in the amount of $8,136,222.60 as a discovery sanction against Defendants after two years of their repeated defiance of court orders and (2) finding that the Defendants forfeited their personal jurisdiction defenses under Rule 12.
Procedural context:
Appeal from March 2015 District Court order.
The case arises from a former business relationship between Plaintiff Benjamin Roberts (“Roberts”) and defendants Sophien Bennaceur (“Sophien”), Imed Bennaceur (“Imed”), and TriPlanet Partners LLC (“TriPlanet”), a Delaware company that is now in bankruptcy (collectively, “Defendants”). Sophien and Imed are brothers, citizens and residents of Tunisia, and the managing members of TriPlanet. Roberts worked for TriPlanet as its Managing Director and serviced TriPlanet’s primary client, the Royal Bank of Scotland (“RBS”), from August 2010 until he was terminated in June 2012. After his termination in 2012, Roberts brought suit against Triplanet, Sophien, Imed, and Moez Bennaceur, Index No. 3:12-CV-01222 (JAM) (the “Connecticut Litigation”) in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut to recover millions of dollars in allegedly overdue equity payments and unpaid salary. In June 2013, Roberts obtained a prejudgment attachment order ("PJR Order") against TriPlanet, Imed and Sophien in the amount of $8.8MM. See Complaint to Avoid and Recover Transfers Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 548 and 550 dated Aug. 7, 2014 filed in SDNY AP 14-8250 at paragraph 9. In an attempt to satisfy his PJR Order, Roberts filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Sophien and Moez (the “New York Action”). At a hearing on April 24, 2014 in the New York Action, Judge Batts issued a temporary restraining order forbidding sale of real property located in New York. On May 8, 2014, TriPlanet filed for chapter 11 relief in the Southern District of New York. See Case No. 14-22643 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. May 8, 2014). On May 14, 2014, TriPlanet filed adversary case 14-8229 against Roberts (the "SDNY Adversary Proceeding"). In August 2014, TriPlanet filed an adversary proceeding against Moez Bennaceur to recover certain payments and estate property. See Case No. 14-8250 (Bankr. SDNY Aug. 7, 2014). On July 3, 2014, Joshua Rizack was appointed the Chief Restructuring Officer for TriPlanet. See Order Approving Stipulation and Order Settling Claims of TriPlanet Partners, LLC against Moez Bennaceur dated November 24, 2014 filed in Case No. 14-8250. On August 29, 2014, Roberts filed a motion for relief in TriPlanet's chapter 11 cases in connection with his District Court case. Pursuant to a September 2014 order issued in the SDNY Adversary Proceeding, the bankruptcy court denied TriPlanet's request to extend the automatic stay to individual defendants Sophien and Imed. See Order Denying in Part and Granting in Part Debtor's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction and Extension of the Automatic Stay dated September 25, 2014 at SDNY Adversary Proceeding at D.I. 22. On November 24, 2014, the SDNY bankruptcy court issued an order approving a global resolution between TriPlanet and Moez. See Order Approving Stipulation and Order Settling Claims of TriPlanet Partners, LLC against Moez Bennaceur dated November 24, 2014 filed in Case No. 14-8250. Critically, while Roberts appears to have contributed to the settlement order's terms, Roberts was not a signatory to the global settlement embodied therein. On March 31, 2015, the District Court (Meyer, J.) (the "March 31 Order”) granted a motion by Roberts for sanctions against Defendants. The March 31 Order was subsequently clarified by a subsequent June 24, 2015 order (the "June 24 Order"). Defendants filed notice of appeal on July 22, 2015 which challenged the merits of the default judgment, the District Court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction, and the finality of the March 31 Order and June 24 Order.
Straub, Wesley, Livingston

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