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Heartland Payment Systems, Som/Ksc Inc v. Central Pacific Bank

February 13, 2012

HEARTLAND PAYMENT SYSTEMS, SOM/KSC INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CENTRAL PACIFIC BANK, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Oki Mollway Chief United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF HEARTLAND PAYMENT SYSTEM, INC.'S MOTION TO DISMISS COUNTERCLAIM

I. INTRODUCTION.

This case arises out of an agreement between Plaintiff

Heartland Payment Systems, Inc. ("Heartland"), and Defendant Central Pacific Bank ("CPB"), under which Heartland was to provide credit and debit card transaction processing services to merchants referred by CPB. Heartland now alleges that, among other things, CPB breached that agreement. CPB has filed a Counterclaim against Heartland. Before the court is Heartland's Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim ("Motion"), which argues that CPB has failed to properly plead its misrepresentation claims and to properly format the Counterclaim. The court GRANTS the Motion and gives CPB leave to amend its Counterclaim within 14 days of the date of this order.

II. BACKGROUND.

CPB alleges that, in 2004, it entered into a marketing agreement with Heartland, under which Heartland agreed to provide merchant processing services to CPB's customers. Counterclaim at 2, ECF No. 6. Under this arrangement, CPB was required to exclusively refer customers to Heartland, and Heartland would pay CPB a referral commission and a share of Heartland's account revenues. Id.

In early 2007, Heartland allegedly presented CPB with a new model providing for Heartland to refer one demand deposit account to CPB for every two merchant account referrals by CPB to Heartland. Id. CPB alleges that Heartland made the following representations when presenting the proposed agreement:

When presenting the concept, Heartland represented that its relationship with CPB would be a "reciprocal relationship."

Heartland claimed that CPB would benefit as a result of Heartland's "large and valuable merchant base in Hawaii."

Heartland further projected that CPB would get 20 new demand deposit account customers per month, and estimated that CPB would get $72,000 annually in new demand deposit revenue. Id.

CPB alleges that, on May 21, 2008, it entered into the relationship Heartland proposed, as documented in the Merchant Services Marketing Agreement (the "Agreement"). The Agreement had a two-year term with a mechanism for automatic renewal absent notice of termination provided 90 days before the expiration of the Agreement. Id. at 3.

CPB alleges that Heartland violated the Agreement by failing to generate business and to infiltrate CPB's customer business base. Id. at 4-5. CPB alleges that, during the Agreement period, CPB referred a total of 85 accounts to Heartland, while Heartland referred 29 demand deposit accounts to CPB. Id. at 7. According to CPB, despite meeting with Heartland to discuss improving its efforts, CPB saw little to no improvement. Id. at 5. CPB thereafter issued a request for proposals to five merchant service providers, including Heartland. Id. Heartland allegedly presented CPB with a written proposal, but CPB requested additional information. Id. at 6. On February 16, 2011, CPB allegedly sent an email to Heartland, stating that "we do not intend to renew the existing contract but are still reviewing your new partnership proposal." Id. CPB requested another 30 days to complete its review. Id. CPB ultimately selected another merchant services provider and informed Heartland of its decision on March 29, 2011. Id. at 7.

Heartland filed its Complaint against CPB, and CPB thereafter filed its Counterclaim against Heartland. Heartland filed the present Motion. Concurrently with its Opposition, CPB filed a Motion for Leave to Amend Counterclaim, currently set for hearing on March 19, 2012. See Central Pacific Bank's Mot. for Leave to File Am. Counterclaim and to Number Paragraphs ("Motion for Leave to Amend"), ECF No. 13. Arguing that the Counterclaim is sufficient on its face, the Motion for Leave to Amend alternatively seeks leave of court to provide additional facts relating to its intentional misrepresentation claim and to number the paragraphs of the Counterclaim. See id.

III. STANDARD.

Under Rule 12(b)(6), a court is generally limited to reviewing the contents of the complaint. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); Campanelli v. Bockrath, 100 F.3d 1476, 1479 (9th Cir. 1996). If matters outside the pleadings are considered, the Rule 12(b)(6) motion is treated as one for summary judgment. See Keams v. Tempe Tech. Inst., Inc., 110 F.3d 44, 46 (9th Cir. 1997); Anderson v. Angelone, 86 F.3d 932, 934 (9th Cir. 1996). However, courts may "consider certain materials--documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice--without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment." United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). Documents whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity is not questioned by any party may also be considered in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See Marder v. Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 448 (9th Cir. 2006); Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005).

On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Fed'n of African Am. Contractors v. City of Oakland, 96 F.3d 1204, 1207 (9th Cir. 1996). However, conclusory allegations of law, unwarranted deductions of fact, and unreasonable inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss. Sprewell, 266 F.3d at 988. Additionally, the court need not accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or allegations contradicting the exhibits attached to the complaint. Id. Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on either:

(1) lack of a cognizable legal theory, or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 533-34 (9th Cir. 1984)).

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true even if doubtful in fact. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (Rule 8 "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation"). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). The complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.

The Ninth Circuit has recently stated, First, to be entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively. Second, the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it ...


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