Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
Packer v. Raging Capital Management, LLC
The district court granted summary judgment for plaintiff in a derivative suit on behalf of 1-800-Flowers.com against Master Fund, ruling that Master Fund was the beneficial owner of more than ten percent of the shares of 1-800-Flowers, Inc., which were bought and sold within a period of six months, and requiring Master Fund to disgorge $4,909,393 in short-swing profits for violating section 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Master Fund appealed and plaintiff cross-appealed.The Second Circuit concluded that factual questions remain on the issue of Master Fund's beneficial ownership and therefore remanded. In this case, RCM is a registered investment advisor; Master Fund, Offshore, and QP are customers of RCM; and William C. Martin holds positions in RCM, Master Fund, and Offshore, and indirectly has a role in QP. The relationship among RCM, Master Fund, Offshore, and QP is governed by an Investment Management Agreement (IMA), which was signed by Martin on behalf of all four parties to the agreement.The court concluded that it would be inconsistent with principles concerning section 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to accept the district court's first reason for rejecting Master Fund's delegation of voting and investing authority to RCM. The court explained that, although Rule 13d-3(a) includes within the definition of a beneficial owner "any person who, directly or indirectly, through any contract, arrangement, understanding, relationship, or otherwise has" voting or investment authority, 17 C.F.R. 240.13d-3(a), using generalized wording such as "intertwined" or "not unaffiliated" to bring a person within the coverage of Rule 13d-3(a) would extend the reach of section 16(b) beyond the text of both the statute and the rule. The court also concluded that making an investment advisor a customer's agent for the specified purpose of carrying out the advisor's traditional functions for a customer does not make the advisor an agent for all purposes. Finally, the court concluded that there remains to be determined as a factual matter whether, under all the relevant circumstances, Martin is in control of Master Fund and the feeder funds with authority to commit these entities to altering or terminating the IMA. View "Packer v. Raging Capital Management, LLC" on Justia Law
United States v. Chan
The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions for securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, holding that Defendants' claims of trial and sentencing error were unavailing.Defendants were two biostaticians employed by two publicly traded biopharmaceutical companies. The jury found Defendants guilty of conspiracy of commit securities fraud and all counts of securities fraud with which they were charged. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in denying Defendants' motions for judgments of acquittal as to the conspiracy and securities fraud convictions; (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendants' motion to compel production of a letter from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority; (3) imposed sentences that were without error; and (4) did not err in awarding restitution. View "United States v. Chan" on Justia Law
Whitehead v. BBVA Compass Bank
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for appellees in an action brought by appellant, alleging claims for securities fraud and state common law claims of negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, suppression and fraud. Appellant alleged that appellees wrongfully failed to inform appellant of the risks involved in making a certain investment. The court found that the alleged wrongful conduct of appellees did not cause the economic loss for which appellant sues. In this case, there is no viable claim against appellees; no act or omission asserted against them was the cause of the loss suffered by appellant; and thus the district court properly granted summary judgment in their favor. View "Whitehead v. BBVA Compass Bank" on Justia Law
Saad v. Securities and Exchange Commission
Petitioner, a broker-dealer, twice misappropriated his employer's funds and then unsuccessfully tried to cover his tracks by falsifying documents. FINRA permanently barred him from membership and from associating with any FINRA member firm.The DC Circuit held that the Supreme Court's recent decision in Kokesh v. SEC, 137 S. Ct. 1635 (2017), which held that SEC disgorgement constitutes a penalty within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. 2462, does not have any bearing in petitioner's case. The court explained that binding circuit precedent establishes that the Commission may approve expulsion not as a penalty but as a means of protecting investors. In this case, the Commission did precisely that. Because this court has already held that the Commission appropriately concluded that petitioner's bar was not excessive or oppressive in any other respect, that ends the court's inquiry. View "Saad v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law
Grigsby v. BofI Holding, Inc.
Plaintiffs, who represent a putative shareholder class, filed suit alleging that BofI and its senior executives violated sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act by denying that BofI was the subject of a money laundering investigation. The complaint also alleged that BofI falsely stated that a whistleblower's separate allegations that BofI made undisclosed loans to criminals were "disconnected from the reality of BofI's highly compliant and top-performing business."The panel held that plaintiffs may rely on a corrective disclosure derived from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) response by plausibly alleging that the FOIA information had not been previously disclosed. If a plaintiff relies on information obtained via a FOIA request, the pleading burden to allege loss causation is no different from the pleading burden for other types of corrective disclosures. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's loss causation ruling to the extent it deemed information obtained via a FOIA request to be publicly available prior to its disclosure. The panel also held that the district court correctly ruled that the Seeking Alpha article at issue did not constitute a corrective disclosure, in part because it was written by an anonymous short-seller with no expertise beyond that of a typical market participant who based the article solely on information found in public sources. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Grigsby v. BofI Holding, Inc." on Justia Law
In Re Solera Insurance Coverage Appeals
Insurance providers asked the Delaware Supreme Court whether certain costs incurred in connection with an appraisal action under 8 Del. C. 262 were precluded from coverage under the primary and excess directors’ and officers’ insurance policies (the “D&O Policies”) issued to Solera Holdings, Inc. (“Solera”). An affiliate of Vista Equity acquired Solera in 2016. That transaction gave rise to litigation, including an appraisal action. Solera requested coverage under the D&O Policies for the Appraisal Action. The insurers denied the request. Solera then filed suit against the insurers for breach of contract and declaratory judgment, seeking coverage for pre-judgment interest and defense expenses incurred in connection with the Appraisal Action. However, Solera did not seek coverage for the underlying fair value amount paid to the dissenting stockholders, upon which the pre-judgment interest was based. The issuer of the primary policy settled, and the excess policy insurers moved for summary judgment. The superior court denied the motion, interpreting the policy to hold that: (1) a “Securities Claim” under the policy was not limited to a claim alleging wrongdoing, and the Appraisal Action was for a “violation” under the Securities Claim definition; (2) because the “Loss” definition was not limited by any other language, the policy covered pre-judgment interest on a non-covered loss; and (3) as to defense expenses, Delaware law implied a prejudice requirement in insurance contract consent clauses, and Solera’s breach of the consent clause did not bar coverage for defense expenses absent a showing of prejudice. The Insurers appealed, contending that the superior court erred in holding that the Appraisal Action could be covered under the D&O Policies for a violation of a “Securities Claim.” The Supreme Court disagreed with the superior court's determination the Appraisal Action was for a “violation,” concluding the Appraisal Action did not fall within the definition of a “Securities Claim.” Because the Appraisal Action was not a Securities Claim, the remaining issues were moot. View "In Re Solera Insurance Coverage Appeals" on Justia Law
CNH Diversified Opportunities Master Account, L.P. v Cleveland Unlimited, Inc.
In this lawsuit brought by Plaintiffs, the holders of a minority in principal amount of senior secured debt, against the debtor and its guarantors to recover payment of principal and interest after the issuer defaulted, the Court of Appeals held that Plaintiffs' right to sue for payment on the notes survived a strict foreclosure undertaken by the trustee at the direction of a group of majority bondholders over Plaintiffs' objection that purported to cancel the notes.Supreme Court granted summary judgment to Defendants and denied Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals modified the order of the Appellate Division by reversing the grant of summary judgment to Defendants and granting partial summary to Plaintiffs, holding that Plaintiffs' payment rights were not extinguished by the strict foreclosure, which purportedly cancelled their notes, because the purported cancellation of the notes without the dissenting minority note holders' consent violated the provisions of the indenture agreement. View "CNH Diversified Opportunities Master Account, L.P. v Cleveland Unlimited, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Altaba, Inc.
In this litigation in which Altaba, Inc. (the Company) sought dissolution under the framework established by Sections 280 and 281(a) of the Delaware General Corporation Law the Court of Chancery held that the Company may make an interim distribution using its proposed amounts of security on the condition that it reserve funds for lawsuits pending in Canada resulting from data breaches that the Company disclosed in 2016 (the Canadian Actions Claim).As to all but two claims, in which the Company agreed to hold back the full amount of security requested by respective claimants, the Court of Chancery held that there was no obstacle to an interim distribution based on the amounts of security. For two claims, however, the Company sought to hold back less than the full amount of security requested by the claimants. The Court of Chancery held (1) as to the Canadian Actions Claim, if the Company wished to make an interim distribution to its stockholders it must reserve $1.05 billion Canadian; and (2) as to the second claim, the Company made a convincing showing that the amount it proposed to reserve was likely to be sufficient to provide compensation for claims that had not been made known to the Company or that had not yet arisen. View "In re Altaba, Inc." on Justia Law
Mohlman v. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
Mohlman became a licensed securities professional in 2001. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a not-for-profit member organization, regulates practice in the securities industry and enforces disciplinary actions against its members. In 2012, Mohlman had conversations with several individuals concerning WMA. Mohlman did not attempt to sell WMA investments and did not receive compensation from WMA. Mohlman learned in 2014 that WMA was a Ponzi scheme and immediately informed all persons who had invested in WMA. Mohlman appeared for testimony as part of FINRA’s investigation. Another day of testimony was scheduled but instead of appearing, Mohlman and his counsel signed a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent, agreeing to a permanent ban from the securities industry. FINRA agreed to refrain from filing a formal complaint against him. Mohlman waived his procedural rights under FINRA’s Code of Procedure and the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78a and agreed to “not take any position in any proceeding brought by or on behalf of FINRA, or to which FINRA is a party, that is inconsistent with any part of [the Letter].” FINRA accepted the Letter in 2015.In 2019, Mohlman filed suit, alleging that FINRA fraudulently avoided considering mitigating factors in administering the sanction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit without addressing the merits. Mohlman failed to exhaust administrative remedies under the Exchange Act by appealing to the National Adjudicatory Council and petitioning the SEC for review. View "Mohlman v. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority" on Justia Law
Brigade Leveraged Capital Structures Fund Ltd v. Stillwater Mining Co.
In 2017, Sibanye Gold Ltd. (“Sibanye”) acquired Stillwater Mining Co. (“Stillwater”) through a reverse triangular merger. Under the terms of the merger agreement, each Stillwater share at closing was converted into the right to receive $18 of merger consideration. Between the signing and the closing of the merger, the commodity price for palladium (which Stillwater mined) increased by nine percent, improving Stillwater’s value. Certain former Stillwater stockholders dissented to the merger, perfected their statutory appraisal rights, and pursued this litigation. During the appraisal trial, petitioners argued the flawed deal process made the deal price an unreliable indicator of fair value and that increased commodity prices raised Stillwater’s fair value substantially between the signing and closing of the merger. In 2019, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued an opinion, holding that the $18 per share deal price was the most persuasive indicator of Stillwater’s fair value at the time of the merger. The court did not award an upward adjustment for the increased commodity prices. Petitioners appealed the Court of Chancery’s decision, arguing that the court abused its discretion when it ignored the flawed sale process and petitioners’ argument for an upward adjustment to the merger consideration. After review of the parties’ briefs and the record on appeal, and after oral argument, the Delaware Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the Court of Chancery. View "Brigade Leveraged Capital Structures Fund Ltd v. Stillwater Mining Co." on Justia Law