Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
Donelson v. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants Sachse, Ameriprise, and individual Ameriprise officers, alleging violations of federal securities law. Plaintiff also sought to represent other Sachse and Ameriprise clients in a class action. Defendants filed motions to strike plaintiff's class action allegations and to compel arbitration, which the district court denied.The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded for entry of an order striking plaintiff's class action allegations and compelling arbitration. The court concluded that it has appellate jurisdiction to review the district court's denial of defendants' motions to strike class action allegations because this denial was contained in an order reviewable under 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(1)(B). The court also concluded that defendants have not waived their right to arbitrate by moving to strike plaintiff's class action allegations at the same time they moved to compel arbitration where the action was not inconsistent with their right to arbitrate and did not substantially invoke the litigation machinery. On the merits, the court concluded that a valid arbitration clause exists and that it encompasses the dispute between the parties. In this case, the court agreed with defendants that the arbitration clause was valid because it was supported by mutual assent, was supported by consideration, and was not unconscionable. View "Donelson v. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc." on Justia Law
GXP Capital v. Argonaut Manufacturing Services, et al
GXP Capital, LLC filed two lawsuits against defendants in different federal courts. GXP alleged defendants violated non-disclosure agreements by using confidential information to buy key assets at bargain prices from GXP’s parent company. Those cases were dismissed for lack of personal and subject matter jurisdiction. GXP then filed a third suit in Delaware Superior Court, which stayed the case on forum non conveniens grounds to allow GXP to file the same case in California state court - a forum the court decided had a greater connection to the dispute and was more convenient for the parties. On appeal GXP argued: (1) the Superior Court did not apply the correct forum non conveniens analysis when Delaware was not the first-filed action, the prior-filed lawsuits have been dismissed, and no litigation was pending in another forum; and (2) defendants waived any inconvenience objections in Delaware under the forum selection clause in their non-disclosure agreements. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed, finding the trial court properly exercised its discretion in this case’s procedural posture to stay the Delaware case in lieu of dismissal when another forum with jurisdiction existed and that forum was the more convenient forum to resolve the dispute. “And certain of the defendants’ consent to non-exclusive jurisdiction in California did not waive their right to object to venue in other jurisdictions, including Delaware.” View "GXP Capital v. Argonaut Manufacturing Services, et al" on Justia Law
Irving Firemen’s Relief & Retirement Fund v. Uber Technologies, Inc.
After Uber’s founding in 2009, its valuation soared, with some investors assigning a valuation as high as $68 billion by mid-2016. Between June 2014 and May 2016, Kalanick, Uber’s founder, and Uber completed four preferred stock offerings, raising more than $10 billion in additional capital through limited partnerships and other entities. Irving Firemen’s Relief & Retirement Fund acquired Uber securities on February 16, 2016. In 2017, several alleged corporate scandals surfaced. By early 2018, investors estimated a nearly 30% decline in Uber’s valuation. Irving filed a putative class action against Uber and Kalanick alleging securities fraud under California Corporations Code sections 25400(d) and 25500. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, upholding the use of the federal standard for loss causation rather than the “less-rigid state law standard.” Irving did not state a claim because it did not adequately allege that Uber and Kalanick’s alleged fraudulent misstatements and omissions caused its alleged losses. Even assuming actionable misstatements by Uber and Kalanick and that news articles, a lawsuit, and government investigations revealed the truth to the market, Irving did not adequately and with particularity allege that these revelations caused the resulting drop in Uber’s valuation. View "Irving Firemen’s Relief & Retirement Fund v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Lillie v. Office of Financial Institutions State of Louisiana
This action stemmed from the collapse of Robert Stanford's Ponzi scheme. Plaintiffs, investors who purchased certificates of deposits (CDs) with Stanford International Bank, Ltd. (SIBL), filed suit against SEI Private Trust Company, businesses that had a longstanding relationship with SIBL.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for a continuance for further discovery and award of summary judgment to SEI where the district court concluded that SEI did not control the primary securities violations of Sanford Trust Company (STC). The court rejected plaintiffs' contention that the district court applied the wrong legal standard and ignored factual disputes as to SEI's asserted control. Rather, the court concluded that the district court correctly identified that plaintiffs need not prove that SEI participated in the fraudulent transaction. The court also concluded that SEI has offered competent evidence that it lacked power to control the STC's primary securities violations. View "Lillie v. Office of Financial Institutions State of Louisiana" on Justia Law
Colorado v. Baker
Respondent Karl Baker and his business partner sought investors for a company called Aviara Capital Partners, LLC. According to promotional materials that Baker provided to potential investors, investment money would be used to purchase distressed banks that were being shut down and were under the control of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”). In conjunction with the purchase of the distressed banks, Aviara would operate a “distressed assets fund” to purchase the assets of such banks. Aviara would then acquire additional banks under a business plan by which Aviara and its investors would collectively own eighty percent of the banks, while bank management, directors, advisors, and employees would own the other twenty percent. In the course of soliciting potential investors, Baker spoke, independently, with the purported victims in this case, Donna and Lyal Taylor, Dr. Alan Ng, and Stanley Douglas. The alleged victims’ investments did not work out as they claim to have been promised, and a grand jury subsequently indicted Baker on, among other charges, four counts of securities fraud, and three counts of theft. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the admission of a deputy securities commissioner’s expert testimony that Baker’s misstatements and omissions were material was reversible error. Because: (1) in presenting such opinions, the deputy commissioner also opined that certain disputed facts were true; (2) such testimony involved weighing the evidence and making credibility determinations, which were matters solely within the jury’s province; and (3) the error in admitting such testimony was not harmless, the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeals that the admission of this testimony was reversible error. View "Colorado v. Baker" on Justia Law
Lawrence v. Colorado
Shaun Lawrence met D.B. at a casino, where she worked as a cashier. During their conversations, Lawrence told D.B. that he ran several successful businesses and that he was looking for people to work for him and for investors to help grow a private investigations business called Advert Investigations (“Advert”). The parties eventually signed two “Investment and Business Agreement,” which provided that D.B. would invest cash money in exchange for an ownership interest in Advert. At no time prior to D.B.’s investments did Lawrence tell her that he would use the money to pay for personal and gambling expenses. Nor did he ever advise her that he had outstanding civil judgments against him totaling over $100,000. D.B. filed a complaint with the State Division of Securities, which subsequently referred the case to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. The State then charged Lawrence with two counts of securities fraud, and one count of theft. The jury ultimately convicted Lawrence as charged, and Lawrence appealed. In his appeal, he contended, among other things, that (1) the evidence did not establish that the transaction at issue involved a security (namely, an investment contract); (2) Colorado Securities Commissioner Rome’s expert testimony usurped the jury’s role as factfinder because the Commissioner was improperly permitted to opine on the ultimate factual issues in this case; and (3) Lawrence was entitled to the ameliorative benefit of the amendments to the theft statute and, as a result, he could only stand convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor because that was the lowest degree of theft that the jury’s verdict supported. The Colorado Supreme Court concurred with the appellate court’s determination that: (1) the agreement at issue here was an investment contract, and therefore a security; (2) Commissioner’s testimony was admissible, and any error by the trial court in admitting that testimony was harmless; and (3) the trial court erred in instructing the jury as to the value of the property taken. View "Lawrence v. Colorado" on Justia Law
Securities & Exchange Commission v. Morrone
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting, in part, summary judgment in favor of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on its allegation that Appellants Jonathan Morrone and Z. Paul Jurberg solicited investments in Bio Defense Corporation, where they were senior officers, from investors in violation of federal securities law, holding that the district court did not err.On appeal, Appellants asserted (1) the district court erred in applying United States federal securities laws to their solicitation of foreign investors, in light of Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd., 561 U.S. 247 (2010); and (2) genuine issues of material fact barred summary judgment on some of SEC's claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in applying the federal securities laws to Appellants; and (2) the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment in favor of the SEC. View "Securities & Exchange Commission v. Morrone" on Justia Law
Set Capital LLC v. Credit Suisse Group AG
Set Capital filed a class action against Credit Suisse, Individual Defendants, and Janus, principally alleging that, on February 5, 2018, defendants executed a complex fraud to collapse the market for VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short Term Exchange Traded Notes (XIV Notes), earning hundreds of millions of dollars in profit at their investors' expense. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to plead a strong inference of scienter.The Second Circuit concluded that the complaint plausibly alleges a strong inference of scienter to support Set Capital's claim for market manipulation, and that it has identified actionable misstatements or omissions in the Offering Documents. However, the court agreed with the district court that the complaint does not support a strong inference that Credit Suisse and Janus acted with scienter when they failed to correct the Flatline Value during afterhours trading on February 5. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment dismissing the claims pertaining to the manipulative scheme, the alleged misstatements or omissions in the offering documents, and the corresponding liability of control persons. The court remanded those claims for further proceedings. The court affirmed the judgment dismissing the claims for failure to correct the Flatline Value, while vacating the district court's denial of leave to amend those claims. View "Set Capital LLC v. Credit Suisse Group AG" on Justia Law
Golub v. Gigamon Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on failure to state a claim of a putative securities class-action alleging violations of section 14(a) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Securities Exchange Commission Rule 14a-9.The panel clarified that the standards for actionability explained in Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 575 U.S. 175 (2015), with respect to falsity under section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, also govern whether a plaintiff has sufficiently alleged the falsity of a statement of opinion under SEC Rule 14a-9 through either a misrepresentation-of-material-fact theory or an omission-of-material-fact theory. Omnicare identified three ways in which a statement of opinion may nonetheless involve a representation of material fact that, if that representation is false or misleading, could be actionable. First, every statement of opinion explicitly affirms that the speaker actually holds the stated belief. Second, some sentences that begin with opinion words like "I believe" contain embedded statements of fact. Third, a reasonable investor may, depending on the circumstances, understand an opinion statement to convey facts about how the speaker has formed the opinion. In this case, the panel applied the Omnicare standards in an accompanying memorandum disposition. View "Golub v. Gigamon Inc." on Justia Law
Panthera Investment Fund, L.P. v. H.C. Wainwright & Co., LLC
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a securities fraud action against an investment bank, holding that the complaint failed sufficiently to allege scienter. Plaintiff's complaint stemmed from the bank's handling of MannKind's stock price. After an investment bank analyst published a report setting a target price of $7 per share for the company's stock, the stock surged 26 percent that day. Later that evening, the bank announced that it would act as the placing agent for a dilutive offering that priced that same stock at $6 per share. The stock price declined the next day.The panel explained that the complaint did not offer a plausible motive for the bank’s actions or provide compelling and particularized allegations about scienter, and thus it did not support the required strong inference that the defendant intentionally made false or misleading statements or acted with deliberate recklessness. In this case, the panel reasoned that the most plausible inferences are that someone failed to put MannKind on the watch list, failed to properly check the watch list, or failed to realize that a conflict existed when approving the report. View "Panthera Investment Fund, L.P. v. H.C. Wainwright & Co., LLC" on Justia Law