Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

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After a $3.3 billion “roll up” of minority-held units involving a merger between Enbridge, Inc. and Spectra Energy Partners L.P. (“SEP”), Paul Morris, a former SEP minority unitholder, lost standing to litigate an alleged $661 million derivative suit on behalf of SEP against its general partner, Spectra Energy Partners (DE) GP, LP (“SEP GP”). Morris repeated the derivative claim dismissal by filing a new class action complaint that alleged the Enbridge/SEP merger exchange ratio was unfair because SEP GP agreed to a merger that did not reflect the material value of his derivative claims. The Court of Chancery granted SEP GP’s motion to dismiss the new complaint for lack of standing. The court held that, to have standing to bring a post-merger claim, Morris had to allege a viable and material derivative claim that the buyer would not assert and provided no value for in the merger. Focusing on the materiality requirement, the court first discounted the $661 million recovery to $112 million to reflect the public unitholders’ beneficial interest in the derivative litigation recovery. The court then discounted the $112 million further to $28 million to reflect what the court estimated was a one in four chance of success in the litigation. After the discounting, the $28 million, less than 1% of the merger consideration, was immaterial to a $3.3 billion merger. On appeal, Morris argued the trial court should not have dismissed the plaintiff’s direct claims for lack of standing. After its review, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Morris finding that, on a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, he sufficiently pled a direct claim attacking the fairness of the merger itself for SEP GP’s failure to secure value for his pending derivative claims. The Court of Chancery’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Morris v. Spectra Energy Partners" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decisions of the district court in these appeals challenging the court's discretionary rulings in connection with a request under 28 U.S.C. 1782 to conduct court-ordered discovery for use in a foreign proceeding, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.The foreign proceeding at issue was one of approximately 200 separate securities fraud actions brought in 2016 against Porsche Automobile Holding SE in Germany. The actions stemmed from Porsche's alleged malfeasance in connection with "defeat devices" employed to circumvent emissions testing in certain diesel vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen AG. The district court granted in part Porsche's request for discovery in the United States from affiliates of John Hancock funds who were plaintiffs in the German actions. The First Circuit affirmed the district court's orders denying the Hancock plaintiffs' motion to intervene and denying in part the Hancock affiliates' motion to quash, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "Porsche Automobile Holding SE v. John Hancock Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Alaska Division of Banking and Securities civilly fined Sitnasuak Native Corporation shareholder Austin Ahmasuk for submitting a newspaper opinion letter about Sitnasuak’s shareholder proxy voting procedures without filing that letter with the Division as a shareholder proxy solicitation. Ahmasuk filed an agency appeal, arguing that the Division wrongly interpreted its proxy solicitation regulation to cover his letter and violated his constitutional due process and free speech rights. An administrative law judge upheld the Division’s sanction in an order that became the final agency decision, and the superior court upheld that decision in a subsequent appeal. Ahmasuk raised his same arguments on appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court concluded Ahmasuk’s opinion letter was not a proxy solicitation under the Division’s controlling regulations, therefore reversing the superior court’s decision upholding the Division’s civil sanction against Ahmasuk without reaching the constitutional arguments. View "Ahmasuk v. Division of Banking and Securities" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed separate district court orders directing defendant and MinTrade to comply with SEC subpoenas for the production of documentary evidence and testimony. The court held that the district court properly exercised personal jurisdiction over defendant in the Southern District of Florida. As to MinTrade, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in not holding an evidentiary hearing. On the merits, the court held that neither district court abused its considerable discretion in concluding that the subpoenas were relevant to a legitimate investigation into possible violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. View "Securities and Exchange Commission v. Marin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision to recognize and enforce in Nevada the disgorgement portion of a securities-fraud judgment from British Columbia, holding that the district court properly recognized the disgorgement judgment.On appeal, Appellant argued that the disgorgement judgment was in the nature of a fine or penalty, and therefore, it should not be enforced outside Canada. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the British Columbia judgment did not constitute an unenforceable penalty because the primary purpose of the disgorgement award was remedial in nature, not penal; and (2) even crediting the argument that Nev. Rev. Stat. 17.740(2)(b) takes the disgorgement judgment outside Nev. Rev. Stat. 17.750(1)'s mandatory recognition provisions, the district court properly recognized it as a matter of comity. View "Lathigee v. British Columbia Securities Commission" on Justia Law

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This case arises out of R. Allen Stanford's Ponzi scheme. Plaintiffs filed suit against SEI and SEI's insurers, seeking to hold SEI liable under the control-person provision of Louisiana Securities Law. In this case, plaintiffs allege that SEI is liable for STC's violations under the control-person provision of Louisiana Securities Law based on SEI's contractual relationship with STC.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to SEI and its insurers, holding that SEI was not a control person under the statute. The court need not determine whether the investors must establish that SEI had control over STC's day-to-day operations because plaintiffs fail to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact that SEI directly or indirectly controlled STC's primary violations. Because the district court properly granted summary judgment to SEI, the court also affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on all claims against the insurers. View "Ahders v. SEI Private Trust Co." on Justia Law

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The SEC filed a civil enforcement action against Alpine, a registered broker-dealer specializing in penny stocks and micro-cap securities, claiming that Alpine's failure to comply with the reporting requirements for filing Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) violated the reporting, recordkeeping, and record retention obligations under Section 17(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act), and Rule 17a-8 promulgated thereunder. The district court granted in part and denied in part the SEC's motion for summary judgment and denied Alpine's motion for summary judgment.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the SEC has authority to enforce Section 17(a) of the Exchange Act through this civil action; Rule 17a-8, which requires compliance with Bank Secrecy Act requirements, is a reasonable interpretation of Section 17(a); Rule 17a-8 does not violate the Administrative Procedure Act; the district court did not err in granting summary judgment with respect to the SARs; and, in imposing the civil penalty, the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "United States Securities and Exchange Commission v. Alpine Securities Corp." on Justia Law

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Between 1983-2015, Heneghan was an associated person (AP) of 14 different National Futures Association (NFA)-member firms. Troyer invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial derivatives through NFA Members. The first interaction between Troyer and Heneghan was in 2008. After receiving an unsolicited phone call from Heneghan, Troyer invested more than $160,000. Despite changes in Heneghan’s entity affiliation, his working relationship with Troyer remained constant. At one point, Heneghan’s then-firm, Statewide, withdrew from the NFA following an investigation. Heneghan was the subject of a four-month NFA approval-hold in 2012. Troyer began sending money to Heneghan personally in 2013, allegedly to obtain trading firm employee discounts; these investments totaled $82,000. Troyer neither received nor asked for any investment documentation for this investment. In 2016-2015, NFA investigated Heneghan’s then-firm, PMI, Despite Troyer’s alleged substantial investment, no PMI accounts were listed for either Troyer or Heneghan. In 2015, Troyer directed Heneghan to cash out the fund; “all hell broke loose.” In 2016, the NFA permanently barred Heneghan from NFA membership. Troyer filed suit under the Commodities Exchange Act. 7 U.S.C. 25(b).The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of Troyer’s claim. NFA Bylaw 301(a)(ii)(D), which bars persons from becoming or remaining NFA Members if their conduct was the cause of NFA expulsion, is inapplicable. Statewide’s agreement not to reapply represented a distinct sanction from expulsion and did not trigger Bylaw 301(a)(ii)(D). View "Troyer v. National Futures Association" on Justia Law

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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

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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