Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought a civil enforcement action against Dale Chappell and his investment entities for insider trading. The SEC alleged that Chappell traded securities based on material, nonpublic information about the FDA's feedback on a drug developed by Humanigen, a company in which Chappell's entities were the largest shareholders. The FDA had expressed significant concerns about the drug's clinical trial and recommended an additional trial. Despite this, Humanigen submitted an application for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) without conducting a second trial. Chappell sold a significant portion of his Humanigen stock before the FDA's denial of the EUA application was publicly announced, avoiding substantial losses.In the District Court, the SEC sought and obtained a preliminary injunction to freeze Chappell’s assets. Chappell appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.The Third Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. It found that the SEC had shown a likelihood of success on its claim that Chappell violated insider trading laws. The court concluded that the FDA's feedback was material and that Chappell had the necessary mindset to commit fraud. The court also found that the preliminary injunction factors, including irreparable harm, balance of equities, and public interest, supported the injunction. The court noted that without the injunction, there was a substantial potential injury to Humanigen shareholders if Chappell was able to move assets out of reach of future judgment creditors. View "Securities and Exchange Commission v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Frequency Therapeutics, a biotech startup that was developing a treatment for severe sensorineural hearing loss called "FX-322". Initial trials were positive, but subsequent testing yielded disappointing results, causing a sharp drop in Frequency's stock price. Three stockholders filed a class action lawsuit alleging violations of sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, and Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 10b-5. They claimed that Frequency's CEO, David Lucchino, and its Chief Development Officer, Carl LeBel, knew of problems with the study before the results were announced, yet gave investors assurances to the contrary.The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed the complaint, finding that the plaintiffs failed to allege sufficient facts to support a finding of scienter under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. The plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal. The court found that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the defendants had made the false statements with the degree of scienter required to state a Securities and Exchange Act claim. The court noted that the complaint did not provide specific facts about when the defendants learned of the adverse events, which was a glaring omission. The court also found that the increase in stock sales by the CEO was not sufficient to establish an inference of scienter on its own. The court concluded that the plaintiffs' allegations, taken collectively, did not give rise to a strong inference of scienter. View "Quinones v. Frequency Therapeutics, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the interpretation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, specifically 18 U.S.C. §1512(c)(2), which imposes criminal liability on anyone who corruptly obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so. The petitioner, Joseph Fischer, was charged with violating this provision for his actions during the Capitol breach on January 6, 2021. Fischer moved to dismiss the charge, arguing that the provision only criminalizes attempts to impair the availability or integrity of evidence. The District Court granted his motion, but a divided panel of the D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings.The Supreme Court of the United States held that to prove a violation of §1512(c)(2), the Government must establish that the defendant impaired the availability or integrity for use in an official proceeding of records, documents, objects, or other things used in an official proceeding, or attempted to do so. The Court reasoned that the "otherwise" provision of §1512(c)(2) is limited by the list of specific criminal violations that precede it in (c)(1). The Court also considered the broader context of §1512 in the criminal code and found that an unbounded interpretation of subsection (c)(2) would render superfluous the careful delineation of different types of obstructive conduct in §1512 itself. The Court vacated the judgment of the D.C. Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Fischer v. United States" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and investment adviser George Jarkesy, Jr., and his firm, Patriot28, LLC. The SEC initiated an enforcement action for civil penalties against Jarkesy and Patriot28 for alleged violations of the "antifraud provisions" contained in the federal securities laws. The SEC opted to adjudicate the matter in-house. The final order determined that Jarkesy and Patriot28 had committed securities violations and levied a civil penalty of $300,000. Jarkesy and Patriot28 petitioned for judicial review. The Fifth Circuit vacated the order on the ground that adjudicating the matter in-house violated the defendants’ Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial.The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the in-house adjudication by the SEC violated the defendants' Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. The court applied a two-part test from Granfinanciera, S.A. v. Nordberg, determining that the SEC's antifraud claims were akin to traditional actions at common law, and thus required a jury trial. The court also concluded that the "public rights" exception did not apply, as the claims were not closely intertwined with the bankruptcy process.The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the Fifth Circuit's decision. The Court held that when the SEC seeks civil penalties against a defendant for securities fraud, the Seventh Amendment entitles the defendant to a jury trial. The Court found that the SEC's antifraud provisions replicate common law fraud, and thus implicate the Seventh Amendment. The Court also concluded that the "public rights" exception to Article III jurisdiction did not apply, as the action did not fall within any of the distinctive areas involving governmental prerogatives where a matter may be resolved outside of an Article III court, without a jury. The Court did not reach the remaining constitutional issues and affirmed the ruling of the Fifth Circuit on the Seventh Amendment ground alone. View "SEC v. Jarkesy" on Justia Law

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The case involves the National Association of Manufacturers and Natural Gas Services Group, Incorporated (plaintiffs-appellants) against the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Gary Gensler, in his official capacity as Chair of the SEC (defendants-appellees). The dispute arose after the SEC, in 2020, adopted a rule regulating businesses that provide proxy voting advice to institutional shareholders of public corporations. Two years later, the SEC rescinded this rule. The appellants challenged the rescission in district court, arguing that the SEC arbitrarily and capriciously failed to provide an adequate explanation for its abrupt change in policy. The district court rejected the appellants’ contentions and granted summary judgment in favor of the SEC.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The court found that the SEC's explanation for rescinding the 2020 rule was arbitrary and capricious, and therefore unlawful. The court held that the SEC failed to provide an adequate justification for contradicting its prior factual finding that the 2020 Rule did not threaten the timeliness and independence of proxy voting advice. The court also found that the SEC failed to provide a reasonable explanation why these risks were so significant under the 2020 Rule as to justify its rescission. The court vacated the 2022 rescission in part and remanded the case back to the SEC. View "National Association of Manufacturers and Natural Gas Services Group, Inc. v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Brad Packer, a shareholder of 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. (FLWS), who alleged that Raging Capital Management, LLC, Raging Capital Master Fund, Ltd., and William C. Martin (collectively, the Appellees) violated Section 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. This section requires owners of more than 10% of a company's stock to disgorge profits made from buying and selling the company's stock within a six-month window. Packer claimed that the Appellees, as 10% beneficial owners of FLWS, engaged in such "short-swing" trading and failed to disgorge their profits. After FLWS declined to sue the Appellees, Packer filed a shareholder derivative suit on behalf of FLWS.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed Packer's suit, reasoning that he lacked constitutional standing because he did not allege a concrete injury. The District Court concluded that the Supreme Court's decision in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, which elaborated on the "concrete injury" requirement of constitutional standing, abrogated the Second Circuit's previous decision in Donoghue v. Bulldog Investors General Partnership. In Donoghue, the Second Circuit held that a violation of Section 16(b) inflicts an injury that confers constitutional standing.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed with the District Court's interpretation. The Appeals Court held that TransUnion did not abrogate Donoghue, and the District Court erred in holding that it did. The Appeals Court emphasized that a District Court must follow controlling precedent, even if it believes that the precedent may eventually be overturned. The Appeals Court found that nothing in TransUnion undermines Donoghue, and thus, the District Court erred in dismissing Packer's Section 16(b) suit. The Appeals Court reversed the District Court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Packer v. Raging Capital Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over the rights of parties holding certain revenue bonds issued by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority ("PREPA") before it entered reorganization proceedings under Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act ("PROMESA"). The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico ("the Board") filed an adversary proceeding within the Title III restructuring proceeding to define the rights and remedies that bondholders had against PREPA. The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico held that the bondholders only had a secured claim on moneys deposited into the Sinking and Subordinate Funds, and that the bondholders had an unsecured claim on PREPA's Net Revenues.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit disagreed with the district court's findings. The appellate court held that the bondholders have a lien on PREPA's present and future Net Revenues, and that the bondholders' lien is not avoidable. The court also held that the proper amount of the bondholders' claim is the face value (i.e., principal plus matured interest) of the Revenue Bonds. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the bondholders' breach of trust claim, but reversed the dismissal of the bondholders' accounting claim. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the appellate court's opinion. View "Financial Oversight and Management Board v. U.S. Bank National Assn." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around EIG, an American investment fund, which lost $221 million after investing in a project to exploit newly discovered oil reserves off the coast of Brazil. The project was led by Petróleo Brasileiro, S.A. (Petrobras), Brazil’s state-owned oil company. A criminal investigation later revealed that Petrobras executives were accepting bribes from contractors and sharing the proceeds among themselves and Brazilian politicians. When this corruption was exposed, the project's lenders withdrew, causing the project to collapse and EIG’s investment to become worthless.The District Court for the District of Columbia had previously denied Petrobras' motion to dismiss the case, arguing that it was immune from liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The court held that EIG had sufficiently alleged that Petrobras’ fraud had a "direct effect in the United States" and therefore fell within the direct-effect exception to the FSIA.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The court concluded that Petrobras had caused a direct effect in the United States because it had engaged with EIG in a sustained course of dealing over many months that conveyed its desire to obtain an investment from EIG. The court also found that the direct effect in the United States was not the result of happenstance or coincidence. It was wholly foreseeable, given that Petrobras had contemplated and tried to attract U.S. investment. The court therefore affirmed the district court’s denial of Petrobras’ assertion of foreign sovereign immunity at this stage and remanded for further proceedings. View "EIG Energy Fund XIV, L.P. v. Petroleo Brasileiro, S.A." on Justia Law

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The case involves David Moeller, who was convicted of securities fraud after deceiving an acquaintance into investing $9,500 in a non-existent business. Moeller appealed his conviction, but died during the appeal process. The Court of Appeals, applying the precedent set in State v. Hollister, ruled that Moeller's death did not render his appeal moot and affirmed his conviction and sentence. Moeller's defense counsel petitioned for review, arguing that the court should overrule Hollister and that the panel erred in concluding his conviction was supported by sufficient evidence.The Supreme Court of the State of Kansas affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and the district court. The court held that under the doctrine of stare decisis, it would continue to adhere to Hollister, which establishes that the death of a criminal defendant during the appeal of his or her conviction does not automatically abate the appeal but may render some issues moot. The court found that Hollister was not originally erroneous and that more good than harm would come from adhering to it. The court also held that the State presented sufficient evidence to support Moeller's conviction for securities fraud. The court concluded that Moeller's conduct constituted fraud or deceit and that the transaction between Moeller and the victim involved the sale of a security in the form of an investment contract. View "State v. Moeller" on Justia Law

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The case involves a challenge to a rule adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) aimed at enhancing the regulation of private fund advisers. The rule was designed to protect investors who invest in private funds and to prevent fraud, deception, or manipulation by the investment advisers to those funds. The petitioners, a group of associations representing private fund managers, challenged the rule, arguing that the SEC exceeded its statutory authority in adopting it.The case was heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The petitioners argued that the SEC had overstepped its authority under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and the Dodd-Frank Act. They contended that the rule imposed requirements that were not authorized by these statutes and that the SEC had failed to adequately consider the rule's impact on efficiency, competition, and capital formation.The SEC, on the other hand, argued that it had the authority to adopt the rule under sections 206(4) and 211(h) of the Advisers Act. It contended that these provisions authorized it to define and prescribe means to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, or manipulative acts by investment advisers.The Fifth Circuit sided with the petitioners, holding that the SEC had exceeded its statutory authority in adopting the rule. The court found that the rule was not authorized by the relevant provisions of the Advisers Act and that the SEC had failed to establish a close nexus between the rule and the prevention of fraud or deception. As a result, the court vacated the rule. View "NA of Private Fund Managers v. SEC" on Justia Law