Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
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
Houston Municipal Employees Pension System v. BofI Holding, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment dismissing a securities fraud class action, holding that the shareholders have adequately pleaded a viable claim under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 for the two categories of misstatements the district court found actionable, with the whistleblower lawsuit serving as a potential corrective disclosure.The panel held that one way to prove loss causation is to show that the defendant's fraud was revealed to the market through one or more "corrective disclosures" and that the company's stock price declined as a result. In this case, plaintiff alleged loss causation by relying on two corrective disclosures: a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former company insider and a series of blog posts offering negative reports about the company's operations. The panel agreed with the district court that the Seeking Alpha blog posts could not qualify as corrective disclosures and, even if the posts disclosed information that the market was not previously aware of, it is not plausible that the market reasonably perceived these posts as revealing the falsity of BofI's prior misstatements, thereby causing the drops in BofI's stock price on the days the posts appeared. However, the panel held that the whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former company insider was a potential corrective disclosure. The panel joined the Sixth Circuit in rejecting any categorical rule that allegations in a lawsuit, standing alone, can never qualify as a corrective disclosure. Finally, the panel rejected the shareholders' allegations regarding a new category of misstatements concerning government and regulatory investigations. View "Houston Municipal Employees Pension System v. BofI Holding, Inc." on Justia Law
Yukos Capital S.A.R.L. v. Feldman
A jury found that defendant had, through his actions in two distinct schemes, breached his fiduciary duty to Yukos, YHIL, Foundation 1, and Foundation 2 (collectively, the "Yukos Group"), as well as Mark Fleischman, as Trustee of the 2015 Security Trust, as successor in interest to the 2014 Security Trust. In this case, neither the Yukos Group nor Fleischman had sought compensatory damages for defendant's alleged breaches, and the jury declined to award them any disgorgement of defendant's compensation pursuant to New York's faithless servant doctrine. Therefore, the district court awarded the Yukos Group entities and Fleischman each $1 in nominal damages (for a total of $5).The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to David Godfrey, its non-imposition sanctions, and its decision to instruct the jury as it did regarding the standard for disgorgement of a faithless servant's compensation. However, the court concluded that Foundation 1 and Foundation 2 failed to prove breach of fiduciary duty claims against defendant. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's denial of defendant's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law as to them. View "Yukos Capital S.A.R.L. v. Feldman" on Justia Law
Idaho v. Zarinegar
The Idaho Department of Finance ("Department") filed a civil enforcement action against appellant appellant, Sean Zarinegar, Performance Realty Management LLC ("PRM") and other nominal defendants, alleging Zarinegar and PRM committed securities fraud. The Department moved for summary judgment; Zarinegar and PRM responded with their own motion for partial summary judgment and a motion to strike several documents submitted by the Department in support of its motion for summary judgment. A few days before the district court was set to hear arguments on the motions, counsel for Zarinegar and PRM moved the district court for leave to withdraw as counsel of record. At the hearing, the district court preliminary denied the motion to withdraw, entertained the parties’ arguments, and took all matters under advisement. The district court later issued a memorandum decision and order denying, in part, Zarinegar’s, and PRM’s motions to strike. The district court also denied Zarinegar’s and PRM’s motion for partial summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment for the Department after finding Zarinegar and PRM had misrepresented and omitted material facts in violation of Idaho Code section 30-14-501(2) and fraudulently diverted investor funds for personal use in violation of section 30-14-501(4). The district court then granted the motion to withdraw. The district court entered its final judgment against Zarinegar and PRM September 30, 2019. Zarinegar, representing himself pro se, appealed the judgment, arguing: (1) the district court lacked jurisdiction to enter judgment against him; (2) the district court violated his constitutional right to a jury trial and right to proceed pro se; (3) the district court’s denial of Zarinegar’s motions to strike as to certain documents was an abuse of discretion; and (4) the district court erroneously granted summary judgment for the Department. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Idaho v. Zarinegar" on Justia Law
In re: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC
After the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme collapsed, Picard was appointed under the Securities Investor Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. 78aaa (SIPA), as the liquidation trustee for Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BLMIS). The Act established a priority system to make customers of failed brokerages whole before other general creditors. Where customer property is insufficient to satisfy customers' claims, the trustee may recover property transferred by the debtor that would have been customer property but for the transfer if and to the extent that the transfer is void or voidable under the Bankruptcy Code. 15 U.S.C. 78fff–2(c)(3). The provisions of the Bankruptcy Code apply only to the extent that they are consistent with SIPA.Picard attempted to recover transfers of money that the defendants had received from BLMIS in excess of their principal investments. The defendants are BLMIS customers who were unaware of the fraud but profited from it by receiving what they thought were legitimate profits; the funds were actually other customers' money. The Second Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Picard. The Bankruptcy Code affirmative defense that permits a transferee who takes an interest of the debtor in property "for value and in good faith" to retain the transfer to the extent of the value given does not apply in this SIPA liquidation. The transfers were not "for value" and recovery would not violate the two-year limitation. View "In re: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC" on Justia Law
Thompson v. Colorado
Steven Thompson was a real estate developer and sole member and manager of SGD Timber Canyon, LLC (“Timber Canyon”), a real estate company that held an interest in a number of undeveloped lots in Castle Rock, Colorado. To buy those properties, Timber Canyon initially obtained a $11.9 million loan from Flagstar Bank. The properties went into foreclosure in October 2009. In February 2010, Timber Canyon filed for bankruptcy; Flagstar Bank sought relief from the automatic stay to allow it to proceed with the foreclosure. In the spring of 2010, Thompson met John Witt (“John”), who had worked in the construction industry in Denver but wanted to become a real estate developer. John eventually began working with Thompson and signed a letter of intent indicating that John would eventually obtain an ownership interest in Thompson’s company. Shortly thereafter, and without disclosing the fact that the Timber Ridge properties were in foreclosure and subject to a forbearance agreement, Thompson obtained an “investment” from John’s parents, Thomas and Debra Witt (“the Witts”). Ultimately, the Witts agreed to increase their initial $400,000 investment to $2.4 million. At no point did Thompson disclose to the Witts that Timber Canyon's properties were already highly leveraged; the company was in bankruptcy, the properties were in foreclosure, and the properties had been valued at only $6.75 million (an amount significantly less than the $31 million value that Thompson had represented to the Witts during negotiations). When the Witts’ note ultimately came due in the winter of 2011, Thompson defaulted. The Witts filed a civil lawsuit against him and contacted law enforcement. Thereafter, the State charged Thompson with two counts of securities fraud and one count of theft. A jury convicted Thompson on all counts, and the court sentenced him to the Department of Corrections for twelve years on each of the securities fraud counts, to be served concurrently, and eighteen years on the theft count, to be served consecutively to the securities fraud counts. As pertinent here, Thompson argued on appeal: (1) because the note at issue was not a security, insufficient evidence supported his securities fraud convictions; (2) the trial court erred by tendering an incorrect jury instruction regarding the meaning of “security”; and (3) his theft conviction had to run concurrently with his securities fraud convictions. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether: (1) the promissory note at issue was a security under the "family resemblance" test; (2) any error in the jury instruction defining “security” was not plain; and (3) consecutive sentences were permissible because different evidence supported defendant Steven Thompson’s securities fraud and theft convictions. Finding the note at issue was indeed a security under Colorado law, and no other reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed Thompson's convictions. View "Thompson v. Colorado" on Justia Law
Gentile v. Securities and Exchange Commission
The SEC investigated Gentile for his role in a penny-stock manipulation scheme in 2007-08 and civilly sued Gentile, who was indicted for securities fraud violations. The criminal prosecution was dismissed as untimely. The SEC separately investigated securities transactions through an unregistered broker-dealer in violation of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78o(a): Traders Café, a day-trading firm, maintained an account with Gentile’s Bahamian broker-dealer, which was not registered in the U.S. The SEC issued a Formal Order of Investigation into Café in 2013. Without issuing a new Formal Order, the SEC informed Gentile that he was a target in that investigation.The SEC subpoenaed Gentile for testimony. He refused to comply. The SEC did not seek enforcement against Gentile but subpoenaed Gentile’s attorney and an entity affiliated with Gentile’s Bahamian broker-dealer, which also refused to comply. The SEC commenced enforcement actions against those entities. Gentile unsuccessfully moved to intervene; the Florida district court ordered compliance. Gentile filed suit in New Jersey, seeking a declaration that the Café investigation was unlawful, requesting the quashing of the subpoenas, and seeking an injunction to prevent the SEC from using the fruits of that investigation against him.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The APA’s waiver of sovereign immunity, 5 U.S.C. 702, includes an exception for “agency action committed to agency discretion by law,” section 701(a)(2); sovereign immunity prevents judicial review of the Formal Order of Investigation. View "Gentile v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law
Yan v. ReWalk Robotics Ltd.
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's Securities Act claims and finding that Plaintiff did not have standing to bring his Securities Exchange Act claims, holding that Plaintiff failed to allege a violation of the Securities Act and failed to state an Exchange Act claim.On behalf of proposed classes of investors, Plaintiff alleged that ReWalk Robotics, Ltd. violated both the Securities Act and the Securities Exchange Act by omitting details and misrepresenting its dealings with the Federal Drug Administration in its initial public offering Registration Statement and in subsequent disclosures. The district court concluded that Plaintiff failed to allege a violation of the Securities Act and that he lacked standing to challenge ReWalk's alleged failures to make certain disclosures after his purchases of ReWalk securities. The district court further denied Plaintiff's motion to add Joanne Geller as a party. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly dismissed Plaintiff's claims. View "Yan v. ReWalk Robotics Ltd." on Justia Law
Heinze v. Tesco Corp.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims in a putative class action alleging that defendants' omissions from a proxy statement led Tesco shareholders to approve an all-stock acquisition by Nabors.Under the heightened pleading requirements of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA), the court held that plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In regard to plaintiff's claims under Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 that the proxy statement was misleading because it omitted certain material facts, the court held that plaintiff failed to identify how the four allegedly omitted pieces of information were necessary in order to make the statements therein not false or misleading. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining contentions as to this issue. In regard to plaintiff's claims under Section 20(a) of the 1934 Act that the individual defendants are liable for any violations committed by people they controlled, plaintiff failed to state a predicate claim under Section 14(a) and SEC Rule 14a-9. Finally, the court held that amendment would be futile and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to amend. View "Heinze v. Tesco Corp." on Justia Law