Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
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
Cobbs, Allen & Hall, Inc., and CAH Holdings, Inc. v. EPIC Holdings, Inc., and McInnis.
Cobbs, Allen & Hall, Inc. ("Cobbs Allen"), and CAH Holdings, Inc. ("CAH Holdings") (collectively,"CAH"), appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of EPIC Holdings, Inc. ("EPIC"), and EPIC employee Crawford E. McInnis, with respect to CAH's claims of breach of contract and tortious interference with a prospective employment relationship. Cobbs Allen was a regional insurance and risk-management firm specializing in traditional commercial insurance, surety services, employee-benefits services, personal-insurance services, and alternative-risk financing services. CAH Holdings was a family-run business. The families, the Rices and the Densons, controlled the majority, but pertinent here, owned less than 75% of the stock in CAH Holdings. Employees who were "producers" for CAH had the opportunity to own stock in CAH Holdings, provided they met certain sales thresholds; for CAH Holdings, the equity arrangement in the company was dictated by a "Restated Restrictive Stock Transfer Agreement." For several years, McInnis and other individuals who ended up being defendants in the first lawsuit in this case, were producers for CAH, and McInnis was also a shareholder in CAH Holdings. In the fall of 2014, a dispute arose between CAH and McInnis and those other producers concerning the management of CAH. CAH alleged that McInnis and the other producers had violated restrictive covenants in their employment agreements with the aim of helping EPIC. Because of the dispute, CAH fired McInnis, allegedly "for cause," and in November 2014 McInnis went to work for EPIC, becoming the local branch manager at EPIC's Birmingham office. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment finding CAH's breach-of-contract claim against McInnis and EPIC failed because no duty not to disparage parties existed in the settlement agreement. EPIC was not vicariously liable for McInnis's alleged tortious interference because McInnis's conduct was not within the line and scope of his employment with EPIC. EPIC also was not directly liable for McInnis's alleged tortious interference because it did not ratify McInnis's conduct as it did not know about the conduct until well after it occurred. However, the Supreme Court disagreed with the circuit court's conclusion that McInnis demonstrated that he was justified as a matter of law in interfering with CAH's prospective employment relationship with Michael Mercer. Based upon the admissible evidence, an issue of fact existed as to whether McInnis gave Mercer honest advice. Therefore, the judgment of the circuit court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Cobbs, Allen & Hall, Inc., and CAH Holdings, Inc. v. EPIC Holdings, Inc., and McInnis." on Justia Law
SuVicMon Development, Inc. v. Morrison
Plaintiffs sued Morrison in Alabama state court in 2006, alleging common-law fraud and Alabama Securities Act violations, later adding claims under the Alabama Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, alleging that Morrison had given property to his sons to defraud his creditors. Morrison filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court allowed the Alabama case to proceed but stayed the execution of any judgment. Plaintiffs initiated a bankruptcy court adversary proceeding, seeking a ruling that their state-court claims were not dischargeable. The bankruptcy court entered Morrison’s discharge order with the adversary proceeding still pending. In 2019, the Alabama trial court entered judgment ($1,185,176) against Morrison on the common-law fraud and Securities Act claims but rejected the fraudulent transfer claims.In the adversary proceeding, the bankruptcy court held that the state-court judgment was excepted from discharge, 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(19), as a debt for the violation of state securities laws, and later ruled that the discharge injunction barred appeals against Morrison on the fraudulent transfer claims. The court found the "Jet Florida" doctrine inapplicable because Morrison would be burdened with the expense of defending the state-court suit. The district court and Eleventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the fraudulent transfer suit is an action to collect a non-dischargeable debt (securities-fraud judgment) or that Plaintiffs should be allowed to proceed against Morrison as a nominal defendant, to seek recovery from the fraudulent transferees. The bankruptcy court has discretion in deciding whether to allow a suit against a discharged debtor under Jet Florida. View "SuVicMon Development, Inc. v. Morrison" on Justia Law
Baker v. Raymond James & Associates Inc.
In 2017, Plaintiffs filed suit against the Defendants. Between 2002 and 2005, Plaintiffs (all retirees from BellSouth) rolled most of their retirement assets over to Steven Savell, their financial advisor at Morgan Keegan. Savell assured Plaintiffs “he would invest [their] money in a way that would provide [them] with income for the remainder of [their] life and that [their] principal would grow over time.” Savell remained in control of these accounts until 2013. During the years Savell handled these accounts, the Plaintiffs continually sustained sizeable losses. Plaintiffs claimed that Savell improperly recommended that they invest in two unsuitable penny stocks and then marked the purchases “unsolicited” so as to prevent detection by the brokerage firm’s policy against soliciting such stock. Plaintiffs also alleged that Savell purchased for them certain annuities designed to be held for the long term, which Savell had them cash out early in order to purchase new annuities that would pay him and Morgan Keegan and/or Raymond James large commissions. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, finding that all of the Plaintiffs’ claims were time-barred. The Court of Appeals reversed with respect to the Plaintiffs’ common-law claims, finding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to when Plaintiffs learned or through reasonable diligence should have learned of Defendants’ alleged malfeasance. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari on Defendants’ claim that the Court of Appeals misapplied the latent-injury discovery-rule exception to the catch-all three-year limitations period provided by Mississippi Code Section 15-1-49 (Rev. 2019). Because the Supreme Court found no genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Plaintiffs’ common-law claims were time barred, it reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision and reinstated the trial court’s judgment. View "Baker v. Raymond James & Associates Inc." on Justia Law
Anderson v. Edward D. Jones & Co., LP
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a class action brought by investors with a financial services firm. Plaintiffs alleged that Edward Jones breached its fiduciary duties under Missouri and California law, but the district court concluded that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction because the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act (SLUSA) prevents plaintiffs from bringing their claims as a class action consisting of fifty or more persons.The panel concluded that SLUSA does not bar plaintiffs' state law fiduciary duty claims because Edward Jones's alleged misrepresentation or omission that forms the basis for plaintiffs' fiduciary duty claims is not "in connection with the purchase or sale of a covered security." In this case, plaintiffs claim that Edward Jones breached its fiduciary duties under Missouri and California law by failing to conduct a suitability analysis, and they allege that this lack of suitability analysis caused them to move their assets from commission-based accounts to fee-based accounts, which was not in their best financial interest as low-volume traders. The panel explained that the alleged failure to conduct a suitability analysis was not material to the decision to buy or sell any covered securities. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Anderson v. Edward D. Jones & Co., LP" on Justia Law