Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
Rhode Island v. Alphabet, Inc.
After Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested user data from Facebook's social network, Google discovered that a security glitch in its Google+ social network had left the private data of some hundreds of thousands of users exposed to third-party developers. Google and its holding company, Alphabet, chose to conceal this discovery, made generic statements about how cybersecurity risks could affect their business, and stated that there had been no material changes to Alphabet's risk factors since 2017.Rhode Island, in a consolidated amended complaint, filed suit against Alphabet, Google, and others, alleging violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 10b-5 for securities fraud, as well as violations of Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act. The district court granted Alphabet's motion to dismiss on the grounds that Rhode Island failed to adequately allege a materially misleading misrepresentation or omission and that Rhode Island failed to adequately allege scienter.The Ninth Circuit concluded that the complaint adequately alleged that Google, Alphabet, and individual defendants made materially misleading statements by omitting to disclose these security problems and that defendants did so with sufficient scienter, meaning with an intent to deceive, manipulate, or defraud. Applying an objective materiality standard, the panel concluded that Rhode Island's complaint plausibly alleges the materiality of the costs and consequences associated with the Privacy Bug, and its public disclosure, and how Alphabet's decision to omit information about the Privacy Bug in its 10-Qs significantly altered the total mix of information available for decisionmaking by a reasonable investor. Furthermore, the complaint adequately alleges scienter for the materially misleading omissions from the 10-Q statements. The panel also concluded that Rhode Island adequately alleged falsity, materiality, and scienter for the April 2018 and July 2018 10-Q statements. Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court's holdings to the contrary and reversed the dismissal of the section 20(a) control-person claims based on the 10-Q statements.Because the complaint does not plausibly allege that the remaining statements at issue are misleading material misrepresentations or omissions, the panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5(b) statement liability claims based on these statements. The panel also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Section 20(a) controlling-person claims for these statements. Finally, because the district court erred in sua sponte dismissing Rhode Island's claims under Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) when Alphabet had not targeted those claims in its motion to dismiss, the panel reversed the dismissal of the claims under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) against all defendants and remanded to the district court. The panel also reversed the dismissal of Rhode Island's claims under Section 20(a) to the extent those claims depend on claims alleging violations of Rule 10b-5(a) and (c). View "Rhode Island v. Alphabet, Inc." on Justia Law
Aly v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc.
Valeant develops and manufactures generic pharmaceuticals. Appellants purchased stock in Valeant after Valeant changed its business model to focus more on acquiring new drugs from other companies rather than developing its own. Valeant made promising representations about its financial performance based on its new business model. The price of Valeant stock skyrocketed nearly 350% in 2015. Before the district court addressed class certification in a putative class action on behalf of investors who purchased Valeant stock in 2015, alleging that the price was artificially inflated as a result of deceptive practices, the Appellants filed an “opt-out” complaint bringing the same claims in their individual capacities. The district court dismissed that complaint as untimely under the two-year limitations period.The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal. Putative class members may recover as part of the class or seek individual recourse. Members may initially proceed as part of a class, but certification may be denied later or members may discover that their individual claims are more valuable than the class claims and decide to pursue an opt-out complaint even if certification is likely. In either case, members are generally allowed to initiate an individual action. When a class complaint is filed, the limitations period governing the individual claims of putative members is tolled to protect the rights of putative members while avoiding needless identical lawsuits. Nothing further, such as a certification denial, is required to benefit from tolling. View "Aly v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Jean-Pierre
Guy Jean-Pierre, a corporate and securities attorney, aided an illegal stock trading operation. Through a series of self-dealing transactions, Jean-Pierre and his co-conspirators artificially inflated stock prices of a company they controlled. Jean- Pierre sent letters on the company’s behalf to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) that contained false and misleading information and omitted material information from disclosures to potential investors. Jean-Pierre appealed his convictions for conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud as to four of the twenty-eight counts of conviction, arguing the district court erred in admitting evidence that he had previously used his niece’s signature without her permission to submit attorney letters to a stock trading website. Jean- Pierre also argued that three of the four convictions should have been reversed because the district court declined to give a requested instruction reiterating the government’s burden as to a specific factual theory. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Jean-Pierre" on Justia Law
The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC v. Securities and Exchange Commission
The DC Circuit dismissed, based on lack of jurisdiction, petitions for review of the SEC's order directing stock exchanges to submit a proposal to replace three plans that govern the dissemination of certain types of data with a single, consolidated plan. The exchanges specifically challenge provisions of the order requiring them to include three features relating to plan governance.The court concluded that the Commission has yet to decide whether the challenged features will make it into the new plan, and that section 25(a) of the Securities Exchange Act confers authority on the courts of appeals to review only final orders. In this case, although the Governance Order was definitive on the question whether the three challenged plan elements had to be included in the proposal, it was not a "definitive statement of position" on the question the Commission had initiated proceedings to answer—whether the three features should be included in the eventual plan. View "The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law
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