Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
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
Springsteen-Abbott v. Securities and Exchange Commission
This appeal arose from petitioner's mismanagement of two related businesses, Commonwealth Capital and Commonwealth Securities. After FINRA determined that petitioner misused investor funds and tried to cover it up, FINRA barred petitioner from the securities industry, fined her, and ordered her to disgorge certain misused expenses. The SEC affirmed the industry bar and disgorgement order.The DC Circuit affirmed, concluding that petitioner's ambitious constitutional arguments are futile for a simple reason: Congress has prohibited the court from considering issues not raised before the SEC. Furthermore, petitioner has not provided any reasonable grounds that would excuse her failure to exhaust her constitutional claims before the Commission. Nor has there been an intervening change in law that might have excused her failure to press these contentions below. The court also concluded that Saad v. SEC, 980 F.3d 103 (D.C. Cir. 2020), foreclosed petitioner's argument that her lifetime bar is impermissibly punitive. In this case, the SEC's remedial justification finds adequate support in the record. The court rejected petitioner's assertion that continuing education expenses misallocated to the funds—rather than to her companies—were not "net profit," and thus not appropriate for remedial disgorgement after Liu v. SEC, 140 S. Ct. 1936 (2020). Rather, by paying for continuing education expenses out of the funds, instead of her wholly-owned business, the court concluded that petitioner enriched herself by the amount of the savings. View "Springsteen-Abbott v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law
Goldfarb v. Solimine
Plaintiff Jed Goldfarb claimed defendant David Solimine reneged on a promise of employment after Goldfarb quit his job to accept the promised position managing the sizeable investment portfolio of defendant’s family. The key issue in this appeal involved whether plaintiff could bring a promissory estoppel claim because he relied on defendant’s promise in quitting his prior employment even though, under New Jersey’s Uniform Securities Law of 1997 (Securities Law or the Act), he could not bring a suit on the employment agreement itself. The New Jersey Supreme Court determined the Securities Law did not bar plaintiff’s promissory estoppel claim for reliance damages. The Court affirmed the liability judgment on that claim and the remanded for a new damages trial in which plaintiff would have the opportunity to prove reliance damages. The Court found he was not entitled to benefit-of-the-bargain damages. To the extent that the Appellate Division relied on an alternative basis for its liability holding -- that a later-adopted federal law “family office” exception had been incorporated into the Securities Law -- the Court rejected that reasoning and voided that portion of the appellate court’s analysis. View "Goldfarb v. Solimine" on Justia Law
LifeWise Family Financial Security, Inc. v. Triangle Capital Corp.
LifeWise, a shareholder in Triangle, filed a securities fraud class action against Triangle, alleging that defendants knew or should have known of the risks of certain investments but defrauded them by failing to disclose such alleged risks. The district court dismissed the amended complaint and subsequently denied leave to amend as futile.The Fourth Circuit affirmed, concluding that LifeWise has not satisfied the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995's (PSLRA) heightened burden of pleading scienter and this failure is fatal to both its securities fraud claim against Triangle and its director liability claims against Defendants Poole, Lilly, and Tucker. The court considered LifeWise's allegations holistically and in their proper context and held that Lifewise failed to allege a strong inference of scienter. Rather, the court explained that the much stronger inference is that defendants had an honest debate about the merits of a subjective business judgment, and in hindsight, simply made the wrong choice with some investments. View "LifeWise Family Financial Security, Inc. v. Triangle Capital Corp." on Justia Law
In re: Synchrony Financial Securities Litigation
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that Synchrony Financial and others involved in a December 2017 promissory note offering are liable for materially misrepresenting the scope and degree of changes to the company's underwriting practices beginning in mid-2016 and the impact these changes had on its business relationships with retail companies. The district court dismissed the case in its entirety.With one exception, the Second Circuit agreed with the district court that, from the face of the amended complaint, many allegations were too vague to constitute material misrepresentations on which a reasonable investor would rely. The court also agreed that many alleged material misstatements were properly contextualized by the total mix of publicly available information and appropriately dismissed. However, in regard to one alleged misstatement claiming that a corporate representative of Synchrony Financial publicly stated that the company had received no "pushback" from retail partners during negotiations, the court found that the alleged statement was sufficiently specific to plausibly allege a violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The court explained that because the alleged statement purported to make a factual assertion about events that had already transpired or were currently in progress, it is materially distinct from the other allegations. Furthermore, particularized allegations in the amended complaint explain how and why this statement may have been false at the time it was made. View "In re: Synchrony Financial Securities Litigation" on Justia Law