Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff-Appellants were shareholders in a major mutual fund complex through their employer-sponsored retirement plans. They alleged the complex’s investment adviser, Great-West Capital Management LLC (“GWCM”), and affiliate recordkeeper, Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co. (“GWL&A”), breached their fiduciary duties by collecting excessive compensation from fund assets. After holding an eleven-day bench trial in January 2020, the district court adopted and incorporated by reference, with few changes, Defendants’ Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. It also found for Defendants on every element of every issue, concluding “even though they did not have the burden to do so, Defendants presented persuasive and credible evidence that overwhelmingly proved that their fees were reasonable and that they did not breach their fiduciary duties.” Plaintiffs appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Obeslo, et al. v. Great-Western Life & Annuity, et al." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted in part a petition for a writ of mandamus and ordered the district court to vacate its order appointing an individual as lead plaintiff in a consolidated securities fraud action against Nikola and related defendants. In the underlying action, plaintiffs alleged that they suffered losses from buying Nikola securities after a non-party report described apparent false statements made by the founder and contained in company advertising materials. Petitioners Mersho, Chau, and Karczynski moved to be lead plaintiff as a group under the name Nikola Investor Group II (Group II).In a securities fraud class action, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) requires the district court to identify the presumptive lead plaintiff, who is the movant with the largest financial interest and who has made a prima facie showing of adequacy and typicality. Once the presumption is established, competing movants can rebut the presumption by showing that the presumptive lead plaintiff will not fairly or adequately represent the class.The panel granted the petition to the extent it seeks to vacate the district court's order appointing Plaintiff Baio as lead plaintiff. The panel concluded that four of the five Bauman factors weigh in favor of mandamus relief and thus a writ of mandamus is appropriate. In regards to the third Bauman factor, the panel explained that the district court clearly erred by finding that the presumption had been rebutted. In this case, the district court failed to point to evidence supporting its decision, instead relying on the absence of proof by Group II regarding a prelitigation relationship and its misgivings. Therefore, the district court did not comport with the burden-shifting process Congress established in the PSLRA. The panel also concluded that the first, second, and fifth Bauman factors weigh in favor of granting the writ. However, the panel declined to instruct the district court to appoint Group II as lead plaintiff, remanding for the district court to redetermine the issue. View "Mersho v. United States District Court for the District of Arizona" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by EdgePoint Capital Holdings, LLC (EPCH) arising out of the sale of Apothecare Pharmacy, LLC, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in Apothecare's favor, holding that EPCH could not recover because Apothecare's securities law defense was valid.This breach of contract suit was based on a provision of the contract stating that if the agreement was terminated by either party, Apothecare was obligated to pay EPCH a fee. In granting summary judgment in favor of Apothecare, the district court (1) rejected Apothecare's federal securities law defense that the contract was void under section 29(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1984; but (2) concluded that, as a matter of Massachusetts contract interpretation law, EPCH was not entitled to the fee it sought. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Apothecare's federal securities law defense was valid; and (2) because the contract was unenforceable, EPCH could not recover. View "EdgePoint Capital Holdings, LLC v. Apothecare Pharmacy, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this SEC enforcement action, defendant appealed the district court's judgment entered after a jury found that he recommended an unsuitable trading strategy and made unauthorized trades in customer accounts.The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that 28 U.S.C. 2462, which imposes a five-year statute of limitations on SEC enforcement actions for civil penalties, is not jurisdictional and may be tolled by the parties. The court also concluded that the SEC's suitability claim and the civil penalties imposed in this case were proper and that the other challenges on appeal are without merit. The court modified the judgment to correct one error in the amount of disgorgement. View "SEC v. Fowler" on Justia Law

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Coscia used electronic exchanges for futures trading and implemented high-frequency trading programs. High-frequency trading, called “spoofing,” and defined as bidding or offering with the intent to cancel the bid or offer before execution, became illegal in 2010 under the Dodd-Frank Act, 7 U.S.C. 6c(a)(5). Coscia was convicted of commodities fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1348, and spoofing, After an unsuccessful appeal, Coscia sought a new trial, citing new evidence that data discovered after trial establishes that there were errors in the data presented to the jury and that subsequent indictments for similar spoofing activities undercut the government’s characterization of Coscia as a trading “outlier.” He also claimed that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, having an undisclosed conflict of interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even assuming that Coscia’s new evidence could not have been discovered sooner through the exercise of due diligence, Coscia failed to explain how that evidence or the subsequent indictments seriously called the verdict into question. Coscia has not established that his attorneys learned of relevant and confidential information from its cited unrelated representations. Coscia’s counsel faced “the common situation” where the client stands a better chance of success by admitting the underlying actions and arguing that the actions do not constitute a crime. That the jury did not accept his defense does not render it constitutionally deficient. View "Coscia v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendants, denying Plaintiff's motion for class certification, and denying Plaintiff's motion to file a third amended complaint, holding that Defendant sufficiently warned investors about the vulnerability of its manufacturing infrastructure so that Plaintiff knew of the investment risks when he purchased his shares.Plaintiff was an investor who lost money when he bought stock in Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. and watched the value plummet soon after that purchase. Plaintiff sued Keryx and its executives, alleging that Keryx's inadequate disclosures about its manufacturing defects amounted to securities fraud. The district court allowed Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to state a claim under section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act. View "Karth v. Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants who enter into SEC consent decrees gain certain benefits: they may settle a complaint without admitting the SEC’s allegations, and often receive concessions. The SEC does not permit a defendant to consent to a judgment or order that imposes a sanction while denying the allegations, 17 C.F.R. 202.5(e)). Cato alleged that SEC defendants are, therefore, unable to report publicly that the SEC threatened them with unfounded charges or otherwise coerced them into entering into consent decrees, impermissibly stifling public discussion of the SEC’s prosecutorial tactics. Cato has not entered into any SEC consent decree but alleges that it has contracted to publish a manuscript written by someone who is subject to such a consent decree and has been contacted by other such individuals, who would otherwise participate in panel discussions hosted by Cato on the topic of the SEC’s prosecutorial overreach, and allow Cato to publish their testimonials.Cato’s complaint invoked the First Amendment and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Cato’s complaint for lack of standing. Cato’s alleged injury is not redressable through this lawsuit; the no-deny provisions that bind the SEC defendants whose speech Cato wishes to publish would remain unable to allow Cato to publish their speech, given their consent decrees. View "Cato Institute v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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In a shareholder derivative action, two issues were presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review: (1) whether the breach of fiduciary duty claims brought by shareholders-plaintiffs Joseph LaChapelle and James Field on behalf of Deep Photonics Corporation (DPC) against DPC directors Dong Kwan Kim, Roy Knoth, and Bruce Juhola (defendants) were properly tried to a jury, rather than to the court; and (2) whether the trial court erred in denying defendants’ motion, made during trial, to amend their answer to assert an affirmative defense against one of the claims in the complaint based on an “exculpation” provision in DPC’s certificate of incorporation. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the case was properly tried to the jury and that the trial court did not err in denying defendants’ motion to assert the exculpation defense. Therefore the Court of Appeals and the limited judgment of the trial court were affirmed. View "Deep Photonics Corp. v. LaChapelle" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's order denying plaintiffs' motion for class certification and remanded for further proceedings. Plaintiffs' action alleged that Centra Tech and some of its principals violated the Securities Act of 1933 in their efforts related to the initial coin offering of Centra Tokens.The court concluded that, under the circumstances of this case, including the near omnipresence of an automatic discovery stay imposed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) whenever a motion to dismiss is pending -- in effect for just under fifteen of the eighteen months between the initial complaint and plaintiffs' certification motion -- the district court's timeliness holding was an abuse of discretion. The court also concluded that the district court erred when it denied certification on the alternative ground that plaintiffs had not established an administratively feasible method for identifying class members. The court explained that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 implicitly requires that a proposed class be ascertainable. However, the court's recent decision in Cherry v. Dometic Corp., 986 F.3d 1296, 1304 (11th Cir. 2021), clarified that to meet this ascertainability requirement, the party seeking certification need not establish its ability to identify class members in a convenient or administratively feasible manner. The court noted that considerations of administrative feasibility may still be relevant to Rule 23(b)(3)(D) manageability analysis. View "Rensel v. Centra Tech, Inc." on Justia Law

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Thirteen nationally registered stock exchanges sought review of four orders issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission concerning national market system plans that govern the collection, processing, and distribution of stock quotation and transaction information. Under the Securities Exchange Act, a final order of the Commission must be challenged “within sixty days after the entry of the order,” 15 U.S.C. 78y(a)(1).The exchanges filed their challenges 65 days after the orders were entered, arguing that the challenged orders are not actually orders but rather rules, which are subject to a different filing deadline. The D.C. Circuit dismissed the petitions as untimely. Instead of focusing on the amendment’s substance or the procedure used to effectuate it, the court gave conclusive weight to the Commission’s designation. Construing section 78y(a)(1)’s use of “order” to mean “order identified as such” promotes predictability and clarity. Deferring to the Commission’s designation affects only the deadline by which the Amendments can be challenged, not the Amendments’ judicial reviewability or the substantive legal standard applicable to their merits. View "New York Stock Exchange LLC v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law