Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

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A corporate shareholder alleged the corporation violated his statutory right to inspect certain records and documents. The superior court found that the shareholder did not assert a proper purpose in his request. The shareholder appealed, arguing the superior court erred by finding his inspection request stated an improper purpose, sanctioning him for failing to appear for his deposition, and violating his rights to due process and equal protection by being biased against him. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s order finding that the shareholder did not have a proper purpose when he requested the information at issue from the corporation, but it affirmed the superior court’s discovery sanctions. View "Pederson v. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation" on Justia Law

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Petitioner petitioned for review of the Securities and Exchange Commission order granting him a whistleblower award for providing original information leading to successful enforcement action against Citigroup, Inc. Although the SEC agreed the original information Petitioner and his team provided to the Commission warranted an award equal to 15 percent of the fine levied against Citigroup, Petitioner objected to the Commission’s determination that he and his former co-worker were to divide the award equally as joint whistleblowers.   The DC Circuit dismissed Petitioner’s petition for want of jurisdiction insofar as he challenges the amount of the award granted to his co-worker. The court denied the petition insofar as it challenges the co-worker’s eligibility for an award because the Commission’s decision was not arbitrary and capricious, or otherwise contrary to law, nor was its finding of fact unsupported by substantial evidence.   The court explained that the SEC whistleblower statute does not ask who developed the original information that led to a successful resolution of a covered action; instead, it asks who provided that information to the Commission. The SEC did not err as to the law, nor did it lack substantial evidence as to the facts, in determining that both parties acted as joint whistleblowers when they provided information to the Commission, making the co-worker eligible for an award. View "Michael Johnston v. SEC" on Justia Law

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Defendants JABA Associates LP and its general partners appealed the district court’s judgment granting summary judgment to Plaintiff, (“Trustee”), pursuant to the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970 (“SIPA”). JABA was a good faith customer of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (“BLMIS”) and held BLMIS Account Number 1EM357 (the “JABA Account”). The Trustee brought this action to recover the allegedly fictitious profits transferred from BLMIS to Defendants in the two years prior to BLMIS’s filing for bankruptcy. The district court granted recovery of $2,925,000 that BLMIS transferred to Defendants in the two years prior to BLMIS’s filing for bankruptcy, which made it recoverable property under SIPA.Defendants appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The Second Appellate District affirmed reasoning that because is no genuine dispute of material fact that Bernard L. Madoff transferred the assets of his business to Defendants, which made it recoverable property under SIPA, the district court properly granted summary judgment to Plaintiff. The court reasoned that here Here, Defendants argue that the Bankruptcy Code does not authorize an award of prejudgment interest because the statute is silent. Yet Defendants do not make any argument that this silence is dispositive. Further, the court wrote that prejudgment interest has been awarded against other similarly situated defendants in related SIPA litigation. Thus, the district court appropriately balanced the equities between the parties. Given this, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting an award of 4 percent prejudgment interest to the Trustee. View "In re: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC" on Justia Law

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Armbruster, a CPA with experience working at a Big Four accounting firm, began serving as the controller for Roadrunner's predecessor in 1990 and became Roadrunner’s CFO. Roadrunner grew rapidly, acquiring transportation companies and going public in 2010. In 2014, Roadrunner’s then‐controller recognized shortcomings in a subsidiary's (Morgan) accounting and began investigating. In 2016, many deficiencies in Morgan’s accounting remained unresolved. The departing controller found that Morgan had inflated its balance sheet by at least $2 million and perhaps as much as $4–5 million. Armbruster filed Roadrunner's 2016 third quarter SEC Form 10‐Q with no adjustments of the carrying values of Morgan balance sheet items and including other misstatements. Roadrunner’s CEO learned of the misstatements and informed Roadrunner’s Board of Directors. Roadrunner informed its independent auditor. Roadrunner’s share price dropped significantly. Roadrunner filed restated financial statements, reporting a decrease of approximately $66.5 million in net income over the misstated periods.Criminal charges were brought against Armbruster and two former departmental controllers. A mixed verdict acquitted the departmental controllers on all counts but convicted Armbruster on four of 11 charges for knowingly falsifying Roadrunner‘s accounting records by materially misstating the carrying values of Morgan's receivable and prepaid taxes account, 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(2), (5), i78ff(a), 18 U.S.C. 2, fraudulently influencing Roadrunner’s external auditor, and filing fraudulent SEC financial statements, 18 U.S.C.1348. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While the case against Armbruster may not have been open‐and‐shut, a rational jury could have concluded that the government presented enough evidence to support the guilty verdicts. View "United States v. Armbruster" on Justia Law

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Johnson & Johnson's Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is an investment option within its retirement savings plans. The ESOP invests solely in J&J stock, which declined in price following news reports accusing J&J of concealing that its baby powder was contaminated with asbestos. J&J denied that its product was contaminated and that it had concealed anything about the product. J&J employees who participated in the ESOP alleged that the ESOP’s administrators, senior officers of J&J, violated their fiduciary duties of prudence under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1002-1003. The Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff bringing such a claim must plausibly allege “an alternative action that the defendant could have taken" consistent with the securities laws, and that a prudent fiduciary in the same circumstances would not have viewed the proposed alternative as more likely to harm the fund than to help it. The J&J plaintiffs proposed that the defendants could have used their corporate powers to make public disclosures to correct J&J’s artificially high stock price earlier or that the fiduciaries could have stopped investing in J&J stock and held all ESOP contributions as cash.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. A reasonable fiduciary in these circumstances could readily view corrective disclosures or cash holdings as being likely to do the ESOP more harm than good, given the uncertainty about J&J’s future liabilities and the future movement of its stock price. View "Perrone v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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NMS Capital Group, LLC, which was wholly owned by Petitioner purchased MCA Securities, LLC, and changed its name to NMS Capital Securities. MCA, now NMS Securities, was a member of FINRA, a securities industry self-regulatory organization registered with the SEC. NMS Securities submitted a Continuing Member Application (“CMA”) to request approval of the change in ownership. FINRA discovered that NMS Securities had failed to disclose that another registered investment advisor owned by Petitioner, NMS Capital Asset Management, was being investigated by the SEC for deficiencies in its compliance with securities laws. FINRA imposed Interim Restrictions on NMS Securities. While the Interim Restrictions were in effect, Petitioner signed agreements with investment banking clients on behalf of NMS Securities and engaged in other activities. FINRA began an investigation into whether Petitioner had violated the Interim Restrictions, and a FINRA panel found that Petitioner had violated FINRA.The Ninth Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Petitioner’s challenge to the SEC’s determination. The panel held that because the court could review only a “final order” of the SEC under 15 U.S.C. Section 78y(a), there was no jurisdiction to review whether the SEC had substantial evidence to find that Petitioner violated FINRA Rules 8210 and 2010 by failing to produce and testify truthfully about his computers because the sanction for this violation was still pending before FINRA. However, the panel further held that the SEC’s determinations concerning the sanction of two industry bars did constitute a final order for the purposes of establishing jurisdiction. The panel denied Petitioner’s petition for review of the SEC’s decision to affirm those two sanctions. View "TREVOR SALIBA V. USSEC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs suing individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, appealed from an August 2020 judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, on the ground of forum non conveniens, their amended complaint against defendants E‐Commerce China Dangdang Inc. (ʺDangdangʺ), its controlling shareholders, and others, alleging negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of Sections 10(b), 13(e), and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (ʺExchange Actʺ) and rules promulgated thereunder, in connection with Dangdangʹs 2016 ʺgoing‐privateʺ merger and the purchase by its controlling shareholders of its outstanding publicly‐traded shares, listed as American Depositary Shares (or ʺADSsʺ) on the New York Stock Exchange (or ʺNYSEʺ).On appeal, plaintiffs argue principally that the district court erred in concluding that the forum selection clause was not applicable to all of the defendants and to all of plaintiffsʹ claims, and in according unwarranted weight to public‐interest factors pointing toward dismissal.The Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s judgment concluding that the forum selection clause was not applicable to all of defendants and to all of plaintiffsʹ claims. The court held the district court principally misinterpreted the scope of the forum selection clause. View "Fasano v. Guoqing Li" on Justia Law

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Defendant Pluralsight was a software company offering a cloud-based technology skills platform. Defendant Aaron Skonnard was Pluralsight’s Chief Executive Officer; defendant James Budge was the Chief Financial Officer. Plaintiffs purchased Pluralsight stock between January 16, 2019, and July 31, 2019. Beginning on January 16, 2019, Skonnard and Budge allegedly made materially false and misleading statements about the size and productivity of Pluralsight’s sales force, which Plaintiffs claim artificially inflated Pluralsight’s stock price, including during a secondary public offering (“SPO”) in March 2019. Pluralsight announced disappointing second-quarter earnings on July 31, 2019. Defendants attributed the low earnings to a shortage of sales representatives earlier in the year—but this explanation contradicted representations Pluralsight made in the first quarter of 2019 about the size of its sales force. Lead Plaintiffs Indiana Public Retirement System (“INPRS”) and Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago (“CTPF”) brought claims on behalf of a putative class of Pluralsight stock holders under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), and the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) in federal district court in Utah. Defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), contending Plaintiffs failed to adequately allege: (1) any materially false or misleading statements or omissions; and (2) that Defendants acted with the requisite scienter. The district court found one statement (of eighteen alleged) was materially false or misleading but dismissed Plaintiffs’ Exchange Act claims because the complaint failed to allege a strong inference of scienter. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ Securities Act claims because none of the statements in Pluralsight’s SPO documents were materially false or misleading. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erred in dismissing Plaintffs’ Exhcange Act claims. “Although the district court correctly determined that Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged only one materially false or misleading statement, the district court’s scienter determination was erroneous.” The Court also concluded the district court relied on erroneous reasoning to dismiss the alleged violation of Item 303 of SEC Regulation S–K, so the case was remanded for further consideration. The judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Indiana Public Retirement, et al. v. Pluralsight, et al." on Justia Law

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Following proceedings in district court, the trial court t entered a final judgment, finding Defendant liable, ordering him to disgorge over $4,000,000 in funds, and placing two of his entities under receivership in order to sell and reorganize assets to repay investors. Later, a federal grand jury sitting in Miami returned a superseding indictment that described consistent with the district court’s findings of fact.   After an extradition request was filed by the United States, the Supreme Court of Brazil allowed him to be extradited. He returned to the United States, and on the eve of trial, following over a year of pretrial proceedings, Defendant entered into a plea agreement, agreeing to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud. The district court later sentenced Defendant to 220 months’ imprisonment and ordered him to pay $169,177,338 in restitution.   On appeal, Defendant broadly argues: (1) that the custodial sentence imposed and the order of restitution violate the extradition treaty; and (2) that his guilty plea was not made freely and voluntarily. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court fully satisfied the core concerns of Rule 11, and the court could discern no reason to conclude that the district court plainly erred in finding that Defendant’s guilty plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily. The court explained that in this case, the record fully reflects that Defendant agreed to be sentenced subject to a 20-year maximum term, and his 220-month sentence is near the low end of his agreed-upon 210-to-240-month range. View "USA v. John J. Utsick" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint brought by two retirement funds in this putative securities fraud class action against CVS Health Corporation and the court's subsequent denial of Plaintiffs' motion to reconsider, holding that there was no error.In this action arising out of difficulties CVS Health experienced in the wake of its acquisition of Omnicare, Inc., Plaintiffs alleged that CVS Health's executives and its newly-acquired subsidiary used false statements and misleading nondisclosures to conceal from investors the disintegration of Omnicare's customer base. The complaint included claims for violations of the Securities Exchange Act and its implementing rule. The district dismissed the complaint after finding that it failed to allege any materially false or misleading statements and denied Plaintiffs' ensuing motion to reconsider. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion or commit legal error in dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint and denying the motion to reconsider. View "City of Miami Fire Fighters' & Police Officers' Retirement Trust v. CVS Health Corp." on Justia Law