Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
SEC v. Sanchez Diaz Monge
In 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Luis Jimenez Carrillo for securities violations he allegedly committed well after his divorce from Yolanda Sanchez-Diaz. Sanchez-Diaz was named as a relief defendant in the suit and the SEC sought to recover from her the value of a car she received four years earlier, claiming Carrillo paid for it with illicit funds. The SEC did not accuse Sanchez-Diaz of any wrongdoing but argued she had no legitimate claim to the car because she had not provided any consideration for it. The district court agreed and ordered her to pay almost $170,000, including interest.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that a relief defendant in an SEC enforcement action has a legitimate claim to funds if they have provided something of value in exchange and the value they provided is more than nominal in relation to the money received. In this case, the court concluded that through a 2016 child support agreement, Sanchez-Diaz provided more than nominal value in exchange for Carrillo's promise to purchase the car. The court found that the district court erred in its finding that Sanchez-Diaz provided no value at all. Accordingly, the Appeals Court reversed the district court's disgorgement order. View "SEC v. Sanchez Diaz Monge" on Justia Law
AMALGAMATED BANK V. FACEBOOK, INC.
In this case, the plaintiffs, who are shareholders of Facebook, Inc., brought a securities fraud action against the company and its executives, alleging that they made materially misleading statements and omissions about the risk of improper access to Facebook users' data, Facebook's internal investigation into the actions of Cambridge Analytica, and the control Facebook users have over their data. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the District Court for the Northern District of California.The Circuit Court held that the shareholders adequately pleaded falsity as to the challenged risk statements in Facebook's 2016 Form 10-K. The court held that these statements were materially misleading because Facebook knew at the time of filing that the risk of improper third-party misuse of Facebook users' data was not hypothetical, but had already occurred.As to the statements regarding Facebook's investigation into Cambridge Analytica, the court affirmed the district court's decision, holding that the shareholders failed to plead scienter, or intent to defraud.Lastly, the court held that the shareholders adequately pleaded loss causation as to the statements assuring users that they controlled their data on the platform. The court found that the shareholders had adequately pleaded that the March 2018 revelation about Cambridge Analytica and the June 2018 revelation about Facebook's whitelisting policy were the first times Facebook investors were alerted that Facebook users did not have complete control over their own data, causing significant stock price drops.The case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "AMALGAMATED BANK V. FACEBOOK, INC." on Justia Law
Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a putative shareholder class action complaint in New York State Supreme Court, alleging Maryland state law claims on behalf of himself and all similarly situated preferred stockholders of Cedar Realty Trust, Inc. (“Cedar”), a New York-based corporation incorporated in Maryland, following its August 2022 merger with Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trusts, Inc. (“Wheeler”) (collectively, “Defendants”). The complaint alleged Cedar and its leadership breached fiduciary duties owed to, and a contract with, shareholders such as Plaintiff and that Wheeler both aided and abetted the breach and tortiously interfered with the relevant contract. The Defendants collectively removed the case, invoking federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), but the district court remanded the case to state court after Krasner argued that an exception to CAFA jurisdiction applied to his claims. The Second Circuit dismissed Defendants’ appeal and concluded that the “securities-related” exception applies. The court explained that here, the securities created a relationship between Cedar and Plaintiff that gave rise to fiduciary duties on the part of Cedar and the potential for additional claims against those parties who aid and abet Cedar’s breach of those duties. Thus, the aiding and abetting claim—and by the same logic, the tortious interference with contract claim—“seek enforcement of a right that arises from an appropriate instrument.” As such, the securities-related exception applies, and the district court properly remanded the case to state court. View "Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc." on Justia Law
ANDREW ROTH V. FORIS VENTURES, LLC, ET AL
Amyris is a publicly traded biotechnology company that operates out of California. John Doerr is a member of the Amyris board of directors. Doerr and his wife, Ann Doerr, are also trustees of Vallejo Ventures Trust (Vallejo), which is a member of Foris Ventures, LLC (Foris). Doerr indirectly owns all membership interests in Foris. Foris and Amyris entered into several transactions involving Amyris stock, warrants, and debt between April 2019 and January 2020. The Amyris board of directors approved each of those transactions. The following year, Andrew Roth, an Amyris shareholder, filed a derivative lawsuit on behalf of Amyris against the Doerrs, Foris, and Vallejo, alleging that those transactions violated Section 16(b) and seeking disgorgement of profits. Defendants moved to dismiss. The district court denied the motion. The district court subsequently granted a certificate of interlocutory appealability on the sole issue of whether Rule 16b-3 requires a board of directors to explicitly approve transactions for the purpose of exempting them under the Rule. The NInth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s order denying defendants’ motion to dismiss. The panel held that the district court erred by imposing a purpose-specific approval requirement. However, the district court did not err in finding that the Amyris board was aware that defendant John Doerr had an indirect pecuniary interest in the challenged transactions when it approved them. The panel left it for the district court on remand to address whether defendant Foris Ventures, LLC, a beneficial owner of Amyris, was a director by deputation and thus eligible for the Rule 16b-3(d)(1) exemption. View "ANDREW ROTH V. FORIS VENTURES, LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law
Smykla v. Molinaroli
Johnson, a Wisconsin company, merged with Tyco, an Irish company. The combined entity, Johnson International, is domiciled in Ireland. The merger's terms were disclosed in a joint proxy statement/prospectus filed with the SEC, along with the opinions of financial advisors that the merger was overall “fair.” The statement stated that the market price of the shares would fluctuate. Each share of Johnson’s common stock would be, at the election of the shareholder, either converted into an ordinary share of International or cashed out; either would be a taxable transaction. Johnson shareholders were expected to own approximately 56% of International to prevent triggering 26 U.S.C. 7874: when a domestic corporation is acquired by a foreign entity, but its former shareholders retain at least 60% of the stock, the expatriated entity must pay “inversion gain” taxes. The Treasury Department had announced proposed regulations that affected how Johnson’s equity would be calculated, eliminating the tax benefits of the “reverse merger.” The proxy statement warned that if those regulations were finalized, the tax benefits would not be realized. Johnson shareholders voted in favor of the merger.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action, alleging that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties and wrongfully structured the merger as taxable for Johnson’s former shareholders. “Although plaintiffs allege that they are not challenging the business and financial merits of the merger, their arguments boil down to a demand for a better deal;” they failed to allege any materially misleading statements or omissions. View "Smykla v. Molinaroli" on Justia Law
Chamber of Com of the USA v. SEC
The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) adopted a rule requiring issuers to report day-to-day share repurchase data once a quarter and to disclose the reason why the issuer repurchased shares of its own stock. Despite Petitioners’ comments, however, the SEC maintained that many of the effects of the daily disclosure requirement could not be quantified. Petitioners filed a petition for review of the final rule. The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for review and remanded with direction to the SEC to correct the defects in the rule within 30 days of this opinion. The court found that the e SEC’s notice and comment period satisfies the APA’s requirements. However, the court held that the SEC acted arbitrarily and capriciously, in violation of the APA, when it failed to respond to Petitioners’ comments and failed to conduct a proper cost-benefit analysis. The court explained that almost every part of the SEC’s justification and explanation of the rule reflects the agency’s concern about opportunistic or improperly motivated buybacks. That error permeates—and therefore infects—the entire rule. The court explained that short of vacating the rule, it affords the agency limited time to remedy the deficiencies in the rule. View "Chamber of Com of the USA v. SEC" on Justia Law
Obeslo, et al. v. Empower Capital, et al.
Two law firms that represented Plaintiffs in this litigation, Schlichter Bogard & Denton LLP (“SBD”) and Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky LLP (“SWCK”), appealed the district court’s order imposing sanctions against them under 28 U.S.C. § 1927. Plaintiffs’ counsel represented individual shareholders and an employee retirement plan in a lawsuit claiming that the investment company, investment adviser, and recordkeeper (collectively “Empower”) servicing their mutual funds charged excessive fees in violation of its fiduciary duties under § 36(b) of the Investment Company Act. Following denial of Empower’s summary judgment and Daubert motions, the case proceeded to a bench trial where the district court ruled in favor of Empower. Thereafter, the court sanctioned Plaintiffs’ counsel for “recklessly pursu[ing] their claims through trial despite the fact that they were lacking in merit” and held SWCK and SBD jointly and severally liable for $1.5 million in Empower’s trial costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court abused its discretion and therefore reversed the order imposing sanctions. Accordingly, the Court did not reach the issues of SWCK and SBD’s joint and several liability or the court’s denial of SWCK’s motion to amend the judgment. View "Obeslo, et al. v. Empower Capital, et al." on Justia Law
SEC v. Govil
Defendant-Appellant Aron Govil engaged in several fraudulent securities offerings through his company, Cemtrex. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with Cemtrex, Govil agreed to pay back the proceeds of his fraud in part by surrendering his Cemtrex securities to the company. The district court later granted a motion by the SEC for additional disgorgement. The district court concluded that disgorgement was authorized and that the value of the securities Govil surrendered to Cemtrex should not offset the disgorgement award. Govil argues that neither U.S.C. Section 78u(d)(5) nor 15 U.S.C. § 78u(d)(7) authorize disgorgement here. The Second Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded with instructions to determine whether the defrauded investors suffered pecuniary harm. The court explained that the Second Circuit recently held that the disgorgement remedies under Section 78u(d)(5) and Section 78u(d)(7) are subject to the “traditional equitable limitations” that the Supreme Court recognized in Liu v. SEC, 140 S. Ct. 1936 (2020). SEC v. Ahmed, 72 F.4th 379, 396 (2d Cir. 2023). One of those equitable limitations is that disgorgement must be “awarded for victims.” Liu, 140 S. Ct. at 1940. Further, the court wrote that a wrongdoer makes a payment in satisfaction of a disgorgement remedy when he returns the property to a wronged party. Accordingly, if on remand, the district court decides that disgorgement is authorized, it must value the surrendered securities and credit that value against the overall disgorgement award. View "SEC v. Govil" on Justia Law
United States v. Bases
Pacilio and Bases were senior traders on the precious metals trading desk at Bank of America. While working together in 2010-2011, and at times separately before and after that period, they engaged in “spoofing” to manipulate the prices of precious metals using an electronic trading platform, that allows traders to place buy or sell orders on certain numbers of futures contracts at a set price. It is assumed that every order is bona fide and placed with “intent to transact.” Spoofing consists of placing a (typically) large order, on one side of the market with intent to trade, and placing a spoof order, fully visible but not intended to be traded, on the other side. The spoof order pushes the market price to benefit the other order, allowing the trader to get the desired price. The spoof order is canceled before it can be filled.Pacilio and Bases challenged the constitutionality of their convictions for wire fraud affecting a financial institution and related charges, the sufficiency of the evidence, and evidentiary rulings relating to testimony about the Exchange’s and bank prohibitions on spoofing to support the government’s implied misrepresentation theory. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The defendants had sufficient notice that their spoofing scheme was prohibited by law. View "United States v. Bases" on Justia Law
Alliance for Fair Board Recruitment v. SEC
The Nasdaq Stock Market, LLC (Nasdaq) proposed a rule that would require companies listed on its stock exchange to disclose information about their board members, as well as a rule that would give certain companies access to a board recruiting service. After the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) approved these rules, the Alliance for Fair Board Recruitment (AFBR) and the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) petitioned for review. The Fifth Circuit denied the petitions because the SEC’s Approval Order complies with the Exchange Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The court wrote that the SEC’s point is that because the meaning of diversity varies globally, it is fair and desirable to let foreign issuers report diversity information according to nationally appropriate standards. Further, the court explained that AFBR does not explain how the SEC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in weighing burdens on competition against the purposes of the Exchange Act. Instead, AFBR argues that the SEC ignored “tremendous costs for firms that dare to defy the quotas. The court explained that the SEC did account for the costs that AFBR asserted in its comment letter. The SEC made a rational decision that those burdens on competition were “necessary or appropriate” to further the purposes of the Exchange Act. Therefore, AFBR has failed to meet its burden to show that the SEC’s Approval Order is arbitrary and capricious on this basis. View "Alliance for Fair Board Recruitment v. SEC" on Justia Law