Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
Quinn v. LPL Financial LLC
After the enactment of AB 5 and the filing of Proposition 22 but before the effective date of AB 2257—Plaintiff filed suit against LPL Financial LLC under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). LPL is a registered broker-dealer and registered investment adviser registered with Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (‘FINRA’) and the Securities Exchange Commission. Plaintiff and all allegedly aggrieved individuals (the ‘Financial Professionals’) were ‘securities broker-dealers or investment advisers or their agents and representatives that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The parties stipulated that on its face, Labor Code Section 2750.3(i)(2) makes the exemption set forth in Section 2750.3(b)(4) retroactive, such that it would cover the entire proposed PAGA period in this action. However, Plaintiff claimed both of those sections are unconstitutional and thus unenforceable. The parties did not stipulate the results of these two tests—the ABC test versus the Borello test. LPL moved for summary adjudication. The trial court upheld the statute as constitutional. The Second Appellate District affirmed and held that the challenged provisions are constitutional. The court explained that Plaintiff maintains the registration aspect of the exemption creates a nonsensically narrow classification. The court held that legislation may recognize different categories of people within a larger classification who present varying degrees of risk of harm and properly may limit regulation to those classes for whom the need for regulation is thought to be more important. Further, the court wrote that, unlike the situation with equal protection law, there may be a large divergence between state and federal substantive due process doctrines. View "Quinn v. LPL Financial LLC" on Justia Law
Edelweiss Fund LLC v. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Edelweiss brought a qui tam action against financial institutions (California False Claims Act (Gov. Code 12650) (CFCA)), alleging that the defendants contracted to serve as remarketing agents (RMAs) to manage California variable rate demand obligations (VRDOs): tax-exempt municipal bonds with interest rates periodically reset by RMAs. Edelweiss claims that the defendants submitted false claims for payment for these remarketing services, knowing they had failed their obligation to reset the interest rate at the lowest possible rate that would enable them to sell the series at par (face value), and “engaged in a coordinated ‘Robo-Resetting’ scheme where they mechanically set the rates en masse without any consideration of the individual characteristics of the bonds or the associated market conditions or investor demand” and “impose[d] artificially high interest rates on California VRDOs.” Edelweiss alleged that it performed a forensic analysis of rate resetting during a four-year period and that former employees of the defendants “stated and corroborated” this robo-resetting scheme.The trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the allegations lacked particularized allegations about how the defendants set their VRDO rates and did not support a reasonable inference that the observed conditions were caused by fraud, rather than other factors.The court of appeal reversed. While allegations of a CFCA claim must be pleaded with particularity, the court required too much to satisfy this standard. The court rejected an alternative argument that Edelweiss’s claims are foreclosed by CFCA’s public disclosure bar. View "Edelweiss Fund LLC v. JPMorgan Chase & Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Banking, California Courts of Appeal, Government Contracts, Securities Law
Scott v. Vantage Corp
Askew formed Vantage to trade securities. He recruited investors, including the plaintiffs. Vantage filed a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Form D to sell unregistered securities in a 2016 SEC Rule 506(b) stock offering. The plaintiffs became concerned because Askew was not providing sufficient information but they had no right, based on their stock agreements, to rescind those investments. They decided to threaten litigation and to report Vantage to the SEC to pressure Askew and Vantage to return their investments. Before filing suit, the plaintiffs engaged an independent accountant who reviewed some of Vantage’s financial documents and concluded that he could not say “whether anything nefarious is going" on but that the “‘smell factor’ is definitely present.”The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants in subsequent litigation. The district court then conducted an inquiry mandated by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) and determined that the plaintiffs violated FRCP 11 but chose not to impose any sanctions. The Third Circuit affirmed that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 in bringing their federal securities claims for an improper purpose (to force a settlement). The plaintiffs’ Unregistered Securities and Misrepresentation Claims lacked factual support. Askew was not entitled to attorney’s fees because the violations were not substantial. The PSLRA, however, mandates the imposition of some form of sanctions when parties violate Rule 11 so the court remanded for the imposition of “some form of Rule 11 sanctions.” View "Scott v. Vantage Corp" on Justia Law
Phx. Light SF Ltd. v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon; Phx. Light SF DAC v. Bank of N.
Plaintiffs – issuers of collateralized debt obligations secured by certificates in residential-mortgage-backed securities trusts – appealed from three separate judgments dismissing actions brought against The Bank of New York Mellon, Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, and Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas. In each case, the district courts assumed that Plaintiffs had Article III standing but found that Plaintiffs were precluded from relitigating the issue of prudential standing due to a prior case Plaintiffs had brought against U.S. Bank National Association. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s orders. The court explained that it joined the Ninth Circuit in concluding that the district courts permissibly bypassed the question of Article III standing to address issue preclusion, which offered a threshold, non-merits basis for dismissal. The court also concluded that the district courts’ application of issue preclusion was correct. The court wrote that it fully agreed with the district courts that Plaintiffs were not entitled to a second bite at the prudential-standing apple after the U.S. Bank Action. The district courts, therefore, did not err in taking this straightforward, if not “textbook,” path to dismissal. View "Phx. Light SF Ltd. v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon; Phx. Light SF DAC v. Bank of N." on Justia Law
U.S. Securities & Exchange Comm’n v. Sargent
In this civil enforcement action, the First Circuit affirmed the interlocutory order of the district court ruling that a violation of the right to poll each of the jurors individually under Civil Rule 48(c) is per se reversible and that, therefore, Defendant was entitled to a new trial, holding that there was no error.At issue was whether, under this Court's precedent, the district court's denial of Defendant's right to poll each juror individually after the jury had collectively been polled was per se reversible error. The trial court judge ruled that the error was per se reversible. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the arguments raised by the Securities and Exchange Commission on appeal were unavailing. View "U.S. Securities & Exchange Comm'n v. Sargent" on Justia Law
YORK COUNTY, ET AL V. HP, INC., ET AL
Lead plaintiff Maryland Electrical Industry Pension Fund alleged that HP and individual Defendants made fraudulent statements about HP’s printing supplies business. The district court concluded that the complaint, filed in 2020, was barred by the two-year statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. Section 1658(b)(1), because the public statements, loss in profits, and reductions in channel inventory at the heart of Maryland Electrical’s claims had all taken place by 2016. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that under the discovery rule discussed in Merck & Co., Inc. v. Reynolds, 559 U.S. 633 (2010), a reasonably diligent plaintiff has not “discovered” one of the facts constituting a securities fraud violation until he can plead that fact with sufficient detail and particularity to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The panel held that a defendant establishes that a complaint is time-barred under Section 1658(b)(1) if it conclusively shows that either (1) the plaintiff could have pleaded an adequate complaint based on facts discovered prior to the critical date two years before the complaint was filed and failed to do so, or (2) the complaint does not include any facts necessary to plead an adequate complaint that was discovered following the critical date. The panel held that Defendants’ allegedly fraudulent statements, on their own, were insufficient to start the clock on the statute of limitations. Instead, Maryland Electrical could not have discovered the facts necessary to plead its claims, including the “fact” of scienter, until after the publication of a Securities and Exchange Commission order in 2020. View "YORK COUNTY, ET AL V. HP, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
Ohio Public Employees Retirement System v. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.
Following a 29% drop in Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) stock prices in 2007, OPERS, a state pension fund, filed a securities fraud case against Freddie Mac. The district court dismissed, concluding that OPERS failed to adequately plead loss causation because the theory OPERS pursued (materialization of the risk) had not been adopted in the circuit. The Sixth Circuit reversed, “join[ing] our fellow circuits in recognizing the viability of alternative theories of loss causation and apply[ing] materialization of the risk.” On remand, the district court denied OPERS’ motion for class certification, granted Freddie Mac’s motion to exclude OPERS’ expert, and denied OPERS’ motion to exclude Freddie Mac’s experts.The Sixth Circuit denied OPERS’s petition for leave to appeal. OPERS asked the district court to enter “sua sponte” summary judgment for Freddie Mac, arguing that the class certification decision prevented OPERS’ case from proceeding, as it doomed OPERS’ ability to prove loss causation. The district court summarily agreed and entered summary judgment for Freddie Mac. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, citing its lack of jurisdiction. The summary judgment decision was manufactured by OPERS in an apparent attempt to circumvent the requirements of Federal Rule 23(f). The decision was not final. View "Ohio Public Employees Retirement System v. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law
Scott v. Vantage Corp
The plaintiffs filed suit asserting federal securities claims. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants The district court subsequently performed a Federal Rule 11 inquiry mandated by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) and determined that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 but did not award attorneys’ fees or impose any other sanctions.The Third Circuit held that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 in bringing their federal securities claims by filing for an improper purpose. The plaintiffs expressly stated that their “strategy was to file these complaints to force a settlement.” In addition, their Unregistered Securities and Misrepresentation Claims lacked factual support in violation of Rule 11(b)(3). The plaintiffs had a reasonable basis for their Rule 10b-5 Securities Fraud Claim. The court vacated in part. The PSLRA creates a presumption in favor of awarding attorneys’ fees when a complaint constitutes a “substantial failure” to comply with Rule 11 but the district court did not err in finding that the Rule 11 violations were not substantial. Nonetheless, the PSLRA makes the imposition of sanctions mandatory after a court determines that a party violated Rule 11, so the court abused its discretion in declining to impose any form of sanctions. View "Scott v. Vantage Corp" on Justia Law
Divane v. Northwestern University
Participating employees can contribute a portion of their salary to their Retirement Plan account and Northwestern makes a matching contribution. Employees participating in the Voluntary Savings Plan also contribute a portion of their salary, but Northwestern does not make a matching contribution. Both plans allow participants to choose the investments for their accounts from options assembled by the plans’ fiduciaries. Northwestern is the administrator and designated fiduciary of both plans. The plaintiffs sued Northwestern under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1001 (ERISA).The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit in 2020. The Supreme Court rejected the Seventh Circuit's reliance on a “categorical rule” that providing some low-cost options eliminates concerns about other investment options being imprudent. On remand, the Seventh Circuit reinstated claims that Northwestern failed to monitor and incurred excessive recordkeeping fees and failed to swap out retail shares for cheaper but otherwise identical institutional shares. The court again affirmed the dismissal of other claims, including a claim that Northwestern retained duplicative funds. View "Divane v. Northwestern University" on Justia Law
GLAZER CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, L.P, ET AL V. FORESCOUT TECHNOLOGIES, INC., ET AL
Plaintiffs alleged that during the class period, Defendants made false or misleading statements about Forescout’s past financial performance, presently confirmed sales, and prospects for future sales. They alleged that Defendants misled investors with respect to (1) the strength of Forescout’s sales pipeline, meaning its presently booked sales and prospects for future sales; (2) the experience of Forescout’s sales force; (3) the business Forescout lost with certain business partners, or “channel partners,” when it announced a merger with Advent International, Inc.; and (4) the likelihood that the merger would close. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of a securities fraud class action under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5. The panel held that Plaintiffs adequately pleaded both falsity and scienter as to some of the challenged statements and that the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act’s safe harbor for forward-looking statements did not preclude liability as to some of these statements. The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal as to certain statements, and it reversed and remanded for further proceedings as to other challenged statements regarding the sales pipeline and the Advent acquisition. View "GLAZER CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, L.P, ET AL V. FORESCOUT TECHNOLOGIES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law