Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
Gonnella v. Securities and Exchange Commission
The Second Circuit affirmed the SEC's finding that petitioner violated section 17(a)(1) of the Securities Act of 1933, section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5(a) and (c) promulgated thereunder, and that he aided and abetted his employer's violations of its books and records requirements under the Exchange Act and associated regulations. This case stemmed from a series of trades that petitioner executed to avoid Barclays's aged-inventory policy. The court held that the Commission's actions were proper and the evidence was sufficient to support the Commission's findings. In this case, petitioner forfeited his constitutional challenge by not raising it during the administrative proceedings; the SEC's cooperation agreement did not violate petitioner's right to due process; the ALJ did not engage in impermissible fact-finding; there was sufficient evidence supporting the Commission's findings; and the Commission did not improperly sanction petitioner. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Gonnella v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law
Campbell Family Trust v. J.P. Morgan Investment Management, Inc.
The plaintiffs are shareholders in mutual funds. JPMIM is paid a fee for managing the Funds’ securities portfolio and researching potential investments. The plaintiffs sued under the Investment Company Act (ICA), 15 U.S.C. 80a-1, which allows mutual fund shareholders to bring a derivative suit against their fund’s investment adviser on behalf of their fund. The plaintiffs claimed that JPMIM charged excessive fees in violation of section 36(b), which imposes a fiduciary duty on advisers with respect to compensation for services. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of JPMIM. Under section 36(b), a shareholder must prove that the challenged fee “is so disproportionately large that it bears no reasonable relationship to the services rendered and could not have been the product of arm’s length bargaining.” The district court considered the relevant factors in making its determination: the nature, extent, and quality of the services provided by the adviser to the shareholders; the profitability of the mutual fund to the adviser; “fallout” benefits, such as indirect profits to the adviser; economies of scale achieved by the adviser as a result of growth in assets under the fund’s management and whether savings generated from the economies of scale are shared with shareholders; comparative fee structures used by other similar funds; and the level of expertise, conscientiousness, independence, and information with which the board acts. View "Campbell Family Trust v. J.P. Morgan Investment Management, Inc." on Justia Law
Ex parte 4tdd.com, Inc., et al.
4tdd.com, Inc. ("4tdd"), Thomas Todd Martin III, and Martin & Associates Consulting Company, LLC ("MACC"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to instruct the Mobile Circuit Court ("the trial court") to dismiss a derivative shareholder action filed against them by Sheila Hale, individually and on behalf of the shareholders of Bay Area Nutrition, Inc., on the ground, inter alia, that Hale did not satisfy the requirement of Rule 23.1, Ala. R. Civ. P., that she allege with particularity in her complaint the efforts she had made to obtain the requested relief from the corporate directors of Bay Area Nutrition, Inc. ("BAN"), before filing an action against them. The Supreme Court determined, after careful consideration, that Hale indeed failed to comply with Rule 23.1, and directed the trial court to direct 4tdd.com, Martin and MACC's motion to dismiss. View "Ex parte 4tdd.com, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
City of Conroe, Texas v. San Jacinto River Authority
In this case concerning the scope of the Expedited Declaratory Judgment Act (EDJA), the Supreme Court held that the EDJA gives the trial court jurisdiction to declare whether the execution of contracts entered into by the San Jacinto River Authority to sell water to cities and other customers was legal and valid but not whether the Authority complied with the contracts in setting specific rates. The Authority, which used the revenue from the contracts to pay off its bonds, sought declarations regarding the contract and the specific water rates set forth pursuant to the contracts. Several cities filed pleas to the jurisdiction, arguing that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate SJRA's claims under the EDJA. The trial court denied the pleas to the jurisdiction. On appeal, the court of appeals held primarily for the Authority. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court may exercise jurisdiction over the Authority's execution of the contracts - which met the statutory definition of "public security authorization" - but may not exercise jurisdiction over whether the Authority complied with the contracts in setting the water rates; and (2) the Cities' governmental immunity did not bar this EDJA suit, which was brought in rem to adjudicate interests in property. View "City of Conroe, Texas v. San Jacinto River Authority" on Justia Law
City of Warren Police and Fire Retirement System v. Natera Inc.
Natera's primary product is Panorama, a screening test for fetal chromosomal abnormalities, based on a blood draw, rather than amniocentesis. A class action under the Securities Act of 1933 (15 U.S.C. 77a), alleged that documents issued in connection with Natera’s initial public offering omitted material facts that were required by regulations or necessary to make the documents not misleading. It alleged that the documents, which became effective on July 1, 2015, improperly touted Natera as "rapidly growing," amid a quarterly revenue growth trend with year-over-year revenue increases, while omitting Natera’s “material negative financial results” for the second quarter of 2015, which had ended on June 30, 2015; second-quarter financial results were not yet public. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the claims. In the context of the Registration Statement as a whole, there is nothing false or misleading about the statements that Natera is “rapidly growing” or that its “rapid growth of revenues” was based on the success of Panorama. The Statement clearly stated that revenues declined from 4Q 2014 to 1Q 2015 and attributed that decline to decreased average reimbursement for Panorama due to a new billing code and delayed revenue recognition. The Statement itself refutes any argument that defendants failed to disclose the negative trend of declining reimbursements and revenues with increasing costs and losses. View "City of Warren Police and Fire Retirement System v. Natera Inc." on Justia Law
Jalbert v. Zurich Services Corp.
In this insurance dispute, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's suit to recover unreimbursed defense costs that a former investment advisory firm (Firm) incurred in connection with a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation of the Firm, holding that the Firm was not entitled to coverage. Plaintiff, in his capacity as trustee of a trust established during the bankruptcy proceedings of the Firm, filed this suit against Defendants, two of the Firm's excess insurers, seeking to recover defense costs that the Firm incurred in connection with the SEC investigation. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that an SEC order issued before the start of Defendants' coverage period initiated the investigation of the Firm, and this order triggered the policy's "deemed-made" clause, meaning that the claim was deemed first made prior to Defendants' policy taking effect. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the SEC investigation was a claim that was deemed to have been made when the SEC order issued prior to the inception of Defendants' policies; and (2) accordingly and the claim was outside of the policies' coverage period, and Defendants were not obligated to reimburse the Firm for its defense costs. View "Jalbert v. Zurich Services Corp." on Justia Law
Salzberg, et al. v. Sciabacucchi
At issue before the Delaware Supreme Court in these cases was the validity of a provision in several Delaware corporations’ charters requiring actions arising under the federal Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act” or “1933 Act”) to be filed in a federal court. Blue Apron Holdings, Inc., Roku, Inc., and Stitch Fix, Inc. were all Delaware corporations that launched initial public offerings in 2017. Before filing their registration statements with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), each company adopted a federal-forum provision. Appellee Matthew Sciabacucchi bought shares of each company in its initial public offering or a short time later. He then sought a declaratory judgment in the Court of Chancery that the FFPs were invalid under Delaware law. The Court of Chancery held that the FFPs were invalid because the “constitutive documents of a Delaware corporation cannot bind a plaintiff to a particular forum when the claim does not involve rights or relationships that were established by or under Delaware’s corporate law.” Because the Supreme Court determined such a provision could survive a facial challenge under Delaware law, judgment was reversed. View "Salzberg, et al. v. Sciabacucchi" on Justia Law
NTV Management, Inc. v. Lightship Global Ventures, LLC
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the trial judge's order setting aside the jury verdict and reinstated the original judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the contract at issue in this appeal did not require an obligation that Plaintiff register as a securities broker-dealer under Massachusetts and Federal securities laws. Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. A jury found Defendant liable on all claims and awarded treble damages. Thereafter, the judge set aside the jury's verdict in its entirety, concluding that Plaintiff had been required to register as a securities broker-dealer and that its failure to do so rendered its contract with Defendant invalid and unenforceable. The contract required Plaintiff to "source capital and structure financing transactions from agreed-upon investors and/or lenders" for Defendant. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the contract, on its face, did not require Plaintiff to "effect" transactions in "securities"; and (2) because Plaintiff's purported obligation to register as a broker-dealer was the sole basis for the judge's decision that Plaintiff could not maintain its breach of contract and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claims, the judge's decision to set aside the jury verdict was erroneous. View "NTV Management, Inc. v. Lightship Global Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law
Smallen Revocable Living Trust v. Western Union Company
A district court dismissed Plaintiff–Appellant Lawrence Smallen and Laura Smallen Revocable Living Trust’s securities-fraud class action against Defendant–Appellee The Western Union Company and several of its current and former executive officers (collectively, “Defendants”). Following the announcements of Western Union’s settlements with regulators in January 2017 and the subsequent drop in the price of the company’s stock shares, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on behalf of itself and other similarly situated shareholders. In its complaint, Plaintiff alleged Defendants committed securities fraud by making false or materially misleading public statements between February 24, 2012, and May 2, 2017 regarding, among other things, Western Union’s compliance with anti-money laundering and anti-fraud laws. The district court dismissed the complaint because Plaintiff failed to adequately plead scienter under the heightened standard imposed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”). While the Tenth Circuit found the complaint may have given rise to some plausible inference of culpability on Defendants' part, the Court concurred Plaintiff failed to plead particularized facts giving rise to the strong inference of scienter required to state a claim under the PSLRA, thus affirming dismissal. View "Smallen Revocable Living Trust v. Western Union Company" on Justia Law
INTL FCStone Financial Inc. v. Farmer
Defendants, commodities futures investors, maintained trading accounts with FCStone, a clearing firm that handled the confirmation, settlement, and delivery of transactions. In 2018, extraordinary volatility in the natural gas market wiped out the defendants’ account balances with FCStone, leaving some defendants in debt. The defendants alleged Commodity Exchange Act violations against FCStone and initiated arbitration proceedings before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FCStone sought a declaratory judgment, claiming the parties must arbitrate their disputes before the National Futures Association (NFA), and that FINRA lacks jurisdiction over the underlying disputes. The district court ruled for FCStone, ordered arbitration and designated an arbitration forum, then stayed the case to address related issues, including the arbitration venue. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291 or the Federal Arbitration Act, ” 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(3). The district court’s decisions were non-final and no exception to the rule of finality applies. The court rejected an argument that the order amounted to an injunction prohibiting FINRA arbitration. A pro‐arbitration decision, coupled with a stay (rather than a dismissal) of the suit, is not appealable. The court noted that the district court did not decide whether the parties’ arbitration agreements relinquished defendants’ purported rights to FINRA arbitration. View "INTL FCStone Financial Inc. v. Farmer" on Justia Law