Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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The two equal stockholders of UIP Companies, Inc. were deadlocked and could not elect new directors. One of the stockholders, Marion Coster, filed suit in the Court of Chancery and requested appointment of a custodian for UIP. In response, the three-person UIP board of directors — composed of the other equal stockholder and board chairman, Steven Schwat, and the two other directors aligned with him— voted to issue a one-third interest in UIP stock to their fellow director, Peter Bonnell, who was also a friend of Schwat and long-time UIP employee (the “Stock Sale”). Coster filed a second action in the Court of Chancery, claiming that the board breached its fiduciary duties by approving the Stock Sale. She asked the court to cancel the Stock Sale. After consolidating the two actions, the Court of Chancery found what was apparent given the timing of the Stock Sale: the conflicted UIP board issued stock to Bonnell to dilute Coster’s UIP interest below 50%, break the stockholder deadlock for electing directors, and end the Custodian Action. Ultimately, however, the court decided not to cancel the Stock Sale. The Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Court of Chancery on the conclusive effect of its entire fairness review and remanded for the court to consider the board’s motivations and purpose for the Stock Sale. "If the board approved the Stock Sale for inequitable reasons, the Court of Chancery should have cancelled the Stock Sale. And if the board, acting in good faith, approved the Stock Sale for the 'primary purpose of thwarting' Coster’s vote to elect directors or reduce her leverage as an equal stockholder, it must 'demonstrat[e] a compelling justification for such action' to withstand judicial scrutiny." View "Coster v. UIP Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment to defendant in a putative securities fraud class action brought by a public pension fund that purchased bonds issued by defendant. This case arose on interlocutory appeal to address the scope of the presumption of reliance in Affiliated Ute Citizens of Utah v. United States, 406 U.S. 128 (1972), in "mixed" securities-fraud cases that allege both omissions and affirmative misrepresentations.Because the panel concluded that the allegations in this case cannot be characterized primarily as claims of omission, the panel held that the Affiliated Ute presumption of reliance does not apply. In this case, plaintiff alleges over nine pages of affirmative misrepresentations that it and its investment advisor relied upon when purchasing the bonds from Volkswagen. The panel explained that, while this is a mixed case that alleges both omissions and affirmative misrepresentations, plaintiff's allegations cannot be characterized primarily as claims of omission, so the Affiliated Ute presumption of reliance does not apply. The panel remanded for the district court to further consider whether a triable issue of fact exists. View "Puerto Rico Government Employees and Judiciary Retirement Systems Admin. v. Volkswagen AG" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing with prejudice plaintiff's second amended complaint (SAC) against TD Ameritrade. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from a systemic glitch of TD Ameritrade's tax-loss harvesting tool (TLH Tool), which failed to reinvest plaintiff's funds in an effort to avoid violating the "Wash Sale Rule." Plaintiff filed a class action, alleging claims for breach of contract and negligence.The court held that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA) preempts plaintiff's class action claims because he failed to demonstrate these claims are rooted in a violation of any specific contract provision. The court explained that, while, on its face, the operative complaint focuses on TD Ameritrade's alleged improper administration of the TLH Tool, the allegations are insufficient to demonstrate TD Ameritrade breached any contract terms. Therefore, plaintiff's class action claims are rooted in TD Ameritrade's omissions in disclosing information about the operation of the TLH Tool, which triggers SLUSA preemption.Applying Nebraska law, the court also concluded that plaintiff's contract claim was properly dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) where plaintiff failed to allege TD Ameritrade breached any contract terms or promises in the administration of the TLH Tool. Therefore, the allegations failed to provide TD Ameritrade with reasonable notice of the breach of contract claim as required by Rule 8. The court further concluded that the duty plaintiff alleges in his negligence claim arose out of the contract between the parties and thus activated the economic loss rule, which precludes a negligence cause of action. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the SAC with prejudice and denying leave to amend as futile. View "Knowles v. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp." on Justia Law