Justia Securities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business 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
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
GEOFF WINKLER V. THOMAS MCCLOSKEY, JR., ET AL
The district court appointed a receiver to claw back profits received by investors in a Ponzi scheme that was the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement action. The receiver filed suit against certain investors, alleging fraudulent transfers from the receivership entities to the investors. The district court concluded that the receiver was bound by arbitration agreements signed by the receivership company, which was the instrument of the Ponzi scheme. The district court relied on Kirkland v. Rune. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order denying a motion to compel arbitration. The panel held that EPD did not control because it addressed whether a bankruptcy trustee, not a receiver, was bound by an arbitration agreement. Unlike under bankruptcy law, there was no explicit statute here establishing that the receiver was acting on behalf of the receivership entity’s creditors. The panel held that a receiver acts on behalf of the receivership entity, not defrauded creditors, and thus can be bound by an agreement signed by that entity. But here, even applying that rule, it was unclear whether the receiver was bound by the agreements at issue. The panel remanded for the district court to consider whether the defendant investors met their burden of establishing that the fraudulent transfer claims arose out of agreements with the receivership entity, whether the investors were parties to the agreements and any other remaining arbitrability issues. View "GEOFF WINKLER V. THOMAS MCCLOSKEY, JR., ET AL" on Justia Law
SEC v. Barton
The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) sued Defendant as well as other individual Defendants and corporate entities for securities violations. Defendant appealed the district court’s order appointing a receiver over all corporations and entities controlled by him. A central dispute between the parties is what test the district court should have applied before imposing a receivership. Defendant argued the district court abused its discretion because it did not apply the standard or make the proper findings under the factors set forth in Netsphere (“Netsphere factors”). The SEC responded that Netsphere is inapplicable and the district court’s findings were sufficient under First Financial. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s order appointing a receiver. The court granted in part Defendant’s motion for a partial stay pending appeal. The court explained that, as Defendant points out, the district court’s order denying the stay discussed events and actions that took place after the receivership was already in place. Accordingly, the court vacated the appointment of the receiver and remanded so that the district court may consider whether to appoint a new receivership under the Netsphere factors. The court immediately suspended the receiver’s power to sell or dispose of property belonging to receivership entities, including the power to complete sales or disposals of property already approved by the district court. The court explained that the suspension does not apply to activities in furtherance of sales or dispositions of property that have already occurred or been approved by the district court. The court clarified that “activities in furtherance” do not include the completion of the sale of any property. View "SEC v. Barton" on Justia Law
Robinhood Financial LLC v. Secretary of the Commonwealth
The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Secretary of the Commonwealth did not overstep the bounds of the authority granted to him under the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act (MUSA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 110A, by promulgating the "fiduciary duty rule."The Secretary brought an administrative enforcement proceeding alleging that Plaintiff Robinhood Financial LLC violated the prohibition in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 110A, 204(a)(2)(G) against "unethical or dishonest conduct or practices in the securities, commodities or insurance business" by dispensing ill-suited investment advice to unsophisticated investors. The Secretary defined the phrase in section 204(a)(2)(G) to require broker-dealers that provide investment advice to retail customers to comply with a statutorily-defined fiduciary duty. Thereafter, Plaintiff brought the instant action challenging the validity of the fiduciary duty rule. The superior court concluded that the Secretary acted ultra vires to promulgating the rule. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the Secretary acted within his authority under MUSA; (2) the fiduciary rule does not override common-law protections available to investors; (3) MUSA is not an impermissible delegation of legislative power; and (4) the fiduciary rule is not invalid under the doctrine of conflict preemption. View "Robinhood Financial LLC v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law
Kirschner v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Plaintiff brought a series of claims in New York state court arising out of a syndicated loan transaction facilitated by Defendants, a group of financial institutions. Plaintiff’s appeal presents two issues. The first issue presented is whether the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York had subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to the Edge Act, 12 U.S.C. Section 632. The second issue presented is whether the District Court erroneously dismissed Plaintiff’s state-law securities claims on the ground that he failed to plausibly suggest that notes issued as part of the syndicated loan transaction are securities under Reves v. Ernst & Young, 494 U.S. 56 (1990). The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court had jurisdiction under the Edge Act because Defendant JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. engaged in international or foreign banking as part of the transaction giving rise to this suit. The court also held that the district court did not erroneously dismiss Plaintiff’s state-law securities claims because Plaintiff failed to plausibly suggest that the notes are securities under Reves. View "Kirschner v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Meitav Dash Provident Funds and Pension Ltd., et al. v. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, et al.
This appeal centered on claims for securities fraud against Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., and four of its executives. Spirit produced components for jetliners, including Boeing’s 737 MAX. But Boeing stopped producing the 737 MAX, and Spirit’s sales tumbled. At about the same time, Spirit acknowledged an unexpected loss from inadequate accounting controls. After learning about Spirit’s downturn in sales and the inadequacies in accounting controls, some investors sued Spirit and four executives for securities fraud. The district court dismissed the suit, and the investors appealed. "For claims involving securities fraud, pleaders bear a stiff burden when alleging scienter." In the Tenth Circuit's view, the investors did not satisfy that burden, so it affirmed the dismissal. View "Meitav Dash Provident Funds and Pension Ltd., et al. v. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, et al." on Justia Law
CCSB Financial Corp. v. Totta
The corporate charter of a bank holding company capped at 10% the stock that could be voted by a “person” in any stockholder vote. During a proxy contest for three seats of a staggered board, the CCSB board of directors instructed the inspector of elections not to count 37,175 shares voted in favor of a dissident slate of directors. According to the board, the 37,175 shares exceeded the 10% voting limitation because certain stockholders were acting in concert with each other. If the votes had been counted, the dissident slate of directors would have been elected. The CCSB corporate charter also provided that the board’s “acting in concert” determination, if made in good faith and on information reasonably available, “shall be conclusive and binding on the Corporation and its stockholders.” In a summary proceeding brought by the plaintiffs, the Court of Chancery found: (1) the “conclusive and binding” charter provision invalid under Delaware corporate law; (2) the board’s instruction to the inspector of elections invalid because the individuals identified by the board were not acting in concert; and (3) the board’s election interference did not withstand enhanced scrutiny review. The court also awarded the plaintiffs attorneys’ fees for having conferred a benefit on CCSB. CCSB argued the Court of Chancery erred when it invalidated the charter provision and reinstated the excluded votes. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery: plaintiffs proved that the board breached its duty of loyalty by instructing the inspector of elections to disregard the 37,175 votes. "The charter provision cannot be used to exculpate the CCSB directors from a breach of the duty of loyalty. Further, the court’s legal conclusion and factual findings that the stockholders did not act in concert withstand appellate review." View "CCSB Financial Corp. v. Totta" on Justia Law
Mimi Investors, LLC v. Tufano, P., et al.
Mimi Investors, LLC (“Mimi Investors”) sued Paul Tufano, David Crocker, Dennis Cronin, and Neil Matheson (“ORCA Officers”), the directors and officers of ORCA Steel, LLC (“ORCA Steel”), a now-defunct data storage company, alleging that ORCA Officers made material misrepresentations of fact in violation of the Pennsylvania common law and Section 1- 401(b) of the Pennsylvania Securities Act ("PSA"). Mimi Investors described a meeting held in February of 2014 during which ORCA Officers allegedly represented to Mimi Investors that they had received 400 orders for computer data storage space (“CDS Orders”) for ORCA Steel’s new data storage facility. To secure financing for the purpose of servicing the CDS Orders, ORCA Officers sought promissory notes to increase capital. In October 2014, ORCA Steel ceased making interest payments on the loan. ORCA Steel did not respond to Mimi Investors’ demand letter, sent in August 2015, which sought to cure the default. Mimi Investors asserted that neither “construction financing nor the fulfillment of the new orders materialized.” It also averred that, on October 21, 2014, ORCA Officers told Mimi Investors that they “had known for months that the loan to fund new construction was not viable” because the CDS Orders were “not investment grade.” Mimi Investors claimed that “these misrepresentations regarding available construction financing and committed orders, as well as other statements by” ORCA Officers, “were material and untrue within the meaning of the” PSA, and that Mimi Investors “relied on these misrepresentations in deciding to make the [l]oan[.]” In a matter of first impression, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed whether a plaintiff must plead and prove scienter as an element of 70 P.S. § 1-401(b) of the PSA. After careful review, the Court held that under the plain language of its text, Section 1-401(b) of the PSA did not contain a scienter element. However, the PSA provided a defense to civil liability under Section 1-401(b) if the defendant could show they “did not know and in the exercise of reasonable care could not have known of the untruth or omission[.]” View "Mimi Investors, LLC v. Tufano, P., et al." on Justia Law
In Re Tesla Motors, Inc. Stockholder Litigation
At issue before the Delaware Supreme Court in this case was the 2016 all-stock acquisition of SolarCity Corporation (“SolarCity”) by Tesla, Inc. (“Tesla”). Tesla’s stockholders claimed CEO Elon Musk caused Tesla to overpay for SolarCity through his alleged domination and control of the Tesla board of directors. At trial, the foundational premise of their theory of liability was that SolarCity was insolvent at the time of the Acquisition. Because the Court of Chancery assumed, without deciding, that Musk was a controlling stockholder, it applied Delaware’s most stringent "entire fairness" standard of review, and the Court of Chancery found the Acquisition to be entirely fair. In this appeal, the two sides disputed various aspects of the trial court’s legal analysis, including, primarily, the degree of importance the trial court placed on market evidence in determining whether the price Tesla paid was fair. Appellants did not challenge any of the trial court’s factual findings. Rather, they raised only a legal challenge, focused solely on the application of the entire fairness test. After careful consideration, the Delaware Supreme Court was convinced that the trial court’s decision was supported by the evidence and that the court committed no reversible error in applying the entire fairness test. View "In Re Tesla Motors, Inc. Stockholder Litigation" on Justia Law