Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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Petitioner petitioned for review of the Securities and Exchange Commission order granting him a whistleblower award for providing original information leading to successful enforcement action against Citigroup, Inc. Although the SEC agreed the original information Petitioner and his team provided to the Commission warranted an award equal to 15 percent of the fine levied against Citigroup, Petitioner objected to the Commission’s determination that he and his former co-worker were to divide the award equally as joint whistleblowers.   The DC Circuit dismissed Petitioner’s petition for want of jurisdiction insofar as he challenges the amount of the award granted to his co-worker. The court denied the petition insofar as it challenges the co-worker’s eligibility for an award because the Commission’s decision was not arbitrary and capricious, or otherwise contrary to law, nor was its finding of fact unsupported by substantial evidence.   The court explained that the SEC whistleblower statute does not ask who developed the original information that led to a successful resolution of a covered action; instead, it asks who provided that information to the Commission. The SEC did not err as to the law, nor did it lack substantial evidence as to the facts, in determining that both parties acted as joint whistleblowers when they provided information to the Commission, making the co-worker eligible for an award. View "Michael Johnston v. SEC" on Justia Law

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Defendants JABA Associates LP and its general partners appealed the district court’s judgment granting summary judgment to Plaintiff, (“Trustee”), pursuant to the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970 (“SIPA”). JABA was a good faith customer of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (“BLMIS”) and held BLMIS Account Number 1EM357 (the “JABA Account”). The Trustee brought this action to recover the allegedly fictitious profits transferred from BLMIS to Defendants in the two years prior to BLMIS’s filing for bankruptcy. The district court granted recovery of $2,925,000 that BLMIS transferred to Defendants in the two years prior to BLMIS’s filing for bankruptcy, which made it recoverable property under SIPA.Defendants appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The Second Appellate District affirmed reasoning that because is no genuine dispute of material fact that Bernard L. Madoff transferred the assets of his business to Defendants, which made it recoverable property under SIPA, the district court properly granted summary judgment to Plaintiff. The court reasoned that here Here, Defendants argue that the Bankruptcy Code does not authorize an award of prejudgment interest because the statute is silent. Yet Defendants do not make any argument that this silence is dispositive. Further, the court wrote that prejudgment interest has been awarded against other similarly situated defendants in related SIPA litigation. Thus, the district court appropriately balanced the equities between the parties. Given this, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting an award of 4 percent prejudgment interest to the Trustee. View "In re: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint brought by two retirement funds in this putative securities fraud class action against CVS Health Corporation and the court's subsequent denial of Plaintiffs' motion to reconsider, holding that there was no error.In this action arising out of difficulties CVS Health experienced in the wake of its acquisition of Omnicare, Inc., Plaintiffs alleged that CVS Health's executives and its newly-acquired subsidiary used false statements and misleading nondisclosures to conceal from investors the disintegration of Omnicare's customer base. The complaint included claims for violations of the Securities Exchange Act and its implementing rule. The district dismissed the complaint after finding that it failed to allege any materially false or misleading statements and denied Plaintiffs' ensuing motion to reconsider. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion or commit legal error in dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint and denying the motion to reconsider. View "City of Miami Fire Fighters' & Police Officers' Retirement Trust v. CVS Health Corp." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this complaint against Karoypharm Therapuetics, Inc. and its corporate officers (collectively, Defendants) alleging securities fraud in violation of sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and 78t(a), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Rule 10-b, 18 C.F.R. 240.10b-5, holding that the district court correctly dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim.Plaintiff-investors brought this action following a decline in Karyopharm's stock price, alleging that Karyopharm materially misled them as to the safety and efficacy of the company's cancer-fighting drug candidate selinexor. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, concluding that Plaintiffs failed adequately to plead scienter with respect to Defendants' statements about a certain study of the drug as a treatment for pinta-refractory multiple myeloma. The First Circuit affirmed on other grounds, holding that Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege an actionable statement or omission with respect to the trial disclosures, and therefore, dismissal was appropriate. View "Thant v. Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arises from an enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against Appellants World Tree Financial, L.L.C. (World Tree) and its principals. After a bench trial, the district court found that the principal and World Tree engaged in a fraudulent “cherry-picking” scheme, in which they allocated favorable trades to themselves and favored clients and unfavorable trades to disfavored clients. It also found that all three Appellants made false and misleading statements about the firm’s allocation and trading practices. The court entered permanent injunctions against the principal and World Tree, ordered them to disgorge ill-gotten gains, and imposed civil penalties on each Appellant.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that Liu v. SEC, 140 S. Ct. 1936, 1940 (2020) does not require the district court to conduct its own search for business deductions that Appellants have not identified. Accordingly, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering disgorgement.   The court explained that unlike in Liu, in this case, Appellants did not challenge the SEC’s proposed disgorgement amount in their pretrial or posttrial submissions—instead, they argued only that there was no “basis for disgorgement.” Nor did the principal and World Tree propose specific deduction amounts, either before the district court or to this court. View "SEC v. World Tree" on Justia Law

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Defendant challenged the district court’s disgorgement order against him and Owings Group, LLC, the entity he founded and controlled. Together, Defendant, Owings, and three codefendants perpetrated a fraudulent scheme in violation of federal securities laws. After Defendant consented to an entry of judgment, the court ordered him to disgorge $681,554 and imposed a monetary penalty in the same amount.Defendant argued that the disgorgement order violates Liu v. SEC, 140 S. Ct. 1936 (2020) and that the district court erroneously premised the associated monetary penalty on joint-and-several liability. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s disgorgement order and its monetary penalty.The court explained that it agreed with the district court that Defendant and Owings were “partners engaged in concerted wrongdoing". The court wrote that Owings’s conduct in the scheme generated its ill-gotten gains—and Defendant controlled that conduct. Further, the district court didn’t order a joint-and-several penalty. It ordered a penalty equal to Defendant's disgorgement, which happened to be joint and several.Finally, the court concluded that it found no abuse of discretion. Though the district court didn’t explicitly discuss Defendant's financial situation, it’s clear to the court that the district court considered it, along with the remaining factors. The district court understood that all the defendants were insolvent but decided that Defendant's substantially more serious role in the scheme warranted a penalty all the same. View "SEC v. Mark Johnson" on Justia Law

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In a final judgment, the Delaware Court of Chancery ordered NVIDIA Corporation (“NVIDIA” or the “Company”) to produce books and records to certain NVIDIA stockholders under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law. In the underlying action, the stockholders alleged certain NVIDIA executives knowingly made false or misleading statements during Company earnings calls that artificially inflated NVIDIA’s stock price, and then those same executives sold their stock at inflated prices. As such, the stockholders sought to inspect books and records to investigate possible wrongdoing and mismanagement at the Company, to assess the ability of the board to consider a demand for action, to determine whether the Company’s board members were fit to serve on the board, and to take the appropriate action in response to the investigation. In resisting the request, NVIDIA argued the stockholders were not entitled to the relief they sought because: (1) the scope of the original demands failed to satisfy the form and manner requirements; (2) the documents sought at the trial were not requested in the original demands; (3) the stockholders failed to show a proper purpose; (4) the stockholders failed to show a credible basis to infer wrongdoing; and (5) the requests were overbroad and not tailored to the stockholders’ stated purpose. The Court of Chancery rejected these arguments and ordered the production of two sets of documents—certain communications with the CEO and certain specific sets of emails. The Delaware Supreme Court held: (1) the stockholders’ original demands did not violate Section 220’s form and manner requirements; (2) the stockholders did not expand their requests throughout litigation; (3) the Court of Chancery did not err in holding that sufficiently reliable hearsay evidence may be used to show proper purpose in a Section 220 litigation, but did err in allowing the stockholders in this case to rely on hearsay evidence because the stockholders’ actions deprived NVIDIA of the opportunity to test the stockholders’ stated purpose; (4) the Court of Chancery did not err in holding that the stockholders proved a credible basis to infer wrongdoing; and (5) the documents ordered to be produced by the Court of Chancery were essential and sufficient to the stockholders’ stated purpose. Thus, the judgment of the Court of Chancery is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "NVIDIA Corporation v. City of Westland Police & Fire Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Tribune and Sinclair announced an agreement to merge. Tribune abandoned the merger and sued Sinclair, accusing it of failing to comply with its contractual commitment to “use reasonable best efforts” to satisfy the demands of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and the FCC, both of which could block the merger. Sinclair settled that suit for $60 million; the settlement disclaims liability. While the merger agreement was in place, investors bought and sold Tribune’s stock. In this class action investors alleged violations of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by failing to disclose that Sinclair was “playing hardball with the regulators,” increasing the risk that the merger would be stymied.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The principal claims, which rest on the 1934 Act, failed under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Questionable statements, such as predictions that the merger was likely to proceed, were forward-looking and shielded from liability because Tribune expressly cautioned investors about the need for regulatory approval and the fact that the merging firms could prove unwilling to do what regulators sought, 15 U.S.C. 78u–5(c)(1)..With respect to the 1933 Act, the registration statement and prospectus through which the shares were offered stated all of the material facts. The relevant “hardball” actions occurred after the plaintiffs purchased shares. “Plaintiffs suppose that, during a major corporate transaction, managers’ thoughts must be an open book." No statute or regulation requires that. View "Arbitrage Event-Driven Fund v. Tribune Media Co." on Justia Law

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Kevin Diep, a stockholder of El Pollo Loco Holdings, Inc. (“EPL”), filed derivative claims against some members of EPL’s board of directors and management, as well as a private investment firm. The suit focused on two acts of alleged wrongdoing: concealing the negative impact of price increases during an earnings call and selling EPL stock while in possession of material non-public financial information. After the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the EPL board of directors designated a special litigation committee of the board (“SLC”) with exclusive authority to investigate the derivative claims and to take whatever action was in EPL’s best interests. After a lengthy investigation and extensive report, the SLC moved to terminate the derivative claims. All defendants but the private investment firm settled with Diep while the dismissal motion was pending. The Court of Chancery granted the SLC’s motion after applying the two-step review under Zapata Corp. v. Maldonado, 430 A.2d 779 (Del. 1981). Diep appealed, but after its review of the record, including the SLC’s report, and the Court of Chancery’s decision, the Delaware Supreme Court found that the court properly evaluated the SLC’s independence, investigation, and conclusions, and affirm the judgment of dismissal. View "Diep v. Trimaran Pollo Partners, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Between 2004 and 2008, respondents HEI Resources, Inc. (“HEI”), and the Heartland Development Corporation (“HEDC”), both corporations whose principal place of business is Colorado, formed, capitalized, and operated eight separate joint ventures related to the exploration and drilling of oil and gas wells. They solicited investors for what they called Los Ojuelos Joint Ventures by cold calling thousands of individuals from all over the country. Those who joined the ventures became parties to an agreement organized as a general partnership under the Texas Revised Partnership Act. In 2009, the Securities Commissioner for the State of Colorado (“the Commissioner”) initiated this enforcement action, alleging that respondents had violated the Colorado Securities Act (CSA) by, among other things, offering and selling unregistered securities to investors nationwide through the use of unlicensed sales representatives and in the guise of general partnerships. The Commissioner alleged that HEDC and HEI used the general partnership form deliberately in order to avoid regulation. Each of the Commissioner’s claims required that the Commissioner prove that the general partnerships were securities, so the trial was bifurcated to permit resolution of that threshold question. THe Colorado Supreme Court granted review in this matter to determine how courts should evaluate whether an interest in a “general partnership” is an “investment contract” under the CSA. The Court concluded that when faced with an assertion that an interest in a general partnership is an investment contract and thus within the CSA’s definition of a “security,” the plaintiff bears the burden of proving this claim by a preponderance of the evidence. No presumption beyond that burden applies. Accordingly, the Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment on the question of whether courts should apply a “strong presumption,” and the Court remanded the case to the trial court for further findings. View "Chan v. HEI Resources, Inc." on Justia Law