Justia Securities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
First Solar, Inc. v. National Union First Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA
In March 2012, First Solar, Inc. stockholders filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging that it violated federal securities laws by making false or misleading public disclosures ("Smilovits Action"). National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA (“National Union”) provided insurance coverage for the Smilovits Action under a 2011–12 $10 million “claims made” directors and officers insurance policy. While the Smilovits Action was pending, First Solar stockholders who opted out of the Smilovits Action filed what has been referred to as the Maverick Action. The Maverick Action alleged violations of the same federal securities laws as the Smilovits Action, as well as violations of Arizona statutes and claims for fraud and negligent misrepresentation. In this appeal the issue presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review was whether the Smilovits securities class action, and a later Maverick follow-on action were related actions, such that the follow-on action was excluded from insurance coverage under later-issued policies. The Superior Court found that the follow-on action was “fundamentally identical” to the first-filed action and therefore excluded from coverage under the later-issued policies. The Supreme Court found that even though the court applied an incorrect standard to assess the relatedness of the two actions, judgment was affirmed nonetheless because under either the erroneous “fundamentally identical” standard or the correct relatedness standard defined by the policies, the later-issued insurance policies did not cover the follow-on action. View "First Solar, Inc. v. National Union First Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA" on Justia Law
Arkansas Teacher Retirement System v. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
Shareholders of Goldman filed a class action alleging that Goldman and several of its executives committed securities fraud by misrepresenting Goldman's freedom from, or ability to combat, conflicts of interest in its business practices. The district court certified a shareholder class, but the Second Circuit vacated the order in 2018. On remand, the district court certified the class once more. The Second Circuit affirmed and then the Supreme Court vacated and remanded because it was uncertain that the court properly considered the generic nature of Goldman's alleged misrepresentations in reviewing the district court's decision.The Second Circuit vacated the class certification order and remanded for further proceedings because it is unclear whether the district court considered the generic nature of Goldman's alleged misrepresentations in its evaluation of the evidence relevant to price impact and in light of the Supreme Court's clarifications of the legal standard. View "Arkansas Teacher Retirement System v. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Obeslo, et al. v. Great-Western Life & Annuity, et al.
Plaintiff-Appellants were shareholders in a major mutual fund complex through their employer-sponsored retirement plans. They alleged the complex’s investment adviser, Great-West Capital Management LLC (“GWCM”), and affiliate recordkeeper, Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co. (“GWL&A”), breached their fiduciary duties by collecting excessive compensation from fund assets. After holding an eleven-day bench trial in January 2020, the district court adopted and incorporated by reference, with few changes, Defendants’ Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. It also found for Defendants on every element of every issue, concluding “even though they did not have the burden to do so, Defendants presented persuasive and credible evidence that overwhelmingly proved that their fees were reasonable and that they did not breach their fiduciary duties.” Plaintiffs appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Obeslo, et al. v. Great-Western Life & Annuity, et al." on Justia Law
Mersho v. United States District Court for the District of Arizona
The Ninth Circuit granted in part a petition for a writ of mandamus and ordered the district court to vacate its order appointing an individual as lead plaintiff in a consolidated securities fraud action against Nikola and related defendants. In the underlying action, plaintiffs alleged that they suffered losses from buying Nikola securities after a non-party report described apparent false statements made by the founder and contained in company advertising materials. Petitioners Mersho, Chau, and Karczynski moved to be lead plaintiff as a group under the name Nikola Investor Group II (Group II).In a securities fraud class action, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) requires the district court to identify the presumptive lead plaintiff, who is the movant with the largest financial interest and who has made a prima facie showing of adequacy and typicality. Once the presumption is established, competing movants can rebut the presumption by showing that the presumptive lead plaintiff will not fairly or adequately represent the class.The panel granted the petition to the extent it seeks to vacate the district court's order appointing Plaintiff Baio as lead plaintiff. The panel concluded that four of the five Bauman factors weigh in favor of mandamus relief and thus a writ of mandamus is appropriate. In regards to the third Bauman factor, the panel explained that the district court clearly erred by finding that the presumption had been rebutted. In this case, the district court failed to point to evidence supporting its decision, instead relying on the absence of proof by Group II regarding a prelitigation relationship and its misgivings. Therefore, the district court did not comport with the burden-shifting process Congress established in the PSLRA. The panel also concluded that the first, second, and fifth Bauman factors weigh in favor of granting the writ. However, the panel declined to instruct the district court to appoint Group II as lead plaintiff, remanding for the district court to redetermine the issue. View "Mersho v. United States District Court for the District of Arizona" on Justia Law
Rensel v. Centra Tech, Inc.
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
Aly v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc.
Valeant develops and manufactures generic pharmaceuticals. Appellants purchased stock in Valeant after Valeant changed its business model to focus more on acquiring new drugs from other companies rather than developing its own. Valeant made promising representations about its financial performance based on its new business model. The price of Valeant stock skyrocketed nearly 350% in 2015. Before the district court addressed class certification in a putative class action on behalf of investors who purchased Valeant stock in 2015, alleging that the price was artificially inflated as a result of deceptive practices, the Appellants filed an “opt-out” complaint bringing the same claims in their individual capacities. The district court dismissed that complaint as untimely under the two-year limitations period.The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal. Putative class members may recover as part of the class or seek individual recourse. Members may initially proceed as part of a class, but certification may be denied later or members may discover that their individual claims are more valuable than the class claims and decide to pursue an opt-out complaint even if certification is likely. In either case, members are generally allowed to initiate an individual action. When a class complaint is filed, the limitations period governing the individual claims of putative members is tolled to protect the rights of putative members while avoiding needless identical lawsuits. Nothing further, such as a certification denial, is required to benefit from tolling. View "Aly v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc." on Justia Law
Morris v. Spectra Energy Partners
After a $3.3 billion “roll up” of minority-held units involving a merger between Enbridge, Inc. and Spectra Energy Partners L.P. (“SEP”), Paul Morris, a former SEP minority unitholder, lost standing to litigate an alleged $661 million derivative suit on behalf of SEP against its general partner, Spectra Energy Partners (DE) GP, LP (“SEP GP”). Morris repeated the derivative claim dismissal by filing a new class action complaint that alleged the Enbridge/SEP merger exchange ratio was unfair because SEP GP agreed to a merger that did not reflect the material value of his derivative claims. The Court of Chancery granted SEP GP’s motion to dismiss the new complaint for lack of standing. The court held that, to have standing to bring a post-merger claim, Morris had to allege a viable and material derivative claim that the buyer would not assert and provided no value for in the merger. Focusing on the materiality requirement, the court first discounted the $661 million recovery to $112 million to reflect the public unitholders’ beneficial interest in the derivative litigation recovery. The court then discounted the $112 million further to $28 million to reflect what the court estimated was a one in four chance of success in the litigation. After the discounting, the $28 million, less than 1% of the merger consideration, was immaterial to a $3.3 billion merger. On appeal, Morris argued the trial court should not have dismissed the plaintiff’s direct claims for lack of standing. After its review, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Morris finding that, on a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, he sufficiently pled a direct claim attacking the fairness of the merger itself for SEP GP’s failure to secure value for his pending derivative claims. The Court of Chancery’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Morris v. Spectra Energy Partners" on Justia Law
Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California v. Allstate Corp.
In 2013, Allstate announced a new strategy in its auto insurance business: attracting more new customers by “softening” its underwriting standards. Allstate disclosed that new and potentially riskier customers might file more claims and that Allstate would monitor and adjust business practices accordingly. Two years later, Allstate’s stock price dropped by more than 10 percent, immediately after Allstate announced that the higher claims rates it had experienced for three quarters had been fueled at least in part by the company’s recent growth strategy and that the company was “tightening" its underwriting parameters. The plaintiffs claim that Allstate initially intentionally misled the market by falsely attributing the increases to other factors.The Seventh Circuit vacated the certification of a plaintiff class after reviewing recent Supreme Court decisions concerning the fraud-on-the-market presumption of reliance, which allows plaintiffs to avoid proving individual reliance upon fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions. The issues of materiality, loss causation, and transaction causation are left for the merits but the court must consider evidence on those issues in deciding class certification using the presumption, if the defense offers it to show the absence of transaction causation (price impact). The district court granted class certification after admitting, but without engaging with, defense evidence offered to defeat the presumption--an expert opinion that the alleged misrepresentations had no impact on the stock price. Class certification may be appropriate here, but the district court must decide at the class stage the price impact issue. The court directed modification of any class certification to limit the class to buyers of Allstate common stock rather than any other securities. View "Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California v. Allstate Corp." 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
North Sound Capital LLC v. Merck & Co., Inc
Plaintiffs alleged pharmaceutical manufacturers stalled the release of clinical trial results for their blockbuster anti-cholesterol drugs, tried to change the study's endpoint to produce more favorable results, concealed their role in the change, and that the delay allowed one company to raise $4.08 billion through a public offering, which the company used to purchase another company to lessen its reliance on the drugs. Amid press reports and a congressional investigation, the companies released the clinical trial results, which allegedly caused their stock prices to plummet, amounting to about a $48 billion loss in market capitalization. Investors filed suit. The court denied defendants’ motions to dismiss under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act’s heightened pleading standard, denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and granted class certification.Investors were provided with Rule 23(c)(2) notice of their right to opt-out: “you will not be bound by any judgment in this Action” and “will retain any right you have to individually pursue any legal rights.” After the opt-out period, the court approved settlements, offering opt-out investors 45 days to rejoin and share in the recovery, while stating that opt-outs “shall not be bound” to the settlement. Sixteen opt-out investors filed suits, tracking the class action claims, and adding a New Jersey common law fraud claim. After the Supreme Court held that American Pipe tolling does not extend to statutes of repose, plaintiffs were left with only their state-law claims. The court dismissed those as barred by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, 15 U.S.C. 10 78bb(f)(5)(B)(ii)(II). The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the class actions and the opt-out suits were not “joined, consolidated, or otherwise proceed[ing] as a single action for any purpose.” View "North Sound Capital LLC v. Merck & Co., Inc" on Justia Law