Justia Securities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
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
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
New England Carpenters Guaranteed Annuity and Pension Funds v. AmTrust
The Appellants, investors in the securities of AmTrust Financial Services, Inc., appealed from a district court judgment dismissing their complaint for failure to state a claim under Sections 11, 12, and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against AmTrust, various AmTrust corporate officers and board members, AmTrust’s outside auditor, and multiple underwriters of AmTrust’s sale of securities. The district court determined that certain public misstatements relating to AmTrust’s recognition of revenue generated by its extended warranty contracts and the expenses associated with its payment of discretionary employee bonuses were non-actionable statements of opinion.The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The court vacated the dismissal of the Appellants’ Section 11 claims against the AmTrust Defendants and the Director Defendants, the Section 12(a)(2) claims against AmTrust, and the Section 15 claims against the Officer Defendants and Director Defendants relating to AmTrust’s accounting for certain warranty contracts and bonuses. The court vacated the dismissal of the Appellants’ claims under Section 11 and Section 12(a)(2) against the Underwriter Defendants relating to AmTrust’s accounting for certain warranty contracts and bonuses. The court concluded that Appellants have adequately established standing under Section 12(a)(2) by alleging that they purchased securities pursuant to the “pertinent offering documents” or in the relevant offerings underwritten by the defendants. View "New England Carpenters Guaranteed Annuity and Pension Funds v. AmTrust" on Justia Law
Prospect ECHN, Inc. v. Winthrop Resources Corp.
Certain healthcare entities entered into a lease agreement and related lease schedules with Winthrop Resources Corporation (Winthrop). Prospect ECHN, Inc. (Prospect) purchased the healthcare entities’ assets and later sought to be released from their obligations to Winthrop. After negotiations failed, Prospect filed suit against Winthrop, alleging that the schedules must be recharacterized as security interests under the Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.), as adopted by Minnesota. If recharacterized as security interests, Prospect owns the equipment that Winthrop had leased to it and can argue that Winthrop must return any security deposits and excess payments. If the schedules are true leases, however, Prospect owes Winthrop the amounts due under the contracts. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Winthrop, concluding that the agreement and schedules constitute true leases and that Prospect had breached them. The court awarded damages to Winthrop and determined that it was entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that although the U.C.C. demands recharacterization under its bright-line test or when so compelled by the facts of the case, it does not demand so here, where the parties negotiated a lease agreement and related schedules that skirt the line of creating security interests without crossing it. Thus, the court concluded that the district court correctly granted summary judgment in Winthrop’s favor. Further, the court found no error in the award of damages in the amount of the unpaid lease charges and other amounts due, as well as in the amount of the accelerated lease charges. View "Prospect ECHN, Inc. v. Winthrop Resources Corp." on Justia Law
Cboe Futures Exchange, LLC v. SEC
Petitioner Cboe Futures Exchange (CFE) announced plans to list futures contracts based on the Cboe Volatility Index, more commonly known as the “VIX Index.” The following year, the SEC and the CFTC issued a joint order “excluding certain indexes comprised of options on broad-based security indexes”—including the VIX—“from the definition of the term narrow-based security index.” The petition, in this case, challenged the SEC’s 2020 order treating SPIKES futures as futures. The DC Circuit granted the petition. The court explained that the SEC did not adequately explain why SPIKES futures must be regulated as futures to promote competition with VIX futures. However, the court wrote that while it vacates the Commission’s order, it will withhold issuance of our mandate for three calendar months to allow market participants sufficient time to wind down existing SPIKES futures transactions with offsetting transactions. The court explained that the Exemptive Order never mentions the futures disclosures. And at any rate, those disclosures only partially fill the void left by the absence of the Disclosure Statement. As with the Exemptive Order’s exceptions and conditions, the futures disclosures do not address any number of matters covered by the Disclosure Statement. And even when the two sets of disclosures overlap, the Disclosure Statement tends to provide much greater detail than the futures disclosures. View "Cboe Futures Exchange, LLC v. SEC" on Justia Law
IKB Int’l S.A. v Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
The Court of Appeals modified the decision of the appellate division in this case challenging the devaluation of certain securities, holding that the relevant language in the governing agreements did not impose an affirmative duty on the part of the trustee to enforce repurchase obligations.Plaintiffs were commercial banks incorporated in Germany that invested in residential mortgage-backed securities issued by securitization trusts. Defendants served as trustees for the trusts. When the securities lost significant value in 2008, Plaintiffs sued, alleging that Defendants breached multiple statutory, contractual, and fiduciary duties. Supreme Court rejected Defendants' argument that the action was barred because Plaintiffs did not comply with the requirements of the no-action clause. The appellate division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed as modified, holding (1) failure to comply with the no-action clause did not bar this suit; and (2) this Court declines to recognize an implied contractual duty on Trustees' part to enforce the repurchase protocol obligations of other parties. View "IKB Int'l S.A. v Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Weinberg v. Waystar, Inc.
Plaintiff-appellant Tracey Weinberg (“Weinberg”) was the former Chief Marketing Officer of defendant-appellee Waystar, Inc.(“Waystar”). During her employment, the company granted her options to purchase stock in its co-defendant Derby TopCo, Inc.,(“Derby Inc.”), pursuant to a Derby TopCo 2019 Stock Incentive Plan (the “Plan”). Weinberg was awarded three option grants under the Plan pursuant to three option agreements executed between October 2019 and August 2020. By the time Weinberg was terminated in 2021, 107,318.96 of her options had vested. She timely exercised all of them in November 2021, and the options immediately converted to economically equivalent partnership units in co-defendant Derby TopCo Partnership LP, a Delaware limited partnership (“Derby LP”) (the “Converted Units”). Each Option Agreement contained an identical call right provision providing Appellees the right to repurchase Weinberg’s Converted Units (the “Call Right”), “during the six (6) month period following (x) the (i) [t]ermination of [Weinberg’s] employment with the Service Recipient for any reason . . . and (y) a Restrictive Covenant Breach.” This appeal turned on the meaning of the word “and” in the three option agreements. Specifically, the question presented for the Delaware Supreme Court was whether two separate events (separated by the word “and”) had to both occur in order for the company to exercise a call right, or whether the call right could be exercised if only one event has occurred. Although Weinberg had been terminated within the time frame specified by the Call Right Provision, a Restrictive Covenant Breach had not occurred. The parties disputed whether the Call Right was available in the absence of a Restrictive Covenant Breach. The Court of Chancery decided that it was, and the Delaware Supreme Court concurred, affirming the Court of Chancery. View "Weinberg v. Waystar, Inc." on Justia Law
Daneshrad v. Trean Group, LLC
Traders set up accounts with Trean, a Chicago Mercantile Exchange introducing broker, managing the customer side of the futures-trading business. Stone handled the trading side. The traders engaged in naked trading—speculating rather than hedging. Stone set a high margin accordingly. Stone was a principal in all trades and, with the clearing house bore, the immediate economic risk; Trean guaranteed Stone’s positions and shared in its commissions. The market did not cooperate. Trean learned that the traders had not met Stone’s margin call and were not cooperating with Stone. Trean told the traders that it would close their accounts but that they were free to deal directly with Stone. Stone thereafter prohibited any trades that would increase the holdings’ net risk. The traders liquidated. Of the $1,020,000 with which they began, they lost $548,000.The traders sued, contending that their contract with Trean did not allow it to cease dealing with them for the reason given and that Trean’s decision led Stone to impose unacceptable conditions. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Trean. Regardless of whether Trean was entitled to end its dealings with the traders, no reasonable jury could find that Trean injured them. Trean’s decision did not affect the value of their futures contracts; they did not have a greater loss than they would have by moving their accounts to a different introducing broker and retaining Stone. View "Daneshrad v. Trean Group, LLC" on Justia Law
Walworth Investments-LG, LLC v. Mu Sigma, Inc.
Walworth, a former stockholder, sued Mu Sigma, a privately held data analytics company, and Rajaram, the company’s founder, CEO, and board chairman, alleging that after reaping the benefits of Walworth’s $1.5 million investment and reputational capital, the defendants embarked on a fraudulent scheme to oust Walworth of its substantial ownership interest in the company.The Cook County circuit court dismissed the complaint, citing the stock repurchase agreement (SRA), which included anti-reliance and general release provisions. The appellate court reversed, holding that the anti-reliance language was ambiguous. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal, stating that “the broad and comprehensive release agreed to by [Walworth], a sophisticated party represented by experienced counsel, unambiguously encompasses” the unjust enrichment and breach of contract claims. The bargained-for anti-reliance provisions reflected the understanding that there may be undisclosed information but that Walworth was satisfied by the information provided. Walworth had direct access to Rajaram to negotiate the arm’s-length transaction at issue and Rajaram was not acting as a fiduciary for Walworth. A corporation owes no fiduciary duty to its shareholder and Delaware law does not impose “an affirmative fiduciary duty of disclosure for individual transactions.” View "Walworth Investments-LG, LLC v. Mu Sigma, Inc." on Justia Law
Chan v. HEI Resources, Inc.
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