Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Corporate Compliance
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The case involves Gerald Forsythe, who filed a class action lawsuit against Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. and several of its officers. Forsythe claimed that he and others who purchased or acquired Teva securities between October 29, 2015, and August 18, 2020, suffered damages due to misstatements and omissions by Teva and its officers related to Copaxone, a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis. Teva's shares are dual listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.The District Court granted Forsythe's motion for class certification, rejecting Teva's assertion that the class definition should exclude purchasers of ordinary shares. The Court also rejected Teva's argument that Forsythe could not satisfy Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement.Teva sought permission to appeal the District Court’s Order granting class certification, arguing that interlocutory review is proper under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). Teva contended that the Petition presents a novel legal issue and that the District Court erred in its predominance analysis with respect to Forsythe’s proposed class-wide damages methodology.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied Teva's petition for permission to appeal. The court found that the securities issue did not directly relate to the requirements for class certification, and agreed with the District Court’s predominance analysis. The court also clarified that permission to appeal should be granted where the certification decision itself under Rule 23(a) and (b) turns on a novel or unsettled question of law, not simply where the merits of a particular case may turn on such a question. View "Forsythe v. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd" on Justia Law

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The case involves a group of pension funds (plaintiffs) who filed a lawsuit against Inovalon Holdings, Inc., and its board of directors (defendants), challenging an acquisition of Inovalon by a private equity consortium led by Nordic Capital. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties and unjustly enriched themselves through the transaction. They also alleged that the company's charter was violated because the transaction treated Class A and Class B stockholders unequally.In the lower court, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, the defendants moved to dismiss the case. They argued that the transaction satisfied the elements of a legal framework known as MFW, which would subject the board's actions to business judgment review. The Court of Chancery granted the defendants' motions to dismiss in full.On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware reversed the decision of the Court of Chancery. The Supreme Court found that the lower court erred in holding that the vote of the minority stockholders was adequately informed. The Supreme Court determined that the proxy statement issued to stockholders failed to adequately disclose certain conflicts of interest of the Special Committee’s advisors. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that the transaction did not comply with the MFW framework, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Sarasota Firefighters' Pension Fund v. Inovalon Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner was employed at Office Depot as a senior financial analyst. He was responsible for, among other things, ensuring data integrity. One of Ronnie’s principal duties was to calculate and report a metric called “Sales Lift.” Sales Lift is a metric designed to quantify the cost-reduction benefit of closing redundant retail stores. Petitioner identified two potential accounting errors that he believed signaled securities fraud related to the Sales Lift. Petitioner alleged that after he reported the issue, his relationship with his boss became strained. Eventually, Petitioner was terminated at that meeting for failing to perform the task of identifying the cause of the data discrepancy. Petitioner filed complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and OSHA dismissed his complaint. Petitioner petitioned for review of the ARB’s decision.
The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that Petitioner failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that a reasonable person with his training and experience would believe this conduct constituted a SOX violation, the ARB’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. The court wrote that Petitioner’s assertions that Office Depot intentionally manipulated sales data and that his assigned task of investigating the discrepancy was a stalling tactic are mere speculation, which alone is not enough to create a genuine issue of fact as to the objective reasonableness of Petitioner’s belief. View "Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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The Delaware Court of Chancery entered judgment in favor of appellee Sharon Hawkins on her request for a declaration that the irrevocable proxy which provided appellant W. Bradley Daniel (“Daniel”) with voting power over all 100 shares of N.D. Management, Inc. (“Danco GP”) (the “Irrevocable Proxy”), did not bind a subsequent owner of such Danco GP shares. The Court of Chancery also held that an addendum to the Irrevocable Proxy did not obligate the current owner of the Danco GP shares, MedApproach, L.P. (the “Partnership”), to demand that the buyer in a sale to an unaffiliated third party bind itself to the Irrevocable Proxy. Daniel appealed the Court of Chancery’s judgment that the Irrevocable Proxy did not run with the Majority Shares, arguing the court erred by: (1) rather than interpreting and applying the plain language of the Irrevocable Proxy as written, the court relied on the Restatement (Third) of Agency, which was not adopted until nearly a decade after the parties entered into the Irrevocable Proxy; (2) reading additional language into the Irrevocable Proxy in order to support its finding that the broad “catch-all” language that the parties included to prevent termination of the Irrevocable Proxy did not encompass a sale of the shares; and (3) not giving effect to all of the terms of the Irrevocable Proxy and improperly limiting the assignment clause of the Irrevocable Proxy so as not to bind assigns of the stockholder. Finding no reversible error, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery. View "Daniel v. Hawkins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was employed through various foreign subsidiaries of Morgan Stanely between 2006 and 2016. Plaintiff claims that, between 2014 and 2016, he raised concerns about U.S. securities violations, which occurred overseas but affected U.S. markets. After receiving a pay cut and a recommendation that he find employment elsewhere. In January 2016, Plaintiff resigned. Plaintiff then hired counsel. However, counsel withdrew after Morgan Stanley threatened to pursue an action against counsel for violations of his professional obligations.The Department of Labor Administrative Review Board dismissed Plaintiff's claim under Section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, Title VIII of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, finding that Section 806 did not apply because he was not an "employee" at the time of any alleged retaliation. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that Plaintiff did not meet the definition of "employee" at any time during the alleged retaliation. View "Christopher Garvey v. Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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A corporate shareholder alleged the corporation violated his statutory right to inspect certain records and documents. The superior court found that the shareholder did not assert a proper purpose in his request. The shareholder appealed, arguing the superior court erred by finding his inspection request stated an improper purpose, sanctioning him for failing to appear for his deposition, and violating his rights to due process and equal protection by being biased against him. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s order finding that the shareholder did not have a proper purpose when he requested the information at issue from the corporation, but it affirmed the superior court’s discovery sanctions. View "Pederson v. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation" on Justia Law

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Armbruster, a CPA with experience working at a Big Four accounting firm, began serving as the controller for Roadrunner's predecessor in 1990 and became Roadrunner’s CFO. Roadrunner grew rapidly, acquiring transportation companies and going public in 2010. In 2014, Roadrunner’s then‐controller recognized shortcomings in a subsidiary's (Morgan) accounting and began investigating. In 2016, many deficiencies in Morgan’s accounting remained unresolved. The departing controller found that Morgan had inflated its balance sheet by at least $2 million and perhaps as much as $4–5 million. Armbruster filed Roadrunner's 2016 third quarter SEC Form 10‐Q with no adjustments of the carrying values of Morgan balance sheet items and including other misstatements. Roadrunner’s CEO learned of the misstatements and informed Roadrunner’s Board of Directors. Roadrunner informed its independent auditor. Roadrunner’s share price dropped significantly. Roadrunner filed restated financial statements, reporting a decrease of approximately $66.5 million in net income over the misstated periods.Criminal charges were brought against Armbruster and two former departmental controllers. A mixed verdict acquitted the departmental controllers on all counts but convicted Armbruster on four of 11 charges for knowingly falsifying Roadrunner‘s accounting records by materially misstating the carrying values of Morgan's receivable and prepaid taxes account, 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(2), (5), i78ff(a), 18 U.S.C. 2, fraudulently influencing Roadrunner’s external auditor, and filing fraudulent SEC financial statements, 18 U.S.C.1348. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While the case against Armbruster may not have been open‐and‐shut, a rational jury could have concluded that the government presented enough evidence to support the guilty verdicts. View "United States v. Armbruster" on Justia Law