Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
by
Plaintiff claimed that UBS Securities, LLC and UBS AG (together “UBS”) fired him in retaliation for reporting alleged fraud on shareholders to his supervisor. Plaintiff sued UBS under the whistleblower protection provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”), 18 U.S.C. Section 1514A, and he ultimately prevailed at trial.   The Second Circuit vacated the jury’s verdict and remanded to the district court for a new trial. The court explained that the district court did not instruct the jury that a SOX anti-retaliation claim requires a showing of the employer’s retaliatory intent. Section 1514A prohibits publicly traded companies from taking adverse employment actions to “discriminate against an employee . . . because of” any lawful whistleblowing act. 18 U.S.C. Section 1514A(a). Accordingly, the court held that this provision requires a whistleblower-employee, like Plaintiff, to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the employer took the adverse employment action against the whistleblower-employee with retaliatory intent—i.e., an intent to “discriminate against an employee . . . because of” lawful whistleblowing activity. The district court’s legal error was not harmless. View "Murray v. UBS Securities" on Justia Law

by
Cobbs, Allen & Hall, Inc. ("Cobbs Allen"), and CAH Holdings, Inc. ("CAH Holdings") (collectively,"CAH"), appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of EPIC Holdings, Inc. ("EPIC"), and EPIC employee Crawford E. McInnis, with respect to CAH's claims of breach of contract and tortious interference with a prospective employment relationship. Cobbs Allen was a regional insurance and risk-management firm specializing in traditional commercial insurance, surety services, employee-benefits services, personal-insurance services, and alternative-risk financing services. CAH Holdings was a family-run business. The families, the Rices and the Densons, controlled the majority, but pertinent here, owned less than 75% of the stock in CAH Holdings. Employees who were "producers" for CAH had the opportunity to own stock in CAH Holdings, provided they met certain sales thresholds; for CAH Holdings, the equity arrangement in the company was dictated by a "Restated Restrictive Stock Transfer Agreement." For several years, McInnis and other individuals who ended up being defendants in the first lawsuit in this case, were producers for CAH, and McInnis was also a shareholder in CAH Holdings. In the fall of 2014, a dispute arose between CAH and McInnis and those other producers concerning the management of CAH. CAH alleged that McInnis and the other producers had violated restrictive covenants in their employment agreements with the aim of helping EPIC. Because of the dispute, CAH fired McInnis, allegedly "for cause," and in November 2014 McInnis went to work for EPIC, becoming the local branch manager at EPIC's Birmingham office. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment finding CAH's breach-of-contract claim against McInnis and EPIC failed because no duty not to disparage parties existed in the settlement agreement. EPIC was not vicariously liable for McInnis's alleged tortious interference because McInnis's conduct was not within the line and scope of his employment with EPIC. EPIC also was not directly liable for McInnis's alleged tortious interference because it did not ratify McInnis's conduct as it did not know about the conduct until well after it occurred. However, the Supreme Court disagreed with the circuit court's conclusion that McInnis demonstrated that he was justified as a matter of law in interfering with CAH's prospective employment relationship with Michael Mercer. Based upon the admissible evidence, an issue of fact existed as to whether McInnis gave Mercer honest advice. Therefore, the judgment of the circuit court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Cobbs, Allen & Hall, Inc., and CAH Holdings, Inc. v. EPIC Holdings, Inc., and McInnis." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Jed Goldfarb claimed defendant David Solimine reneged on a promise of employment after Goldfarb quit his job to accept the promised position managing the sizeable investment portfolio of defendant’s family. The key issue in this appeal involved whether plaintiff could bring a promissory estoppel claim because he relied on defendant’s promise in quitting his prior employment even though, under New Jersey’s Uniform Securities Law of 1997 (Securities Law or the Act), he could not bring a suit on the employment agreement itself. The New Jersey Supreme Court determined the Securities Law did not bar plaintiff’s promissory estoppel claim for reliance damages. The Court affirmed the liability judgment on that claim and the remanded for a new damages trial in which plaintiff would have the opportunity to prove reliance damages. The Court found he was not entitled to benefit-of-the-bargain damages. To the extent that the Appellate Division relied on an alternative basis for its liability holding -- that a later-adopted federal law “family office” exception had been incorporated into the Securities Law -- the Court rejected that reasoning and voided that portion of the appellate court’s analysis. View "Goldfarb v. Solimine" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Citigroup, alleging gender discrimination and whistleblower retaliation claims under several local, state, and federal statutes, including the Dodd‐Frank and Sarbanes‐Oxley Acts.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the district court appropriately compelled arbitration of all but plaintiffʹs Sarbanes‐Oxley claim, including her Dodd‐Frank whistleblower retaliation claim, because her claims fall within the scope of her employment arbitration agreement and because she failed to establish that they are precluded by law from arbitration. The court also held that plaintiff's Sarbanes‐Oxley claim was properly dismissed because the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over it inasmuch as plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the statute. View "Daly v. Citigroup Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, alleging a claim under the anti-retaliation provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The district court concluded that the employer's decision to fire plaintiff was not prohibited retaliation and that plaintiff did not have an objectively reasonable belief that a violation of reporting requirements had occurred. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the employer, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that paragraph 22 of the declaration of plaintiff's witness was impermissible expert testimony. Therefore, there was no genuine issue of material act as to whether plaintiff's purported belief that his employer was misreporting its revenue was objectively reasonable in light of the undisputed facts. View "Wallace v. Andeavor Corp." on Justia Law

by
JCB, an Indiana state-chartered bank, had an agreement with INVEST, a registered broker-dealer, to offer securities to JCB customers. In 2017, JCB assigned DuSablon to assist in identifying and establishing an investment business with a new third-party broker-dealer. DuSablon failed to do so and abruptly resigned. JCB learned that DuSablon had transferred customers’ accounts from INVEST into his own name and had started a competing business. JCB sought a preliminary injunction, asserting violations of the Indiana Uniform Trade Secrets Act, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference, unfair competition, civil conversion, and computer trespass. DuSablon moved to dismiss, arguing that JCB lacked standing and that Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rules barred the suit; he removed the case, asserting exclusive federal jurisdiction under 15 U.S.C. 78aa and the Securities and Exchange Act. Although JCB did not plead a federal claim, DuSablon contended that JCB’s response to his motion to dismiss “raises a federal question as all of [JCB’s] claims ... rest upon the legality of direct participation in the securities industry which is ... regulated by the [Securities] Act.” The district court remanded,, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction and that removal was untimely, ordering DuSablon to pay JCB costs and fees of $9,035.61 under 28 U.S.C. 1447(c). The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal. DuSablon lacked an objectively reasonable basis to remove the case to federal court. View "Jackson County Bank v. DuSablon" on Justia Law

by
In this appeal, the issue before the Delaware Supreme Court was the limits of the stockholder ratification defense when directors make equity awards to themselves under the general parameters of an equity incentive plan. In the absence of stockholder approval, if a stockholder properly challenges equity incentive plan awards the directors grant to themselves, the directors must prove that the awards are entirely fair to the corporation. But, when the stockholders have approved an equity incentive plan, the affirmative defense of stockholder ratification comes into play. Here, the Equity Incentive Plan (“EIP”) approved by the stockholders left it to the discretion of the directors to allocate up to 30% of all option or restricted stock shares available as awards to themselves. The plaintiffs alleged facts leading to a pleading-stage reasonable inference that the directors breached their fiduciary duties by awarding excessive equity awards to themselves under the EIP. Thus, a stockholder ratification defense was not available to dismiss the case, and the directors had to demonstrate the fairness of the awards to the Company. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Chancery’s decision dismissing the complaint and remanded for further proceedings. View "In Re Investors Bancorp, Inc. Stockholder Litigation" on Justia Law

by
A disinterested observer could not reasonably conclude that the Commission violated SEC Rule of Practice 900(a). Although Rule 900(a) sets timelines by which the Commission would ideally adjudicate cases, the permissive language of the text could not lead an employee to reasonably conclude that failing to meet such aspirational guidelines would amount to a "violation." Plaintiff petitioned for review of the Board's decision affirming the ALJ's determination that plaintiff was not entitled to relief under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8). After plaintiff was fired from his position at the SEC, plaintiff claimed that his supervisor terminated him in reprisal for raising concerns about his section's alleged chronic inefficiency. The Second Circuit held that the ALJ did not err in rejecting plaintiff's Rule 900(a) claim and that the ALJ more than adequately explained why an employee in plaintiff's position could not have reasonably concluded that Rule 900(a) was violated. Because the ALJ did not actually analyze plaintiff's claims that he made protected disclosures when he raised concerns that Adjudication violated Rule 900(b), the court remanded the issue to the ALJ. Finally, the court declined to address plaintiff's claims of evidentiary and discovery error. Accordingly, the court denied in part, granted in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flynn v. SEC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, retired officers of Booz Allen, filed suit alleging that they were improperly denied compensation when, after their retirement, Booz Allen sold one of its divisions in the Carlyle Transaction. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., claims on the ground that Booz Allen's stock-distribution program was not a pension plan within the meaning of ERISA, and denial as futile leave to amend to "augment" the ERISA claims with new allegations; affirmed the dismissal of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq., claims on the ground that they were barred by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA), 18 U.S.C. 1964(c); but vacated the district court's judgment to the extent it denied Plaintiff Kocourek leave to amend to add securities-fraud causes of action. The court remanded for the district court to consider his claims. View "Pasternack v. Shrader" on Justia Law

by
The Pioneer Centres Holding Company Employee Stock Ownership Plan and Trust and its trustees sued Alerus Financial, N.A. for breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the failure of a proposed employee stock purchase. The district court granted summary judgment to Alerus after determining the evidence of causation did not rise above speculation. The Plan appealed, claiming the district court erred in placing the burden to prove causation on the Plan rather than shifting the burden to Alerus to disprove causation once the Plan made out its prima facie case. In the alternative, the Plan argued that even if the district court correctly assigned the burden of proof, the Plan established, or at the very least raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding, causation. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Pioneer Centres Holding Co v. Alerus Financial, N.A." on Justia Law