Justia Securities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Securities 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
James Boykin v. K12, Inc.
This securities fraud lawsuit arises from a series of statements made by K12, Inc., and two of its executives over the spring and summer of 2020. Plaintiffs, a class of K12 shareholders who acquired stock during that time, allege that the statements fraudulently misrepresented the state of K12’s business, thereby artificially inflating the cost of their shares. To survive dismissal under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA), however, they must plead a “strong inference” of scienter, which requires establishing an inference of fraud to be “cogent and at least as compelling as any opposing inference.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs claims because Plaintiffs do not satisfy the “heightened pleading instruction”. The court explained by including the language of “we believe,” the statement reflected not an incontestable fact but an individual perspective. The statement was couched as opinion, not as fact. While it is true that the prefatory clause contains an embedded assertion—that K12 is “an innovator in K-12 online education”— plaintiffs do not seriously contest this point. Nor do Plaintiffs deny, in more than conclusory fashion, that K12 “actually holds” its stated belief. Finally, Plaintiffs fail to show that K12’s opinion omitted necessary context. The company’s opinion was not simply emitted into the ether. It was made within the framework of a 10-K filing, where investors could have parsed the ample disclosures at their fingertips before succumbing to K12’s stated view. View "James Boykin v. K12, Inc." on Justia Law
Worthy Lending LLC v. New Style Contractors, Inc.
The Court of Appeals held that, for purposes of New York's Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) 9-406, an "assignee" includes the holder of a presently exercisable security interest in an assignor's receivables.New Style Contractors, Inc. engaged Checkmate Communications LLC as a subcontractor. Pursuant to a promissory note and security agreement, Checkmate could borrow up to $3 million from Worthy Lending LLC. Checkmate granted Worthy a security interest in its assets, and Worthy filed a UCC-1 financing statement against Checkmate perfecting its secured position regarding Checkmate's assets. Worthy then sent New Style a notice of its security interest and collateral assignment in the New Style accounts. When Checkmate defaulted on the note and filed for bankruptcy. Worthy brought this action against New Style pursuant to UCC 9-607, alleging that Worthy was entitled to recover all amounts New Style owed to Checkmate after New Style's receipt of the notice of assignment. Supreme Court dismissed the complaint. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that Worthy did not have an independent cause of action against New Style pursuant to UCC 9-607 because the statute does not authorized a secured creditor as distinct from an assigned, to recover from a nonparty debtor like New Style. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the language of the statute required reversal. View "Worthy Lending LLC v. New Style Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law
Jagged Peak Energy v. Oklahoma Police Pension
The question this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the court of appeals misapplied federal case law when it concluded that respondent Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System (“Oklahoma”) stated a plausible claim for relief under sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 77k, 77l(a)(2), 77o, notwithstanding petitioners’ assertions that the alleged misrepresentations at issue constituted immaterial “puffery” and amounted to claims based on hindsight, which were not actionable under federal law. Jagged Peak Energy Inc. (“Jagged”) was a Denver-based company that specializes in the exploration, development, and production of crude oil and natural gas. In January 2017, Jagged conducted an initial public offering (“IPO”), during which it sold over 31 million shares at a price to the public of $15.00 per share. Oklahoma, a governmental pension system that provides pension and disability benefits for municipal police officers in the state of Oklahoma, purchased Jagged shares “pursuant to and/or traceable to the [IPO].” According to Oklahoma, within a short time after its investment, facts came to light indicating that Jagged, the individual defendants, and the underwriter defendants (collectively, “defendants”) had negligently overstated Jagged’s ability to increase its oil and gas production. As a result, the price of Jagged shares saw several notable declines, and except for a brief surge, Jagged’s stock has traded well below its IPO price. Oklahoma filed a class action lawsuit in Denver District Court, alleging that defendants had made materially untrue statements and omissions in their offering documents. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the appellate court's conclusion was consistent with applicable federal precedent, and therefore affirmed that court's judgment. View "Jagged Peak Energy v. Oklahoma Police Pension" on Justia Law
USSEC V. JOCELYN MURPHY, ET AL
Appellants alleged they were not “brokers,” and thus did not have to register with the SEC because their client called the shots. Appellants appealed the district court’s liability and remedies orders. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of the SEC in its enforcement action against Appellants alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The panel held that under the Exchange Act, the term “broker” encompassed much broader conduct: it included any person trading securities “for the account of others.” 15 U.S.C. Section 78c(a)(4)(A). Because Appellants put their client’s capital at risk on their trades and acted as his agents, they behaved as “brokers” under the Exchange Act. By not registering as brokers with the SEC, Appellants appeared as if they were merely retail investors (who receive priority for municipal bonds), allowing them to circumvent municipal bond purchasing order priority. The panel affirmed the civil penalties imposed against Appellants. Though it appears that no individual investor suffered financial harm, Appellants’ conduct undermined the SEC’s system of broker-dealer oversight and circumvented retail priority regulations allowing municipalities to raise capital at the lowest possible price. View "USSEC V. JOCELYN MURPHY, ET AL" on Justia Law
Menora Mivtachim Ins. Ltd. v. Frutarom Indus. Ltd.
International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (“IFF”), a U.S.-based seller of flavoring and fragrance products, acquired Frutarom Industries Ltd. (“Frutarom”), an Israeli firm in the same industry. Leading up to the merger, Frutarom allegedly made material misstatements about its compliance with anti-bribery laws and the source of its business growth. Plaintiffs, who bought stock in IFF, sued Frutarom, alleging that those misstatements violated Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ complaint. The court concluded that Plaintiffs lack statutory standing to sue. Under the purchaser-seller rule, standing to bring a claim under Section 10(b) is limited to purchasers or sellers of securities issued by the company about which a misstatement was made. Plaintiffs here lack standing to sue based on alleged misstatements that Frutarom made about itself because they never bought or sold shares of Frutarom. View "Menora Mivtachim Ins. Ltd. v. Frutarom Indus. Ltd." on Justia Law
1944 Beach Boulevard, LLC v. Live Oak Banking Company
The case-at-hand returned to the Eleventh Circuit for disposition from the Florida Supreme Court, to which the court certified three questions of Florida law. In considering the court’s certified questions, the Florida Supreme Court found dispositive a threshold issue that the court did not expressly address: “Is the filing office’s use of a ‘standard search logic’ necessary to trigger the safe harbor protection of section 679.5061(3)?” The Florida Supreme Court answered that question in the affirmative. And the court further determined that Florida does not employ a “standard search logic.” The Florida Supreme Court thus concluded that the statutory safe harbor for financing statements that fail to correctly name the debtor cannot apply, “which means that a financing statement that fails to correctly name the debtor as required by Florida law is ‘seriously misleading’ under Florida Statute Section 679.5061(2) and therefore ineffective. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s order affirming the bankruptcy court’s grant of Live Oak Banking Company’s cross-motion for summary judgment and remand for further proceedings. The court held that Live Oak did not perfect its security interest in 1944 Beach Boulevard, LLC’s, assets because the two UCC-1 Financing Statements filed with the Florida Secured Transaction Registry (the “Registry”) were “seriously misleading” under Florida Statute Section 679.5061(2), as the Registry does not implement a “standard search logic” necessary to trigger the safe harbor exception set forth in Florida Statute Section 679.5061(3). View "1944 Beach Boulevard, LLC v. Live Oak Banking Company" on Justia Law
Pederson v. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation
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
Michael Johnston v. SEC
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
In re: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC
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