Justia Securities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Daley v. Mostoller
Daley opened an IRA with Merrill Lynch, rolling over $64,646 from another financial institution. He signed a contract with a "liens" provision that pledged the IRA as security for any future debts to Merrill Lynch. No such debts ever arose. Daley never withdrew money from his IRA, borrowed from it or used it as collateral. Two years later, Daley filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and sought protection for the IRAs, 11 U.S.C. 522(b)(3)(C). The trustee objected, contending that the IRA lost its exempt status when Daley signed the lien agreement. The bankruptcy court and the district court ruled in favor of the trustee. The Sixth Circuit reversed. An IRA loses its tax-exempt status if the owner "engages in any transaction prohibited by section 4975 of the tax code. There are six such transactions, including “any direct or indirect” “lending of money or other extension of credit” between the IRA and its owner, 26 U.S.C. 4975(c)(1)(B). Daley never borrowed from the IRA, and Merrill Lynch never extended credit to Daley based on the existence of the IRA. View "Daley v. Mostoller" on Justia Law
IN State Dist. Counsel v. Omnicare, Inc.
Plaintiffs are investors who purchased Omnicare securities in a 2005 public offering. They sold their securities a few weeks later and sought relief under the Securities Act of 1933,15 U.S.C. 77k, alleging that the registration statement was materially misleading. Omnicare is the nation’s largest provider of pharmaceutical care services for the elderly and other residents of long-term care facilities in the U.S. and Canada. Plaintiffs claimed that Omnicare was engaged in a variety of illegal activities including kickback arrangements with pharmaceutical manufacturers and submission of false claims to Medicare and Medicaid. The Registration Statement stated “that [Omnicare’s] therapeutic interchanges were meant to provide [patients with] . . . more efficacious and/or safer drugs than those presently being prescribed” and that its contracts with drug companies were “legally and economically valid arrangements that bring value to the healthcare system and patients that we serve.” The district court dismissed the suit against Omnicare, its officers, and directors, holding that plaintiffs had not adequately pleaded knowledge of wrongdoing. The Sixth Circuit reversed with regard to claims of material misstatements or omissions of legal compliance, but affirmed with respect to claims that revenue was substantially overstated in violation of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. View "IN State Dist. Counsel v. Omnicare, Inc." on Justia Law
Kepley v. Lanz
The Kepleys owned 30% of ATA’s outstanding capital stock. Lanz bought one share of Series A Convertible Preferred Stock in the corporation and a right to purchase common stock. At that time, Lanz, ATA, and its shareholders entered into an agreement, prohibiting sale of restricted shares (including Lanz’s share) to ATA’s competitors. In 2010, the Kepleys learned that Lanz sought to sell his share and purchase option to Crimson, an ATA competitor, for $2,799,000. The Kepleys sued, contending that Crimson’s president told them that they could not afford the Lanz shares or litigation and that Crimson would “shut it down or squeeze them out.” The Kepleys sold their shares to Crimson. Lanz did not complete the sale of his stock and remained a shareholder in ATA, 30 percent of which Crimson then owned. The Kepleys sought the difference between the sale price and the fair market value of the shares. The district court dismissed, finding that the Kepleys lacked standing because their alleged injury amounted to diminution in stock value, suffered by the corporation, and only derivatively shared by the Kepleys. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the Kepleys, who are no longer shareholders and cannot pursue derivative claims, have standing for a direct suit. View "Kepley v. Lanz" on Justia Law
Secs. & Exch. Comm’n v. Sierra Brokerage Servs, Inc.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil enforcement action against 12 defendants, alleging that they violated registration, disclosure, and anti-fraud provisions of federal securities law, in connection with a “reverse merger” that involved creation of a shell company for the purpose of OTC trading, followed my merger of a private company into the shell, with an exchange of stock. A reverse merger enables a private company to access public markets without undertaking the expensive process of an initial public offering. One of the defendants, Tsai, has formed more than 100 shell companies.The district court granted the SEC partial summary judgment and granted permanent injunctions against the defendants. Tsai appealed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed entry of the injunction. Tsai’s failure to challenge findings with respect to his industry experience and education means the court did not abuse its discretion in finding he had at least some degree of scienter. View "Secs. & Exch. Comm'n v. Sierra Brokerage Servs, Inc." on Justia Law
Pagliara v. Johnston Barton Proctor & Rose, LLP
Pagliara, a licensed securities broker for more than 25 years, maintained a spotless record with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) except for this case. Under a 2002 licensing agreement, Pagliara served both Capital Trust and NBC until 2008. During that time, Butler followed Pagliara’s recommendation to invest $100,000 in bank stocks that later lost value. Butler’s attorney threatened to sue NBC and Pagliara. NBC retained JBPR for defense. Unbeknownst to NBC and JBPR, Pagliara offered to settle the claim for $14,900, $100 below FINRA’s mandatory reporting threshold. Butler refused. Pagliara then informed NBC of his intent to defend the claim in FINRA Arbitration and objected to any settlement of the “frivolous claim.” NBC insisted that Pagliara not have any contact with Butler, based on the License Agreement signed by the parties, which stated that: “NBCS, at its sole option and without the prior approval of either [Capital Trust] or the applicable Representative, may settle or compromise any claim at any time.” JBPR finalized a $30,000 settlement without obtaining a release for Pagliara. Pagliara sued, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and intentional infliction of harm. The district court rejected the claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Pagliara v. Johnston Barton Proctor & Rose, LLP" on Justia Law
OH Police & Fire Pension Fund v. Standard & Poor’s Fin. Servs., LLC
Plaintiffs are five pension funds operated by the State of Ohio for public employees that invested hundreds of millions of dollars in 308 mortgage-backed securities (MBS) between 2005 and 2008, all of which received a “AAA” or equivalent credit rating from one of the three major credit-rating agencies. The value of MBS collapsed during this period, leaving the Funds with estimated losses of $457 million. The Funds sued under Ohio’s “blue sky” laws and a common-law theory of negligent misrepresentation, alleging that the Agencies’ ratings were false and misleading and that the Funds’ reasonable reliance on those ratings caused their losses. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Even if a credit rating can serve as an actionable misrepresentation, the Agencies owed no duty to the Funds and the Funds’ allegations of bad business practices did not establish a reasonable inference of wrongdoing View "OH Police & Fire Pension Fund v. Standard & Poor's Fin. Servs., LLC" on Justia Law
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co.
Goodyear announced in 2003 that it would restate its earnings for some prior years. The next day, shareholders filed class-action lawsuits against Goodyear and several of its officers and directors. The SEC also commenced an investigation. Eventually, the lawsuits were dismissed and the investigation terminated. Goodyear incurred $30 million of legal and accounting costs and sought recovery from two of its insurers. After several years of litigation, Goodyear released its claim against National Union in exchange for payment of $10 million, but the excess policy with Federal states that coverage attaches only after National Union pays out the full amount of its liability limit, which was $15 million rather than the $10 million that National Union paid. The district court granted summary judgment to Federal. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments based on Ohio’s “public policy favoring settlements,” and that the settlement did not prejudice Federal in any way. View "Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Dudenhoefer v. Fifth Third Bancorp
Former Fifth Third employees participated in a defined contribution retirement plan with Fifth Third as trustee. Participants make voluntary contributions and direct the Plan to purchase investments for their individual accounts from preselected options. The options included Fifth Third Stock, two collective funds, or 17 mutual funds. Fifth Third makes matching contributions for eligible participants that are initially invested in the Fifth Third Stock Fund but may be moved later to other investment options. Significant Plan assets were invested in Fifth Third Stock. Plan fiduciaries incorporated by reference Fifth Third’s SEC filings into the Summary Plan Description. Plaintiffs allege that Fifth Third switched from being a conservative lender to a subprime lender, its loan portfolio became increasingly at-risk, and it either failed to disclose or provided misleading disclosures. The price of the stock declined 74 percent. The district court dismissed a complaint under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1001, based on a presumption that the decision to remain invested in employer securities was reasonable. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the complaint plausibly alleged a claim of breach of fiduciary duty and causal connection regarding failure to divest the Plan of Fifth Third Stock and remove that stock as an investment option. View "Dudenhoefer v. Fifth Third Bancorp" on Justia Law
Bennett v. Durham
Plaintiffs invested in oil-and-gas exploration companies and lost money when the companies’ wells produced little oil or gas. They sued the companies and their officers, claiming violations of state and federal law in selling unregistered securities and in making other material misrepresentations and omissions. They also sued Durham, the lawyer who represented the companies. Durham drafted the documents, including joint-venture agreements and private placement memoranda that provided details about the investment opportunity, and told prospective investors he was available to answer questions. Plaintiffs allege that Durham knew the documents contained material misrepresentations and omissions and that the securities were neither registered nor exempt from registration. District courts ruled in favor of Durham. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Kentucky Securities Act imposes liability on anyone who “offers or sells a security” in violation of its terms and any “agent” of the seller who “materially aids” the sale of securities, defined as someone who “effect[s] or attempt[s] to effect” the sale. Ky. Rev. Stat. 292.480(1),(4); 292.310(1). An attorney who performs ordinary legal work, such as drafting documents, giving advice and answering client questions, is not an “agent” under the Act. View "Bennett v. Durham" on Justia Law
Republic Bank & Tr. Co. v. Bear Stearns & Co., Inc.
Republic bought more than $50 million worth of residential-mortgage-backed securities from Bear Stearns. It did not read the relevant offering documents before investing. As the national economy crumbled in 2007 and 2008, so did the value of the investments. Republic brought suit in 2009, alleging that Bear Stearns and one of its employees fraudulently induced it to buy, and then to retain, the securities. It claimed that a series of misrepresentations and omissions, both oral and in the written offering documents, were actionable under common-law theories of fraud and negligent misrepresentation, and under the Blue Sky Law, Kentucky’s securities statute. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Republic cannot maintain any of its common-law fraud, negligent-misrepresentation, or Kentucky Blue Sky Law claims. It failed to adequately plead actionable misrepresentations or omissions of fact, complained of risks disclosed in offering documents that it failed to read before investing tens of millions of dollars in risky securities, and attempted to maintain claims that are time-barred. View "Republic Bank & Tr. Co. v. Bear Stearns & Co., Inc." on Justia Law