Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiffs sued on behalf of a class of similarly-situated participants and beneficiaries of the Keycorp 401(k) Savings Plan, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1109, 1132, alleging that defendants breached their duties by failing to prudently manage the Plan’s investment in KeyCorp securities; that defendants failed to adequately inform participants about the true risk of investing in KeyCorp stock; that certain defendants breached fiduciary duties by failing to adequately monitor the management and administration of Plan assets; that certain defendants failed to avoid impermissible conflicts of interest; and that certain defendants are liable for the breaches of fiduciary duty committed by their co-fiduciaries. The district court dismissed one plaintiff because she had benefited from the alleged breaches of fiduciary duty, which allowed her to sell the majority of her holdings at an inflated price. The court denied a motion to allow another to intervene as named plaintiff. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Taylor v. KeyCorp" on Justia Law

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In addition to about $4 million invested through his family corporation, Nonneman personally invested about $15 million in OKO for domestic oil and gas exploration, although he had no experience in such businesses, was showing signs of dementia, and suffered disabilities. In 2003, Nolfi assumed management of Nonneman’s affairs and it was apparent that the OKO investments would yield no returns. Of 128 wells, only 11 produced oil, and did not produce enough to recoup the investment. Nolfi filed suit in Ohio state court and learned facts that gave rise to federal and state securities claims. He filed in federal court, alleging violations of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and 77l(a)(1); violations of the Ohio Blue Sky laws by the sale of unregistered securities; federal securities fraud; misrepresentation; common law fraud; breach of fiduciary duties; and breach of contract. The cases were consolidated and, after complicated rulings concerning limitations periods, the district court entered judgment for Nonneman. Despite having stated rescissory damages as more than $7 million, the jury only listed an award of $1,777,909 on its verdict form. The court held that plaintiffs had waived their right to challenge the verdict. Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Nolfi v. OH KY Oil Corp." on Justia Law

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Nonneman, acting through Fencorp, a family investment corporation, invested $3,980,345.50 in OKO for domestic oil and gas exploration, although he had no experience in such businesses, was showing signs of dementia, and suffered disabilities. In 2003, Nolfi assumed management of Nonneman’s affairs and it was apparent that the OKO investments would yield no returns. Of 128 wells, only 11 produced oil, and did not produce enough to recoup the investment. Nolfi filed suit in Ohio state court. During discovery plaintiffs learned facts indicating federal and state securities violations and filed in federal court, alleging violations of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. 77l(a)(1); violations of the Ohio Blue Sky laws by the sale of unregistered securities; federal securities fraud; common law fraud; misrepresentation; breach of fiduciary duties; and breach of contract. After a complicated set of rulings, the district court awarded Fencorp $1,012,835.50, the maximum not barred by the statute of repose. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, upholding rulings concerning the statute of repose, but setting aside the verdict on the state common law fraud claim and directing reinstatement of the verdict on the federal securities claim ($847,858). View "Fencorp Co. v. OH KY Oil Corp." on Justia Law

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GM offered separate defined-contribution 401(k) plans. Benefits were based on the amount of contributions and investment performance of an individual's separate account. The plans offered several investment options, including mutual funds, non-mutual fund investments, and the General Motors Common Stock Fund. Participants could change the allocation in any investment on any business day. The plans invested, by default, in the Pyramis Fund, not the GM Fund. In 2008, the fiduciary suspended purchases of GM and began selling the stock. Plaintiffs filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1109(a), alleging breach of fiduciary duty in allowing investment in GM after its financial trouble was the subject of reliable public information. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded that "a prudent fiduciary acting under similar circumstances would have made a different investment decision." The fiduciary cannot escape its duty simply by asserting that the plaintiffs caused the losses by choosing to invest in the GM Fund. Such a rule would improperly shift the duty of prudence to monitor the menu of investments to participants. The fact that a participant exercises control over assets does not automatically trigger section 404(c) safe harbor. View "Pfeil v. State Street Bank & Trust Co" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs held shares in three mutual funds issued by an open-end investment company (15 U.S.C. 80a-5(a)(1)). The shares were "redeemable securities," entitling the holders to redemption at any time for their proportionate share of the issuer's current net assets. Like most investments, the shares lost value between 2007 and 2008. Plaintiffs attributed their losses to defendants' taking unjustified risks in allocating assets and concealing those risks. They filed a class action, bringing state-law claims for breach of contract, violations of the Maryland Securities Act, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. The district court dismissed, holding that the action was barred by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998, 15 U.S.C. 77p(b), (f)(2)(A), (f)(3). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the case fell within an exemption, known as the first Delaware carve-out, which preserves a class action otherwise facing SLUSA preclusion if it involves "purchase or sale of securities by the issuer or an affiliate of the issuer exclusively from or to holders of equity securities of the issuer." View "Atkinson v. Morgan Asset Mgmt., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs have filed several lawsuits in the past ten years, asserting ownership of mines in Indonesia. Each suit was rejected and sanctions were imposed on plaintiffs in two prior suits. The present suit alleges false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and failure, by federal agencies, to take enforcement actions. Following dismissal and denial of reconsideration, the district court ordered that plaintiffs and their counsel pay more than $100,000 in attorney fees and costs and enjoined plaintiffs and from ever filing another lawsuit arising out of the same subject matter in any state or federal court. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal, but reversed imposition of sanctions. The district court lacked jurisdiction over the mining company defendant. The district court did not comply with Rule 11 because it found a Rule 11 violation in conduct that went beyond the specific conduct identified in defendant's motion for sanctions. View "PT Pukuafu Indah v. U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and conspiracy and sentenced to 120 months in prison and payment of fines and assessments. In a separate trial he was convicted of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering and sentenced to 360 months, to run concurrently. in a consolidated appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court properly denied an entrapment instruction; there was never any meeting of defendant and the government agents and, hence, no inducement. Wiretap evidence was properly admitted. There was no evidence that the warrant contained intentional or reckless falsehoods and there was probable cause. Evidence concerning the amount of loss was properly admitted with respect to both cases and sentencing was reasonable, regardless of the defense theories about other possible causes of the loss. View "United States v. Poulsen" on Justia Law

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In 1991, Carpenter pled guilty to aggravated theft and bank fraud. He served jail time and was disbarred. Between 1998 and 2000, he ran a Ponzi scheme, selling investments in sham companies, promising a guaranteed return. A class action resulted in a judgment of $15,644,384 against Carpenter. Plaintiffs then sued drawee banks, alleging that they violated the UCC "properly payable rule" by paying checks plaintiffs wrote to sham corporations, and depositary banks, alleging that they violated the UCC and committed fraud by depositing checks into accounts for fraudulent companies. The district court dismissed some claims as time-barred and some for failure to state a claim. After denying class certification, the court granted defendant summary judgment on the conspiracy claim, based on release of Carpenter in earlier litigation; a jury ruled in favor of defendant on aiding and abetting. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Claims by makers of the checks are time-barred; the "discovery" rule does not apply and would not save the claims. Ohio "Blue Sky" laws provide the limitations period for fraud claims, but those claims would also be barred by the common law limitations period. The district court retained subject matter jurisdiction to rule on other claims, following denial of class certification under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). View "Metz v. Unizan Bank" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased auction-rate securities from defendant, a securities broker-dealer. ARS are long-term bonds whose interest rates periodically reset through auctions and typically offer higher returns than treasuries or other money market instruments. Investors can liquidate at each auction, if demand exceeds supply. If sellers outnumber buyers, the auction fails. ARS underwriters may place proprietary bids, to prevent auctions from failing. If an auction fails, there is a penalty interest rate to compensate for temporary illiquidity and entice new buyers. When plaintiff wanted to sell in 2008, neither defendant nor underwriters would place proprietary bids, leaving plaintiff with $194 million in illiquid securities. Plaintiff discounted the price by millions of dollars. The district court dismissed a suit claiming: violation of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78j(b)), violation of Kentucky Blue Sky Laws, common-law fraud, promissory estoppel, and negligent misrepresentation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Many of defendant's purported misstatements and omissions are not actionable, either because they lacked materiality or because defendant had no duty to disclose them. Facts alleged in the complaint fall short of establishing scienter, as required to establish securities fraud. View "Ashland, Inc.v. Oppenheimer & Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged that corporate officers committed securities fraud (15 U.S.C. 78j, 78t) by making false statements about about the corporation's financial health and controlled other persons regarding false statements by the corporation and other employees. The district court dismissed; the Sixth Circuit remanded. The district court again dismissed and the Sixth Circuit reversed. The complaint adequately alleged scienter by alleging that the defendants received internal reports and information showing financial distress, yet continually made false, positive statements regarding financial health. The court noted allegations concerning temporal proximity between false statements and corrective statements, defendants' financial motivations, the retirement of one defendant, and that the SEC investigated the company's accounting practices.