Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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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

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Petitioner Bloomberg L.P. (“Bloomberg”) seeks review of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (the “Commission” or “SEC”) decision to approve new reporting requirements proposed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”), Intervenorfor-Respondent, affecting underwriter members in the corporate bond market. The Commission ultimately concluded that FINRA’s proposal would impose a limited burden on competition and enable market participants to obtain broad, uniform access to corporate bond reference data before the first transaction in a new-issue bond. Accordingly, the Commission approved FINRA’s proposal.   The DC Circuit granted Bloomberg’s petition for review in part and denied in part. The court held that the Commission’s approval of FINRA’s proposed reference data service was arbitrary and capricious in one respect: the Commission failed to respond adequately to Bloomberg’s concerns about the cost of building and maintaining the program and the extent to which those costs—which could conceivably amount to millions, or tens of millions, of dollars—will be borne by market participants. As such, the Commission violated the Administrative Procedure Act and failed to engage in reasoned decision-making. However, the court wrote, that Bloomberg’s remaining arguments lack merit. Therefore, Bloomberg’s petition for review is otherwise denied. View "Bloomberg L.P. v. SEC" on Justia Law

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In 2005, the SEC promulgated a series of initiatives dubbed “Regulation NMS,” which stands for National Market System. One of those initiatives established the concept of the “[n]ational best bid and national best offer,” which are the best bid and best offer for a security, from the taker’s point of view, across all U.S. securities exchanges. Regulation NMS also classifies some providers’ orders as “protected” bids or offers (collectively “protected quotations”). Protected quotations are “automated,” publicly displayed, and the national best bid or offer.At issue is not whether companies like Petitioner may seek advantages in the market by using advanced technology and ingenious trading strategies, but instead whether the SEC may allow an exchange to innovate, with the D-Limit order, in a way that offers new opportunities to long-term investors.The D.C. Circuit approved the SEC's rule, finding that substantial evidence supported the SEC’s findings and the SEC’s conclusions were reasonable and reasonably explained. View "Citadel Securities LLC v. SEC" on Justia Law

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Appellant was convicted of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, and first-degree fraud. On appeal, she mounted a single challenge: the prosecution made improper comments during its rebuttal closing argument that substantially prejudiced her and denied her a fair trial. Appellant objected to most of the prosecution’s statements in the district court, and the court sustained the objections.   The DC Circuit affirmed Appellant’s convictions, finding no reversible error in the district court’s response to the prosecution’s challenged statements. Appellant argued that the court should apply harmless-error review. However, the court explained that harmless-error review is inapplicable in the circumstances of this case. Harmless-error analysis generally applies when a district court erroneously rejects a defendant’s timely claim of an error. Here, though, the district court did not erroneously reject Appellant’s claim of an error. Indeed, the court did not reject any relevant claim of error at all. Appellant’s claim involves the four allegedly improper statements made by the prosecution in the rebuttal closing argument. But Appellant raised no objection in the district court to the fourth of those statements, so there was no claim of any error at trial as to that one. And while Appellant did object to the other three statements, the district court did not erroneously overrule her objections.   Further, Appellant cannot demonstrate plain error. The district court did not err, much less plainly err, in responding to the prosecution’s challenged statements. Lastly, even assuming the district court should have taken any additional actions, the court’s failure to do so did not affect Appellant’s substantial rights. View "USA v. Brynee Baylor" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted petitions for review as to two order issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission) aimed at consolidating existing national market system (NMS) plans governing the dissemination of equity market data into a single, consolidated plan (CT Plan) and modifying the governance structure to increase efficiencies and facilitate greater involvement by non-exchange stakeholders (Governance Plan), holding that Petitioners' petitions were granted as to one challenged provision.Petitioners, a group of national securities exchanges, brought this action challenging the Commission's orders, arguing that several of the provisions were arbitrary and capricious or were contrary to the the text and goals of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78a et seq. Specifically, Petitioners challenged a provision of the final Commission-approved CT Plan that included representatives that did not belong to "self-regulatory organizations" (SROs) as voting members of the CT Plan's operating committee. The District of Columbia Circuit granted Petitioners' petitions as to the non-SRO representation provision and denied them in all other respects, holding that the provision including non-SROs on the CT Plan's operating committee as voting members was invalid. View "Nasdaq Stock Market LLC v. Securities & Exchange Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Appellant appealed a United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) order denying his application for a whistleblower award resulting from a successful SEC enforcement action. He contends that he voluntarily provided original information to the SEC that led to the successful enforcement action as set forth by the governing statute, 15 U.S.C. Section 78u-6(b)(1), but that the Commission erroneously rejected his award application based on its improper definitions of key statutory terms, see 17 C.F.R. Section 240.21F-4(a) (defining “[v]oluntary submission of information”), (b) (defining “[o]riginal information”).   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Appellant's application for a whistleblower award. The court held that because Appellant failed to satisfy the statutory requirements for “original information,” the court need not address his challenge to the SEC’s definition of “voluntary.” The court reasoned that the SEC properly denied Appellant’s award application, which was based on information submitted to the Commission before July 21, 2010. Congress expressly and unambiguously excluded from the definition of “original information” submissions provided to the Commission before this date, the statute’s date of enactment. 15 U.S.C. Section 78u-7(b); see id. Section 78u-6(a)(3). Further, because Appellant failed to satisfy one of the statutory requirements for whistleblower award eligibility, the court did not address his challenge to the Commission’s interpretation of “voluntary” set forth in 17 C.F.R. Section 240.21F-4(a) or its denial of Appellant’s request to exempt him from the requirement that the information be submitted voluntarily. View "Eugene Ross v. SEC" on Justia Law

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In 2005, the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted “Regulation NMS” to promote the availability of market data to investors and other market participants. Regulation NMS allowed for investors to obtain "core data" from a centralized securities-information processor, which receives certain data, compiles it, and then transmits it to subscribers. However, to receive additional data, market participants must subscribe to the exchanges’ own proprietary data feeds. This generates significant revenue for the exchanges.Due to changes in the securities market since 2005, the proprietary data feeds have become "vastly more useful." As a result, the Commission determined, there was an information asymmetry in the marketplace for securities data — those market participants relying on the core data feed were at a significant informational disadvantage to participants that could afford to subscribe to the exchanges’ comprehensive proprietary products. In response, the SEC adopted the Market Data Infrastructure Rule in 2020, which promotes the development of new data distribution methods. Various exchanges challenged the Market Data Infrastructure Rule, claiming it was arbitrary and capricious.The D.C. Circuit denied the exchanges' petitions, noting that the Market Data Infrastructure Rule promotes the Commission’s stated goals and is grounded in the record. The court also held that the rule was warranted, given changes in the securities market. View "The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC v. SEC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review of petitioners' applications for whistleblower awards resulting from a successful SEC enforcement action. The court concluded that the SEC properly denied petitioners' award applications under its reasonable and longstanding interpretation of the relevant regulation, which sets forth three scenarios allowing for the issuance of a whistleblower award—none of which encompasses the additional scenario proposed by petitioners. In this case, the SEC's interpretation reflects it authoritative and official position; the interpretation implicates the Commission's substantive expertise in implementing the whistleblower program; and the SEC's reading reflects its fair and considered judgment. Therefore, given that the text of Rule 21F-4(c) is genuinely ambiguous, the SEC’s interpretation is entitled to deference pursuant to the interpretive guideposts announced by the Supreme Court in Kisor v. Wilkie, 139 S. Ct. 2400, 2415–16 (2019). The court also concluded that petitioners' additional arguments are either forfeited or meritless. View "Doe v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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Five registered national securities exchanges filed proposed rules with the SEC to establish fee schedules for Wireless Bandwidth Connections, which connect a customer’s equipment located on the premises of a petitioner-exchange with the customer’s equipment located on the premises of a third-party data center, and Wireless Market Data Connections, which connect a customer to the proprietary data feed of a petitioner-exchange. SEC’s Final Order asserted jurisdiction over the services and approved the proposed rules.The exchanges argued that the SEC’s assertion of jurisdiction over the services was based upon an erroneous interpretation of the statutes that define “exchange” and “facility,” that SEC arbitrarily and capriciously ignored the effect of the Final Rule upon the ability of the wireless services to compete, and that SEC ignored regulations defining “exchange” and arbitrarily departed from relevant agency precedents.The D.C. Circuit upheld the order. The Connections are subject to the SEC’s jurisdiction as “facilities” of an exchange--a market facility maintained by an exchange for bringing together purchasers and sellers of an exchange. The SEC correctly concluded that the fee schedules for the Connections had to be filed as “rules of an exchange,” consistent with SEC regulations and precedent. View "Intercontinental Exchange, Inc v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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Defendants who enter into SEC consent decrees gain certain benefits: they may settle a complaint without admitting the SEC’s allegations, and often receive concessions. The SEC does not permit a defendant to consent to a judgment or order that imposes a sanction while denying the allegations, 17 C.F.R. 202.5(e)). Cato alleged that SEC defendants are, therefore, unable to report publicly that the SEC threatened them with unfounded charges or otherwise coerced them into entering into consent decrees, impermissibly stifling public discussion of the SEC’s prosecutorial tactics. Cato has not entered into any SEC consent decree but alleges that it has contracted to publish a manuscript written by someone who is subject to such a consent decree and has been contacted by other such individuals, who would otherwise participate in panel discussions hosted by Cato on the topic of the SEC’s prosecutorial overreach, and allow Cato to publish their testimonials.Cato’s complaint invoked the First Amendment and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Cato’s complaint for lack of standing. Cato’s alleged injury is not redressable through this lawsuit; the no-deny provisions that bind the SEC defendants whose speech Cato wishes to publish would remain unable to allow Cato to publish their speech, given their consent decrees. View "Cato Institute v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law