Justia Securities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Masel v. Villarreal
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendants induced them to join a business enterprise with material misrepresentations and omissions in violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Defendants proposed to plaintiffs that if they will set up businesses that provide intraoperative neuromonitoring procedures, defendants would manage them, and through signature billing practices, make plaintiffs a substantial profit. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss.The Fifth Circuit held that the limited partnership interests in this case were securities and thus plaintiffs have adequately pleaded the existence of a security; Statements 1, 6, and 7, as well as all three omissions, were properly dismissed; but plaintiffs adequately stated a 10b-5 claim with regard to Villarreal and the defendant entities for Statements 2–5. However, plaintiffs' case against Casarez failed with regard to these statements. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded in part and affirmed in part. View "Masel v. Villarreal" on Justia Law
Wallace v. Andeavor Corp.
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
Ho v. Flotek Industries, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit on behalf of purchasers of Flotek common stock, alleging that the company and three of its officers exaggerated the usefulness of its products and made misrepresentations relating to a proprietary software the company developed to help market these products. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that plaintiffs failed to plead facts giving rise to a strong inference of fraudulent scienter. In this case, plaintiffs identified several alleged misrepresentations but each failed to raise a strong inference of scienter. View "Ho v. Flotek Industries, Inc." on Justia Law
SEC v. Arcturus Corp.
The SEC alleged that defendants violated the Securities Exchange Act because they failed to register interests in their drilling projects as securities. Williamson v. Tucker set out three factors for determining whether investors expect to profit solely from third-party efforts. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the SEC's motion for summary judgment, holding that defendants raised significant issues of material fact.The court applied the first factor in Williamson and held that the investors had formal powers, they used these powers, the voting structure was not necessarily coercive, the investors received information, they communicated with each other, and the number of investors was not so high that it eliminated all of their power. In regard to the second Williamson factor, the court held that there was a genuine issue about the investors' knowledge and experience. In regard to the third Williamson factor, the court held that there was a genuine issue concerning whether the managers were effectively irreplaceable. View "SEC v. Arcturus Corp." on Justia Law
SEC v. Sethi
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the SEC's motion for summary judgment, holding that defendant offered securities and committed securities fraud in violation of the Securities and Exchange Act. The court held that interests in defendant's drilling projects qualified as securities. In this case, the district court correctly concluded that defendant's drilling projects distributed power as if they were limited partnerships where the SEC provided unrebutted evidence showing that investors could not use their legal powers. The court also held that the district court correctly found that defendant made material misstatements to investors when he knowingly misrepresented his relationships with major oil companies. View "SEC v. Sethi" on Justia Law
Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Hawaii v. Whole Foods Market, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Whole Foods and its executives, alleging that the company and its executives defrauded Whole Foods shareholders in violation of federal securities law by perpetuating weights-and-measures fraud against customers. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that plaintiffs failed to properly allege a material misrepresentation, scienter, or loss causation. In this case, plaintiffs failed to state a claim under section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act based on defendants' comments because plaintiff failed to allege that defendants' particular statements about Whole Foods' prices were false. The court also held that defendants' comments about Whole Foods' commitments to transparency and quality, even if false, were immaterial. Furthermore, plaintiffs failed to identify a decline in stock price that shortly followed a corrective disclosure. Likewise, plaintiffs section 20(a) claims failed because they were derivative to the section 10(b) claims. View "Employees' Retirement System of the State of Hawaii v. Whole Foods Market, Inc." on Justia Law
Alaska Electrical Pension Fund v. Asar
The Fund filed suit alleging that Hangar and three of its officers engaged in securities fraud. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err in dismissing the section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act claims against Defendants Asar and Kirk, but erred in dismissing the claims against Defendants McHenry and Hanger. In this case, the allegations supported a strong inference of scienter as to McHenry where the court could infer from the Audit Committee's report that he intended to enhance Hanger's financial results. The court explained that, taking the allegations holistically, McHenry's having had the requisite state of mind was "cogent" and "at least as compelling" as the alternate explanations. Therefore, McHenry's scienter could be imputed to Hanger, but only as to his allegedly false statements. View "Alaska Electrical Pension Fund v. Asar" on Justia Law
SEC v. Kahlon
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the SEC on liability and damages in a complaint against defendant and his company for the purchase and resale of unregistered securities. The court affirmed summary judgment as to liability against TJM and defendant where they failed to show that the sales fell under an exception to the registration requirements under Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. 77e. Because defendants failed to identify anything in the summary judgment record that would show the transactions at issue occurred in Texas, the court rejected their claim under Rule 504(b)(1)(iii), which allows offerings and sales to avoid registration requirements if they are conducted exclusively according to state law exemptions from registration that permit general solicitation and general advertising so long as sales are made only to accredited investors. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in barring all future transactions, in ordering a permanent injunction from future securities law violations, and in disgorgement of all revenue. View "SEC v. Kahlon" on Justia Law