Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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The case involves Gerald Forsythe, who filed a class action lawsuit against Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. and several of its officers. Forsythe claimed that he and others who purchased or acquired Teva securities between October 29, 2015, and August 18, 2020, suffered damages due to misstatements and omissions by Teva and its officers related to Copaxone, a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis. Teva's shares are dual listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.The District Court granted Forsythe's motion for class certification, rejecting Teva's assertion that the class definition should exclude purchasers of ordinary shares. The Court also rejected Teva's argument that Forsythe could not satisfy Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement.Teva sought permission to appeal the District Court’s Order granting class certification, arguing that interlocutory review is proper under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). Teva contended that the Petition presents a novel legal issue and that the District Court erred in its predominance analysis with respect to Forsythe’s proposed class-wide damages methodology.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied Teva's petition for permission to appeal. The court found that the securities issue did not directly relate to the requirements for class certification, and agreed with the District Court’s predominance analysis. The court also clarified that permission to appeal should be granted where the certification decision itself under Rule 23(a) and (b) turns on a novel or unsettled question of law, not simply where the merits of a particular case may turn on such a question. View "Forsythe v. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd" on Justia Law

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Jumper, a securities broker-dealer, arranged financing on behalf of private investors for the purchase of a Pennsylvania fire-brick manufacturer. Jumper fraudulently obtained authority to transfer the company’s pension plan assets by forging the majority stakeholder’s signature on several documents. Between 2007-2016, Jumper transferred $5.7 million from the pension plan to accounts he controlled.The SEC filed a civil complaint against Jumper for securities fraud in the Western District of Tennessee. The Department of Justice filed criminal charges against Jumper in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The Tennessee court entered a default judgment for the SEC and ordered Jumper to disgorge $5.7 million and to pay prejudgment interest of $726,758.79. In Pennsylvania, Jumper pleaded guilty to wire fraud and agreed to make full restitution; the parties stipulated a loss of $1.5-$3.5 million.The district court considered Jumper’s request for a downward departure based on medical issues, discussed the relevant 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors, and denied Jumper’s requests, explaining, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is equipped to provide consistent, adequate medical care. The court sentenced Jumper to 78 months’ incarceration, at the bottom of the Guidelines range of 78–97 months, and ordered him to pay $2,426,550 in restitution. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the sentence violated the Double Jeopardy Clause and principles of collateral estoppel and that the court improperly concluded that the BOP could treat his medical issues. View "United States v. Jumper" on Justia Law

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A municipal retirement system that had purchased the company’s common stock before the announcement now alleges that the company knew beforehand of problems with its reserves and misled investors about those issues. The retirement system filed a putative class action against the company and three of its corporate executives, alleging securities fraud under Section 10(b) and Section 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The insurance company and the executives moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim for relief. They argued that, under the heightened pleading standard for securities-fraud claims, the retirement system’s complaint failed to plausibly allege three necessary elements of its claims: false or misleading statements; loss causation, and scienter. The district court granted that motion and dismissed the complaint with prejudice.   The Third Circuit partially vacated the district court’s judgment. It remanded the case to the district court to consider, in the first instance, the adequacy of the amended complaint’s allegations of loss causation and scienter concerning the CFO’s statement. The court explained that based on information from a confidential former employee, who qualifies as credible at the pleading stage, the complaint alleged that the insurance company was already contemplating a significant increase in reserves due to negative mortality experience at the time of the CFO’s statements. And the magnitude of the company’s reserve charge and its temporal proximity to the CFO’s statements further undercut the CFO’s assertion that recent mortality experience was within a normal range. Those particularized allegations satisfy the heightened standard for pleading falsity, and they plausibly allege the falsity of the CFO’s statement. View "City of Warren Police and Fire v. Prudential Financial Inc" on Justia Law

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Askew formed Vantage to trade securities. He recruited investors, including the plaintiffs. Vantage filed a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Form D to sell unregistered securities in a 2016 SEC Rule 506(b) stock offering. The plaintiffs became concerned because Askew was not providing sufficient information but they had no right, based on their stock agreements, to rescind those investments. They decided to threaten litigation and to report Vantage to the SEC to pressure Askew and Vantage to return their investments. Before filing suit, the plaintiffs engaged an independent accountant who reviewed some of Vantage’s financial documents and concluded that he could not say “whether anything nefarious is going" on but that the “‘smell factor’ is definitely present.”The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants in subsequent litigation. The district court then conducted an inquiry mandated by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) and determined that the plaintiffs violated FRCP 11 but chose not to impose any sanctions. The Third Circuit affirmed that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 in bringing their federal securities claims for an improper purpose (to force a settlement). The plaintiffs’ Unregistered Securities and Misrepresentation Claims lacked factual support. Askew was not entitled to attorney’s fees because the violations were not substantial. The PSLRA, however, mandates the imposition of some form of sanctions when parties violate Rule 11 so the court remanded for the imposition of “some form of Rule 11 sanctions.” View "Scott v. Vantage Corp" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs filed suit asserting federal securities claims. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants The district court subsequently performed a Federal Rule 11 inquiry mandated by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) and determined that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 but did not award attorneys’ fees or impose any other sanctions.The Third Circuit held that the plaintiffs violated Rule 11 in bringing their federal securities claims by filing for an improper purpose. The plaintiffs expressly stated that their “strategy was to file these complaints to force a settlement.” In addition, their Unregistered Securities and Misrepresentation Claims lacked factual support in violation of Rule 11(b)(3). The plaintiffs had a reasonable basis for their Rule 10b-5 Securities Fraud Claim. The court vacated in part. The PSLRA creates a presumption in favor of awarding attorneys’ fees when a complaint constitutes a “substantial failure” to comply with Rule 11 but the district court did not err in finding that the Rule 11 violations were not substantial. Nonetheless, the PSLRA makes the imposition of sanctions mandatory after a court determines that a party violated Rule 11, so the court abused its discretion in declining to impose any form of sanctions. View "Scott v. Vantage Corp" on Justia Law

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Johnson & Johnson's Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is an investment option within its retirement savings plans. The ESOP invests solely in J&J stock, which declined in price following news reports accusing J&J of concealing that its baby powder was contaminated with asbestos. J&J denied that its product was contaminated and that it had concealed anything about the product. J&J employees who participated in the ESOP alleged that the ESOP’s administrators, senior officers of J&J, violated their fiduciary duties of prudence under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1002-1003. The Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff bringing such a claim must plausibly allege “an alternative action that the defendant could have taken" consistent with the securities laws, and that a prudent fiduciary in the same circumstances would not have viewed the proposed alternative as more likely to harm the fund than to help it. The J&J plaintiffs proposed that the defendants could have used their corporate powers to make public disclosures to correct J&J’s artificially high stock price earlier or that the fiduciaries could have stopped investing in J&J stock and held all ESOP contributions as cash.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. A reasonable fiduciary in these circumstances could readily view corrective disclosures or cash holdings as being likely to do the ESOP more harm than good, given the uncertainty about J&J’s future liabilities and the future movement of its stock price. View "Perrone v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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In March 2010, Orrstown made a stock offering at $27 per share. SEPTA invested some of its pension funds in Orrstown stock during this offering and later purchased Orrstown stock on the open market. In 2011-2012 Orrstown made disclosures concerning its financial health. Orrstown’s stock price dropped following each disclosure falling to $8.20 by April 2012.SEPTA filed a purported class action in May 2012, on behalf of a “Securities Act Class" of investors who purchased Orrstown stock “in connection with, or traceable to,” Orrstown’s 2010 Registration Statement, and the “Exchange Act Class” of investors who later purchased Orrstown stock on the open market. A first amended complaint added the Underwriters and the Auditor. The district court dismissed the amended complaint without prejudice for failure to meet pleading requirements. SEPTA filed its Second Amended Complaint in February 2016. The court dismissed all Securities Act claims against Orrstown but did not dismiss the Exchange Act claims except for some individual Orrstown officers. The court dismissed all claims against the Underwriters and the Auditor. The parties began discovery, which triggered a lengthy process in which the parties sought to have federal and state regulators review the relevant documents. In April 2019, SEPTA moved for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint, arguing it had identified evidence to support previously-dismissed claims through discovery.The court granted SEPTA’s motion despite the expiration of the three-year (Securities Act) and five-year (Exchange Act) repose periods. The Third Circuit affirmed. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c), which provides an exception more commonly applied to statutes of limitations, also allows amendment of a pleading after the expiration of a repose period here because the Rule’s “relation-back” doctrine leaves the legislatively-mandated deadline intact and does not disturb any of the defendants’ vested rights. View "Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority v. Orrstown Financial Services Inc." on Justia Law

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Valeant develops and manufactures generic pharmaceuticals. Appellants purchased stock in Valeant after Valeant changed its business model to focus more on acquiring new drugs from other companies rather than developing its own. Valeant made promising representations about its financial performance based on its new business model. The price of Valeant stock skyrocketed nearly 350% in 2015. Before the district court addressed class certification in a putative class action on behalf of investors who purchased Valeant stock in 2015, alleging that the price was artificially inflated as a result of deceptive practices, the Appellants filed an “opt-out” complaint bringing the same claims in their individual capacities. The district court dismissed that complaint as untimely under the two-year limitations period.The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal. Putative class members may recover as part of the class or seek individual recourse. Members may initially proceed as part of a class, but certification may be denied later or members may discover that their individual claims are more valuable than the class claims and decide to pursue an opt-out complaint even if certification is likely. In either case, members are generally allowed to initiate an individual action. When a class complaint is filed, the limitations period governing the individual claims of putative members is tolled to protect the rights of putative members while avoiding needless identical lawsuits. Nothing further, such as a certification denial, is required to benefit from tolling. View "Aly v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc." on Justia Law

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The SEC investigated Gentile for his role in a penny-stock manipulation scheme in 2007-08 and civilly sued Gentile, who was indicted for securities fraud violations. The criminal prosecution was dismissed as untimely. The SEC separately investigated securities transactions through an unregistered broker-dealer in violation of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78o(a): Traders Café, a day-trading firm, maintained an account with Gentile’s Bahamian broker-dealer, which was not registered in the U.S. The SEC issued a Formal Order of Investigation into Café in 2013. Without issuing a new Formal Order, the SEC informed Gentile that he was a target in that investigation.The SEC subpoenaed Gentile for testimony. He refused to comply. The SEC did not seek enforcement against Gentile but subpoenaed Gentile’s attorney and an entity affiliated with Gentile’s Bahamian broker-dealer, which also refused to comply. The SEC commenced enforcement actions against those entities. Gentile unsuccessfully moved to intervene; the Florida district court ordered compliance. Gentile filed suit in New Jersey, seeking a declaration that the Café investigation was unlawful, requesting the quashing of the subpoenas, and seeking an injunction to prevent the SEC from using the fruits of that investigation against him.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The APA’s waiver of sovereign immunity, 5 U.S.C. 702, includes an exception for “agency action committed to agency discretion by law,” section 701(a)(2); sovereign immunity prevents judicial review of the Formal Order of Investigation. View "Gentile v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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Fishoff began trading securities in the 1990s. By 2009, he had earned enough money to establish his own firm, with one full-time employee and several independent contractors. Fishoff had no formal training in securities markets, regulations, or compliance. Nor did he hold any professional license. He operated without expert advice. Fishoff engaged in short-selling stock in anticipation of the issuer making a secondary offering. Secondary offerings are confidential but a company, through its underwriter, may contact potential buyers to assess interest. When a salesperson provides confidential information, such as the issuer's name, the recipient is barred by SEC Rule 10b-5-2, from trading the issuer’s securities or disclosing the information before the offering is publicly announced. Fishoff’s associates opened accounts at investment banking firms in order to receive solicitations to invest in secondary offerings. They agreed to keep the information confidential but shared it with Fishoff, who would short-sell the company’s shares.Fishoff pled guilty to securities fraud (15 U.S.C. 78j(b), 78ff; 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5 (Rule 10b-5); 18 U.S.C. 2), stipulating that he and his associates made $1.5 to $3.5 million by short-selling Synergy stock based on confidential information. Fishoff unsuccessfully claimed that he had no knowledge of Rule 10b5-2 and was entitled to the affirmative defense against imprisonment under Securities Exchange Act Section 32, as a person who violated a Rule having “no knowledge of such rule or regulation”. The Third Circuit affirmed his 30-month sentence. Fishoff adequately presented his defense. The court’s ruling was sufficient; the government never agreed that the non-imprisonment defense applied. Fishoff did not establish a lack of knowledge. His attempts to conceal his scheme suggests that he was aware that it was wrong. View "United States v. Fishoff" on Justia Law