Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
Coster v. UIP Companies, Inc.
The two equal stockholders of UIP Companies, Inc. were deadlocked and could not elect new directors. One of the stockholders, Marion Coster, filed suit in the Court of Chancery and requested appointment of a custodian for UIP. In response, the three-person UIP board of directors — composed of the other equal stockholder and board chairman, Steven Schwat, and the two other directors aligned with him— voted to issue a one-third interest in UIP stock to their fellow director, Peter Bonnell, who was also a friend of Schwat and long-time UIP employee (the “Stock Sale”). Coster filed a second action in the Court of Chancery, claiming that the board breached its fiduciary duties by approving the Stock Sale. She asked the court to cancel the Stock Sale. After consolidating the two actions, the Court of Chancery found what was apparent given the timing of the Stock Sale: the conflicted UIP board issued stock to Bonnell to dilute Coster’s UIP interest below 50%, break the stockholder deadlock for electing directors, and end the Custodian Action. Ultimately, however, the court decided not to cancel the Stock Sale. The Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Court of Chancery on the conclusive effect of its entire fairness review and remanded for the court to consider the board’s motivations and purpose for the Stock Sale. "If the board approved the Stock Sale for inequitable reasons, the Court of Chancery should have cancelled the Stock Sale. And if the board, acting in good faith, approved the Stock Sale for the 'primary purpose of thwarting' Coster’s vote to elect directors or reduce her leverage as an equal stockholder, it must 'demonstrat[e] a compelling justification for such action' to withstand judicial scrutiny." View "Coster v. UIP Companies, Inc." on Justia Law
Puerto Rico Government Employees and Judiciary Retirement Systems Admin. v. Volkswagen AG
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment to defendant in a putative securities fraud class action brought by a public pension fund that purchased bonds issued by defendant. This case arose on interlocutory appeal to address the scope of the presumption of reliance in Affiliated Ute Citizens of Utah v. United States, 406 U.S. 128 (1972), in "mixed" securities-fraud cases that allege both omissions and affirmative misrepresentations.Because the panel concluded that the allegations in this case cannot be characterized primarily as claims of omission, the panel held that the Affiliated Ute presumption of reliance does not apply. In this case, plaintiff alleges over nine pages of affirmative misrepresentations that it and its investment advisor relied upon when purchasing the bonds from Volkswagen. The panel explained that, while this is a mixed case that alleges both omissions and affirmative misrepresentations, plaintiff's allegations cannot be characterized primarily as claims of omission, so the Affiliated Ute presumption of reliance does not apply. The panel remanded for the district court to further consider whether a triable issue of fact exists. View "Puerto Rico Government Employees and Judiciary Retirement Systems Admin. v. Volkswagen AG" on Justia Law
Knowles v. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing with prejudice plaintiff's second amended complaint (SAC) against TD Ameritrade. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from a systemic glitch of TD Ameritrade's tax-loss harvesting tool (TLH Tool), which failed to reinvest plaintiff's funds in an effort to avoid violating the "Wash Sale Rule." Plaintiff filed a class action, alleging claims for breach of contract and negligence.The court held that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA) preempts plaintiff's class action claims because he failed to demonstrate these claims are rooted in a violation of any specific contract provision. The court explained that, while, on its face, the operative complaint focuses on TD Ameritrade's alleged improper administration of the TLH Tool, the allegations are insufficient to demonstrate TD Ameritrade breached any contract terms. Therefore, plaintiff's class action claims are rooted in TD Ameritrade's omissions in disclosing information about the operation of the TLH Tool, which triggers SLUSA preemption.Applying Nebraska law, the court also concluded that plaintiff's contract claim was properly dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) where plaintiff failed to allege TD Ameritrade breached any contract terms or promises in the administration of the TLH Tool. Therefore, the allegations failed to provide TD Ameritrade with reasonable notice of the breach of contract claim as required by Rule 8. The court further concluded that the duty plaintiff alleges in his negligence claim arose out of the contract between the parties and thus activated the economic loss rule, which precludes a negligence cause of action. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the SAC with prejudice and denying leave to amend as futile. View "Knowles v. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp." on Justia Law
Myun-Uk Choi v. Tower Research Capital, LLC
Plaintiffs, five South Korean citizens who traded a derivative financial product called KOSPI 200 futures on an overnight market of the Korea Exchange (KRX), filed suit against Tower and its CEO, alleging that, in 2012, Tower's trading of KOSPI 200 futures violated the anti-manipulation provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA).The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiffs' CEA claims. The court concluded that the trading of KOSPI 200 futures on the KRX is not subject to the rules of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), and therefore rejected plaintiffs' contention that there is a genuine factual dispute as to whether Tower's trading was subject to the rules of the CME. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding a report from plaintiffs' expert witness who opined that Tower's trading of KOSPI 200 futures was "subject to" the rules of the CME. The court further concluded that the district court's judgment does not contradict the court's prior ruling in this case. Finally, the court concluded that the district court properly rejected plaintiffs’ public policy arguments. View "Myun-Uk Choi v. Tower Research Capital, LLC" on Justia Law
Fedance v. Harris
In mid-2017, Felton created an “offshore entity,” FLiK, for “developing [an] online viewing platform that [would] allow creatives to sell/rent their projects.” To raise funds, FLiK created cryptographic “FLiK Tokens” and represented that investors could redeem the tokens on its platform after it launched. FLiK never registered FLiK Tokens with the SEC but promoted FLik on social media and published a whitepaper with details about the company. FLiK announced that “T.I.,” an Atlanta-based rapper and actor (Harris), had joined Felton. The actor Kevin Hart tweeted a photograph of himself with Harris and wrote, “I’m Super Excited for [T.I.] and his new venture with @TheFlikIO! FLiK sold the tokens for about six cents each. The value of FLiK tokens soared and then crashed down. Felton largely ignored messages from token purchasers. None of FLiK’s services or projects came to fruition.Fedance, who had purchased $3,000 worth of FLiK Tokens, brought a putative class action under the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. 77l(a)(1), 77o(a), alleging that Felton and Harris sold unregistered securities, that Harris acted as a “statutory seller” of unregistered securities, and that Felton and Harris were liable as controlling persons of an entity, The district court dismissed the complaint as untimely under a one-year statute of limitations. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The complaint does not plausibly allege that Felton or Harris fraudulently concealed the facts necessary to assert claims under sections 12(a)(1) or 15(a) against them. View "Fedance v. Harris" on Justia Law
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System
Plaintiffs filed a securities-fraud class action alleging that Goldman violated securities laws prohibiting material misrepresentations and omissions in connection with the sale of securities, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b); 17 CFR 240.10b–5, and maintained an artificially inflated stock price by repeatedly making false and misleading generic statements about its ability to manage conflicts. Seeking to certify a class of Goldman shareholders, Plaintiffs invoked the “basic presumption” that investors rely on the market price of a company’s security, which in an efficient market will reflect all of the company’s public statements, including misrepresentations. The Second Circuit affirmed certification of the class.The Supreme Court vacated. The generic nature of a misrepresentation often is important evidence of price impact that courts should consider at class certification, including in inflation-maintenance cases, although the same evidence may be relevant to materiality, an inquiry reserved for the merits phase of a securities-fraud class action. The Second Circuit’s opinion leaves doubt as to whether it properly considered the generic nature of Goldman’s alleged misrepresentations. Defendants bear the burden of persuasion to prove a lack of price impact by a preponderance of the evidence at class certification and may rebut the presumption of reliance if they “show that the misrepresentation in fact did not lead to a distortion of price.” A defendant must do more than produce some evidence relevant to price impact and must “in fact” “seve[r] the link” between a misrepresentation and the price paid by the plaintiff. Assigning defendants the burden of persuasion to prove a lack of price impact by a preponderance of the evidence will be outcome-determinative only in the rare case in which the evidence is in perfect equipoise. View "Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System" on Justia Law
Panircelvan Kaliannan v. Ee Hoong Liang
Plaintiffs, Singapore residents and citizens who invested in a now-defunct North Dakota company called North Dakota Developments, LLC (NDD), filed suit seeking damages from defendant for his role in convincing plaintiffs to buy fraudulent, unregistered securities.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, concluding that the district court did not err in determining that it had personal jurisdiction over defendant because his conduct and connection with North Dakota were such that he should have reasonably anticipated being haled into court there. The court also agreed with the district court that venue was proper where plaintiffs' claims arose from the sale or solicitation of unregistered, fraudulent North Dakota securities related to real property located in North Dakota. The court declined to consider the issue of forum non conveniens because defendant failed to raise the claim in the district court. Finally, the court concluded that the district court correctly granted summary judgment where defendant decided to stop participating in the district court litigation, including not responding to the motion for summary judgment. View "Panircelvan Kaliannan v. Ee Hoong Liang" on Justia Law
Rhode Island v. Alphabet, Inc.
After Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested user data from Facebook's social network, Google discovered that a security glitch in its Google+ social network had left the private data of some hundreds of thousands of users exposed to third-party developers. Google and its holding company, Alphabet, chose to conceal this discovery, made generic statements about how cybersecurity risks could affect their business, and stated that there had been no material changes to Alphabet's risk factors since 2017.Rhode Island, in a consolidated amended complaint, filed suit against Alphabet, Google, and others, alleging violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 10b-5 for securities fraud, as well as violations of Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act. The district court granted Alphabet's motion to dismiss on the grounds that Rhode Island failed to adequately allege a materially misleading misrepresentation or omission and that Rhode Island failed to adequately allege scienter.The Ninth Circuit concluded that the complaint adequately alleged that Google, Alphabet, and individual defendants made materially misleading statements by omitting to disclose these security problems and that defendants did so with sufficient scienter, meaning with an intent to deceive, manipulate, or defraud. Applying an objective materiality standard, the panel concluded that Rhode Island's complaint plausibly alleges the materiality of the costs and consequences associated with the Privacy Bug, and its public disclosure, and how Alphabet's decision to omit information about the Privacy Bug in its 10-Qs significantly altered the total mix of information available for decisionmaking by a reasonable investor. Furthermore, the complaint adequately alleges scienter for the materially misleading omissions from the 10-Q statements. The panel also concluded that Rhode Island adequately alleged falsity, materiality, and scienter for the April 2018 and July 2018 10-Q statements. Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court's holdings to the contrary and reversed the dismissal of the section 20(a) control-person claims based on the 10-Q statements.Because the complaint does not plausibly allege that the remaining statements at issue are misleading material misrepresentations or omissions, the panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5(b) statement liability claims based on these statements. The panel also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Section 20(a) controlling-person claims for these statements. Finally, because the district court erred in sua sponte dismissing Rhode Island's claims under Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) when Alphabet had not targeted those claims in its motion to dismiss, the panel reversed the dismissal of the claims under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) against all defendants and remanded to the district court. The panel also reversed the dismissal of Rhode Island's claims under Section 20(a) to the extent those claims depend on claims alleging violations of Rule 10b-5(a) and (c). View "Rhode Island v. Alphabet, Inc." on Justia Law
Aly v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc.
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
United States v. Jean-Pierre
Guy Jean-Pierre, a corporate and securities attorney, aided an illegal stock trading operation. Through a series of self-dealing transactions, Jean-Pierre and his co-conspirators artificially inflated stock prices of a company they controlled. Jean- Pierre sent letters on the company’s behalf to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) that contained false and misleading information and omitted material information from disclosures to potential investors. Jean-Pierre appealed his convictions for conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud as to four of the twenty-eight counts of conviction, arguing the district court erred in admitting evidence that he had previously used his niece’s signature without her permission to submit attorney letters to a stock trading website. Jean- Pierre also argued that three of the four convictions should have been reversed because the district court declined to give a requested instruction reiterating the government’s burden as to a specific factual theory. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Jean-Pierre" on Justia Law