Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

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While SEC's enforcement action against defendants was pending, the Supreme Court decided Kokesh v. SEC, 137 S. Ct. 1635, 1643 (2017), which held that disgorgement in SEC proceedings is a "penalty" under 28 U.S.C. 2462 and thus subject to a five-year statute of limitations. The Fifth Circuit held that Kokesh did not overrule the court's established precedent recognizing district courts' authority to order disgorgement in SEC enforcement proceedings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's disgorgement order. The court also held that the district court did not deprive defendants of discovery; the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling on the SEC's remedies motion without holding an evidentiary hearing; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount of disgorgement in this case. View "SEC v. Team Resources Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2006, Verizon divested its print and electronic directories business to its stockholders in a tax-free “spin-off” transaction. As part of the transaction, Verizon created Idearc, Inc. and appointed John Diercksen, a Verizon executive, to serve as Idearc’s sole director. Verizon then distributed Idearc common stock to Verizon shareholders. Idearc launched as a separate business with $9.1 billion in debt. In connection with the Idearc spinoff, Verizon and Idearc purchased primary and excess Executive and Organizational Liability Policies (“Idearc Runoff Policies"). The Idearc Runoff Policies covered certain claims made against defined insureds during the six-year policy period that exceeded a $7.5 million retention. Relevant here, Endorsement No. 7 to the policies stated that “[i]n connection with any Securities Claim,” and “for any Loss . . . incurred while a Securities Claim is jointly made and maintained against both the Organization and one or more Insured Person(s), this policy shall pay 100% of such Loss up to the Limit of Liability of the policy.” “Securities Claim” was defined in pertinent part as a “Claim” against an “Insured Person” “[a]lleging a violation of any federal, state, local or foreign regulation, rule or statute regulating securities (including, but not limited to, the purchase or sale or offer or solicitation of an offer to purchase or sell securities).” Under the policy, Verizon could recover its “Defense Costs” when a Securities Claim was brought against it and covered directors and officers, and Verizon indemnified those directors and officers. Idearc operated as an independent, publicly traded company until it filed for bankruptcy in 2009; a litigation trust was set up to pursue claims against Verizon on behalf of creditors. Primary amongst the allegations was Dickersen and Verizon saddled Idearc with excessive debt at the time of the spin-off. This appeal turned on the definition of a "Securities Claim;" the Superior Court found the definition ambiguous. Using extrinsic evidence, the court held that fiduciary duty, unlawful dividend, and fraudulent transfer claims brought by a bankruptcy trustee against Verizon Communications Inc. and others were Securities Claims covered under the policy. The Delaware Supreme Court disagreed, finding that, applying the plain meaning of the Securities Claim definition in the policy, the litigation trustee’s complaint did not allege any violations of regulations, rules, or statutes regulating securities. Thus, the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment to Verizon was reversed and that court directed to enter summary judgment in favor of the Insurers. View "In Re Verizon Insurance Coverage Appeals" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a series of plans overseen by defendants to develop several real estate projects in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Work on these projects spanned eight years, including fundraising and planning stages, and involved several limited partnerships and other corporate entities (the Jay Peak Projects). The Jay Peak Projects, at the direction of defendants Ariel Quiros and William Stenger, raised investment funds largely through a federal program known as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5 Program). In April 2016, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit alleging securities fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud against the Jay Peak Projects developers, Ariel Quiros and William Stenger. The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation also filed suit against Quiros and Stenger, alleging similar claims. On the basis of these and other allegations, plaintiffs, all foreign nationals who invested in the Jay Peak Projects, filed a multi-count claim against ACCD and several individual defendants. Intervenors, a group of foreign investors who were allegedly defrauded by defendants, appealed an order denying their motion to intervene in the State’s enforcement action brought against defendants. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed because the motion to intervene was untimely. View "Vermont, et al. v. Quiros, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-investors appealed the dismissal of their claims against the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and current and former state employees arising from the operation of a federally licensed regional center in the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) EB-5 program. USCIS designated ACCD as a regional center in 1997, and ACCD began operating the Vermont Regional Center (VRC). In 2006, the VRC partnered with a series of projects led by Ariel Quiros and William Stenger (referred to as the “Jay Peak Projects”). ACCD entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Jay Peak Projects for each project. Employees of ACCD, including James Candido and Brent Raymond, both former executive directors of the VRC, and John Kessler, general counsel for ACCD, traveled with Jay Peak representatives to EB-5 tradeshows, at which they would share a table and jointly solicit investors and promote the Projects. ACCD employees represented to prospective investors, including plaintiffs, that the added protections of state approval and oversight made the Jay Peak Projects a particularly sound investment. However, unbeknownst to the investors, but known to VRC officials, no such state oversight by the VRC existed. In 2014, about twenty investors, including plaintiff Antony Sutton, sent complaints to Brent Raymond alleging that the Jay Peak Projects was misappropriating investor funds. In April 2016, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit alleging securities fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud against the Jay Peak Projects developers, Ariel Quiros and William Stenger. The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation also filed suit against Quiros and Stenger, alleging similar claims. On the basis of these and other allegations, plaintiffs, all foreign nationals who invested in the Jay Peak Projects, filed a multi-count claim against ACCD and several individual defendants. The trial court granted plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint for a third time to a Fourth Amended Complaint, and then dismissed all thirteen counts on various grounds. Plaintiffs appealed. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims of negligence and negligent misrepresentation against ACCD, gross negligence against defendants Brent Raymond and James Candido, and breach of contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing against ACCD. The Court affirmed dismissal of plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Sutton, et al. v. Vermont Regional Center, et al." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession. In 2005 and 2007, Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle purchased for residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) from investment bank Credit Suisse. Federal Home Loan also bought certificates from Barclays Bank. In 2009, Federal Home Loan separately brought suit under the Securities Act against Credit Suisse and Barclays. Federal Home Loan alleged Credit Suisse and Barclays each had made untrue or misleading statements relating to the certificates it purchased. n each case, the investment banks moved for summary judgment, which was granted. Federal Home Loan sought review of each case, arguing that reliance on the statements wasn't an element under the Act. The Washington Supreme Court concurred and concluded a plaintiff need not prove reliance under the Act. the Court of Appeals was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Fed. Home Loan Bank of Seattle v. Credit Suisse Sec. (USA) LLC" on Justia Law

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Gentile, the owner of a New York broker-dealer, was involved in two pump-and-dump schemes to manipulate penny stocks in 2007-2008. Gentile was arrested in 2012 and agreed to cooperate, but the deal fell apart in 2016. The indictment was dismissed as untimely. Gentile was still the CEO of a Bahamas-based brokerage and the beneficial owner of a broker-dealer; he had expressed an intention to expand that brokerage and hire new employees. The SEC filed a civil enforcement action eight years after Gentile’s involvement in the second scheme, seeking an injunction against further securities law violations and an injunction barring participation in the penny stock industry. A five-year statute of limitations applies to any “action, suit or proceeding for the enforcement of any civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture, pecuniary or otherwise,” 28 U.S.C. 2462. The Supreme Court has held that “[d]isgorgement in the securities-enforcement context” is a “penalty” subject to that five-year limitations period. The district court dismissed, holding that those remedies were penalties. The Third Circuit vacated; 15 U.S.C. 78u(d) does not permit the issuance of punitive injunctions, so the injunctions at issue do not fall within the reach of section 2462. The court remanded for a determination of whether the injunctions sought are permitted under section 78u(d). View "Securities and Exchange Commission v. Gentile" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Citigroup, alleging gender discrimination and whistleblower retaliation claims under several local, state, and federal statutes, including the Dodd‐Frank and Sarbanes‐Oxley Acts. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the district court appropriately compelled arbitration of all but plaintiffʹs Sarbanes‐Oxley claim, including her Dodd‐Frank whistleblower retaliation claim, because her claims fall within the scope of her employment arbitration agreement and because she failed to establish that they are precluded by law from arbitration. The court also held that plaintiff's Sarbanes‐Oxley claim was properly dismissed because the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over it inasmuch as plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the statute. View "Daly v. Citigroup Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a securities fraud action because it was barred by the act of state doctrine. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants knowingly failed to disclose legal deficiencies under Mexican tax law in the 2012 APA Ruling and sold shares knowing these legal deficiencies existed. The panel held that plaintiffs' claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 would require a United States court to pass judgment on the validity of a 2012 ruling by Mexico's tax authority. In this case, the mandatory elements of applying the act of state doctrine were satisfied and the policies underlying the doctrine weighed in favor of applying it to bar plaintiffs' claims. Agreeing with its sister circuits, the panel held that the district court was not required to consider the Sabbatino factors. The panel declined to reconsider whether a tax ruling by the Mexican government, that remains valid in Mexico, complied with Mexico's tax laws. View "Royal Wulff Ventures LLC v. Primero Mining Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged pharmaceutical manufacturers stalled the release of clinical trial results for their blockbuster anti-cholesterol drugs, tried to change the study's endpoint to produce more favorable results, concealed their role in the change, and that the delay allowed one company to raise $4.08 billion through a public offering, which the company used to purchase another company to lessen its reliance on the drugs. Amid press reports and a congressional investigation, the companies released the clinical trial results, which allegedly caused their stock prices to plummet, amounting to about a $48 billion loss in market capitalization. Investors filed suit. The court denied defendants’ motions to dismiss under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act’s heightened pleading standard, denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and granted class certification. Investors were provided with Rule 23(c)(2) notice of their right to opt-out: “you will not be bound by any judgment in this Action” and “will retain any right you have to individually pursue any legal rights.” After the opt-out period, the court approved settlements, offering opt-out investors 45 days to rejoin and share in the recovery, while stating that opt-outs “shall not be bound” to the settlement. Sixteen opt-out investors filed suits, tracking the class action claims, and adding a New Jersey common law fraud claim. After the Supreme Court held that American Pipe tolling does not extend to statutes of repose, plaintiffs were left with only their state-law claims. The court dismissed those as barred by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, 15 U.S.C. 10 78bb(f)(5)(B)(ii)(II). The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the class actions and the opt-out suits were not “joined, consolidated, or otherwise proceed[ing] as a single action for any purpose.” View "North Sound Capital LLC v. Merck & Co., Inc" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their claims against Sequoia Fund, alleging that Sequoia Fund breached a contractual obligation not to concentrate its investments in a single industry. The Second Circuit agreed with the district court's alternative holding and affirmed the judgment. The court assumed, without deciding, that plaintiffs plausibly alleged the existence of a contract that included the Concentration Policy as an enforceable term that could not be changed without a shareholder vote. Even assuming the existence of a binding contract, however, the court held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege a breach. In this case, because the SEC's 1998 Guidance ‐‐ and by extension the Concentration Policy ‐‐ allows for the passive increases at issue, plaintiffs have failed to allege a violation of the Concentration Policy. View "Edwards v. Sequoia Fund, Inc." on Justia Law