Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries

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After the SEC initiated federal proceedings against defendant, the district court appointed a receiver for one of defendant's entities. The receiver proposed a plan to collect and sell assets connected to a Ponzi scheme and distribute the proceeds. The Eleventh Circuit agreed with investors and held that the district court denied them due process by employing summary proceedings that did not allow them to present their claims and defenses or meaningfully challenge the receiver's decisions. In this case, the district court appointed the receiver, issued an injunction to freeze assets, and held status conferences regarding the receivership all within a few months. The receiver then separated investors into different categories and the district court issued an order that called for the receiver to collect and sell the receivership's insurance policies. These determinations by the receiver and the orders entered by the district court were made without giving investors sufficient notice and/or a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "SEC v. Torchia" on Justia Law

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An investment adviser and its principals petitioned for review of the SEC's determination that they violated Section 206(2) and Section 207 of the Investment Advisers Act. The SEC alleged that petitioners failed for many years to disclose its arrangement with Fidelity and the conflicts of interest arising from that compensation. The DC Circuit denied the petition in part, holding that the Commission's findings of negligent violations under section 206(2) were supported by substantial evidence. However, the court granted the petition in part, holding that the Commission's findings of willful violations under section 207 based on the same negligent conduct were erroneous as a matter of law where the repeated failures to adequately disclose conflicts of interest were no more than negligent. View "The Robare Group, Ltd. v. SEC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery found that the fair value of Aruba Networks, Inc., as defined by 8 Del. C. 262, was $17.13 per share, which was the thirty-day average market price at which its shares traded before the media reported news of the transaction that gave rise to the appellants’ appraisal rights. The issue this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Court of Chancery abused its discretion in arriving at Aruba’s thirty-day average unaffected market price as the fair value of the appellants’ shares. Because the Court of Chancery’s decision to use Aruba’s stock price instead of the deal price minus synergies was rooted in an erroneous factual finding that lacked record support, the Supreme Court answered that in the positive and reversed the Court of Chancery’s judgment. On remand, the Court of Chancery was directed to enter a final judgment for petitioners, awarding them $19.10 per share, which reflected the deal price minus the portion of synergies left with the seller as estimated by the respondent in this case, Aruba. View "Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd., et al. v. Aruba Networks, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this shareholder-derivative action, Shareholders of The Western Union Company averred several of Western Union’s Officers and Directors breached their fiduciary duties to the company by willfully failing to implement and maintain an effective anti-money-laundering-compliance program (AML-compliance program), despite knowing of systemic deficiencies in the company’s AML compliance. The Shareholders didn’t make a pre-suit demand on Western Union’s Board of Directors to pursue this litigation, and the district court found no evidence that such demand would have been futile. The district court thus dismissed the case, reasoning that the Shareholders’ obligation to make a pre-suit demand on the Board was not excused. The Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court's decision to dismiss, and affirmed. View "City of Cambridge Retirement v. Ersek" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Olenik, a stockholder of nominal defendant Earthstone Energy, Inc., brought class and derivative claims against defendants, challenging a business combination between Earthstone and Bold Energy III LLC. As alleged in the complaint, EnCap Investments L.P. controlled Earthstone and Bold and caused Earthstone stockholders to approve an unfair transaction based on a misleading proxy statement. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, claiming the proxy statement disclosed fully and fairly all material facts about the transaction, and Earthstone conditioned its offer on the approval of a special committee and the vote of a majority of the minority stockholders. The Court of Chancery agreed with the defendants and dismissed the case. While the parties briefed this appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court decided Flood v. Synutra International, Inc. Under Synutra, to invoke the MFW protections in a controller-led transaction, the controller must “self-disable before the start of substantive economic negotiations.” The controller and the board’s special committee must also “bargain under the pressures exerted on both of them by these protections.” The Court cautioned that the MFW protections would not result in dismissal when the “plaintiff has pled facts that support a reasonable inference that the two procedural protections were not put in place early and before substantive economic negotiations took place.” So the Supreme Court determined the Court of Chancery held correctly plaintiff failed to state a disclosure claim. But, the complaint should not have been dismissed in its entirety: applying Synutra, which the Court of Chancery did not have the benefit of at the time of its decision, plaintiff pled facts supporting a reasonable inference that EnCap, Earthstone, and Bold engaged in substantive economic negotiations before the Earthstone special committee put in place the MFW conditions. The Court of Chancery’s decision was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Olenik v. Lodzinski, et al." on Justia Law

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Nicholas Olenik, a stockholder of nominal defendant Earthstone Energy, Inc., brought class and derivative claims against defendants challenging a business combination between Earthstone and Bold Energy III LLC. As alleged in the complaint, EnCap Investments L.P. controlled Earthstone and Bold and caused Earthstone stockholders to approve an unfair transaction based on a misleading proxy statement. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on several grounds, principal among them that the proxy statement disclosed fully and fairly all material facts about the transaction, and Earthstone conditioned its offer on the approval of a special committee and the vote of a majority of the minority stockholders. The Court of Chancery agreed with defendants and dismissed the case. Two grounds were central to the court’s ruling: (1) the proxy statement informed the stockholders of all material facts about the transaction; and (2) although the court recognized that EnCap, Earthstone, and Bold worked on the transaction for months before the Earthstone special committee extended an offer with the so-called MFW conditions, it found those lengthy interactions “never rose to the level of bargaining: they were entirely exploratory in nature.” Thus, in the court’s view, the MFW protections applied, and the transaction was subject to business judgment review resulting in dismissal. While this appeal was pending, the Delaware Supreme Court decided Flood v. Synutra International, Inc. Under Synutra, to invoke the MFW protections in a controller-led transaction, the controller must “self-disable before the start of substantive economic negotiations.” The controller and the board’s special committee must also “bargain under the pressures exerted on both of them by these protections.” The Court cautioned that the MFW protections will not result in dismissal when the “plaintiff has pled facts that support a reasonable inference that the two procedural protections were not put in place early and before substantive economic negotiations took place.” The Supreme Court determined the Court of Chancery held correctly that plaintiff failed to state a disclosure claim. But, the complaint should not have been dismissed in its entirety: applying Synutra and its guidance on the MFW timing issue, which the Court of Chancery did not have the benefit of at the time of its decision, plaintiff has pled facts supporting a reasonable inference that EnCap, Earthstone, and Bold engaged in substantive economic negotiations before the Earthstone special committee put in place the MFW conditions. The Supreme Court also found no merit to defendants’ alternative ground for affirmance based on EnCap’s supposed lack of control of Earthstone. The Court of Chancery’s decision was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Olenik v. Lodzinski, et al." on Justia Law

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Standing alone, a general disclaimer (still less a general merger clause) is not sufficient as a matter of law to preclude reasonable reliance on material factual misrepresentations, even by a sophisticated investor. FIH appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing federal securities law claims against defendants. The district court concluded as a matter of law that FIH could not have reasonably relied on the alleged misrepresentations, because such reliance was precluded by a general merger clause in Foundation's agreement, incorporated by reference into the subscription agreements by which FIH had invested in Foundation. However, the Second Circuit held that the merger clause did not as a matter of law preclude FIH's reasonable reliance on the alleged misrepresentations. The court also held that the district court did not err nor abuse its discretion in excluding as untimely an expert report. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "FIH, LLC v. Foundation Capital Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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SEC Rule 10b–5 makes it unlawful to (a) “employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud,” (b) “make any untrue statement of a material fact,” or (c) “engage in any act, practice, or course of business” that “operates . . . as a fraud or deceit” in connection with the purchase or sale of securities. The Supreme Court has held that to be a “maker” of a statement under subsection (b), one must have “ultimate authority over the statement, including its content and whether and how to communicate it.” Lorenzo, a brokerage firm's director of investment banking, sent e-mails to prospective investors. The content, supplied by Lorenzo’s boss, described a potential investment in a company with “confirmed assets” of $10 million. Lorenzo knew that the company had recently disclosed that its total assets were worth less than $400,000. The SEC found that Lorenzo had violated Rule 10b–5, 17 CFR 240.10b–5; section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b); and section 17(a)(1) of the Securities Act, 15 U.S.C. 77q(a)(1). The Supreme Court affirmed the D.C. Circuit in holding that Lorenzo could not be held liable as a “maker” under Rule 10b-5(b) but affirmed with respect to subsections (a) and (c) and statutory sections 10(b) and 17(a)(1). Dissemination of false or misleading statements with intent to defraud can fall within the scope of Rules 10b–5(a) and (c), and the statutory provisions, even if the disseminator did not “make” the statements under Rule 10b–5(b). By sending e-mails he understood to contain material untruths, Lorenzo “employ[ed]” a “device,” “scheme,” and “artifice to defraud” under subsection (a) and section 17(a)(1); he “engage[d] in a[n] act, practice, or course of business” that “operate[d] . . . as a fraud or deceit” under subsection (c). There is considerable overlap among the Rule's subsections and related statutory provisions. The "plainly fraudulent behavior" at issue might otherwise fall outside the Rule’s scope. The Court rejected Lorenzo’s claim that imposing primary liability upon his conduct would erase or weaken the distinction between primary and secondary liability under the statute’s “aiding and abetting” provision. View "Lorenzo v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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In this case brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962, 1964, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling dismissing Plaintiff's claims against all defendants, holding that Plaintiff's claims against his securities broker may only be resolved through arbitration, the claims against the broker's wife and the couple's conjugal partnership were also subject to the arbitration agreement, and Plaintiff's claims against a bank were out of time. Plaintiff, a building contractor in Puerto Rico, argued that his securities broken, in collusion with the investment firm and affiliated bank, fraudulently stole more than $400,000 from his investment account. Plaintiff also named as defendants his broker's wife and their conjugal partnership . The district court dismissed all claims against all defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) subject to the binding agreement between the parties, Plaintiff's claims against the broker may only be resolved through arbitration; (2) the claims against the broker's wife and the conjugal partnership were derivative of the claims against the broker and therefore also subject to the arbitration agreement; and (3) Plaintiff's claims against the bank were time-barred under 18 U.S.C. 1964. View "Alvarez-Mauras v. Banco Popular of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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Van Dyke is a licensed insurance producer, 215 ILCS 5/1, and registered with the Secretary of State Securities Department as an investment adviser, 815 ILCS 5/1. The Department received a complaint from the adult children of one of Van Dyke’s deceased clients, investigated, and held a hearing to determine whether Van Dyke’s registration should be retroactively revoked or suspended, alleging that Van Dyke had defrauded over 21 clients, all senior citizens. Van Dyke effectuated 31 purchase transactions involving the liquidation of the clients’ previously owned indexed annuities to purchase new indexed annuities. Van Dyke earned $316,278.56 in commissions; his clients lost $263,822.13 in surrender charges, penalties, and other fees. The Secretary of State found that Van Dyke had violated the Act, revoked his investment adviser registration, and ordered him to pay fines and costs. The appellate court reversed, holding that the Department had failed to prove that Van Dyke violated the Act. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Annuity contracts issued by authorized insurers are insurance products, not securities, because they fall within the exclusion from face amount certificates and are not investment contracts under section 2.1; Van Dyke’s recommendation that his clients purchase the indexed annuities cannot form the basis of a violation of sections 12(A), (F), (G), or (I) of the Act. The evidence failed to establish that Van Dyke violated the Act or perpetrated a fraud on his clients with regard to the replacement transactions at issue. View "Van Dyke v. White" on Justia Law