Justia Securities Law Opinion Summaries
Ex parte 4tdd.com, Inc., et al.
4tdd.com, Inc. ("4tdd"), Thomas Todd Martin III, and Martin & Associates Consulting Company, LLC ("MACC"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to instruct the Mobile Circuit Court ("the trial court") to dismiss a derivative shareholder action filed against them by Sheila Hale, individually and on behalf of the shareholders of Bay Area Nutrition, Inc., on the ground, inter alia, that Hale did not satisfy the requirement of Rule 23.1, Ala. R. Civ. P., that she allege with particularity in her complaint the efforts she had made to obtain the requested relief from the corporate directors of Bay Area Nutrition, Inc. ("BAN"), before filing an action against them. The Supreme Court determined, after careful consideration, that Hale indeed failed to comply with Rule 23.1, and directed the trial court to direct 4tdd.com, Martin and MACC's motion to dismiss. View "Ex parte 4tdd.com, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
City of Conroe, Texas v. San Jacinto River Authority
In this case concerning the scope of the Expedited Declaratory Judgment Act (EDJA), the Supreme Court held that the EDJA gives the trial court jurisdiction to declare whether the execution of contracts entered into by the San Jacinto River Authority to sell water to cities and other customers was legal and valid but not whether the Authority complied with the contracts in setting specific rates. The Authority, which used the revenue from the contracts to pay off its bonds, sought declarations regarding the contract and the specific water rates set forth pursuant to the contracts. Several cities filed pleas to the jurisdiction, arguing that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate SJRA's claims under the EDJA. The trial court denied the pleas to the jurisdiction. On appeal, the court of appeals held primarily for the Authority. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court may exercise jurisdiction over the Authority's execution of the contracts - which met the statutory definition of "public security authorization" - but may not exercise jurisdiction over whether the Authority complied with the contracts in setting the water rates; and (2) the Cities' governmental immunity did not bar this EDJA suit, which was brought in rem to adjudicate interests in property. View "City of Conroe, Texas v. San Jacinto River Authority" on Justia Law
City of Warren Police and Fire Retirement System v. Natera Inc.
Natera's primary product is Panorama, a screening test for fetal chromosomal abnormalities, based on a blood draw, rather than amniocentesis. A class action under the Securities Act of 1933 (15 U.S.C. 77a), alleged that documents issued in connection with Natera’s initial public offering omitted material facts that were required by regulations or necessary to make the documents not misleading. It alleged that the documents, which became effective on July 1, 2015, improperly touted Natera as "rapidly growing," amid a quarterly revenue growth trend with year-over-year revenue increases, while omitting Natera’s “material negative financial results” for the second quarter of 2015, which had ended on June 30, 2015; second-quarter financial results were not yet public. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the claims. In the context of the Registration Statement as a whole, there is nothing false or misleading about the statements that Natera is “rapidly growing” or that its “rapid growth of revenues” was based on the success of Panorama. The Statement clearly stated that revenues declined from 4Q 2014 to 1Q 2015 and attributed that decline to decreased average reimbursement for Panorama due to a new billing code and delayed revenue recognition. The Statement itself refutes any argument that defendants failed to disclose the negative trend of declining reimbursements and revenues with increasing costs and losses. View "City of Warren Police and Fire Retirement System v. Natera Inc." on Justia Law
Jalbert v. Zurich Services Corp.
In this insurance dispute, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's suit to recover unreimbursed defense costs that a former investment advisory firm (Firm) incurred in connection with a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation of the Firm, holding that the Firm was not entitled to coverage. Plaintiff, in his capacity as trustee of a trust established during the bankruptcy proceedings of the Firm, filed this suit against Defendants, two of the Firm's excess insurers, seeking to recover defense costs that the Firm incurred in connection with the SEC investigation. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that an SEC order issued before the start of Defendants' coverage period initiated the investigation of the Firm, and this order triggered the policy's "deemed-made" clause, meaning that the claim was deemed first made prior to Defendants' policy taking effect. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the SEC investigation was a claim that was deemed to have been made when the SEC order issued prior to the inception of Defendants' policies; and (2) accordingly and the claim was outside of the policies' coverage period, and Defendants were not obligated to reimburse the Firm for its defense costs. View "Jalbert v. Zurich Services Corp." on Justia Law
Salzberg, et al. v. Sciabacucchi
At issue before the Delaware Supreme Court in these cases was the validity of a provision in several Delaware corporations’ charters requiring actions arising under the federal Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act” or “1933 Act”) to be filed in a federal court. Blue Apron Holdings, Inc., Roku, Inc., and Stitch Fix, Inc. were all Delaware corporations that launched initial public offerings in 2017. Before filing their registration statements with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), each company adopted a federal-forum provision. Appellee Matthew Sciabacucchi bought shares of each company in its initial public offering or a short time later. He then sought a declaratory judgment in the Court of Chancery that the FFPs were invalid under Delaware law. The Court of Chancery held that the FFPs were invalid because the “constitutive documents of a Delaware corporation cannot bind a plaintiff to a particular forum when the claim does not involve rights or relationships that were established by or under Delaware’s corporate law.” Because the Supreme Court determined such a provision could survive a facial challenge under Delaware law, judgment was reversed. View "Salzberg, et al. v. Sciabacucchi" on Justia Law
NTV Management, Inc. v. Lightship Global Ventures, LLC
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the trial judge's order setting aside the jury verdict and reinstated the original judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the contract at issue in this appeal did not require an obligation that Plaintiff register as a securities broker-dealer under Massachusetts and Federal securities laws. Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. A jury found Defendant liable on all claims and awarded treble damages. Thereafter, the judge set aside the jury's verdict in its entirety, concluding that Plaintiff had been required to register as a securities broker-dealer and that its failure to do so rendered its contract with Defendant invalid and unenforceable. The contract required Plaintiff to "source capital and structure financing transactions from agreed-upon investors and/or lenders" for Defendant. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the contract, on its face, did not require Plaintiff to "effect" transactions in "securities"; and (2) because Plaintiff's purported obligation to register as a broker-dealer was the sole basis for the judge's decision that Plaintiff could not maintain its breach of contract and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claims, the judge's decision to set aside the jury verdict was erroneous. View "NTV Management, Inc. v. Lightship Global Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law
Smallen Revocable Living Trust v. Western Union Company
A district court dismissed Plaintiff–Appellant Lawrence Smallen and Laura Smallen Revocable Living Trust’s securities-fraud class action against Defendant–Appellee The Western Union Company and several of its current and former executive officers (collectively, “Defendants”). Following the announcements of Western Union’s settlements with regulators in January 2017 and the subsequent drop in the price of the company’s stock shares, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on behalf of itself and other similarly situated shareholders. In its complaint, Plaintiff alleged Defendants committed securities fraud by making false or materially misleading public statements between February 24, 2012, and May 2, 2017 regarding, among other things, Western Union’s compliance with anti-money laundering and anti-fraud laws. The district court dismissed the complaint because Plaintiff failed to adequately plead scienter under the heightened standard imposed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”). While the Tenth Circuit found the complaint may have given rise to some plausible inference of culpability on Defendants' part, the Court concurred Plaintiff failed to plead particularized facts giving rise to the strong inference of scienter required to state a claim under the PSLRA, thus affirming dismissal. View "Smallen Revocable Living Trust v. Western Union Company" on Justia Law
INTL FCStone Financial Inc. v. Farmer
Defendants, commodities futures investors, maintained trading accounts with FCStone, a clearing firm that handled the confirmation, settlement, and delivery of transactions. In 2018, extraordinary volatility in the natural gas market wiped out the defendants’ account balances with FCStone, leaving some defendants in debt. The defendants alleged Commodity Exchange Act violations against FCStone and initiated arbitration proceedings before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FCStone sought a declaratory judgment, claiming the parties must arbitrate their disputes before the National Futures Association (NFA), and that FINRA lacks jurisdiction over the underlying disputes. The district court ruled for FCStone, ordered arbitration and designated an arbitration forum, then stayed the case to address related issues, including the arbitration venue. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291 or the Federal Arbitration Act, ” 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(3). The district court’s decisions were non-final and no exception to the rule of finality applies. The court rejected an argument that the order amounted to an injunction prohibiting FINRA arbitration. A pro‐arbitration decision, coupled with a stay (rather than a dismissal) of the suit, is not appealable. The court noted that the district court did not decide whether the parties’ arbitration agreements relinquished defendants’ purported rights to FINRA arbitration. View "INTL FCStone Financial Inc. v. Farmer" on Justia Law
ISN Software Corporation v. Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A.
For tax reasons ISN Software Corporation wanted to convert from a C corporation to an S corporation. But four of its eight stockholders, representing about 25 percent of the outstanding stock, could not qualify as S Corporation stockholders. ISN sought advice from Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A. (RLF) about its options. RLF advised ISN that before a conversion ISN could use a merger to cash out some or all of the four stockholders. The cashed-out stockholders could then accept ISN’s cash-out offer or exercise appraisal rights under Delaware law. ISN did not proceed with the conversion, but decided to use a merger to cash out three of the four non-qualifying stockholders. After ISN completed the merger, RLF notified ISN that its advice might not have been correct. All four stockholders, including the remaining stockholder whom ISN wanted to exclude, were entitled to appraisal rights. ISN decided not to try and unwind the merger, instead proceeding with the merger and notified all four stockholders they were entitled to appraisal. ISN and RLF agreed that RLF would continue to represent ISN in any appraisal action. Three of the four stockholders, including the stockholder ISN wanted to exclude, eventually demanded appraisal. Years later, when things did not turn out as ISN had hoped (the appraised value of ISN stock ended up substantially higher than ISN had reserved for), ISN filed a legal malpractice claim against RLF. The Superior Court dismissed ISN’s August 1, 2018 complaint on statute of limitations grounds. The court found that the statute of limitations expired three years after RLF informed ISN of the erroneous advice, or, at the latest, three years after the stockholder ISN sought to exclude demanded appraisal. On appeal, ISN argued its legal malpractice claim did not accrue until after the appraisal action valued ISN’s stock because only then could ISN claim damages. Although it applied a different analysis, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with the Superior Court that the statute of limitations began to run in January 2013. By the time ISN filed its malpractice claim on August 1, 2018, the statute of limitations had expired. Thus, the Superior Court’s judgment was affirmed. View "ISN Software Corporation v. Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A." on Justia Law
United States v. Fishoff
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