Articles Posted in Securities Law

by
Former shareholders alleged that Altisource and several of its officers (collectively AAMC) inflated the price of its stock through false and misleading statements. When these mistruths were revealed to the market, they claimed, the price of AAMC’s stock plummeted, costing shareholders billions of dollars. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the requirements of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA), 15 U.S.C. 78u– 4. The Third Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs failed to adequately plead three elements of a Rule 10b-5 claim: a material misrepresentation (or omission), scienter, and loss causation, with “particularity” as required by PSLRA. The economic harm suffered by AAMC’s investors is "regrettable," but plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that this harm arose from fraud. When a stock experiences the rapid rise and fall that occurred here, it will not usually prove difficult to mine from the economic wreckage a few discrepancies in the now-deflated company’s records. View "City of Cambridge Retirement System v. Altisource Asset Management Corp." on Justia Law

by
Pension Funds brought a putative securities fraud class action against Hertz and several of its current and former executives for violating sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA), and Rule 10b-5, 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5 by making materially false and misleading statements concerning the company’s financial results, internal controls, and future earnings projections. The Funds’ securities fraud allegations rely on a financial restatement Hertz issued with its fiscal year 2014 Form 10-K. In it, the Company admitted that “an inconsistent and sometimes inappropriate tone at the top was present under the then existing senior management” and that the tone “resulted in an environment which in some instances may have led to inappropriate accounting decisions and the failure to disclose information critical to … effective review[.]”. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the fourth amended complaint for failure to plead a strong inference of scienter, as required by the PSLRA. The court conducted a comparative analysis by considering both inferences favorable to the Funds as well as “plausible, nonculpable explanations for the defendant’s conduct” and did not effectively require the Funds to submit “smoking-gun” evidence to survive the defendants’ motions to dismiss. View "In re: Hertz Global Holdings Inc" on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law

by
Vanguard offers retail securities brokerage accounts. Its website stated that Vanguard offered a price of “$2 commissions for stock . . . trades” for customers who maintained a balance in Vanguard accounts of $500,000-$1,000,000. The Taksirs, whose holdings met that threshold, used Vanguard to purchase Nokia stock. Vanguard charged them a $7 commission for each of their respective purchases, stating that the Taksirs’ accounts “are not eligible for discounts for trading stocks and other brokerage securities because of IRS nondiscrimination rules” and that “[u]nfortunately, this information is not listed on the Vanguard Brokerage Commission and Fee Schedule.” Weeks later, Orit Taksir acquired additional Nokia stock in the same Vanguard account and was charged a $2 commission. The Taksirs filed a putative class action for fraud or deception under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and breach of contract. The district court dismissed the UTPCPL claim but denied Vanguard’s motion to dismiss the contract claim. On interlocutory appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed. The Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998, 15 U.S.C. 78bb, does not bars investors’ claims that their broker overcharged them for the execution of securities transactions. The issue is whether the overcharges constitute “misrepresentation . . . in connection with the purchase or sale of a covered security.” The overcharges do not have a “connection that matters” to the securities transactions. View "Taksir v. Vanguard Group" on Justia Law

by
Reading, a Pennsylvania not-for-profit health system, issued auction rate securities (ARSs) to finance capital projects. J.P. Morgan was the underwriter and broker-dealer. Reading claims that J.P. Morgan and others artificially propped up the ARS market through undisclosed support bidding; when they stopped in 2008, the market collapsed. Reading filed state law claims and demanded arbitration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements state “all actions and proceedings arising out of” the agreements or ARS transactions must be filed in the Southern District of New York. Reading filed a claim under FINRA Rule 12200, which requires a FINRA member (J.P. Morgan) to arbitrate any dispute at the customer’s request. J.P. Morgan refused, arguing that the forum-selection clauses in the 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements constituted a waiver of Reading’s right to arbitrate under Rule 12200. The Third Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which resolved the transfer dispute before the arbitrability dispute, declined to transfer the action, and required J.P. Morgan to submit to arbitration. Reading’s right to arbitrate is not contractual but arises out of a binding, regulatory rule, adopted by FINRA and approved by the SEC. Condoning an implicit waiver of Reading’s regulatory right to arbitrate would erode investors’ ability to use a cost-effective means of resolving allegations of misconduct and undermine FINRA’s ability to oversee and remedy such misconduct. View "Reading Health System v. Bear Stearns & Co., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Metro, a managing clerk at a New York City law firm, engaged in a five-year scheme in which he disclosed material nonpublic information concerning corporate transactions to his friend Tamayo. Tamayo told his stockbroker, Eydelman, who made trades for Tamayo, himself, his family, his friends, and other clients. Metro did not hold the involved stocks himself and did not collect proceeds but relied on Tamayo to reinvest the proceeds from their unlawful trades in future insider trading. During the government’s investigation, Tamayo promptly admitted his role in the scheme and cooperated with the government. The insider trading based on Metro’s tips resulted in illicit gains of $5,673,682. The court attributed that entire sum to Metro in determining his 46-month sentence after Metro pled guilty to conspiracy to violate securities laws, 18 U.S.C. 371, and insider trading, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and 78ff. Metro denies being aware of Eydelman’s existence until one year after he relayed his last tip to Tamayo, and contends that he never intended any of the tips to be passed to a broker or any other third party. The Third Circuit vacated the sentence. The district court failed to make sufficient factual findings to support the attribution of the full $5.6 million to Metro and gave too broad a meaning to the phrase “acting in concert.” View "United States v. Metro" on Justia Law

by
Globus, a publicly-traded medical device company, terminated its relationship with one of its distributors, Vortex, in keeping with a policy of moving toward in-house sales. Several months later, in August 2014, Globus executives alerted shareholders that sales growth had slowed, attributed the decline in part to the decision to terminate its contract with Vortex, and revised Globus’s revenue guidance downward for fiscal year 2014. The price of Globus shares fell by approximately 18% the following day. Globus shareholders contend the company and its executives violated the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and Rule 10b-5 and defrauded investors by failing to disclose the company’s decision to terminate the distributor contract and by issuing revenue projections that failed to account for this decision. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the case. Globus had no duty to disclose either its decision to terminate its relationship with Vortex or the completed termination of that relationship. Plaintiffs did not sufficiently plead that a drop in sales was inevitable; that the revenue projections were false when made; nor that that Globus incorporated anticipated revenue from Vortex in its projections. View "Williams v. Globus Medical, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Goldmans, proceeding before an arbitration panel operating under the auspices of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), alleged that their financial advisor and Citigroup had violated federal securities law in their management of the Goldmans’ brokerage accounts. The district court dismissed their motion to vacate an adverse award for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, stating the Goldmans’ motion failed to raise a substantial federal question. The Third Circuit affirmed. Nothing about the Goldmans’ case is likely to affect the securities markets broadly. That the allegedly-misbehaving arbitration panel happened to be affiliated with a self-regulatory organization does not meaningfully distinguish this case from any other suit alleging arbitrator partiality in a securities dispute. The court noted “the flood of cases that would enter federal courts if the involvement of a self-regulatory organization were itself sufficient to support jurisdiction.” View "Goldman v. Citigroup Global Mkts., Inc" on Justia Law

by
After a failed merger between Cooper Tire and Apollo Tyres, OFI Asset Management, purporting to act for similarly situated investors, filed a class action against Cooper and its officers. OFI claims that, during merger negotiations, the defendants made material misrepresentations in statements to investors, in violation of federal securities laws, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), 78n(a), and 78t(a). The Third Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case, rejecting arguments that that court improperly managed the presentation of arguments. The court upheld a finding that OFI failed to allege sufficient facts to support its claims. The court had ordered OFI to submit a letter “identifying and verbatim quoting” the five most compelling examples it could muster of false or fraudulent statements by Cooper, with three factual allegations demonstrating the falsity of each statement and three factual allegations supporting a finding of scienter as to the making of the statements. The court had subsequently determined that the statements identified as problematic by OFI were either not false or misleading, were “forward-looking” statements protected by the safe harbor established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, lacked a sufficient showing of scienter, or suffered from some combination of those infirmities. View "OFI Asset Mgmt. v. Cooper Tire & Rubber" on Justia Law

by
With little formal education (a high school GED) Miller passed several securities industry examinations and “maintained a public persona of a very successful entrepreneur.” Miller sold investors over $41 million in phony “promissory notes,” which were securities under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 77b(a)(1), 78c(a)(10), and not exempt from federal or state registration requirements. Miller did not register the notes; he squandered the money, operating a Ponzi scheme. Miller pled guilty to one count of securities fraud, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), and one count of tax evasion, 26 U.S.C. 7201. He was sentenced to 120 months’ imprisonment. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the court improperly applied the Sentencing Guidelines investment adviser enhancement, U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(19)(A)(iii). The court interpreted the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, 15 U.S.C. 80b-2(a)(11) to apply broadly, with exceptions that do not apply to Miller. The court also rejected arguments that the government breached Miller’s plea agreement and that his sentence was substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law

by
Athena incurred $1.4 million in losses on investments with Goldman Sachs and believed that Goldman misrepresented the risks, Goldman and Athena participated in arbitration to settle the dispute. Athena asserted misrepresentation, securities fraud, common law fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. After the first panel session, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) disclosed that a panel member, Timban, had been charged with the unauthorized practice of law based on an appearance in a New Jersey municipal court. Neither party, nor FINRA, objected to Timban’s continued participation; neither party conducted further due diligence. Following a nine-day hearing, the panel ruled in favor of Goldman. Two panel members signed the award, but Timban did not. Under the Subscription Agreement, only two members needed to sign the award for it to have binding effect. After the award, Athena conducted a background investigation on Timban and learned that Timban failed to disclose numerous regulatory complaints against him. The district court ordered a new arbitration hearing, reasoning that Athena’s rights were compromised by an arbitrator who misrepresented his ability to serve and abandoned the panel before its final ruling. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that Athena waived its right to challenge the award. View "Goldman Sachs & Co v. Athena Venture Partners, L.P." on Justia Law