Tag: Materiality

Materiality as Pleading Obstacle

Brad S. Karp is chairman and partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This post is based on a Paul Weiss client memorandum.

Claims brought under the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Act”) are typically challenging for defendants to dismiss. Some defendants may have affirmative defenses, but most of the Act’s provisions impose strict liability for alleged misstatements—meaning that a plaintiff need not plead scienter—and claims brought under the Act are subject to the relatively low pleading standard imposed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Further, although plaintiffs suing under the Act must allege facts sufficient to show that the purported misstatements were material, courts are generally reluctant to dismiss for failure to plead this element because materiality is an inherently fact-bound inquiry.

Notwithstanding these principles, on September 29, 2015, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Oetken, J.) dismissed a putative class action brought under the Act on the ground that the complaint’s materiality allegations failed as a matter of law. The opinion provides valuable insights on how to defeat other Act claims on similar grounds. [1]


NYSE Expands Rules on Material News and Trading Halts

Stuart H. Gelfond is a partner in the Corporate Department at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Gelfond, Victoria D. Laubach, and Hayley S. Cohen.

Recently, the New York Stock Exchange LLC (“NYSE” or “Exchange”) filed a proposed rule change with the Securities and Exchange Commission to amend the NYSE Listed Company Manual (the “Manual”), effective September 28, 2015. [1] The proposed amendments (i) expand the pre-market hours during which companies with listed securities are required to notify the Exchange prior to disseminating material news, (ii) provide guidance related to the release of material news after the close of trading on the Exchange and (iii) permit the Exchange to halt trading in certain additional circumstances, including when it needs to obtain more information about a listed company’s news release.


Implications of the Supreme Court Omnicare Decision

Boris Feldman is a member of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, P.C. This post is based on a WSGR alert authored by Mr. Feldman, Robert G. Day, Catherine Moreno, and Michael Nordtvedt.

On March 24, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Omnicare, Inc., et al. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund et al., addressing when an issuer may be held liable for material misstatements or omissions under Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933 for statements of opinion in a registration statement.

Among other things, the Supreme Court held that an issuer may be held liable under Section 11 for a statement of opinion, even one that is sincerely held, if its registration statement omits facts about the issuer’s inquiry into, or knowledge concerning, a statement of opinion and if those facts conflict with what a reasonable investor, reading the statement fairly and in context, would take from the statement itself.


The Statistical Significance of Excess Dollar Returns

The following post comes to us from Tiago Duarte-Silva and Maria Tripolski-Kimel, both of Charles River Associates.

The literature on event studies has long established the properties of excess returns and tests of their statistical significance. However, it is useful in certain settings to examine excess dollar returns. For example, mergers and acquisitions often require the examination of dollar returns to assess the impact on the wealth of securities’ holders. Other examples include the analysis of managerial skill on actively managed funds, of the magnitude of price manipulation, or of the impact of disclosure events on prices in securities litigation.


Supreme Court Allows State-Law Securities Class Actions to Proceed

The following post comes to us from Jonathan C. Dickey, partner and Co-Chair of the National Securities Litigation Practice Group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn publication.

On February 26, 2014, the Supreme Court decided Chadbourne & Parke LLP v. Troice, 571 U.S. ___ (2014), ruling by a 7-2 vote that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (“SLUSA”) does not bar state-law securities class actions in which the plaintiffs allege that they purchased uncovered securities that the defendants misrepresented were backed by covered securities. The decision is the first in which the Court has held that a state-law suit pertaining to securities fraud is not precluded by SLUSA, suggesting that there are limits to the broad interpretation of SLUSA’s preclusion provision that the Court has recognized in previous cases. While Chadbourne leaves many questions unanswered concerning the precise contours of SLUSA preclusion, and could encourage plaintiffs to pursue securities-fraud claims under state-law theories, the unusual facts in Chadbourne could limit the reach of the holding and provide defendants with avenues for distinguishing more typical state-law claims in other cases.


Delaware Chancery Emphasizes Materiality as Key in Disclosure-Based M&A Settlements

The following post comes to us from Bradley W. Voss, partner in the Commercial Litigation Practice Group of Pepper Hamilton LLP, and is based on a Pepper Hamilton publication. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is co-sponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Some corporate practitioners could have the impression that significant fee awards are granted as a matter of course in M&A class action litigation, even where the results obtained by class counsel were supplemental (and arguably routine) disclosures regarding the proposed transaction. Recent comments by the judges of the Delaware Court of Chancery, however, may suggest an increasing concern over what might be perceived as “default” fee awards in this context, as well as the value of purely supplemental, as opposed to remedial, disclosures.

In 2011, Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster analyzed M&A fee awards in a published case titled In re Sauer-Danfoss Inc. Shareholders Litigation, 65 A.3d 1116 (Del. Ch. 2011). This undertaking, it reasonably could be hoped, would serve to promote consistency and establish reasonable expectations, especially in an area where precedent frequently lies in transcripts and unpublished orders. Of particular note, Vice Chancellor Laster wrote:


Recent Trends in Securities Class Action Litigation: 2013 Review

The following post comes to us from Dr. Renzo Comolli and Svetlana Starykh, Senior Consultants at NERA Economic Consulting, and is based on portions of a NERA publication. The complete publication, including analysis of motions, trends in resolutions and settlements, and footnotes, is available here.

Legal developments have dominated the news about federal securities class actions in 2013. Last February, the Supreme Court decision in Amgen resolved certain questions about materiality but focused the debate on Basic and the presumption of reliance, which are now back to the Supreme Court after certiorari was granted for the second time in Halliburton.

Against this legal backdrop, 2013 saw a small increase in the number of complaints filed for securities class actions in general and for class actions alleging violation of Rule 10b-5 in particular. Filings in the 5th Circuit doubled, while filings in the 9th Circuit bounced back after having dipped in 2012.


SEC Staff Issues Further Guidance on the Proxy “Unbundling” Rule

The following post comes to us from Phillip R. Mills, partner in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about bundling includes Bundling and Entrenchment by Lucian Bebchuk and Ehud Kamar, discussed on the Forum here.

The SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance recently released three Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations concerning the SEC’s so-called unbundling rule (Exchange Act Rule 14a-4(a)(3)), which requires proxies to identify clearly and impartially each “separate matter” intended to be acted upon.

Nearly a year ago, in Greenlight Capital, L.P. v. Apple, Inc., a federal court enjoined Apple from bundling four charter amendments into a single proposal. The Apple decision highlighted the lack of clarity in the unbundling rules and the risk that the SEC or an activist shareholder could challenge a company’s presentation of proposals. The new C&DIs provide bright-line guidance for amendments to equity incentive plans but leave other situations to be considered on a facts-and-circumstances basis and, implicitly, to be discussed with the SEC Staff in cases of uncertainty.

Two new concepts will need to be addressed going forward:


Top 5 Delaware Case Developments in 2013 for M&A Practitioners

Kerry E. Berchem is partner and co-head of corporate practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. The following post is based on an Akin Gump Client Alert by Elisabeth Cappuyns, Trey Muldrow, and Carlos Bermudez. This post is part of the Delaware law series, cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

During 2013, in addition to the important changes to the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) and the Limited Liability Company Act, described here, the Delaware courts issued a number of decisions that have a direct impact on the M&A practice. Below are our Top 5 case law picks for M&A practitioners:

1. A new look at the standard of review in going-private mergers (the Business Judgment Rule)

In its In re MFW Shareholders Litigation (May 29, 2013) decision, the Court of Chancery held that in going-private mergers with a controlling stockholder on both sides the deferential business judgment standard of review applies, instead of the entire fairness standard, if certain procedural safeguards are included from the beginning. Specifically, the controlling stockholder has to agree at the outset to proceed with the merger only if the transaction is both (1) negotiated and approved by an attentive special committee comprised of directors who are independent of the controlling stockholder and fully empowered to decline the transaction and to retain its own financial and legal advisors and (2) conditioned on the un-coerced, fully informed and non-waivable approval of a majority of the unaffiliated minority stockholders.


The Two Faces of Materiality

The following post comes to us from Richard A. Booth, Martin G. McGuinn Professor of Business Law of Villanova University School of Law.

In order to prove securities fraud under federal law, one must show that the defendant either misrepresented a material fact or omitted to state a material fact when under a duty to speak. The fact must somehow matter to investors. But the courts have struggled mightily to determine when a fact is material.

On the one hand, the Supreme Court has held that a fact is material if it would be important to a reasonable investor in deciding how to act—how to vote or whether to trade. The information need not be so important that it would change the outcome. But it cannot be so trivial that it would not affect the total mix of available information. Moreover, it must matter in the sense that an investor can do something with the information. For example, although the fact that a merger lacks a business purpose or that the board of directors thinks the price is low might be important in some sense, these facts may not be material if the investor has no vote on the matter or the controlling stockholder has enough votes to assure approval.


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