Tag: Securities fraud


Does Pending Delaware Legislation Cover Fee Shifting in Securities Cases?

Neil J. Cohen is the publisher of the Bank and Corporate Governance Law Reporter. The article is part of a series of articles on the Delaware legislation regarding fee shifting, published in the June 2015 issue of the Bank and Corporate Governance Law Reporter (available here). This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

The Delaware Senate by a 16-5 vote has passed Bill 75 banning fee-shifting provisions in charters and bylaws in stock corporations for “internal corporate claims”. The bill also contains a prohibition of bylaws or charter provisions that designate a forum other than Delaware as the exclusive forum. That provision would prevent corporations from designating forums that allow fee-shifting provisions.

The Senate resisted a lobbying effort by the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform to insert a provision expanding the Court of Chancery’s discretionary authority to shift to include cases that “plainly should not have been brought but that do not satisfy the extremely narrow ‘bad faith’ or ‘frivolousness’ exceptions”.

The House is expected to approve the bill in June. If enacted, the amendments would become effective on August 1, 2015.

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In re Kingate

David Parker is a partner in the Litigation and Risk Management practice at Kaplan, Kleinberg, Kaplan, Wolff & Cohen, P.C. The following post is based on a Kleinberg Kaplan publication by Mr. Parker and David Schechter.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in In re Kingate Management Limited Litigation, recently made it significantly easier for plaintiffs in the Second Circuit and New York, Connecticut and Vermont state courts to bring class actions alleging violations of state law in litigation involving certain types of securities. By allowing these claims to proceed under state law, the Second Circuit has signaled that plaintiffs may now be able to avoid the rigorous pleading standards of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”), which requires that pleadings contain robust fraud allegations pleaded with particularity. The PSLRA also requires that plaintiffs allege the defendant acted with scienter—in other words, that the defendant knew the alleged statement was false at the time it was made, or was reckless in not recognizing that the alleged statement was false.

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Regulators Working Together to Serve Investors

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent remarks at the North American Securities Administrators Association Annual NASAA/SEC 19(d) Conference; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

It is my honor to deliver the opening remarks for today’s [April 14, 2015] North American Securities Administrators Association (“NASAA”) and Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) 19(d) Conference. For those who are keeping count, this is my seventh year as the SEC’s liaison to NASAA. It has been a privilege to serve you in this role, which I have done since my early days as a Commissioner. Before I begin my remarks, however, let me issue the standard disclaimer that the views I express today are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SEC, my fellow Commissioners, or members of the staff.

NASAA and the SEC have a long history of working together to provide a robust regulatory environment for businesses to grow and to protect the investors who fuel that growth. Today is a clear example of that partnership, where representatives from the SEC and state regulators come together to share ideas for increasing cooperation and collaboration. This partnership is crucial to achieving our common goal of protecting investors, maintaining market integrity, and facilitating capital formation.

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The Impact of Whistleblowers on Financial Misrepresentation Enforcement Actions

The following post comes to us from Andrew Call of the School of Accountancy at Arizona State University, Gerald Martin of the Department of Finance and Real Estate at American University, Nathan Sharp of the Department of Accounting at Texas A&M University, and Jaron Wilde of the Department of Accounting at the University of Iowa.

In our paper, The Impact of Whistleblowers on Financial Misrepresentation Enforcement Actions, which was recently made available on SSRN, we investigate the effect of employee whistleblowers on the consequences of financial misrepresentation enforcement actions by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice (DOJ). Whistleblowers are ostensibly a valuable resource to regulators investigating securities violations, but whether whistleblowers have any measurable impact on the outcomes of enforcement actions is unclear. Using the universe of SEC and DOJ enforcement actions for financial misrepresentation between 1978 and 2012 (Karpoff et al., 2008, 2014), we investigate whether whistleblower involvement is associated with more severe enforcement outcomes. Specifically, we examine the effects of whistleblower involvement on: (1) monetary penalties against targeted firms; (2) monetary penalties against culpable employees; and (3) the length of incarceration (prison sentences) imposed against employee respondents. In addition, we investigate the effect of whistleblowers on the duration of the violation, regulatory proceedings, and total enforcement periods. We examine the effects of whistleblowers conditional on the existence of a regulatory enforcement action. This distinction is important because our tests exploit variation in consequences to SEC or DOJ enforcement with and without whistleblower involvement; we do not measure the effects of whistleblower allegations for which there are no regulatory enforcement actions.

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Bondholders and Securities Class Actions

The following post comes to us from James Park, Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law. Recent work from the Program on Corporate Governance about securities litigation includes: Rethinking Basic by Lucian Bebchuk and Allen Ferrell (discussed on the Forum here) and Negative-Expected-Value Suits by Lucian Bebchuk and Alon Klement.

Prior studies of corporate and securities law litigation have focused almost entirely on cases filed by shareholder plaintiffs. Bondholders are thought to play little role in holding corporations accountable for poor governance that leads to fraud. My article, Bondholders and Securities Class Actions, challenges that conventional view in light of new evidence that bond investors are increasingly recovering losses through securities class actions.

Drawing upon a data set of 1660 securities class actions filed from 1996 through 2005, I find that bondholder involvement in securities class actions is increasing. Bondholder recoveries were rare for the first five years covered by the data set, averaging about 3% of settlements from 1996 through 2000. The rate of bondholder recoveries increased to an average of 8% of settlements from 2001 through 2005. Bondholder recoveries have not only become more frequent, they are disproportionately represented in the largest settlements of securities class actions. For the period covered by the data set, bondholders recovered in 4 of the 5 largest settlements and 19 of the 30 largest settlements.

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Regulation S-K Failure to Disclose Creates Liability Under Section 10(b)

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.

Editor’s Note: 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 January 12, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an unprecedented decision holding that a company’s failure to disclose a known trend or uncertainty in its Form 10-Q filings, as required by Item 303 of SEC Regulation S-K, can give rise to liability under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Stratte-McClure v. Morgan Stanley, 2015 WL 136312 (2d Cir. Jan 12, 2015). The decision in Stratte-McClure is in direct conflict with the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling in In re NVIDIA Corp. Securities Litigation, 768 F.3d 1046 (9th Cir. 2014) (“NVIDIA“), the only other court of appeals decision to squarely address this issue. The Second Circuit’s decision, while affirming the dismissal of the case against Morgan Stanley, potentially exposes issuers to greater liability under Section 10(b) for alleged failures to disclose known adverse trends and uncertainties as required by Item 303, in addition to the already existing exposure to regulatory claims arising out of such alleged disclosure violations. In light of Stratte-McClure, issuers should proceed with even greater care in crafting their MD&A disclosures, and in particular their disclosures related to known trends and uncertainties.

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2014 Year-End Securities Enforcement Update

The following post comes to us from Marc J. Fagel, partner in the Securities Enforcement and White Collar Defense Practice Groups at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn publication; the full publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The close of 2014 saw the SEC’s Division of Enforcement take a victory lap. Following the release of the statistics for the fiscal year ended September 30, Division Director Andrew Ceresney touted a few records—the largest number of enforcement actions brought in a single year (755); the largest total value of monetary sanctions awarded to the agency (over $4 billion); the largest number of cases taken to trial in recent history (30). As Ceresney noted, numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. And it is in the details that one sees just how aggressive the Division has become, and how difficult the terrain is for individuals and entities caught in the crosshairs of an SEC investigation under the current administration.

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Do Institutional Investors Value the 10b-5 Private Right of Action?

The following post comes to us from Robert Bartlett, Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law.

In my forthcoming article in the Journal of Legal Studies, I empirically test a claim made by institutional investors in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd. In Morrison, the Supreme Court limited investors’ ability to bring private 10b-5 securities fraud actions to cases where the securities at issue were purchased on a United States stock exchange or were otherwise purchased in the U.S. Because many foreign firms’ securities trade simultaneously on non-U.S. venues and on U.S. exchanges, institutional investors claimed after Morrison that, such was the importance of the 10b-5 private right of action, they would look to such firms’ U.S-traded securities to preserve their rights under 10b-5.

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Shareholder Litigation Without Class Actions and The “Semi-Circularity Problem”

The following post comes to us from David H. Webber of Boston University Law School.

What would happen to shareholder litigation if the class action disappeared? In my article, Shareholder Litigation Without Class Actions, forthcoming in the Arizona Law Review as part of its symposium on Business Litigation and Regulatory Agency Review in the Era of the Roberts Court, I sketch out some possible futures of post-class action shareholder litigation. For now, such litigation persists despite recent existential challenges, most notably the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in Erica P. John Fund v. Halliburton. While these actions may continue in their current form, sustained criticism from sectors of the academy, and from business lobbies, suggest that existential threats to these suits will continue. Such threats have already re-emerged in the form of mandatory arbitration provisions and “loser pays” (more accurately, “plaintiff pays”) fee-shifting provisions in corporate bylaws or certificates of incorporation. While it is possible that such provisions will not spread widely—perhaps because of organized shareholder opposition—the rapid adoption of fee-shifting provisions suggests the possibility that mandatory arbitration or “plaintiff pays” or both could become ubiquitous. If so, either type of provision could eliminate the shareholder class action, or at least drastically reduce its prevalence. As I describe in greater detail in the article, mandatory arbitration provisions requiring bilateral arbitration of claims and barring consolidation of such claims would eliminate the class action in either litigation or arbitration form. (Importantly, even if Delaware were to try to curb arbitration provisions, such action could be preempted by federal law under the Supreme Court’s recent Federal Arbitration Act decisions). Similarly, fee-shifting provisions would greatly increase the risk to plaintiffs generally, and to entrepreneurial plaintiffs’ lawyers in particular, who bear the risks and costs of this litigation, potentially threatening the existence of the plaintiffs’ bar itself and restricting class actions to only a small handful of the most egregious cases. I discuss arbitration and fee shifting provisions in the article, and in the summary below, but I do not confine my analysis to these provisions. Rather, my focus is to assess what would happen to shareholder litigation if the class action disappeared, regardless of the particular mechanism of its demise.

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SEC Charges Corporate Officers with Fraud

The following post comes to us from R. Daniel O’Connor, partner focusing on securities enforcement at Ropes & Gray LLP, and is based on a Ropes & Gray Alert authored by Mr. O’Connor, Marko S. Zatylny, Kait Michaud, and Michael J. Vito.

On July 30, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) advanced a novel theory of fraud against the former CEO (Marc Sherman) and CFO (Edward Cummings) of Quality Services Group, Inc. (“QSGI”), a Florida-based computer equipment company that filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The SEC alleged that the CEO misrepresented the extent of his involvement in evaluating internal controls and that the CEO and CFO knew of significant internal controls issues with the company’s inventory practices that they failed to disclose to investors and internal auditors. This case did not involve any restatement of financial statements or allegations of accounting fraud, merely disclosure issues around internal controls and involvement in a review of the same by senior management. The SEC’s approach has the potential to broaden practical exposure to liability for corporate officers who sign financial statements and certifications required under Section 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”). By advancing a theory of fraud premised on internal controls issues without establishing an actionable accounting misstatement, the SEC is continuing to demonstrate that it will extend the range of conduct for which it has historically pursued fraud claims against corporate officers.

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