Tag: U.S. federal courts

Insider Trading and Tender Offers

Christopher E. Austin and Victor Lewkow are partners focusing on public and private merger and acquisition transactions at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum.

Valeant’s hostile bid for Allergan was one of 2014’s most discussed takeover battles. The situation, which ultimately resulted in the acquisition of Allergan by Actavis plc, included a novel structure that involved a “partnership” between Valeant and the investment fund Pershing Square. In particular, a Pershing Square-controlled entity having a small minority interest owned by Valeant, acquired shares and options to acquire shares constituting more than nine percent of Allergan’s common stock. Such purchases were made by Pershing Square with Valeant’s consent and with full knowledge of Valeant’s intentions to announce a proposal to acquire Allergan. Pershing Square and Valeant then filed a Schedule 13D and Pershing Square then supported Valeant’s proposed acquisition. Ultimately Pershing Square made a very substantial profit on its investment when Allergan was sold to Actavis.


Corporate Power Ratchet

Leo E. Strine, Jr. is Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, the Austin Wakeman Scott Lecturer on Law and a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance. This post is based on Chief Justice Strine’s recent essay, Corporate Power Ratchet: The Courts’ Role in Eroding “We the People’s” Ability to Constrain Our Corporate Creations forthcoming in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and issued earlier as a working paper of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance. Related research on corporate political spending from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Originalist or Original: The Difficulties of Reconciling Citizens United with Corporate Law History, and Conservative Collision Course?: The Tension between Conservative Corporate Law Theory and Citizens United, both by Leo Strine and Nicholas Walter (discussed on the Forum here and here), and Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending and Corporate Political Speech: Who Decides?, both by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert Jackson (discussed on the Forum here and here).

Leo Strine, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, the Austin Wakeman Scott Lecturer on Law and a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance, recently issued an essay that is forthcoming in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. The essay, titled Corporate Power Ratchet: The Courts’ Role in Eroding “We the People’s” Ability to Constrain Our Corporate Creations, is available here. The abstract of Chief Justice Strine’s essay summarizes it as follows:

At the beginning of our nation and throughout much of our history, corporations, as the creation of society, were seen as distinctive from human citizens. Human beings were born with certain inalienable rights that government could not take away. By contrast, corporations were the opposite of Lockean-Jeffersonian citizens, in the sense that they had only such rights as society gave them. Under this understanding, society could charter corporations and benefit from their wealth-creating potential while reserving for itself the right to limit corporate activities through externality-reducing legislation and other means so as to protect the public interest.


Enforcement Discretion at the SEC

David Zaring is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Zaring.

The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act allowed the Securities & Exchange Commission to bring almost any claim that it can file in federal court to its own Administrative Law Judges. The agency has since taken up this power against a panoply of alleged insider traders and other perpetrators of securities fraud. Many targets of SEC ALJ enforcement actions have sued on equal protection, due process, and separation of powers grounds, seeking to require the agency to sue them in court, if at all.

The SEC has vigorously—and, my article argues, correctly—defended its power to choose where it sues. Agencies have always enjoyed unfettered discretion to choose their enforcement targets and their policy making fora. Formal adjudication under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which is the process SEC ALJs offer, has been with us for decades, and has never before been thought to be unconstitutional in any way. It violates no rights, nor offends the separation of powers; if anything scholars have bemoaned the fact that it offers inefficiently large amounts of process to defendants, administered by insulated civil servants who in no way threaten the president’s control over the executive branch. Nonetheless, because defendants, advised by high profile lawyers, have raised appointments clause, due process, equal protection, and right to a jury trial claims against the agency, the article reviews the reasons why these claims will fail, and discusses the timing issues that have led the two appellate courts to address the claims to dismiss them as prematurely brought.


SEC Proposed Amendments to Rules for Administrative Proceedings

Barry R. Goldsmith is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Mr. Goldsmith, Joel CohenMarc J. Fagel, Monica K. Loseman, and Mark Schonfeld.

On September 24, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it had voted to propose amendments to rules governing its administrative proceedings. SEC Chair Mary Jo White noted that the “proposed amendments seek to modernize our rules of practice for administrative proceedings, including provisions for additional time and prescribed discovery for the parties.” [1] These proposals follow the SEC’s June 2014 announcement that it intended to bring more cases through administrative proceedings rather than in federal court [2] and the release of the Division of Enforcement’s May 2015 guidance entitled “Approach to Forum Selection in Contested Actions,” explaining how the SEC chooses between administrative proceedings and federal court to litigate its claims. [3]

Omnicare in Action: City of Westland Decision

Aric H. Wu is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Mr. Wu and Michael J. Kahn.

When the Supreme Court issued its decision in Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), plaintiff and defense counsel had warring views on what its practical impact would be, particularly at the motion to dismiss stage of securities class actions brought under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. A recent decision from the Southern District of New York, City of Westland Police and Fire Retirement System v. MetLife, Inc., 2015 WL 5311196 (S.D.N.Y Sept. 11, 2015) (Kaplan, J.), shows that Omnicare will serve as a meaningful bar to plaintiffs who seek to base federal securities law claims on statements of opinion, but cannot plead sufficient underlying facts.


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]


SCOTUS Declines Petition on Insider Trading Ruling

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

Today [October 5, 2015], the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the petition for a writ of certiorari (the “Petition”) filed by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in United States v. Newman, 773 F.3d 438 (2d Cir. 2014), a landmark decision that dismissed indictments against two insider trading defendants. By declining to hear the Petition, the Supreme Court ensured that the Second Circuit’s decision in Newman will remain binding in the Second Circuit and influential across the country.

As we explain below, two of Newman’s holdings are particularly important: first, that the government must prove that a remote tippee knew or should have known of the personal benefit received by a tipper in exchange for disclosing nonpublic information; and second, that the benefits alleged by the government in United States v. Newman were not sufficient to support a conviction, as they were not sufficiently “consequential.”


Federal Court Dismisses Madoff Investors’ Claim

John F. Savarese is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Savarese, Stephen R. DiPrimaEmil A. Kleinhaus, and Noah B. Yavitz

In a significant decision addressing claims arising out of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida has dismissed federal securities and other claims asserted by Madoff investors. Dusek v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., No. 2:14-cv-184 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 17, 2015). The decision applies and enforces key principles of federal securities law that, taken together, limit the scope of liability for financial institutions sued in connection with frauds perpetrated by their customers, especially Ponzi schemes.


Circuit Split on Dodd-Frank Act Whistleblower Provision

Aaron M. Katz and Eva Ciko Carman are partners at Ropes & Gray LLP. This post is based on a Ropes & Gray Alert.

On Thursday, September 10, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its highly anticipated decision in Berman v. Neo@Ogilvy LLC. The plaintiff-appellant, Daniel Berman, had been the finance director of Neo@Ogilvy. Mr. Berman’s lawsuit alleged that Neo@Ogilvy had unlawfully terminated him because he had reported internally, to senior company officers, supposed violations of GAAP and other accounting irregularities. The question of law presented was whether the Dodd-Frank Act’s whistleblower anti-retaliation provision offers protection to an employee who, like Mr. Berman, is fired after he reports possible financial misconduct internally but before he makes a report to the SEC. The district court had answered that question in the negative and dismissed Mr. Berman’s wrongful termination lawsuit. On appeal, the SEC, participating as amicus curiae, argued that the Dodd-Frank Act’s statutory language is ambiguous and that the SEC’s agency regulation answering that question in the affirmative, Exchange Act Rule 21F-2, is a reasonable interpretation of the statute. The Second Circuit agreed with the SEC, thereby creating a circuit split on the issue and raising the possibility that the Supreme Court will soon weigh in.


D.C. Circuit Rules Against Conflict Minerals Disclosure Requirement

The Honorable Mario Mancuso is a corporate partner and of the International Trade and Investment Practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Mancuso, Michael T. Gershberg, and Jocelyn Ryan.

On August 18, 2015, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit confirmed its earlier ruling striking down part of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Conflict Minerals Rule (the “Rule”) as unconstitutional. Nat’l Ass’n. of Mfrs. v. SEC, No. 13-5252 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 18, 2015). The court again held that requiring issuers to describe their products as “not been found to be ‘DRC conflict free’” in reports filed with the SEC and posted on issuers’ websites violates the First Amendment.

The Decision

The ruling dealt only with the requirement in the Rule that issuers characterize their products using the label “not been found to be ‘DRC conflict free,’” and the court held that this requirement amounts to compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech. The decision is a narrow one and leaves unaffected the remaining disclosures required under the Rule, such as disclosure of facilities used by the issuer, country of origin of the issuer’s products and the efforts undertaken by the issuer to obtain such information.


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