Tag: Securities litigation


Securities Class Action Filings: 2015 Year in Review

John Gould is senior vice president at Cornerstone Research. This post is based on a Cornerstone Research report. The complete publication is available here.

Number and Size of Filings

  • Plaintiffs filed 189 new federal class action securities cases (filings) in 2015—the most since 2008, and an 11 percent increase compared with 2014. The number of filings in 2015 was in line with the average number of filings observed annually between 1997 and 2014.
  • The total Disclosure Dollar Loss (DDL) of cases filed in 2015 jumped to $106 billion from $57 billion in 2014—an 86 percent increase. DDL remained below its historical average of $121 billion.
  • The total Maximum Dollar Loss (MDL) increased by 73 percent—from $215 billion in 2014 to $371 billion in 2015. MDL was approximately 61 percent of the historical average of $607 billion.
  • The number of mega filings in 2015 increased substantially from 2014. There were five mega DDL cases (those with a DDL of at least $5 billion) and eight mega MDL cases (those with an MDL of at least $10 billion)—compared to zero and two in 2014, respectively.

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In re Lions Gate: Corporate Disclosure of Securities Enforcement

David M.J. Rein is a partner in the Litigation Group at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP . This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell memorandum by Mr. Rein and Jacob E. Cohen. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

On January 22, 2016, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Judge John Koeltl) dismissed In re Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Securities Litigation, a putative securities fraud class action lawsuit, brought under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The complaint alleged that the company should have disclosed publicly the pendency of a Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) investigation, the company’s intention to settle with the SEC and the company’s receipt of a so-called “Wells Notice”—i.e., a letter from the SEC Enforcement Division staff informing the company that it “has decided to recommend that the Commission bring an enforcement proceeding.”

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2015 Year-End Securities Litigation Update

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

The year was yet another eventful one in securities litigation, from the Supreme Court’s game-changing opinion in Omnicare regarding liability for opinion statements, to several significant opinions out of the Delaware courts regarding, among other things, financial advisor liability and the apparent end to disclosure-only settlements. This post highlights what you most need to know in securities litigation developments and trends for the last half of 2015:

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2015 Securities Law Developments

Jason M. Halper is a partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. This post is based on an Orrick publication by Mr. Halper, Paul F. RuganiKatherine L. Maco, Katie Lieberg Stowe, and Suzette Pringle.

On balance, the securities litigation landscape in 2015 offered a glass half-full/glass half-empty perspective for issuers and their officers, directors and advisors. Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), the major securities law decision of the 2015 Supreme Court term, afforded defendants relatively greater protection from liability based on public statements of opinion, as long as those opinions are honestly held and have a reasonable factual basis. The SEC suffered several notable setbacks, with some federal courts striking as unconstitutional the highly debated conflict minerals rule and the SEC’s method of appointing administrative law judges. The Second Circuit significantly restricted federal prosecutors’ ability to pursue downstream recipients of non-public information, resulting in a spate of overturned convictions and withdrawn guilty pleas. And although decisions from lower courts within the Second Circuit dismissing derivative lawsuits will be subject to less deferential review, both the Second Circuit and the Delaware Supreme Court reaffirmed that decisions of independent and disinterested boards to reject stockholder demands are entitled to business judgment rule protection, thereby precluding minority shareholder second guessing in private lawsuits. Yet the results were not uniformly favorable to the defense. The SEC took an expansive view of Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower anti-retaliation provision, formalizing its view that such protections apply to whistleblowers who allege retaliation for reporting internally (as opposed to reporting to the SEC). The Second Circuit endorsed the SEC’s view shortly thereafter. And, the early returns from last year’s second Supreme Court decision in Halliburton suggest that rebutting the Basic presumption of reliance through price impact evidence will be a lofty hurdle for defendants at the class certification stage. Below is a roundup of key securities law developments in 2015 and trends for 2016.

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Political Values, Culture, and Corporate Litigation

Danling Jiang is Associate Professor of Finance at Florida State University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Jiang; Irena Hutton, Associate Professor of Finance at Florida State University; and Alok Kumar, Professor of Finance at the University of Miami.

In our paper, Political Values, Culture, and Corporate Litigation, published in the latest issue of Management Science, we examine whether the political culture of a firm defines its ethical and legal boundaries as observed by the propensity for corporate misconduct. Using one of the largest samples of litigation data to date, we show that firms with Republican culture are more likely to be the subject of civil rights, labor, and environmental litigation than Democratic firms, consistent with the Democratic ideology that emphasizes equal rights, labor rights, and environmental protection. However, firms with Democratic culture are more likely to be the subject of litigation related to securities fraud and intellectual property rights violations than Republican firms whose Party ideology stresses self-reliance, property rights, market discipline, and limited government regulation.

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Compensation Season 2016

Michael J. Segal is senior partner in the Executive Compensation and Benefits Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Segal, Jeannemarie O’BrienAdam J. ShapiroAndrea K. Wahlquist, and David E. Kahan. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Paying for Long-Term Performance by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried (discussed on the Forum here).

Boards of directors and their compensation committees will soon shift attention to the 2016 compensation season. Key considerations in the year ahead include the following:

  1. Say-on-Pay. If a company anticipates a challenging say-on-pay vote with respect to 2015 compensation, it should proactively reach out to large investors, communicate the rationale for the company’s compensation programs and give investors an opportunity to voice any concerns. Shareholder outreach efforts, and any changes made to the compensation program in response to such efforts, should be highlighted in the proxy’s Compensation Disclosure and Analysis. ISS FAQs indicate that one possible way to reverse a negative say-on-pay recommendation is to impose more onerous performance goals on existing compensation awards and to disclose publicly such changes on Form 8-K, though the FAQs further note that such action will not ensure a change in recommendation. Disclosure of prospective changes to the compensation program will demonstrate responsiveness to compensation-related concerns raised by shareholders.

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Delaware Rules on “Without Cause” Director Removal

William Savitt is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum, and is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

The Delaware Court of Chancery recently held that a corporation without a classified board or cumulative voting may not restrict stockholders’ ability to remove directors without cause. In re Vaalco Energy S’holder Litig., C.A. No. 11775-VCL (Dec. 21, 2015). The ruling gives rise to questions for the many companies with similar charter or bylaw provisions.

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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.

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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]

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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.

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