Fifth Circuit Rejects “Statistical” Tracing

Section 11 of the ’33 Act creates civil liability for misstatements in a registration statement. The class of persons who can sue under the statute, however, is limited to those who purchased shares issued pursuant to the registration statement in question. To have standing, an investor must have either acquired his shares in the offering or, if he purchased them in the aftermarket, be able to “trace” them back to the offering. As a general matter, the later introduction of non-offering shares into the market (e.g., via the sale of shares by insiders) generally defeats the ability of subsequent investors to trace their shares back to the offering because the intermingling of the shares makes it virtually impossible to establish that the purchased shares are offering shares.

In Krim v., 2005 WL 469618 (5th Cir. March 1, 2005), the plaintiffs tried a statistical approach to solving the problem of aftermarket standing for Section 11 claims. Although the plaintiffs conceded that they could not demonstrate that their shares were issued pursuant to the registration statement, they asserted the existence of standing based on expert testimony indicating that given the number of shares they owned and the percentage of offering stock in the market, the probability that they owned at least one share of offering stock was nearly 100%. The court rejected this statistical tracing theory, finding that “Congress conferred standing on those who actually purchased the tainted stock, not on the whole class of those who possibly purchased tainted shares – or, to put it another way, are at risk of having purchased tainted shares.”

Holding: Dismissal affirmed.

Quote of note: “The fallacy of Appellants position is demonstrated with the following analogy. Taking a United States resident at random, there is a 99.83% chance that she will be from somewhere other than Wyoming. Does this high statistical likelihood alone, assuming for whatever reason there is no other information available, mean that she can avail herself of diversity jurisdiction in a suit against a Wyoming resident? Surely not.”

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