Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 provides that a company’s CEO and CFO must disgorge certain bonuses, equity-based compensation, and trading profits if the company is required “to prepare an accounting restatement due to the material noncompliance of the issuer, as a result of misconduct, with any financial reporting requirement under the securities laws.” Although Congress did not create an express private right of action in the statute, recent securities class actions and derivative suits often include a tag-along Section 304 claim.
The Legal Intelligencer reports (via law.com – free regist. req’d) that a federal judge finally has had the opportunity to address whether private litigants, as opposed to the SEC, can bring a Section 304 claim. In a derivative suit brought against Stonepath Group in the E.D. of Pa., Judge Dalzell has ruled that Congress did not intend to create an implied private right of action. The court found that another Sarbanes-Oxley provision expressly creates a private right of action, leading to the conclusion that Section 304’s silence should be interpreted as restricting enforcement of the statute to the SEC. The case is Neer v. Pelino – a Westlaw cite will be added to this post when available.
Addition: Neer v. Pelino, 389 F.Supp.2d 648 (E.D.Pa. 2005).