Pleading Issues

The New York Law Journal (subscrip. req’d) has two interesting columns this week discussing developments in the pleading of securities fraud.

(1) Lower Court’s Handling of Tellabs’ “Inference of Scienter” (Dec. 11) discusses how courts have addressed the PSLRA’s scienter pleading standard in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Tellabs decision earlier this year. After summarizing the relevant decisions, the authors conclude that Tellabs has made it more difficult to survive a motion to dismiss based on a “post-Tellabs trend that corporate investigations, revisions, and restatements do not necessarily support a sufficiently compelling inference of scienter.”

Quote of note: “The early returns suggest a significant change in how lower courts are addressing scienter issues in 12(b)(6) motions in Section 10(b) private civil cases. As one court aptly stated, the analysis required by Tellabs ‘is akin to holding a minitrial on the merits of the case based only on the complaint.'”

(2) Group Pleading Suffers Another Blow (Dec. 13) addresses the varying court decisions on whether the “group pleading doctrine,” which permits the attribution of alleged misstatements in group-published documents to corporate officers without specific factual allegations about their respective involvement in the misstatements, has survived the passage of the PSLRA. As the authors note, some courts (especially the S.D.N.Y.) have drawn a distinction between group pleading for purposes of attributing misstatements (permitted) and group pleading for purposes of establishing the existence of a strong inference of scienter (not permitted). Other courts, most notably the Third Circuit in its recent decision in Winer Family Trust v. Queen, 503 F.3d 319 (3rd Cir. 2007), have rejected the distinction as “illogical” given that it requires a heightened pleading of scienter for an act that the defendant is only presumed to have committed.

Quote of note: “The issue may yet reach the Supreme Court. At present, there is only a latent conflict among the circuits, as no circuit court has expressly held that group pleading is still permissible despite the PSLRA. Nonetheless, many district courts, particularly in the Second Circuit, have continued to apply the doctrine. It is difficult to predict where the Second Circuit would come out on this issue, given its silence to date. However, if it were to adopt the prevailing view of its district courts, that would create a clear conflict between circuit court holdings, which could send the issue to the Supreme Court.”

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