Category Archives: All The News That’s Fit To Blog

All The CLE You Could Possibly Want

It is not too late to sign up for PLI’s Handling a Securities Case 2014: From Investigation to Trial and Everything in Between. The program takes place on Thursday, April 24 in New York and via webcast (and, shortly thereafter, on demand). The details can be found here.

Lyle Roberts of Cooley LLP (the author of The 10b-5 Daily) is co-chairing the program. The outstanding faculty will cover a wide range of topics, all while following a hypothetical case from the initial investigation through trial. There even will be a panel on ethical issues, for those in need of ethics credits.

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Around The Web

A couple of interesting items from around the web.

(1) The New York Law Journal (June 10) has a column on the potential impact of the recent GAMCO v. Vivendi decision. In GAMCO, the court found that the plaintiff was not entitled to a fraud-on-the-market presumption of reliance because its trading strategy did not rely on the market price of Vivendi’s stock as an accurate measure of its value. The column’s authors suggest that in light of this decision, “defendants going forward should delve deeply into a plaintiff-investor’s decision-making process in an attempt to sever the link with market price.”

(2) The D&O Diary has a guest post from two Stanford professors who have studied the outcomes of securities class actions. Their findings, for the period from 2000 to 2010, include: (a) during that period there was no statistically significant change in the overall dismissal rate, (b) half of all settlements occured before a final ruling on a motion to dismiss and half occured after the motion to dismiss had been denied and the case had moved to discovery, and (c) the insurer contribution to settlements was higher among cases filed in the second half of the past decade than in the first half.

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All The CLE You Could Possibly Want

It is not too late to sign up for PLI’s Handling a Securities Case 2013: From Investigation to Trial and Everything in Between. The program takes place on Thursday, April 25 in New York and via webcast. The details can be found here.

Lyle Roberts of Cooley LLP (the author of The 10b-5 Daily) is co-chairing the program. The outstanding faculty will cover a wide range of topics, all while following a hypothetical case from the initial investigation through trial. There even will be a panel on ethical issues, for those in need of ethics credits.

Hope to see you there.

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Who Knew The Truth?

Should a securities class action defendant be able to get discovery from absent class members to support its defenses? In Garden City Employees’ Retirement System v. Psychiatric Solutions, Inc., 2012 WL 4829802 (M.D. Tenn. Oct. 10, 2012), the defendants issued subpoenas to 14 institutional investors in a case where the class had already been certified. In their motion for leave to conduct this discovery, the defendants contended that the discovery was necessary on “individual issues” and to further their “truth on the market defense.”

The court noted that, as a general matter, discovery of absent class members is disfavored. The defendants “bear the burden of showing necessity and the absence of any motive to take undue advantage of the class members.” In the instant case, the court concluded that mere “speculation” that absent class members might have invested even knowing of the alleged misstatements was insufficient to satisfy the defendants’ burden. Moreover, any discovery related to individual reliance on the alleged misstatements could be done after a trial on the common issues.

Holding: Motion for leave to conduct discovery of absent class members denied.

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Defining Domestic

The New York Law Journal has a column (Aug. 17 edition – subscrip. req’d) on the application of the Morrison decision. In Morrison, the Supreme Court held that Section 10(b) liability for securities fraud is limited to “transactions in securities listed on our domestic exchanges, and domestic transactions in other securities.” What constitutes a “domestic transaction,” however, was not clarified.

As a result, the authors note, lower courts have adopted at least three different approaches for determining whether a non-exchange transaction is “domestic.” Some courts have looked at whether the “critical steps of the transaction,” including the offer and acceptance, occurred in the United States. Other courts limit potential liability to transactions in which the parties agreed to be bound to each other in the United States. The strictest approach is to insist that the actual transfer of the securities must have taken place in the United States. The authors argue that all of these approaches are broader than what the Supreme Court intended.

Quote of note: “When any of these approaches is applied to Morrison, it becomes clear that the lower courts’ applications of Morrison are inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling and do not end extraterritorial application of the 34 Act. If [the Morrison corporate defendant] had hypothetically transferred its stocks to the investors in New York, for example, the 34 Act arguably would have applied under all three approaches. Ironically, under the prior conduct and effects tests, the same hypothetical would likely not have triggered the application of the 34 Act.”

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Supreme Court To Address Fraud-On-The-Market Theory

A key development this week was the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Amgen Inc. v. Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds case on appeal from the Ninth Circuit. Pursuant to the fraud-on-the-market theory, reliance by investors on a misstatement is presumed if the company’s shares were traded on an efficient market that would have incorporated the information into the stock price. The fraud-on-the-market presumption is routinely invoked in securities class actions to justify the grant of class certification because it removes the potential need for individual evaluations of reliance.

At issue in the Amgen case is a circuit split over whether a plaintiff must prove that the misstatement was material to invoke the fraud-on-the-market theory in support of class certification. Three circuit courts (Second, Fifth and, to a lesser extent, the Third) previously have held that this is a required part of the fraud-on-the-market analysis when evaluating whether a class should be certified. The Ninth Circuit joined a decision from the Seventh Circuit, however, in rejecting that position. The court held that materiality is a merits question that does not affect whether class certification is appropriate.

The Amgen case picks up threads from two other recent Supreme Court decisions. In Matrixx, the Court addressed the issue of materiality, but only in the context of what must be plead to survive a motion to dismiss. Meanwhile, in Halliburton, the Court found that a plaintiff does not have to prove loss causation to invoke the fraud-on-the-market presumption, but left open the question of whether the plaintiff must demonstrate that the misstatement had a stock “price impact” (which is often used as a proxy for determining whether the misstatement was material). As a practical matter, if the Court were to find that lower courts should be evaluating whether the misstatement was material in determining whether to grant class certification, it obviously would reinvigorate class certification as a meaningful hurdle in prosecuting securities class actions.

Scotusblog has all of the relevant links, including to the amicus briefs filed in conjunction with the cert petition. The case will be heard next term.

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Mr. Roberts Heads Across Town

On a personal note, Lyle Roberts (the author of The 10b-5 Daily) has joined the Washington, DC office of Cooley LLP. The firm’s press release can be found here. Posting has been correspondingly light, but will pick up shortly.

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A CLE Program You Will Definitely Want To Attend

With that bold claim, do you have some availability on Thursday, April 26 to participate in a continuing legal education (CLE) program in New York or view a live webcast? It is not too late to sign up for PLI’s Handling a Securities Case: From Investigation to Trial and Everything in Between.

Lyle Roberts of Dewey & LeBoeuf (the author of The 10b-5 Daily) is co-chairing the program. The outstanding faculty will cover a wide range of topics, all while following a hypothetical case from the initial investigation through trial. There will even be a panel on ethical issues, for those in need of ethics credits.
Hope to see you there.

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The SEC Speaks (About Private Litigation and Transnational Securities Frauds)

As part of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was asked to solicit public comment and evaluate whether private litigants should be permitted to bring actions in the United States based on transnational securities frauds. In practical terms, the SEC was charged with examining whether the Supreme Court’s Morrison decision, which limits Section 10(b) claims to domestic securities transactions, should be legislatively overturned or modified.

The SEC’s study has been released and it contains a number of interesting items, including an analysis of the post-Morrison case law, a detailed review of the public comments, and a summary of the studies that have examined the capital markets impact of the Morrison decision. The SEC’s overall conclusion, perhaps not surprisingly, is that the position it took in Morrison was correct as a matter of public policy (even if the Court rejected it on legal grounds). In Morrison, the SEC argued that the court should retain the preexisting conduct and effects tests for extending Section 10(b) private actions to transnational securities frauds, but limit the conduct test to situations where the plaintiff can demonstrate “that the plaintiff’s injury resulted directly from conduct within the United States.” The SEC’s approach arguably would have the benefit of “serv[ing] as a filter to exclude those claims that have a closer connection to another jurisdiction and, thus, are more appropriately pursued elsewhere.” That said, the SEC also concedes that a more limited “conduct test” would still have the disadvantages of permitting “foreign investors [to] receive remedies that their governments have determined not to provide” and possibly “requiring a fact-intensive inquiry involving burdensome discovery. . . to determine if the alleged U.S. conduct constituted a direct cause of the overseas injury.”

In response to these concerns, the SEC proposes a tweak and suggests alternatives for Congress to consider. The tweak is to make the conduct and effects tests available only to U.S. investors. While that still might require costly discovery to determine the scope and impact of the U.S. conduct, it alleviates some of the international comity problems created by allowing foreign investors, who engaged in foreign securities transactions, to bring suit in the U.S.

Alternatively, the SEC proposes that Congress “supplement and clarify” the Supreme Court’s domestic transaction test in one or more of the following ways:

(1) Permit investors to bring Section 10(b) private actions based on transactions in any security that is of the same class of securities as those registered in the U.S., irrespective as to where the transaction took place. The idea is that companies who have registered shares in the U.S. have chosen to expose themselves to Section 10(b) liability, although the proposal also would have the obvious effect “of a return to U.S. courts of so-called “foreign-cubed” class actions – i.e., private class actions brought by foreign investors suing foreign issuers involving transactions on foreign exchanges.”

(2) Create a Section 10(b) right of private action that can be brought “against: (i) securities intermediaries located within the United States when they defraud a client in connection with any securities transaction (i.e., foreign or domestic); and (ii) foreign securities intermediaries when they are reaching into the United States to provide securities investment services for a U.S. client and commit fraud against that client in connection with any securities transaction.” The proposal is designed to close a “void” created by the domestic transaction test, wherein investment advisors can defraud their clients in connection with foreign securities transactions without fear of Section 10(b) liability.

(3) Create a “fraud-in-the-inducement” exception to the domestic transaction test, wherein investors can bring a Section 10(b) private action if they can demonstrate they were in the U.S. at the time they were induced to purchase or sell securities in reliance on a false or misleading statement, even if the transaction took place outside of the U.S. This proposal is another version of limiting the conduct test to U.S. investors, although the SEC suggests that it is narrower because the investors would need to demonstrate actual reliance, as opposed to basing their claims on a presumption of reliance created by the “fraud-on-the-market” theory.

(4) The Second Circuit recently clarified that a domestic securities transaction is one where “irrevocable liability was incurred or title was transferred within the United States.” The SEC criticizes that approach, arguing that it may “serve as a roadmap for overseas fraudsters to structure transactions to avoid Section 10(b) private liability” by ensuring that key actions are taken outside of the country. Instead, the SEC suggests, Congress could “clarify that, in the case of off-exchange transactions, a domestic securities transaction occurs if a party to the transaction is in the United States either at the time that party made the offer to sell or purchase, or accepted the offer to sell or purchase.”

But will Congress have any interest in pursuing a legislative reversal or modification of the domestic transaction test for Section 10(b) private action liability? Stay tuned.

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Where’s Waldo?

To what extent can a plaintiff protect the identity of his confidential witnesses once discovery in the case has commenced? Courts have tended to be skeptical of claims that the identity of these witnesses are attorney work product or should be kept secret to avoid possible employer retaliation.

In Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 630 Pension-Annuity Trust Fund v. Arbitron, 2011 WL 5519840 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 14, 2011), the court addressed these issues in a case where the complaint relied heavily on alleged statements from 11 former Arbitron employees. In discovery, the plaintiffs identified 83 people who were likely to possess discoverable information, but refused to specifically identify the 11 confidential witnesses from among that list. The court concluded that the names of the confidential witnesses were entitled to little, if any, work product protection, noting that “[i]t is difficult to see how syncing up the 11 [confidential witnesses] with these already disclosed names would reveal Plaintiff’s counsel’s mental impressions, opinions, or trial strategy.” Moreover, the plaintiffs had “utilized the [confidential witnesses] offensively” and failing to identify them could require the defendants to take dozens of unnecessary depositions. As for possible retaliation, the court declined to accept any generic assertions that the confidential witnesses faced a risk of retaliation, but did give the plaintiffs’ counsel a week to submit an affidavit setting forth any particularized facts it had on that subject.

Holding: Motion to compel disclosure of confidential witness names granted (subject to review of the requested affidavit).

Quote of note: “On the facts before it, the Court, balancing the relevant considerations, does not believe the work product doctrine compels Arbitron (or, derivatively, its shareholders) to bear these costs. The discovery rules ‘should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 1. These goals are disserved by forcing a party, in the name of an opponent’s evanescent work product interest, to play a high-cost game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’.”

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