Articles Posted in Securities Law

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In this shareholder-derivative action, Shareholders of The Western Union Company averred several of Western Union’s Officers and Directors breached their fiduciary duties to the company by willfully failing to implement and maintain an effective anti-money-laundering-compliance program (AML-compliance program), despite knowing of systemic deficiencies in the company’s AML compliance. The Shareholders didn’t make a pre-suit demand on Western Union’s Board of Directors to pursue this litigation, and the district court found no evidence that such demand would have been futile. The district court thus dismissed the case, reasoning that the Shareholders’ obligation to make a pre-suit demand on the Board was not excused. The Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court's decision to dismiss, and affirmed. View "City of Cambridge Retirement v. Ersek" on Justia Law

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This case involved an alleged worldwide Ponzi scheme and the antifraud provisions of the federal Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Defendant Charles Scoville operated an internet traffic exchange business through his Utah company, Defendant Traffic Monsoon, LLC. The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) initiated this civil enforcement action, alleging Defendants were instead operating an unlawful online Ponzi scheme involving the fraudulent sale of securities. In this interlocutory appeal, Scoville challenged several preliminary orders the district court issued at the outset, including orders freezing Defendants’ assets, appointing a receiver, and preliminarily enjoining Defendants from continuing to operate their business. The Tenth Circuit upheld those preliminary rulings, finding the SEC asserted sufficient evidence to make it likely that the SEC would be able to prove that Defendants were operating a Ponzi scheme. View "SEC v. Traffic Monsoon" on Justia Law

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This appeal grew out of a battle between the majority and minority owners of units in an investment vehicle. The majority unitholder wanted to merge, but this would require the minority to sell their units or convert them to shares in a newly created entity. The minority unitholders balked because they wanted to retain their original units, but the majority unitholder approved the merger, terminating the minority’s units in the process. The termination of these units led the minority to sue. The issue presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review reduced to one of “classic” contract interpretation: did the contract empower the majority unitholder to approve a merger that eliminated and replaced the minority unitholders’ units without providing an opportunity for a class vote? The district court concluded “yes,” and the Tenth Circuit concurred. View "Stender v. Archstone-Smith" on Justia Law

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The issue this appeal presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review centered on the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff-Appellant David Hampton’s securities-fraud class action against Defendants-Appellees root9B Technologies, Inc. (“root9B”), Joseph Grano, Jr., the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, and Kenneth T. Smith, the former Chief Financial Officer. Hampton filed suit claiming root9B made false or misleading statements in connection with the purchase or sale of securities. Hampton identified two statements he alleged were false or misleading and material: (1) a letter from Grano to investors attesting that root9B was differentiated from competitors by its “proprietary hardware and software;” and (2) a press release and associated report published by root9B in which the company claimed to have detected a planned cyber attack against a number of international financial institutions. He further alleged that the individual defendants were jointly and severally liable under section 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The district court dismissed Hampton’s claims, finding that he had failed to sufficiently plead that the identified statements were false or misleading. The Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court’s findings and affirmed its judgment. View "Hampton v. Root9B Technologies" on Justia Law

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Defendant Williams Companies, Inc. (Williams) was an energy company; its president and chief executive officer (CEO) was Defendant Alan Armstrong and its chief financial officer (CFO) was Defendant Donald Chappel. Armstrong also served on its board of directors. Defendant Williams Partners GP LLC (Williams Partners GP) was a limited-liability company owned by Williams. Armstrong was chairman of the board and CEO; and Chappel was CFO and a director. Defendant Williams Partners L.P. (WPZ) was a master limited partnership, whose general partner was Williams Partners GP. Williams owned 60% of WPZ’s limited-partnership units. Plaintiff’s case centered on merger discussions between Williams and Energy Transfer Equity L.P. (ETE), a competing energy firm. The members of the putative class purchased units of WPZ between May 13, 2015 (when Williams announced that it planned to merge with WPZ) and June 19, 2015 (when ETE announced that, despite having been rebuffed by Williams, it would seek to merge with Williams and that such a merger would preclude the merger with WPZ). The value of the units dropped significantly after this announcement. Ultimately, ETE merged with Williams and the proposed WPZ merger was not consummated. The Complaint alleged the class members paid an excessive price for WPZ units because Williams had not disclosed during the class period its merger discussions with ETE. Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Rhode Island (Plaintiff) appealed the dismissal of its amended complaint in a putative class-action suit, alleging violations of federal securities law because of the failure to disclose merger discussions that affected the value of its investment. The Tenth Circuit concluded the complaint failed to adequately allege facts establishing a duty to disclose the discussions, the materiality of the discussions, or the requisite scienter in failing to disclose the discussions. View "Employees' Retirement System v. Williams Companies" on Justia Law

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The Pioneer Centres Holding Company Employee Stock Ownership Plan and Trust and its trustees sued Alerus Financial, N.A. for breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the failure of a proposed employee stock purchase. The district court granted summary judgment to Alerus after determining the evidence of causation did not rise above speculation. The Plan appealed, claiming the district court erred in placing the burden to prove causation on the Plan rather than shifting the burden to Alerus to disprove causation once the Plan made out its prima facie case. In the alternative, the Plan argued that even if the district court correctly assigned the burden of proof, the Plan established, or at the very least raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding, causation. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Pioneer Centres Holding Co v. Alerus Financial, N.A." on Justia Law

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A New Mexico county board filed a lawsuit in state court against its securities broker and registered agent. The board refrained, however, from serving process while it determined whether arbitration was available. The securities broker and agent nonetheless removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss the suit. Four days after briefing was complete and about three months after the board had filed suit, the board voluntarily dismissed the case and filed for arbitration. The securities broker and agent then filed this action to enjoin arbitration, arguing the board waived its right to demand arbitration when it filed the state court action. The district court disagreed and instead granted the board’s counterclaim to compel arbitration. The broker and registered agent appealed the waiver issue. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "BOSC v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed suit against American Pension Services ("APS"), a third-party administrator of self-directed individual retirement and 401(k) accounts (collectively "IRA Accounts"), and its President and CEO, Curtis DeYoung. The SEC alleged that DeYoung misappropriated $24 million in APS customer funds that APS had commingled in a Master Trust Account at First Utah Bank, custodian of the funds. The district court appointed a Receiver, who ultimately entered into a Settlement Agreement with First Utah. The settlement included a Claims Bar Order, which barred all other claims against First Utah relating to any IRA Accounts established with APS. Three of the approximately 5,500 APS clients who had a financial stake in the receivership entity intervened and contended that the court could not bar them from filing their own claims against First Utah. The district court disagreed and approved the settlement. The intervenors appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "SEC v. American Pension Services" on Justia Law

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The complaint and referenced documents show that Quiznos fast-food franchise had borrowed heavily before its business sharply declined. From 2007 to 2011, Quiznos lost roughly 3,000 franchise restaurants and profitability plunged. With this plunge, Quiznos could no longer satisfy its loan covenants. As a result, Avenue Capital Management II, L.P., “Fortress” (a collective of investment entities) and others could foreclose on collateral, call in debt, or accelerate payments. To avoid a calamity, Quiznos restructured its debt. This securities-fraud matter arose out of the attempt to restructure that debt. Multiple investment funds purchased equity in Quiznos, and despite efforts, Avenue and Fortress sued former Quiznos managers and officers, claiming they had fraudulently misrepresented Quiznos’ financial condition. The district court dismissed the causes of action based on securities fraud based on a failure to state a valid claim. Finding no reversible error in that dismissal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. View "Avenue Capital Management II, v. Schaden" on Justia Law

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought an enforcement action against Defendant Charles Kokesh for misappropriating funds from four SEC-registered business development companies (BDCs) in violation of federal securities laws. After a jury returned a verdict in favor of the SEC, the district court entered a final judgment permanently enjoining Defendant from violating certain provisions of federal securities laws, ordering disgorgement of $34.9 million plus prejudgment interest of $18.1 million, and imposing a civil penalty of $2.4 million. Defendant appealed, arguing that the court’s imposition of the disgorgement and permanent injunction was barred by 28 U.S.C. 2462, which set a five-year limitations period for suits “for the enforcement of any civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture.” He also argued that the district court erred by precluding him from presenting evidence of attorney and accountant participation to show his lack of knowledge of the misconduct. After review, the Tenth Circuit held that both the permanent injunction and the disgorgement order were remedial and not subject to section 2462. The Court rejected the evidentiary claim. View "SEC v. Kokesh" on Justia Law