Second Circuit Holds That Issuer’s Alleged Statements Concerning Its Regulatory Compliance Efforts Do Not Constitute Material Misstatements

In Singh v. Cigna Corp., No. 17-3484-cv, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 6637 (2d Cir. Mar. 5, 2019), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a class action complaint that purported to base a securities fraud claim upon alleged statements made by defendant Cigna Corporation (“Cigna” or the “Company”) about its efforts to comply with Medicare regulations. According to the complaint, the statements materially misled investors and, when news of regulatory non-compliance surfaced, the Company’s stock price declined. The Second Circuit held the statements to be only “generic” descriptions of the Company’s compliance efforts. The Court held that no reasonable investor would rely upon them as “representations of [the Company’s] satisfactory compliance,” and so they did not constitute material misstatements sufficient to support a securities claim. Continue Reading

With the SEC, Cooperation is Key

As an expensive “slap on the wrist,” the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or the “Commission”) recently concluded that approximately $12.7 million worth of funds raised in a 2017 Initial Coin Offering (“ICO”) by Gladius Network LLC (“Gladius”) were part of an unregistered securities offering, and all proceeds must be returned to investors. However, the penalty to Gladius for their regulatory violations was zero. Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Holds That Statutes Do Not Constitute “Rules or Regulations of the SEC” for Purposes of Sarbanes-Oxley Act Whistleblower Claims

In Wadler v. Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc., No. 17-16193, 2019 WL 924827 (9th Cir. Feb. 26, 2019), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that statutes, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), do not constitute “rule[s] or regulation[s] of the Securities and Exchange Commission” (“SEC”) for purposes of determining whether an employee engaged in protected activity in a whistleblower claim under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”).  This decision clarifies the proper application of the express statutory language of Section 806. Continue Reading

SEC Issues New Guidance on Diversity Disclosure Requirements

On February 6, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission released two Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (CDIs) discussing disclosure requirements in instances where a director or board nominee self-identifies specific diversity characteristics, such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation and cultural background. Continue Reading

Court Finds Cybersecurity-Related Claims Sufficient in Securities Class Action

In the aftermath of Equifax’s data breach, a federal court recently found that allegations of poor cybersecurity coupled with misleading statements supported a proper cause of action. In its decision, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia allowed a securities fraud class action case to continue against Equifax. The lawsuit claims the company issued false or misleading statements regarding the strength and quality of its cybersecurity measures. In their amended complaint, the plaintiffs cite Equifax’s claims of “strong data security and confidentiality standards” and “a highly sophisticated data information network that includes advanced security, protections and redundancies,” when, according to the plaintiffs’ allegations, Equifax’s cybersecurity practices “were grossly deficient and outdated” and “failed to implement even the most basic security measures.” The court found that data security is a core aspect of Equifax’s business and that investors are likely to review representations on data security when making their investment decisions. Continue Reading

SEC Administrative Proceedings Against Public Companies for Failure to Remediate Material Weaknesses in Internal Control Over Financial Reporting

Public reporting companies that have material weaknesses in their internal control over financial reporting (“ICFR”) are required under Rule 308 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, to report such material weaknesses in their quarterly and annual reports along with proposed remedial measures. A material weakness is defined as a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of an issuer’s financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. Continue Reading

Expansion of Regulation A to Reporting Companies: Increased Alternatives Now Available to Public Companies Seeking to Raise Capital or for Mergers and Acquisitions

On December 19, 2018, the SEC announced that it had adopted final rules that allow reporting companies to rely on the Regulation A exemption from registration for their securities offerings.[1]

Until recently, the only way that companies subject to the reporting requirements of Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) have been able to access the capital markets has been through a private placement in public equity (PIPE) or a traditional registered public offering. PIPE’s have presented a number of issues regarding confidentiality, illiquidity of securities, limitations on offering size[2] and greater pricing discounts, whereas registered public offerings can be both time-consuming and costly. These issues are particularly magnified for smaller public companies that may not be eligible to use S-3 shelf registrations. Continue Reading

Delaware Courts Address Production of Emails and Other Electronically Stored Information In Response to Section 220 Demands

Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, 8 Del. C. § 220, provides that any stockholder of a Delaware corporation “shall, upon written demand under oath stating the purpose thereof, have the right during the usual hours for business to inspect for any proper purpose, and to make copies and extracts from . . . the corporation’s stock ledger, a list of its stockholders, and its other books and records.”  Whether emails and other electronically stored information (“ESI”) created and maintained by the corporation constitute “other books and records” within the meaning of Section 220 has been a matter of some uncertainty.  Recent decisions from the Delaware Courts provide useful guidance to practitioners on this question. Continue Reading

Class Size Doesn’t Matter—Seventh Circuit Holds That Federal Law Bars Private Securities Class Actions Brought Under State Law Regardless of the Number of Putative Class Members

In Nielen-Thomas v. Concorde Investment Servs., LLC, No. 18-2875, 2019 WL 302766 (7th Cir. Jan. 24, 2019), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (“SLUSA”), Pub. L. 105-353, 112 Stat. 3227, bars all putative class actions brought by private plaintiffs in a representative capacity under state law, regardless of the estimated size of the class. The Seventh Circuit’s decision effectively eliminates the ability of a single plaintiff in a securities class action to represent a putative class of unnamed persons in any State within the Seventh Circuit (Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana).   Continue Reading

California Court of Appeal Enforces Delaware Forum Selection Bylaw

In Drulias v. 1st Century Bancshares, Inc., No. H045049, 2018 WL 6735137 (Cal. App. Dec. 21, 2018), the California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, affirmed an order staying a stockholder lawsuit brought in the Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County, on forum non conveniens grounds based upon enforcement of an exclusive Delaware forum selection bylaw. This decision confirms that California courts will enforce forum selection bylaws designating Delaware as the exclusive venue for intra-corporate claims.  Continue Reading

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