In Boilermakers Local 154 Retirement Fund v. Chevron Corp., C.A. No. 7220-CD, 2013 WL 3191981 (Del. Ch. June 25, 2013), the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed facial challenges to the validity of corporate bylaws that restrict the forum where corporate governance litigation may be brought. The court rejected the argument that the bylaws were statutorily invalid because they went beyond the board’s authority under the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”). The court also rejected the argument that the bylaws were contractually invalid under The Bremen v. Zapata Offshore Co., 407 U.S. 1 (1972), which holds that unreasonable forum selections clauses are unenforceable. This decision undoubtedly will result in the increased promulgation of such bylaws, greatly limiting (if not eliminating) the risk and cost of identical stockholder suits challenging board actions pursued in multiple jurisdictions.Continue Reading Delaware Court of Chancery Upheld Enforceability of Bylaws with Forum Selection Clauses Unilaterally Adopted by Board of Directors

On July 10, 2013, the SEC adopted the amendments required under the JOBS Act to Rule 506 that would permit issuers to use general solicitation and general advertising to offer their securities, subject to certain limitations. In addition, the SEC amended Rule 506, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act, to disqualify felons and other bad actors from being able to rely on Rule 506. The long-awaited new rules will allow issuers that are permitted to rely on Rule 506 to more widely solicit and advertise for potential investors, including on the Internet and through social media.

The SEC also adopted an amendment to Rule 144A that provides that securities may be offered pursuant to Rule 144A to persons other than qualified institutional buyers, provided that the securities are sold only to persons that the seller and any person acting on behalf of the seller reasonably believe are qualified institutional buyers.Continue Reading SEC Eliminates the Prohibition on General Solicitation for Rule 506 and Rule 144A Offerings

This morning the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a 4 to 1 vote of the Commissioners, approved implementing rules under Title II of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act to remove the ban on general solicitation for offerings to accredited investors under Regulation D, Rule 506. The SEC has not yet released the final rules as adopted, and we do not yet know what will be the effective date of the final rules. We do however know that the final rules, once effective, will require a Form D to be filed with the SEC at least 15 days in advance of the commencement of any general solicitation for a Rule 506 offering.Continue Reading SEC Adopts Rules to Remove Ban on General Solicitation for Rule 506 Offerings

In In re Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, Nos. 11-5044, 11-5051, 11-5175, 11-5207, 2013 WL 3064848 (2d Cir. June 20, 2013), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the Trustee of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (“BLMIS”) appointed under the Securities Investor Protection Act (“SIPA”), 15 U.S.C §§ 78aaa, et seq., lacked standing to pursue common law claims on behalf of Madoff’s customers against various banks that maintained checking accounts, created feeder funds, and collected investments from abroad for BLMIS. The Trustee sued under SIPA — which gives a SIPA trustee the “same powers and title with respect to debtor and the property of debtor . . . as a trustee in a case under Title 11” of the bankruptcy code — and alleged that when the defendants “were confronted with evidence of Madoff’s illegitimate scheme,” banking fees from BLMIS provided an incentive to look away, or “at least caused a failure to perform due diligence that would have revealed the fraud.” The Second Circuit affirmed decisions of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York holding that the doctrine of in pari delicto — the principle that a wrongdoer may not profit from his own misconduct — barred the Trustee’s claims. The ruling significantly restricts the Trustee’s ability to pursue billions of dollars’ worth of claims against alleged aiders and abettors of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, offers clarity on the issue of a SIPA trustee’s standing to bring actions on behalf of a defunct broker-dealer’s estate or the estate’s creditors.Continue Reading Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Suits Brought by Madoff Trustee Against Banks Accused of Aiding Madoff Fraud

In United States v. Rajaratnam, No. 11-4416-CR, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 12885 (2d Cir. June 24, 2013), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the conviction of Raj Rajaratnam ("Rajaratnam") for insider trading, holding that a jury instruction that the non-public information obtained by Rajaratnam "was a factor, however small" in his decision to purchase stock was proper as a matter of controlling Second Circuit law. The unanimous three-judge panel rejected Rajaratnam’s argument that more of a "causal connection" between the inside information he possessed and the trades he executed was required. After discussing the separate issue of wiretapping evidence, the court analyzed and applied previous decisions to conclude that the district court’s instruction was proper — and, in fact, was more generous to Rajaratnam than the law required. This decision reaffirms that criminal liability for insider trading may lie simply for trading while in possession of material inside information, even if trade was not motivated by that inside information.Continue Reading Second Circuit Reaffirms Continued Use of the “Knowing Possession” Causation Standard in Rajaratnam Insider Trading Case

In Erica P. John Fund, Inc. v. Halliburton Co., No. 12-10544, 2013 WL 1809760 (5th Cir. Apr. 30, 2013), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that a defendant in a securities fraud class action is not entitled to rebut the fraud-on-the-market presumption of reliance at the class certification stage by showing the alleged misstatement caused no market price impact. The Fifth Circuit adopted the same analysis the United States Supreme Court used in Amgen Inc. v. Connecticut Ret. Plans and Trust Funds, 133 S. Ct. 1184 (2013) [blog article here]. There, the Court held that class certification procedures afford securities fraud defendants no right to rebut the presumption through evidence showing the alleged misstatements were not material. The Fifth Circuit’s opinion now extends Amgen by further narrowing the range of rebuttal evidence a district court may consider at the class certification stage.Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Holds That Securities Fraud Defendants May Not Rebut the Fraud-on-the-Market Presumption at the Class Certification Stage Through Evidence of No Price Impact

By Matthew Richardson and Paul Metzger

Final regulations were issued last month under IRC Section 336(e). These regulations present beneficial planning opportunities in certain circumstances.

For qualifying transactions occurring on or after May 15, 2013, Section 336(e) allows certain taxpayers to elect to treat the sale, exchange or distribution of corporate stock as an asset sale, much like a Section 338(h)(10) election. An asset sale can be of great benefit to the purchaser of the stock, since the basis of the target corporation’s assets would be stepped up to their fair market value.Continue Reading Final Section 336(e) Regulations Allow Step-Up in Asset Tax Basis in Certain Stock Acquisitions

By Matthew Richardson 

The California State Senate yesterday approved a measure providing relief (albeit only partial relief) to those taxpayers facing retroactive tax assessments by reason of the Cutler decision. In Cutler v. Franchise Tax Board the California Court of Appeal held that the California tax incentives relating to the sale of qualified small business stock discriminated against interstate commerce and were therefore unconstitutional.Continue Reading California State Senate Passes Measure Providing Partial Relief From Cutler Decision (re: QSBS)

In Fezzani v. Bear, Stearns & Co., Inc., No. 09-4414-cv, 2013 WL 1876534 (2d Cir. May 7, 2013), a 2-1 majority of a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that plaintiffs’ failure to plead direct misrepresentations from defendant to plaintiffs was fatal to their market manipulation claim under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. § 78j(b), and Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Rule 10b-5, 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5, promulgated thereunder. This is the first decision from a Court of Appeals applying the strict limitations on the scope of primary liability set in recent decisions by the Supreme Court to claims involving market manipulation.Continue Reading Second Circuit Holds that Allegations of Direct Fraudulent Representations Are Necessary for Market Manipulation Claims Under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5

In McDaniel v. Wells Fargo Investments, LLC, Nos. 11-17017, 11-55859, 11-55943, 11-55958, 2013 WL 1405949 (9th Cir. Apr. 9, 2013), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of four class action lawsuits filed by employees against brokerage firms Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley. In separate lawsuits, the employees alleged that the brokerage firms’ policies prohibiting employees from opening outside self-directed trading accounts violates Section 450(a) of the California Labor Code, which prohibits employers from forcing its employees to patronize his or her employer. The Ninth Circuit held that the California statute is preempted by the Section 15(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “1934 Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78o(g), which requires brokerage firms to take measures reasonably designed to prevent employees from engaging in insider trading. This case of first impression in California reassures brokerage firms that compliance with the securities laws will not violate California labor laws.Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Holds that Federal Securities Laws Preempt California Labor Code’s Ban on Forced Patronage at Brokerage Firms