Investigations and Enforcement

In Securities & Exchange Comm. v. Gentile, No. 18-1242, 2019 WL 4686251 (3d Cir. Sept. 26, 2019), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit took up the question of whether Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) injunctions constitute penalties subject to a five-year statute of limitations. In vacating a district court decision holding that they do, the Third Circuit held in this case of first impression that injunctions properly tailored to prevent future harm are not penalties. However, the opinion did not reach a determination as to whether the specific relief at issue had been so tailored, remanding that decision to the lower court along with the admonition that relief extending beyond the preventative into the punitive may not issue as an injunction. While the Third Circuit’s decision shielded the SEC’s injunctive powers from wholesale subjection to a five-year statute of limitations, it charted what qualifies as appropriate injunctive relief and, ultimately, may operate to curtail unduly broad injunctions.       
Continue Reading Third Circuit Reversal a Pyrrhic Win for SEC in Ongoing Statute of Limitations Saga

On May 7, 2019, Representative James Himes (D-Conn) introduced the “Insider Trading Prohibition Act” (H.R. 2534). The proposed legislation would amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C § 78a et seq. (the “Act”) by inserting a new section that defines the elements of criminal insider trading.

The bill’s objective is to eliminate the ambiguity of the offence as it is conceived under current law. It would also significantly expand the potential scope of criminal liability for insider trading in several ways: first, by eliminating the existing “personal benefit” requirement; second, by expanding the scienter requirement from willful to reckless use of “wrongfully obtained” matpreliminarerial non-public information; and third, by expanding the definition of “wrongfully obtained” information to include stolen, hacked, and fraudulently obtained information.
Continue Reading New Bill Seeks to Bring Clarity to Insider Trading Law

In Lorenzo v. Securities & Exchange Comm., No. 17-1077, 2019 WL 1369839 (U.S. Mar. 27, 2019), the Supreme Court of the United States (Breyer, J.) held that an individual who did not “make” a false or misleading statement within the meaning of Janus Capital Group, Inc. v. First Derivative Traders, 564 U.S. 135 (2011) (blog article here), but instead disseminated it to potential investors with intent to defraud, can be held to have employed a scheme to defraud and/or engaged in an act, practice or course of business to defraud in violation of subsections (a) and (c) of Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Rule 10b-5, 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5. This decision broadens the scope of primary liability under Rule 10b-5 beyond those who make false and misleading statements to include those who knowingly “disseminate” (i.e., communicate to potential investors) such false or misleading statements. Although this decision involved an SEC enforcement action, it is likely to be invoked by plaintiffs in private securities litigation to expand the scope of named defendants beyond the issuer and individuals directly responsible for making public statements on the issuer’s behalf.
Continue Reading United States Supreme Court Holds That Knowing Dissemination of False Statements Made by Others Can Constitute Primary “Scheme Liability” In Violation of Rule 10b-5(a) and (c)

In Securities & Exchange Commission v. Jensen, No. 14-55221, 2016 WL 4537377 (9th Cir. Aug. 31, 2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit broke new ground by providing the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) with a new independent cause of action under SEC Rule 13a-14, 17 C.F.R. § 240.13a-14, against a CEO or CFO who certifies false or misleading statements.  The Court also held that the disgorgement remedy authorized under Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 15 U.S.C. § 7243 (“SOX 304”), applied regardless of whether a restatement was caused by the personal misconduct of an issuer’s CEO and CFO or by other issuer misconduct.  The majority opinion left some important questions unanswered, but Judge Bea, who concurred with the majority’s analysis and holding, wrote separately to clarify the intended scope of the new legal rules announced by the Court’s opinion.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Permits SEC to Assert Standalone Claim for False Sarbanes-Oxley Certification and Confirms Disgorgement Remedy Against CEO and CFO Despite Lack of Personal Involvement In Underlying Misconduct

On April 1, 2015, the Securities & Exchange Commission (the “SEC” or “Commission”) fined a public company $130,000 for requiring employees involved in internal investigations to sign a confidentiality agreement that the Commission deemed violative of the whistleblower protections contained in the Dodd-Frank Act.  KBR, Inc., Exchange Act Release No. 74619 (Apr. 1, 2015).  This case was the first brought by the SEC involving anti-disclosure language of this type.
Continue Reading SEC Takes Aggressive Approach to Fortify Dodd-Frank’s Whistleblower Rules

In an effort to keep pace with rapidly accelerating market technology, the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has taken steps to expand oversight over high-frequency trading.  On March 25, 2015, the SEC unanimously approved a plan requiring that rapid-fire trading firms register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”).
Continue Reading SEC Requires FINRA Registration for High Frequency Traders

In United States v. Newman, No. 13-1837 (2d Cir. Dec. 10, 2014), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the 2013 convictions of Anthony Chiasson and Todd Newman on charges of conspiracy to commit insider trading and insider trading under 18 U.S.C. § 371, Sections 10(b) and 32 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78j(b), 78ff, SEC Rules 10b-5 and 10b5-2, 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5, 10b5-2, and 18 U.S.C. § 2.  Both individuals were portfolio managers at hedge funds who were charged with and convicted of receiving material non-public information from analysts with whom they worked.  The Second Circuit’s decision greatly clarifies the elements required to prove “tippee” liability under the insider trading laws.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Limits “Tippee” Insider Trading Liability

In Regulatory Notice 14-40, FINRA reminds members that it is a violation of FINRA Rule 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade) to incorporate into a settlement agreement a confidentiality provision restricting or prohibiting a customer or other person from communicating with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), FINRA, or any federal or state regulatory authority regarding a possible securities law violation.
Continue Reading FINRA Issues Guidance Notice on Confidentiality Provisions in Settlement Agreements and the Arbitration Discovery Process

In SEC v. Contorinis, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 2927 (2d Cir. Feb. 18, 2014), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to obtain “disgorgement” from a money manager profits earned by another party from trades based material nonpublic information known to the money manager, even though the manager did not receive any of those profits.  Citing the intangible benefits received by the manager and the underlying misuse of inside information, the appellate panel’s decision upheld a broad view of insider trading liability in civil enforcement actions brought by the SEC.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Upholds SEC’s Authority to Obtain Disgorgement from Non-Trading Insider Profits Earned by Portfolio Fund from Insider Trading

In SEC v. Shields, No. 12-1438, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3369 (10th Cir. Feb. 24, 2014), the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s order granting defendants’ motion to dismiss, holding that the complaint alleged sufficient facts to (1) raise a plausible claim that the interests at issue involved are securities, and (2) rebut the presumption that an investment labeled as a “general partnership” is a “security.”  The Tenth Circuit’s holding reaffirms that although an investment may be labeled as a “general partnership” interest, courts must look beyond the labels to determine whether the investment constitutes a “security.”
Continue Reading Tenth Circuit Looks Past “General Partnership” Labels in Agreements to Determine Whether Certain Investments Constitute “Securities”