In Ocegueda v. Zuckerberg, No. 20-CV-04444, 2021 WL 1056611 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 19, 2021), the United States District Court for the Northern District of California became the first court
Continue Reading Facebook Defeats Shareholder Suit Challenging Alleged Failures In Its Diversity and Inclusion Practices

A recent decision by a New York federal district court illustrates significant potential pitfalls for sellers in leveraged buyouts and similarly structured transactions.  In particular, it highlights the potential risks under fiduciary duty theories to directors and private equity-appointed directors, even in multi-step transactions with customary disclaimers and exculpatory by-laws.
Continue Reading Sellers Beware: Fiduciary Duty Risks to Directors

In Heinze v. Tesco Corp., No. 19-20298, 2020 WL 4814094 (5th Cir. Aug. 19, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action suit under Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78(b) alleging that defendant Tesco Corporation (“Tesco”), former members of Tesco’s board of directors and Nabors Industries, Ltd. (“Nabors”) omitted material information from a proxy statement issued in connection with Nabors’ acquisition of Tesco in 2017.  Applying the heightened pleading standard of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 78u-4, et seq., the Court held that plaintiffs failed to show how the omitted facts were necessary to make the statements therein not false or misleading.  Heinze marks a significant victory for companies facing Section 14(a) shareholder litigation over merger-related proxy statements, reaffirming the PSLRA’s specificity requirements as well as its safe harbor provision shielding companies from liability over certain forward-looking statements and projections.
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Section 14(a) Complaint For Failure to Plead Facts Demonstrating Alleged Omissions from Proxy Statement Were Misleading

In Rubenstein v. Int’l Value Advisers, LLC, No. 19-560-CV, 2020 WL 2549507 (2d Cir. May 20, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision holding that an investor was not a member of a “group” of corporate insiders for purposes of short-swing profit liability under Section 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “1934 Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78p(b).  In affirming, the Second Circuit determined that the investor’s investment management agreement delegating discretionary authority to an advisor was not an agreement with the “issuer,” and that an investment advisor’s client does not become an insider group member simply because the advisor files a Schedule 13D.  The decision provides helpful guidance regarding the extremely narrow limits of Section 16(b) liability, and shields passive investors who merely delegate management authority over their portfolios to investment advisors.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Holds That Investors Who Delegate Discretionary Authority to Investment Advisors are not Members of a “Group” for Purposes of Section 16(b) Liability

In Sciabacucchi v. Salzberg, No. 346, 2019, 2020 WL 1280785 (Del. Mar. 18, 2020), the Delaware Supreme Court reversed a Delaware Court of Chancery (Laster, V.C.) decision declaring invalid a federal forum selection provision in a Delaware corporation’s charter or bylaws.  The federal forum selection provision was intended to require claims by investors under the Securities Act of 1933 (“1933 Act”) to be brought solely in federal court, thereby avoiding the likelihood of defending duplicate, concurrent state and federal court 1933 Act claims.  The Delaware Supreme Court’s decision provides clear guidance to companies preparing for securities offerings for implementing a tool to limit the cost of defending duplicative 1933 Act litigation.
Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Confirms That Federal Forum Provision Is Facially Valid, Reversing Court of Chancery

In Jensen v. iShares Trust, 2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 61 (Cal. App. Jan. 23, 2020), a rare state court decision addressing claims under the Securities Act of 1933 (“1933 Act”), the California Court of Appeal rejected plaintiffs-appellants’ attempt to evade the “tracing” requirement under Section 11, 15. U.S.C. § 77k, which provides standing only to those plaintiffs who can trace their shares purchased in a secondary market transaction to an initial offering made under a misleading registration statement.  Appellants argued that they were not subject to the tracing requirement because the respondent, an open-end management investment company, also was governed under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (“ICA”), 15 U.S.C § 80a, et. seq., which appellants argued extends standing to purchasers no matter how or from whom their shares were purchased.  The Court rejected the argument, unequivocally reaffirming that the 1933 Act is focused only on initial public offerings and other primary market transactions, and so any claims brought thereunder must satisfy its strict standing (i.e., tracing) requirements.
Continue Reading California State Court Declines to Expand Standing for Claims Under 1933 Act

Sinatra may have found success in the city that never sleeps, but a California court has just made it more difficult for any party doing business with a California resident to do the same.  At least, when it comes to resolving disputes without a jury in a New York courtroom, or in the courtroom of any other jurisdiction that enforces pre-dispute jury trial waivers.  This case will be of major interest to commercial lenders, and other businesses, who prefer to use states like New York and Delaware as their jurisdiction of choice for governing law and adjudicating disputes.

While it is well-settled law in California that pre-dispute contractual jury waivers are unenforceable (see, e.g., Grafton Partners L.P. v. Superior Court (2005) 36 Cal. 4th 944 (“Grafton”)), in most instances forum selection and choice-of-law provisions have been respected by California courts. However, the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District recently expanded upon Grafton in Handoush v. Lease Financing Group, LLC. The Court dealt a commercial equipment lessor a significant blow by holding that the equipment lessee who signed a lease agreement with the lessor that was governed by New York law, identified New York as the appropriate forum for resolving disputes and included a pre-dispute jury waiver (which is enforceable under New York law), was nevertheless entitled to a trial by jury in California.
Continue Reading Start Spreadin’ the News: California Court Says No to New York, New York; Rejects Forum Selection Clause

In North Sound Capital, LLC v. Merck & Co, Inc., No. 18-2317, 2019 WL 4309663, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27518 (3d Cir. Sept. 12, 2019), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed a New Jersey district court ruling, which held that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (“SLUSA”) precluded state law claims in lawsuits brought by investors who opted-out of class action lawsuits. In reversing, the Third Circuit determined that the opt-out plaintiffs could indeed bring their state law fraud claims against the same defendants as the class action lawsuits because their subsequently filed suits did not fall within the definition of a “covered class action” under SLUSA. The decision provides helpful guidance as to whether investors who choose to opt-out of class action lawsuits may be precluded under SLUSA from proceeding with individual lawsuits seeking similar relief.
Continue Reading Third Circuit Holds that SLUSA Does Not Preclude Class Action Opt-Outs from Pursuing Individual Actions

In In re Everquote, Inc. Securities Litigation, 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 29242, No. 651177/2019, 2019 WL 3686065 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cnty. Aug. 7, 2019), Justice Andrew Borrok of the New York County Commercial Division stayed discovery pending a motion to dismiss a federal securities class action pursuant to the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (the “PSLRA”), diverging from the handful of state courts that have grappled with that statute’s application since the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund, 138 S.Ct. 1061 (2018) (“Cyan”). The PSLRA provides for an automatic discovery stay pending adjudication of motions to dismiss private securities actions, and has been interpreted to be a procedural mechanism meant to curb litigation abuses in securities cases. See 15 U.S.C. § 77z(b)(1). In his decision, Justice Borrok joined the ever-growing list of judges tasked with deciding whether such mechanisms apply to state court securities litigation in the wake of Cyan.
Continue Reading New York Commercial Division Justices Provide Dueling Approaches to Discovery Stays in State Court Securities Litigation

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)