New York Commercial Division Justices Provide Dueling Approaches to Discovery Stays in State Court Securities Litigation

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 Bill Seeks to Bring Clarity to Insider Trading Law

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

Delaware Supreme Court Allows Caremark Claim to Proceed Against Directors of Ice Cream Manufacturer Following Listeria Outbreak

*October 16, 2019: Update On Caremark Claims Following the Delaware Supreme Court’s Decision in Marchand v. Barnhill

In In re Clovis Oncology, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0222-JRS, 2019 Del. Ch. LEXIS 1293 (Del. Ch. Oct. 1, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery applied Marchand on a motion to dismiss and determined that the complaint adequately pled a Caremark claim against a biopharmaceutical company’s board of directors. The board allegedly ignored red flags indicating the company was not adhering to FDA-required protocols in its clinical trials for the only promising drug of three drugs it then had under development, causing the FDA to withhold approval. The resulting corporate “trauma” included a 70% market capitalization loss. Like the ice cream manufacturer in Marchand, the Chancery Court characterized the company as a “monoline company operat[ing] in a highly regulated industry,” where compliance with FDA-required protocols constitute an “intrinsically critical” business operation involving a “mission critical product.” Although it acknowledged that Caremark claims remain “among the hardest to plead and prove,” it noted that Caremark liability is more likely to attach when the alleged oversight failure concerns “compliance with positive law” as opposed to the “manag[ing] of business risk.” It portrayed Marchand as further “underscor[ing] the importance of the board’s oversight function when [a] company is operating in the midst of ‘mission critical’ regulatory compliance risk.” According to the Chancery Court, Marchand “makes clear” that, in such instances, “the board’s oversight function must be more rigorously exercised.”

Clovis provides a first glimpse at the Delaware Chancery Court’s reaction to the Delaware Supreme Court’s Marchand decision. Clovis confirms that, in complying with public health and safety regulations (including those governing clinical trials), a heightened level of oversight is expected, particularly when the oversight failure may result in trauma that is significant relative to the company’s overall operations. Continue Reading

Opportunity Zones Update NEW PROPOSED TREASURY REGULATIONS (Part III)

Qualified Opportunity Funds

The Opportunity Zone tax incentive program allows taxpayers that invest in a Qualified Opportunity Fund to (i) defer paying taxes on the capital gain from the sale or exchange of appreciated assets; (ii) receive a permanent exclusion from taxation of up to 15% on that deferred gain, and (iii) for taxpayers that hold their investment for at least 10 years, a permanent exclusion from taxation for any appreciation in excess of the deferred gain. Continue Reading

Delaware Chancery Court Provides Useful Guidance for Protecting Pre-Merger Privileges in Post-Closing Litigation Between Buyers and Sellers

In Shareholder Representative Services LLC v. RSI Holdco, LLC, No. 2018-0517-KSJM, 2019 WL 2290916 (Del. Ch. May 29, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery reaffirmed that a target company may protect its pre-merger privileged communications in a post-closing dispute with the acquirer by including clear and unambiguous language in the merger agreement that seeks to protect the privilege. This decision provides additional guidance to sellers intent upon protecting their rights in potential post-closing litigation with buyers. Continue Reading

Opportunity Zones Update: NEW PROPOSED TREASURY REGULATIONS (PART II)

Qualified Opportunity Zone Businesses

BACKGROUND

In December 2017, as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), Congress established a new tax incentive program to promote investment in certain low-income communities designated by the IRS as qualified opportunity zones. The tax incentives obtained by investing in a qualified opportunity fund (“QOF”) allow taxpayers to (i) defer paying taxes on capital gain from the sale or exchange of appreciated assets; (ii) receive a permanent exclusion from taxation of up to 15 percent of the originally deferred gain; and (iii) for taxpayers that hold their investment in the QOF for at least 10 years, a permanent exclusion from taxation for any appreciation in excess of the deferred gain.

On April 17, the Treasury Department released its second round of guidance on Opportunity Zone investments in the form of proposed regulations (the “New Proposed Regulations”). These newly proposed regulations supplement and in some cases revise the proposed regulations issued in October of 2018 (the “October Proposed Regulations”). [1]

The New Proposed Regulations provide further clarity, but leave many questions unanswered. This is Part II of our series of blog posts on the New Proposed Regulations. This post addresses key issues relating to the requirements for qualified opportunity zone businesses and qualified opportunity zone business property. For Part I of our explanation, which addresses qualified investments in qualified opportunity funds, please click on the link here. Continue Reading

Opportunity Zones Update: NEW PROPOSED TREASURY REGULATIONS (PART I)

Background

In December 2017, as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), Congress established a new tax incentive program to promote investment in certain low-income communities designated by the IRS as qualified opportunity zones. Section 1400Z-2 of the Internal Revenue Code provides three compelling tax incentives to encourage investment in qualified opportunity funds (“QOFs”).

  • Taxpayers can defer paying taxes on capital gain from the sale or exchange of appreciated assets by investing such gain in a QOF within 180 days following such sale or exchange. Such gain may be deferred until the earlier of (i) when the investment is sold or exchanged or (ii) December 31, 2026.
  • Investors receive a step-up in the basis equal to 10% of the original deferred gain if the investment in the QOF is held for at least five years, with an additional 5% basis step-up if the investment is held for seven years. These basis step-ups can result in permanent exclusion from taxation of up to 15% of the originally deferred gain.
  • If the investor holds the investment in the QOF for at least 10 years, an elective basis adjustment made upon sale of the interest in the QOF provides a permanent exclusion from taxation for any appreciation in excess of the deferred gain.

On April 17, 2019, the Treasury Department released its second round of guidance on opportunity zone investment in the form of proposed regulations (the “New Proposed Regulations”). These newly proposed regulations supplement and in some cases revise the proposed regulations issued in October 2018 (The “October Proposed Regulations”). Continue Reading

New Effort to Exempt Crypto Currency from Certain SEC, Tax and Other Regulatory Burdens

A new bill, the Token Taxonomy Act was introduced to congress to amend the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to exclude digital tokens from the definition of a security, to direct the Securities and Exchange Commission to enact certain regulatory changes regarding digital units secured through public key cryptography, to adjust taxation of virtual currencies held in individual retirement accounts, to create a tax exemption for exchanges of one virtual currency for another, to create a de minimis exemption from taxation for gains realized from the sale or exchange of virtual currency for other than cash, and for other purposes. 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 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

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

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