Corporate Defense and Disputes

Important developments in U.S. securities law, white collar criminal defense, regulatory enforcement and other emerging issues impacting financial services institutions, publicly traded companies and private investment funds

We Know What You Really Meant: Utah Court Holds that SEC Can Bring Extraterritorial Enforcement Action Based on Conduct or Effects in United States

A federal court in Utah recently held that the Securities and Exchange Commission may bring an enforcement action based on allegedly foreign securities transactions involving non-U.S. residents if sufficient conduct occurred in the United States. Continue Reading

Non-Use Agreement Need Not Precede Disclosure of Confidential Information

A Pennsylvania federal court held yesterday that an agreement not to use confidential inside information for trading purposes need not precede the receipt of that information in order to create liability under the misappropriation theory of insider trading. The ruling in SEC v. Cooperman (E.D. Pa.) appears to be the first decision to address the “novel issue” of “[w]hether liability under the misappropriation theory of insider trading may be premised on a post disclosure agreement” not to trade on or otherwise use inside information.

This decision, if followed by other courts, could give the Government greater leeway in pursuing claims against persons who allegedly agreed not to trade on material, nonpublic information received from corporate insiders. The decision allows such claims to proceed even if the Government cannot specify when the alleged agreement was made, as long as the agreement preceded the actual trading. Continue Reading

Watch the Napkin: First Circuit Affirms Insider-Trading Conviction

In what appears to be the first appellate decision since the Supreme Court’s December 2016 ruling in Salman v. United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed an insider-trading conviction based on a tip of material, nonpublic information. The February 24, 2017 decision in United States v. Bray held that the jury had sufficient evidence to conclude that, in soliciting and receiving a trading tip surreptitiously written on a pub-room napkin, the tippee had known that the tipper had provided the information in breach of his duty of confidentiality and in expectation of a personal benefit.

However, the court also made clear that a tippee cannot be criminally convicted for insider trading if he merely “should have known” of the tipper’s breach of duty. The court further held that a “willful blindness” or “conscious avoidance” standard cannot be based on mere negligence (at least in a criminal case). Continue Reading

Race to Courthouse in Shareholder Derivative Actions Could Raise Due-Process Issues

The Delaware Supreme Court requested further consideration of the federal due-process issues that might arise where a court is asked to hold that a shareholder derivative action is precluded because a prior derivative action was dismissed based on the first plaintiff’s failure to make a demand on the company’s board before filing suit. The Court’s January 18, 2017 decision in California State Teachers’ Retirement System v. Alvarez squarely focuses on an issue that has been raised several times in the Delaware Court of Chancery: whether federal due-process principles prevent the actions of a named plaintiff in a derivative action from binding other shareholders unless and until a court holds that the plaintiff has authority to sue on behalf of the corporation.

The ultimate resolution of this question could affect the strategy decisions confronting plaintiffs and defendants when multiple shareholder derivative actions are filed in two or more forums. Continue Reading

SEC Staff Announces 2017 OCIE Examination Priorities

On January 12, 2017, the staff of the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released its annual announcement on examination priorities in the coming calendar year. The 2017 examination priorities are organized around three thematic areas: (i) examining matters of importance to retail investors; (ii) focusing on risks specific to elderly and retiring investors; and (iii) assessing market-wide risks. As we have reported on previously, OCIE incorporates data analytics into the vast majority of its examination initiatives to identify industry practices and/or registrants that appear to have elevated risk profiles.

Read the full client alert here.

California Federal Court Holds that U.S. Securities Laws Apply to Sponsored, Unlisted ADRs

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held on January 4, 2017 that the federal securities laws apply to U.S. transactions in sponsored, but unlisted, American Depositary Receipts (“ADRs”) for a foreign issuer’s shares. The decision in In re Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation adds to the handful of decisions addressing whether U.S. transactions in sponsored, but unlisted, ADRs are covered by the federal securities laws. Most of those decisions have held that U.S. law applies to those transactions. The Volkswagen ruling also joins the majority of decisions in holding that the over-the-counter (“OTC”) markets are not considered to be “exchanges” for purposes of determining the scope of the federal securities laws. Continue Reading

Business Judgment Rule Dooms Home Depot Data Breach Shareholder Derivative Suit

Large-scale corporate data breaches have unfortunately become increasingly common events, posing a variety of challenges to the companies that suffer them. A few weeks ago, a district court in Georgia dismissed one of the first shareholder derivative actions that challenged the adequacy of a corporation’s data-breach prevention strategy. While that court held that the business judgment rule shielded the company’s actions, it remains to be seen whether that position becomes the majority one.

Read the full New York Law Journal article.

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