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

Second Circuit Affirms Exclusion of Certain Foreign Purchasers and Purchases from Securities Class Action

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a lengthy opinion today in the long-running In re Vivendi, S.A. Securities Litigation, affirming the jury’s verdict on liability and addressing issues about loss causation and expert-witness testimony.  But the tail on the proverbial dog also dealt with another set of issues that this blog has frequently discussed:  the extent to which the U.S. securities laws apply to foreign purchasers and foreign purchases.

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International Comity and Deference: A Foreign Government with Final Say When Interpreting its Own Laws

On Tuesday, the Second Circuit in In Re Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation vacated a $147 million award against two Chinese companies for engaging in anti-competitive behavior.  At issue was how a federal court should respond when a foreign government’s regulatory scheme conflicts with U.S. laws.  Because the Chinese companies could not simultaneously comply with Chinese law and U.S. antitrust laws, the principles of international comity required the district court to abstain from exercising jurisdiction in the case.  As a result, the Second Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of the Chinese companies’ motion to dismiss and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. In re Vitamin C Antitrust Litig., No. 13-4791 (2d Cir. Sept. 20, 2016). Continue Reading

DOJ Moves to Dismiss Public Corruption Charges Against Former VA Governor

Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia moved to dismiss public corruption charges against former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, and his wife, Maureen McDonnell. The decision comes after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously vacated the former Governor’s corruption conviction earlier this summer.  McDonnell v. United States, 579 U. S. ____ (2016). The government’s decision not to further pursue charges against the McDonnells is a signal that prosecutors are paying heed to the Supreme Court’s warnings about over-aggressive interpretations of criminal statutes and that they had scant additional evidence against the McDonnells.   Continue Reading

SEC Sues Company and its GC/CCO for Failure to Disclose and Accrue Charge for a Pending DOJ Investigation

On September 9, 2016, the SEC filed a complaint against RPM International Inc. (“RPM”) and the company’s General Counsel/CCO. The SEC claims the company filed false and misleading SEC filings that failed to disclose any loss contingency relating to a DOJ investigation that the company eventually settled for $60.9 million.  The complaint also charged the GC/CCO, individually, for his failure to inform RPM and its auditors about material facts relating to a DOJ investigation.  RPM and the GC/CCO are contesting the SEC’s allegations, and the company has called the case a “product of prosecutorial overreach.

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Ninth Circuit Holds That SOX Disgorgement of Incentive Compensation Does Not Depend on Executives’ Own Misconduct

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held today that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s disgorgement provision – which requires disgorgement of certain CEO and CFO compensation when an issuer restates its financial statements “as a result of misconduct” – applies even if the CEO and CFO were not personally involved in the misconduct. Although several district courts had previously reached that conclusion, the Ninth Circuit’s decision in SEC v. Jensen appears to be the first appellate ruling on the issue.

The Ninth Circuit also held in Jensen that the SEC’s Rule 13a-14 – which requires CEOs and CFOs to certify the accuracy of the issuer’s financial statements – provides the SEC with a right of action against officers who certify false or misleading financial statements.

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FinCEN Proposal Looks to Extend AML Requirements to Non-Federally Regulated Banks

On April 25, 2016, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, proposed a rule that would require all banks, regardless of whether they are subject to regulation by a “Federal functional regulator,” to establish and implement written AML programs, conduct ongoing customer due diligence, and identify and verify the identity of the beneficial owners of their legal entity customers. The proposal would also extend customer identification program requirements to banks not covered under existing rules. Continue Reading

SEC Overrules Its Own Administrative Law Judge to Clear Customer of Fraud Charges

In a rare reversal of its own administrative law judge in the Matter of optionsXpress, the full Securities and Exchange Commission unanimously held that the SEC’s Enforcement Division had not met its burden of proof that the customer of a broker-dealer had committed securities fraud in connection with his clearing broker-dealer’s failure to deliver stock as required by Regulation SHO.

The customer in this case implemented an option trading strategy which exploited the price difference between certain options and their underlying securities.  The trading strategy focused on “hard to borrow” securities, which were more expensive to borrow due to high short-seller demand.  As a result of the trading strategy, the customer held substantial short positions in the underlying hard to borrow securities over a sustained period of time.

Under Regulation SHO, a broker-dealer is required to deliver securities to its clearing house in connection with a sale within three days of settlement.  If it does not do so, it must close out the fail to deliver on the next settlement day by purchasing or borrowing similar securities in the market. Here, the broker-dealer repeatedly failed to deliver the securities in which the customer held short positions.

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