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

District Court Takes Judicial Notice of SEC Order in Denying Motion to Dismiss Shareholder Claims

In our previous post, Under Armour Inc. Pulls Sales Forward, SEC and Stockholders Push Back, we discussed Under Armour Inc.’s recent settlement with the SEC, under which Under Armour agreed to pay $9 million for alleged violations of federal securities laws. While that settlement marked the end of a two year investigation into Under Armour’s “pull forward” practices, it also was the basis on which a U.S. District Court permitted similar (but not identical) shareholder claims against Under Armour to proceed. Continue Reading

Smooth Sailing: Another Securities Class Action Against a Cruise Line Dismissed

On May 27, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed a securities class action against Carnival Corp. (“Carnival”), which operates the world’s largest cruise company, relating to the company’s health and safety disclosures made prior to and as the COVID-19 pandemic spread.  This decision follows a dismissal of another securities fraud class action against a major cruise operator six weeks earlier by the same court.

Like in the prior case against Norwegian, the Carnival court dismissed the suit upon finding the plaintiffs failed to plead the existence of any statements that were materially false or misleading, and failed to sufficiently allege scienter.  In so doing, it applied traditional principles of federal securities laws to the anything-but-traditional circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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CytoDyn Faces Continued Shareholder Pressure

The spate of shareholder actions against biotech companies relating to COVID-19 treatments shows no signs of stopping, and now, derivative lawsuits are following the initial wave of securities class actions.  For example, late last week, a shareholder of CytoDyn, Inc., brought a derivative action against certain officers and directors of the company.  CytoDyn is a biotechnology company that has focused on the development and commercialization for a drug called “Leronlimab,” what was promoted as a potential therapy for HIV.  According to the complaint, in 2020, CytoDyn began promoting Leronlimab as a treatment for COVID-19, causing its stock price to rise.  But when it came out that marketing Leronlimab as a COVID-19 treatment was not a commercially viable development for the company, the complaint alleges CytoDyn’s shares dropped significantly. Continue Reading

All-Seeing Bylaws Help Block Diversity Suit

The rash of shareholder derivative actions alleging violations of fiduciary duties tied to companies’ diversity measures are continuing to take a beating in the Northern District of California.  We previously posted about the dismissal on forum selection clause grounds of a derivative action brought in that court by a shareholder of The Gap, Inc. alleging the company’s directors and officers failed to instill meaningful diversity within its leadership.  We also reported on a similar suit brought against Facebook, which was dismissed because, among other reasons, the forum selection clause in Facebook’s certificate of incorporation provided that the exclusive forum for derivative actions was the Delaware Court of Chancery. Continue Reading

SEC Chair Gensler Testifies on “Unprecedented Surge” in SPACs

SPACs remain on everyone’s mind, especially the country’s chief regulator.  On May 26, 2021, SEC Chair Gary Gensler testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on “key capital market trends” that will impact SEC resources in the coming years. And the very first topic he raised – Initial Public Offerings and Special Purpose Acquisition Companies – was of no surprise to most market watchers.

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Review of the SEC Whistleblower Program: At the Crossroads of Securities Law and Whistleblower Protection

Fiscal year 2020 marked the ten-year anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act establishing the Securities and Exchange Commission’s whistleblower program. Since its inception through the end of FY2020, the SEC has awarded approximately $562 million to 106 individuals. Even a decade after it was created, the whistleblower program continues to break its own records; in 2020, the SEC issued several awards landing in the top 10 whistleblower awards of all time. Continue Reading

ESG Status Quo Persists For Now, Gensler Signals Rulemaking Forthcoming

The SEC’s Climate and ESG Task Force has been criticized by Republican commissioners who believe enforcement in the area would be premature. But Kelly L. Gibson, acting deputy director of the enforcement and head of the agency-wide ESG Task Force, stated that the task force is necessary to recognize evolving investor priorities and that it will continue to operate. And new SEC Chairman Gary Gensler has echoed her sentiments, telling Congress that investors “measured in the trillions of dollars” seek to better understand climate risk issues. Continue Reading

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