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

Disgorgement Continues at the SEC

On October 12, 2021, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a disgorgement order issued by the SEC, in—according to the opinion— the first appellate ruling on the topic since the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Liu v. SEC. Continue Reading

Over $1 Billion Whistleblower Awards Paid to Date by the SEC

Last week, the SEC announced accumulated awards of over $1 billion paid to 207 whistleblowers since its first award in 2012.  Over $500 million was awarded in fiscal year 2021 alone.

The SEC crossed the billion-dollar milestone with awards of $110 million and $4 million to two whistleblowers on September 15, 2021.  The $110 million award marks the second-highest award to date and consists of $40 million stemming from an SEC case and $70 million for related actions by another agency.

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Northern District of California Dismisses Derivative Lawsuit Alleging Online Child Privacy Law Violations

The acronym “ESG” is shorthand for environmental, social, and governance concerns.  In recent years, companies have used “ESG” to refer to initiatives involving climate change, responding to racial injustice, and supporting workers’ rights.  The “S” in ESG can be a bit nebulous, however, as “social” may refer to any number of issues affecting a corporation, its stakeholders, and the community at large. For example, children’s privacy has always been a hot button social issue, but it has only gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic as children have transitioned to remote learning and socializing online more than ever before. And a derivative lawsuit suggests that companies may want to ensure they are responding to child privacy concerns as part of their regular ESG practices and policies. Continue Reading

SEC Brings First Enforcement Action Against Alternative Data Provider

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a settled securities fraud action against App Annie Inc., one of the largest sellers of market data on how apps on mobile devices are performing, and its co-founder and former CEO and Chairman Bertrand Schmitt.  The settlement is the first enforcement action brought by the SEC against an alternative data provider.  As part of the settlement, App Annie agreed to pay a $10 million civil penalty and Schmitt agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty and to be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for three years.

Read the full client alert here.

Another Diversity Suit Stifled

Last week, yet another federal court dismissed a shareholder derivative suit that claimed a company had failed to diversify its corporate leadership team.  Shareholders had alleged that Opko Health Inc., a Miami-based medical company, failed to nominate or appoint minorities to the board and executive management team despite public statements celebrating the company’s diverse staff.

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SEC Investor Advisory Committee Considers Recommendations to Tighten Rules for Insiders’ Trading Plans

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investor Advisory Committee (the “IAC”) is considering recommendations from its Owner Subcommittee urging the Commission to tighten the affirmative defense and disclosure requirements for SEC Rule 10b5-1 trading plans.  These recommendations follow recent statements by SEC Chair Gary Gensler signaling the agency’s intention to review and toughen rules governing those plans.

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July 2021 Update of the SEC’s Covered Actions for Potential Whistleblower Claims

On July 30, 2021, the SEC posted 14 Notices of Covered Actions, after which individuals have 90 calendar days to apply for a whistleblower award.  As discussed in our prior post, the SEC publishes these Notices for cases in which the final judgment or order, either by itself or together with other prior judgments or orders in the same action issued after July 21, 2010, results in monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million.

In this post, we briefly survey the 14 Notices of Covered Actions from July 2021.  (See our previous post on the SEC’s Notices of Covered Actions from June 2021.)  Several of the alleged misconducts in the 14 Covered Actions also resulted in parallel criminal actions. Continue Reading

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