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

Category Archives: Securities Law

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Delaware Supreme Court Allows Use of “Reliable” Hearsay to Support Books-and-Records Demand

The Delaware Supreme Court held yesterday that a stockholder seeking to inspect corporate books and records may use “reliable” hearsay to establish the propriety of the purpose of the inspection demand. The decision in NVIDIA Corp. v. City of Westland Police and Fire Retirement System (July 19, 2022) does not appear to break new ground on … Continue Reading

Divided Delaware Supreme Court Decision Highlights Issues About Director Independence in Derivative Actions

The Delaware Supreme Court recently affirmed a Court of Chancery ruling granting a Special Litigation Committee’s motion to terminate a shareholder derivative action that had survived a motion to dismiss. The split decision in El Pollo Loco (June 28, 2022) highlights whether a director can be considered independent – especially as a member of a Special … Continue Reading

Tractor Supply Gets Lift from Court with Diversity Suit Dismissal

Earlier this spring, yet another lawsuit alleging a company failed to adequately promote diversity was dismissed for a failure to properly allege demand futility. In City of Pontiac Police & Fire Ret. Sys. v. Jamison, the plaintiff, a shareholder of Tractor Supply Company, had alleged that the company and members of its Board falsely stated … Continue Reading

No Influence: Court Dismisses Claim Based on CEO’s Raucous Influencer Parties

Earlier last month, Judge Vince Chhabbria of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a novel complaint that the court noted stretched the bounds of when directors of a company could reasonably be held accountable for the actions of its executives. Notwithstanding the case’s amusing subject matter, the decision applies … Continue Reading

Second Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Securities Claim Alleging Failure to Disclose SEC Investigation

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit yesterday reversed the dismissal of a securities class action alleging fraud based on the defendants’ failure to disclose an SEC investigation into the company’s disclosed financial-control weaknesses.  The May 24, 2022 ruling in Noto v. 22nd Century Group, Inc. (No. 21-0347) is fact-specific, requiring disclosure of the investigation because … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds SEC’s In-House Courts and Judges Unconstitutional

In Jarkesy v. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a remarkable opinion holding numerous aspects of the SEC’s administrative enforcement regime are unconstitutional.  The May 18, 2022 ruling stands to eliminate the SEC’s ability to adjudicate enforcement actions seeking penalties using ALJs, rather than bringing suit in federal … Continue Reading

SEC Division of Examinations Announces 2022 Examination Priorities

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Examinations recently announced its examination priorities for fiscal year 2022: Private Funds; Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) Investing; Standards of Conduct; Information Security and Operational Resiliency; and Emerging Technologies and Crypto-Assets.  The Division seeks to provide investors and registrants with transparency into these areas, and that it expects registrants to … Continue Reading

Major SPAC News, Rules May Be Coming This Week

On Thursday, March 24th, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced an agenda for a March 30th open meeting for the Divisions on Corporate Finance and Investment Management.  The meeting has only one agenda item: SPACs, shell companies, and projections. In December 2021, SEC Chair Gary Gensler compared SPACs to traditional IPOs, and noted that there … Continue Reading

Pay Versus Performance Takes Center Stage

In an era where TikTok stars outearn scores of CEOs of top earning publicly traded companies, executive compensation is no less important to the investing public or to companies striving to attract and retain top talent. Indeed, just this year the CEO of Starbucks received a 39% pay increase. Such soaring executive compensation has not … Continue Reading

Securities Litigation: An Emerging Strategy to Hold Companies Accountable for Privacy Protections

A California federal judge rejected Zoom Video Communications, Inc.’s motion to dismiss securities fraud claims against it, and its CEO and CFO, for misrepresenting Zoom’s privacy protections. Although there have been a number of cases challenging inadequate privacy protections on consumer protection grounds in recent years, this decision shifts the spotlight to an additional front … Continue Reading

SEC Says Remedy Stops Penalty: HeadSpin Avoids Fine in SEC Fraud Action

On January 28, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against HeadSpin, Inc., a Silicon Valley start-up. In the complaint, the SEC alleged that HeadSpin, though its then-CEO Manish Lachwani, engaged in a fraudulent scheme “to propel its valuation to over $1 … Continue Reading

Key Takeaways from Recent Court Rulings on Corporate Board Oversight

Corporate boards are subject to a duty of oversight, as part of their duty of loyalty to their company. As outlined by Delaware’s famously stringent Caremark standard, pleading a violation of that duty is often difficult. However, the Delaware Court of Chancery has issued several recent opinions addressing duty of oversight claims where they held the … Continue Reading

SEC Defeats Motion to Dismiss Insider-Trading Complaint Alleging Novel “Shadow Trading” Theory

The SEC prevailed on a motion to dismiss a closely watched lawsuit alleging that the defendant had engaged in insider trading based on news about a not-yet-public corporate acquisition when he purchased securities of a company not involved in that deal.  The January 14, 2022 decision in SEC v. Panuwat (N.D. Cal.) marks the first time … Continue Reading

Qualcomm Escapes Diversity Suit

Another diversity-based derivative suit was dismissed this week by a federal district court, joining a list of decisions that have rejected similar shareholder allegations. This most recent decision, from the District of Delaware, dismissed claims alleging Qualcomm Inc. had allowed unlawful and discriminatory practices to exist within its executive ranks.  Though the complaint was initially … Continue Reading

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.… Continue Reading

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.… Continue Reading

Second Circuit Holds that Accurately Reported Financial Statements Are Not Actionable and that Materiality Has a Half-Life

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held earlier this week that a company’s accurately reported financial statements are not misleading simply because they do not disclose that alleged misconduct might have contributed to the company’s financial results. The court also ruled that alleged misstatements made three to four years before the plaintiffs … Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Regulators Turn Up the Heat on Cryptocurrency Trading Platforms

With new types of digital assets and related business on the rise, federal authorities have been busy investigating.  Recently, the SEC, FinCEN and the CFTC have imposed some notable settlements involving cryptocurrency trading platforms for allegedly operating without appropriate approvals from financial regulatory authorities.  This may be the start of the next wave of government … Continue Reading

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Discovery Stays Apply to State-Court Securities Lawsuits This Fall

One of the most significant differences between bringing a securities lawsuit in state versus federal court is the application of the mandatory discovery stay set forth in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (the “PSLRA”).  Following the enactment of the PSLRA in 1995, federal courts must stay discovery in securities-law cases until after a complaint … Continue Reading
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