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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SEC Enforcement Director and SDNY/EDNY Officials Address Enforcement Priorities

SEC Division of Enforcement Director Gurbir Grewal and several high-ranking officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and the FBI spoke on November 29, 2022 at a conference sponsored by Sandpiper Partners LLC concerning hot topics in SEC and DOJ enforcement.  The panelists all made clear that … Continue Reading

SolarWinds: A Lesson on How Companies Victimized by Data Breaches Can Quickly Become the Target of Litigation and Regulatory Investigations

In 2020, SolarWinds Corp., a company that provided information technology software to private and government entities, was the victim of a cybersecurity breach.  Russian hackers are believed to have slipped malicious code into a SolarWinds software product called Orion, which was then used to infect, and in certain cases, compromise, SolarWinds customers.  As a consequence, … Continue Reading

In The Zone? When Directors of Portfolio Companies Have to Take Creditor Interests into Account

Representatives of asset managers often take up positions on the boards of portfolio companies. We have written posts before on some of the litigation and regulatory risks that can arise, both for the asset managers and the individuals including: Portfolio Company Risk: Plaintiffs Set Sights on Sponsors and Board Directors, The Trend of Increasing Disclosure Obligations for Private … Continue Reading

Father Sometimes Knows Best: District Court Blasts SEC’s “No Admit, No Deny” Provisions

In a scathing opinion, Southern District of New York Judge Ronnie Abrams recently blasted the SEC’s standard demand that defendants settling with the Commission agree never to deny the allegations against them.  Judge Abrams’ decision in SEC v. Moraes reluctantly approved a consent decree containing the usual “no admit, no deny” provision in light of … Continue Reading

Keeping Up With Kim Kardashian’s SEC Charges

The SEC spread its reach to Hollywood this month – on October 3, 2022, the SEC announced charges against Kim Kardashian for her social media promotions of EMAX, a digital token issued by EthereumMax. The SEC found that Kardashian violated the anti-touting provision of the federal securities laws by failing to disclose the $250,000 payment … Continue Reading

CFTC Head Urges Congressional Action on Crypto while SEC Leader Says Crypto Rulemaking is “Years Away”

Both the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and leader of the SEC agree that the crypto markets need regulating, and specific rules may help clarify which agency has authority to regulate various cryptocurrency activities. The client alert below discusses both CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam’s comments and SEC Chair Gary Gensler’s remarks during … Continue Reading

SEC Eyes Further Crypto Regulation as Concerns over Conflicts of Interest Loom

SEC Chair Gary Gensler appears to be readying the SEC for increasing oversight of cryptocurrency exchanges, the latest in a series of regulatory actions targeting the growing industry. In prepared remarks at PLI’s recent SEC Speaks conference, Gensler called on cryptocurrency platforms to register each function they perform with the SEC – for example, requiring … Continue Reading

Cryptic Guidance? Despite Regulatory Ambiguity, New SEC Enforcement Could Drive Increase in Cryptocurrency-Related Shareholder Class Actions   

In late-July, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought insider trading charges against a former manager at Coinbase—the largest crypto asset trading platform in the United States. The charges are the latest move in the agency’s efforts to regulate cryptocurrency, and could spur an increase in cryptocurrency-related securities litigation.… Continue Reading

SEC Adopts Long-Awaited Pay Versus Performance Disclosure Rule

On August 25, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission, in a 3-2 vote, adopted a new disclosure rule implementing the Dodd-Frank Act’s requirement that public companies disclose the relationship between compensation paid to executives and the company’s financial performance. SEC Chair Gary Gensler’s stated purpose of the new rule, commonly known as the “pay versus … Continue Reading

Blockchain Meets Morrison: Court Rejects Blockchain Class Settlement Because of Concerns About Adequacy of Representation

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York recently rejected a proposed settlement of a securities class action involving purchasers of digital tokens due to concerns about whether the lead plaintiff had adequately represented the class for settlement purposes.  Judge Lewis A. Kaplan held in Williams v. Block.one that the federal securities laws … Continue Reading

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
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