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.
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.
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.
On April 10, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed a securities class action complaint against Norwegian Cruise Lines (“NCL”) relating to the company’s disclosures made as the coronavirus pandemic was starting to unfold in the United States. In Douglas v. Norwegian Cruise Lines, et al., the court found the plaintiff failed to plead actionable misstatements or omissions and scienter for a claim of securities fraud under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder.
Thanks to the court’s thorough analysis, this decision serves as a useful overview to those wishing to cruise through the sea of corporate puffery, forward-looking statements, and scienter in the federal securities laws.
One of the more intriguing rulings of this Supreme Court Term is the Court’s one-sentence order yesterday dismissing as improvidently granted the writ of certiorari issued in Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian (No. 18-459). The Court had taken the case to review a Circuit split on the liability standard under § 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act, which regulates tender offers. Along the way, however, the petitioner argued that a private right of action does not exist at all under § 14(e) – an issue that had not been raised in the lower courts. That issue occupied a large portion of the oral argument held on April 15, 2019, with the parties and the Justices exploring whether the Court should entertain the previously unraised issue and, if so, what the outcome should be.
The Supreme Court held on March 27 that persons who do not “make” material misstatements or omissions, but who disseminate them to potential investors with fraudulent intent, can be held to have violated other provisions of the securities laws that do not depend on actually “making” the misstatements or omissions. …