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  • New York State Court Dismisses Putative Securities Class Action Lawsuit Against Canadian Cannabis Producer For Failure To Plead Contemporaneous Misleading Statements
     
    06/15/2021

    On June 3, 2021, Justice Andrew Borrok of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Commercial Division, granted a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action against a Canadian cannabis company (the “Company”), certain of its officers and directors, and its underwriters, alleging violations of Sections 11 and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”).  Leung v. Hexo Corp., et al., No. 20-cv-150444 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Jun. 3, 2021).  Plaintiff alleged that the Company’s offering documents misled investors regarding one of the Company’s key supply agreements.  In dismissing the complaint, the Court held that plaintiff failed to adequately allege contemporaneous facts indicating that the Company knew at the time of the offering that issues would arise with respect to that agreement.  In so holding, the Court cited a March 9, 2021 decision by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the Southern District of New York, in which Judge Buchwald granted a motion to dismiss a first-filed action in federal court asserting similar claims against the Company, certain of its officers and directors, and its underwriters, relying on the same allegations.
  • Southern District Of Florida Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Cruise Line Related To Statements Regarding COVID-19 Risks And Precautionary Measures
     
    06/08/2021

    On May 28, 2021, Judge K. Michael Moore of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action against a cruise line (the “Company”) and its CEO for violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company made false and misleading statements and omissions about the risks posed by COVID-19 and the Company’s health and safety protocols during the early stages of the pandemic.  Consistent with another recent decision covered here, the Court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims for failure to adequately plead falsity and scienter, but granted leave to amend.
  • Eastern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action For Failure To Allege Actionable Misstatements
     
    06/02/2021

    On May 20, 2021, Judge Dora L. Irizarry of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed with prejudice a putative class action asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a car manufacturer and certain of its current and former Board members.  Mucha v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, — F. Supp. 3d —, 2021 WL 2006079 (E.D.N.Y. May 20, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged the company engaged in anticompetitive conduct which rendered a number of statements in the company’s SEC filings false or misleading.  The Court held that plaintiffs failed to sufficiently allege that the alleged misstatements were false, and therefore dismissed the complaint in its entirety.
  • Oregon District Court Grants Summary Judgment For Defendants Upon Motion For Reconsideration In Putative Class Action
     
    06/02/2021

    On May 24, 2021, United States Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon granted summary judgment in favor of defendants upon a motion for reconsideration in a putative class action asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against an industrial manufacturing company and certain of its executives.  Murphy v. Precision Castparts Corp., No. 3:16-CV-00521-SB, 2021 WL 2080016 (D. Or. May 24, 2021).  Plaintiffs primarily alleged that defendants made misrepresentations that the company remained on target to meet earnings projections.  The Court had previously granted summary judgment for defendants with respect to certain alleged misstatements, but had determined that certain statements regarding the company’s progress toward its projections contained an element of present fact and were therefore actionable.  On a motion for reconsideration based on the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Wochos v. Tesla, Inc., 985 F.3d 1180 (9th Cir. 2021), the Court dismissed these remaining allegations, holding that the challenged statements did not contain the “concrete” description of present facts that is required for such statements to be actionable.
  • District Of Maryland Denies Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims Against Sports Apparel Company, Finding Plaintiffs Adequately Pled Material Misstatements And Scienter In Light Of SEC Order In Parallel Proceeding
     
    05/26/2021

    On May 19, 2021, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland denied a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action involving claims brought under Sections 10(b), 20(a) and 20A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) against a sports apparel company (the “Company”) and one of its executives.  In re Under Armour Securities Litigation, No. 17-cv-00388 (D. Md. May 19, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants misrepresented the Company’s financial health and the demand for its products by engaging in “channel stuffing”—the practice of pulling forward sales from a future quarter, thereby shifting earnings into earlier quarters—relying in part on a settlement between the Company and the SEC and the $9 million civil penalty paid in connection with the settlement to resolve similar allegations.
  • District Of New Jersey Holds Omnicare Applies To Exchange Act Claims Based On Alleged Omissions But Dismisses Claims Against Canadian Cannabis Producer Related To Inventory Surplus For Failure To Allege Scienter
     
    05/18/2021

    On May 6, 2021, Judge Kevin McNulty of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granted a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action against the largest cannabis company in Canada (the “Company”) and several of its officers for violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  Ortiz v. Canopy Growth Corp., No. 19-cv-20543 (D.N.J. May 6, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged the Company made numerous false and misleading statements and omissions about the Company’s inventory levels.  Although the Court held that certain of the Company’s representations regarding inventory and revenue in its financial statements were statements of opinion that were actionable, the Court ultimately dismissed these claims because plaintiffs failed to adequately allege scienter.
  • Northern District Of Illinois Grants Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims Against Financial Services Provider, Finding Plaintiffs Failed To Adequately Plead Scienter
     
    05/04/2021

    ​On April 26, 2021, Judge Sara L. Ellis of the Northern District of Illinois granted a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action asserting claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) against a financial services provider (the “Company”) and two of its executives.  Heavy & General Laborers’ Local 472 & 172 Pension and Annuity Funds v. Fifth Third Bancorp, et. al., No. 20-C-2176 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 26, 2021).  Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and a putative class of investors who allegedly purchased and sold securities of the Company during the putative class period, alleged that defendants made materially misleading statements regarding the Company’s business practices that were the subject of a federal investigation.  The Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the consolidated complaint without prejudice, holding that plaintiff failed to adequately plead scienter.
    CATEGORIES : Exchange Act Scienter
  • Eighth Circuit Reverses Class Certification Of Securities Fraud Claims Against Brokerage Firm, Holding That Common Issues Do Not Predominate
     
    05/04/2021

    On April 23, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the certification of a class pursuing securities fraud claims against a brokerage firm for retail investors (“the Company”).  Ford v. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., et al., No. 18-3689 (8th Cir. April 23, 2021).  Plaintiff, on behalf of a putative class of investors who purchased and sold securities through the Company, brought securities fraud claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, alleging the Company’s order routing practices violated its “duty of best execution” by systematically sending orders to trading venues that benefited the Company, rather than to venues that provided the best outcome for customers.  The Court held that the predominance and superiority requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3) were not satisfied because determining economic loss, in this case, would entail a trade-by-trade individualized inquiry.  Having found that the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class, the Court reversed the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings.
  • Ninth Circuit Holds Omnicare’s Standard For Falsity Of Opinion Applies To Claims Under Section 14(a) Of The Exchange Act
     
    04/28/2021

    On April 20, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative securities class action against an information technology security company (the “Company”), its chief executive officer, and Board of Directors (the “Directors”), alleging that a proxy statement issued in connection with a sale of the Company violated Sections 14(a) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 14a-9.  Golub v. Gigamon Inc., No. 19-16975 (9th Cir. Apr. 20, 2021).  In a unanimous decision, the Ninth Circuit, joining the Fourth Circuit (Paradise Wire & Cable Defined Benefit Pension Plan v. Weil, 918 F.3d 312 (4th Cir. 2019)), held that the standard articulated in Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 575 U.S. 175 (2015) governing whether a plaintiff has sufficiently alleged the falsity of a statement of opinion under Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”), also applies to claims under Section 14(a) of the Exchange Act and Rule 14a-9, and affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the complaint for failure to allege falsity.  The Court further explained its application of the Omnicare standard to Section 14(a) in an accompanying summary opinion.
  • Northern District Of Illinois Denies Motion To Dismiss A Putative Securities Class Action Against Electric Company For Failure To Disclose Long-Running Bribery Scheme
     
    04/28/2021

    On April 21, 2021, Judge Virginia M. Kendall of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action against a large Illinois-based electric company (the “Company) for violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 as well as Items 105 and 303 of Regulation S-K.  Flynn v. Exelon Corp., No. 19-C-8209 (N.D. Ill. April 21, 2021).  Plaintiff alleged that the Company made false and misleading statements and omissions about an eight-year scheme to bribe Illinois state lawmakers, which, when finally disclosed to the market, caused substantial losses to investors.  The Court denied the motion to dismiss with respect to most claims.  Significantly, although the Court recognized that the Seventh Circuit has not held that Items 105 and 303 impose a general duty to disclose regulatory non-compliance, the Court nevertheless found that the Company violated Items 105 and 303 because it knew of and attempted to conceal the bribery scheme, all while making public statements that it was in compliance with its internal anti-bribery guidelines.
  • Southern District Of Florida Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Cruise Line For Failure To Adequately Allege Misrepresentations Or Scienter
     
    04/20/2021

    On April 10, 2021, Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed with prejudice a putative class action asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a cruise line and certain of its executives.  Douglas v. Norwegian Cruise Lines, No. 20-21107-CIV, 2021 WL 1378296 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 12, 2021).  Plaintiff alleged the company made misrepresentations in February 2020 regarding the impact of COVID-19 on its business.  The Court held that plaintiff failed to adequately allege any actionable misrepresentations or scienter.
  • Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Putative Class Action Against Investment Bank For Failure To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    04/20/2021

    ​On April 8, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the Central District of California’s dismissal with prejudice of a putative class action asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against an investment bank, certain of its executives, and one of its research analysts.  Prodanova v. H.C. Wainwright & Co., LLC,—F.3d—, 2021 WL 1307882 (9th Cir. 2021).  Plaintiff alleged that defendants had attempted to increase a company’s stock price by publishing a bullish analyst report shortly before the company announced that the bank would serve as the exclusive placement agent for an offering of the company’s shares.  The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff failed to adequately allege a strong inference of scienter.
    CATEGORY : Scienter
  • Southern District Of Texas Denies Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims, Finding Plaintiffs Adequately Pled Material Misrepresentations And Scienter
     
    04/13/2021

    On March 31, 2021, Judge Alfred H. Bennett of the Southern District of Texas denied a motion to dismiss claims under Section 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) against a company that operates live adult entertainment businesses and bar-restaurants (the “Company”) and certain of its executives, as well as members of its audit, compensation, and nominating committees.  Hoffman, et al v. RCI Hospitality Holdings, Inc., et al, No. 4:19-cv-01841 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 31, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged defendants made misleading statements or omissions concerning certain related-party transactions (RPTs), executive compensation, and other financial points in several of the Company’s Form 10-K annual reports.  The Court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint, holding that plaintiffs sufficiently pled material misstatements and scienter.
     
  • Northern District Of Illinois Denies Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims Against Surgical Implants Manufacturer, Finding Plaintiffs Adequately Alleged Material Misstatements And Scienter
     
    04/13/2021

    On April 1, 2021, Judge Matthew F. Kennelly of the Eastern District of Illinois denied a motion to dismiss a claim under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, against a surgical implants manufacturer (the “Company”) and certain of its current and former officers.  Lowry v. RTI Surgical Holdings Inc., No. 20-cv-01939 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 1, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s accounting and revenue recognition practices which caused a stock drop once corrective disclosures were made.  The Court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint, holding that plaintiffs sufficiently pled material misstatements and scienter.
     
  • Central District Of California Denies Motion To Dismiss A Securities Fraud Complaint Against Medical Device Manufacturer Based On Statements Regarding Post-Acquisition Integration And Sales
     
    04/06/2021

    On March 29, 2021, Judge David O. Carter of the United States District Court for the Central District of California denied a motion to dismiss a consolidated putative class action complaint against a medical device manufacturer and marketer (the “Company”) and certain of its officers, alleging violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  In re Merit Med. Sys., Inc. Sec. Litig., No. 8:19-02326 DOC (ADSx) (C.D. Cal. Mar. 29, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company issued misleading statements regarding its acquisitions of two companies in late 2018 including with respect to the integration of those companies and their products sales.  The Court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, adopting a report and recommendation by Magistrate Judge Autumn D. Spaeth, which found that most of the challenged statements were not forward-looking statements protected by the PSLRA’s safe harbor provisions and that plaintiffs had adequately pled all elements of their claims. 
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses A Putative Securities Class Action Against A Finnish Telecommunications Company For Failure To Plead Falsity
     
    04/06/2021

    On March 29, 2021, Judge Andrew L. Carter of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action against a Finnish telecommunications company (the “Company”) and its former CEO for violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  In re Nokia Corp. Sec. Litig., No. 19-cv-3982 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2021).  Plaintiff alleged the Company made false and misleading statements and omissions regarding (i) the success of its post-merger integration with another telecommunications company (the “Acquired Company”); and (ii) the Company’s readiness to transition to 5G wireless cellular network technology (“5G”).  The Court dismissed the claims for failure to plead an actionable misstatement or omission.
    CATEGORIES : Exchange Act Falsity
  • Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument In Closely Watched Class Certification Case
     
    04/06/2021

    On March 29, 2021, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, which we have discussed in prior updates.  The case raises two questions in the context of class certification in a Section 10(b) case:  (i) whether a court can take into account the generic nature of alleged misstatements in a securities fraud class action in assessing whether they had any impact on the price of the stock, and (ii) who bears the burden of persuasion concerning reliance on the alleged misstatements, after a plaintiff has invoked the presumption of classwide reliance (under the Supreme Court’s decision in Basic Inc. v. Levinson) and the defendant has come forward with evidence to rebut that presumption.  
    CATEGORY :
  • Supreme Court Unanimously Affirms Specific Personal Jurisdiction Over Automobile Company In Product Liability Suits
     
    03/31/2021

    On March 25, 2021, the United States Supreme Court unanimously affirmed decisions by the Montana and Minnesota Supreme Courts holding that their lower courts had properly exercised specific personal jurisdiction over an automobile company in product liability suits arising from accidents in those states involving the company’s vehicles, even though those particular vehicles had not been designed, manufactured, or sold in those states.  Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Jud. Dist. Ct., Nos. 19-368, 19-369, 2021 WL 1132515 (U.S. Mar. 25, 2021).  In a consolidated appeal, the company challenged the State supreme court decisions, arguing that specific personal jurisdiction is only proper where there is a strict causal relationship between the defendant’s activities in the forum state and the plaintiff’s claim.  The Court rejected the company’s argument, holding that the exercise of personal jurisdiction in those states was proper under the circumstances.
    CATEGORY : Jurisdiction
  • Northern District Of California Pares Claims In Putative Class Action Against Technology Company
     
    03/31/2021

    On March 22, 2021, Judge Beth Labson Freeman of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed certain of the claims asserted in a putative class action brought under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a technology company and certain of its executives.  City of Sunrise Firefighters’ Pension Fund, et al. v. Oracle Corporation, et al., No. 18-cv-04844-BLF, slip op. (N.D. Cal. Mar. 22, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that the company made misrepresentations regarding its transition from locally installed software to cloud-based products, which plaintiffs alleged was driven through undisclosed “coercive sales practices.”  After the Court dismissed an earlier iteration of the complaint without prejudice for failure to allege any actionable misstatements, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint.  The Court held that a number of allegations failed to establish falsity or scienter, but permitted some claims to go forward against certain defendants on a limited theory of liability.
  • District Of Connecticut Dismisses Putative Class Action For Failure To Adequately Allege Material Misrepresentations, Scienter, and Loss Causation
     
    03/31/2021

    On March 19, 2021, Judge Stefan R. Underhill of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut dismissed with prejudice a putative class action asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a transportation and logistics company and certain of its executives.  Labul, et al. v. XPO Logistics, et al., No. 3:18-cv-2062 (SRU), slip op. (D. Conn. Mar. 19, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that the company misrepresented the extent to which it relied on a single customer to drive revenue growth and the financial impact of declining business from that customer.  The Court held that plaintiffs failed to adequately allege the existence of material misrepresentations, scienter, or loss causation, and therefore dismissed the action.
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Browser Services Company, Holding Plaintiffs Failed To Plead Material Misrepresentations And Scienter
     
    03/23/2021

    On March 13, 2021, Judge John G. Koeltl of the Southern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss claims brought under Sections 10b and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b5-1 promulgated thereunder, as well as Sections 11 and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”), against a Norwegian browser services company (the “Company”), its individual directors, and the underwriters of its initial public offering (the “IPO”). Lau v. Opera Limited et al., No. 1:2020-cv-00674 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 13, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company’s IPO offering materials contained materially false and misleading statements and omissions, and defendants made false or misleading statements in other documents and analyst calls regarding the Company’s market share and entry into the “fintech” market.  The Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ consolidated class action complaint (the “CCAC”), with leave to amend.
     
  • District Of Massachusetts Grants Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims Against Robot Vacuum Maker, Finding Its Disclosures Clean
     
    03/23/2021

    On March 12, 2021, Judge Denise Casper of the District of Massachusetts granted a motion to dismiss a claim under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, as well as Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act, against a robot vacuum cleaner (“RVC”) manufacturer (the “Company”) and certain of its executives.  In re iRobot Corporation Securities Litigation, No. 19-cv-12536-DJC (D. Mass. Mar. 12, 2021). Plaintiffs alleged that defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s ability to compete within the RVC market.  The Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ consolidated class action complaint (the “CAC”), holding that plaintiffs failed to sufficiently plead material misstatements and scienter.
     
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Canadian Cannabis Producer For Failure To Plead Falsity And Scienter
     
    03/17/2021

    On March 9, 2021, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss a putative class action complaint against a Canadian cannabis producer (the “Company”), certain of its officers and directors, and its underwriters that asserted claims under Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”) and Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5.  In re HEXO Corp. Sec. Litig., No. 19-CV-10965 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 9, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged the Company made misrepresentations about one of its key supply agreements, a new production facility, and its expected revenue.  The Court dismissed the claims under the Securities Act because they were based on impermissible hindsight pleading and the Exchange Act claims for failure to plead falsity and scienter. 
     
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Midstream Oil Company For Failure To Plead A Misrepresentation Or Omission
     
    03/17/2021

    On March 8, 2021, Judge Lewis J. Liman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a putative securities class action against a midstream oil company (the “Company”), its general partner, and an infrastructure firm that was an affiliate of the general partner and acquired the Company (the “Firm”), as well as certain of the Company’s officers and directors, alleging violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  Kraft v. Third Coast Midstream, No. 19-cv-9398 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 8, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company and the Firm orchestrated a scheme to manipulate the price of the Company’s common units (“CUs”) through a series of misstatements and omissions so that the Firm could acquire the Company at a deflated price.  The Court dismissed the claims for failure to plead any actionable misstatement or omission or a manipulative act, as well as loss causation or scienter.
     
  • Eastern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Telecommunications Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Misrepresentations, Scienter
     
    03/09/2021

    On March 1, 2021, Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed with prejudice a putative class action asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a telecommunications company and certain of its executives.  Salim v. Mobile Telesystems PJSC, No. 19-CV-1589 (AMD) (RLM), slip op. (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 1, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that the company made misrepresentations with respect to an alleged scheme to bribe foreign officials.  The Court held that plaintiffs failed to adequately allege any misrepresentations or scienter and therefore dismissed the complaint.
     
  • Northern District Of California Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Technology Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    03/09/2021

    On March 2, 2021, Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed with prejudice a putative class action asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a technology company and certain of its executives.  Iron Workers Loc. 580 Jt. Funds v. NVIDIA Corp., No. 18-CV-07669-HSG, slip op. (N.D. Cal. Mar. 2, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that the company made misrepresentations regarding its sales of graphic processing units (“GPUs”) for computer gaming and the proportion of such sales that were actually made to cryptocurrency miners—for which demand was allegedly more volatile.  As discussed in our prior post, the Court dismissed plaintiffs’ original complaint for failure to adequately allege misrepresentations or scienter, but granted leave to replead.  After plaintiffs amended their complaint, defendants moved again to dismiss and also moved to strike certain allegations attributed to a confidential witness.  The Court denied the motion to strike but concluded that the amended complaint failed to cure the prior deficiencies with respect to scienter, and therefore dismissed the complaint with prejudice.
     
    CATEGORY : Scienter
  • Eastern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Pharmaceutical Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    03/09/2021

    On February 26, 2021, Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, dismissed with prejudice a putative class action asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a pharmaceutical company and certain of its officers.  In re Alkermes Public Ltd. Co. Sec. Litig., No. 18-CV-7410 (LDH) (RML), slip op. (E.D.N.Y. Feb 26, 2021).  Plaintiff alleged defendants made misstatements concerning clinical trials for a drug that ultimately did not secure FDA approval.  The Court held that plaintiff failed to allege facts giving rise to a strong inference of scienter and therefore dismissed the complaint in its entirety.
     
    CATEGORY : Scienter
  • Fourth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Putative Class Action Against Business Development Financing Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    03/02/2021

    On February 22, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action asserting claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a business development financing company (the “Company”) and three of its executives.  In re Triangle Capital Corporation Sec. Lit., No. 19-2162 (4th Cir. Feb. 22, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company persisted in a risky investment strategy without adequately disclosing its risks.  The District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina dismissed the first amended complaint for failure to adequately allege scienter and denied as futile plaintiffs’ motion for leave to amend again.  The Fourth Circuit affirmed and dismissed the action with prejudice, holding that the factual allegations related to “legitimate, subjective business judgments” and that, “to the extent we can make any inference of scienter from these allegations, it is exceptionally weak.”
     
    CATEGORY : Scienter
  • New York Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal Of Securities Act Claim Against Canadian Cannabis Producer Alleging Material Misstatements Regarding Product Quality
     
    02/23/2021

    On February 16, 2021, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, First Judicial Department, unanimously affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action against a Canadian cannabis producer (the “Company”), certain of its officers and directors, and its underwriters for violations of Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 and Item 303 and Item 105 of Regulations S-K.
     
  • Eastern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Cannabis Operator For Failure To Plead Misrepresentation And Loss Causation
     
    02/23/2021

    On February 16, 2021, Judge Brian M. Cogan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed a putative securities class action against a medical and wellness cannabis operator and certain of its officers alleging violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. In re Curaleaf Holdings Inc. Securities Litigation, No. 19-cv-04486 (E.D.N.Y. 2021). Plaintiffs alleged the Company made false and misleading statements regarding the benefits and legality of its cannabinol (“CBD”) products. The Court dismissed the complaint, holding that the Company disclosed what plaintiffs claimed was not disclosed and that plaintiffs thus failed to plead falsity or, with respect to certain alleged misstatements, loss causation.
     
  • Southern District Of New York Grants Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims Against Restaurant Company, Finding Plaintiff Failed To Plead Material Misstatements
     
    02/11/2021

    On February 3, 2021, Judge Kimba M. Wood of the Southern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, as well as Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act against an international chain restaurant (the “Company”) and two of its senior former executives.  Okla. Law Enf’t Ret. Sys. v. Papa John’s International Inc. et al., No. 18-CV-7927 (KMW) (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 3, 2021).  In the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), plaintiffs alleged the Company made materially false and misleading statements concerning the Company’s culture and failed to disclose material information concerning the Company’s workplace.  The Court granted the Company’s motion to dismiss the FAC with leave to amend, holding certain alleged misstatements were not actionable as mere puffery and that statements about the Company’s culture were too speculative to be actionable.  See Oklahoma Law Enf’t Ret. Sys. v. Papa John’s Int’l, Inc., 444 F. Supp. 3d 550 (S.D.N.Y. 2020) (“Papa John’s I”).  In addressing the sufficiency of plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), the Court found that it “failed to plausibly allege that [defendants’] positive assurances about the Company’s toxic culture exceeded the protected bounds of generic puffery.”  The Court also found that allegations that the Company would face harmful consequences from the allegedly toxic workplace was not “so concrete and substantial that there arose an affirmative duty to disclose it.”  Accordingly, the Court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss with prejudice.
  • Southern District Of New York Grants Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims Against Global Logistics And Shipping Company, Finding Plaintiffs Failed To Adequately Plead Material Misstatements And Scienter
     
    02/11/2021

    On February 4, 2021, Judge Ronnie Abrams of the Southern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss putative class action claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5, against a global logistics and shipping company (the “Company”) and certain of its executives.  In re FedEx Securities Litigation, No. 19-cv-05990 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged defendants made materially false and misleading statements concerning the financial impacts to the Company resulting from a cyberattack affecting a recently acquired European shipping subsidiary (the “Subsidiary”).  The Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ consolidated class action complaint (the “CAC”) with prejudice.
  • Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Foreign Investor’s Claims Based On Private Offering For Failure To Plead Domestic Application Of Section 10(b)
     
    02/03/2021

    On January 25, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) against a Bermudan capital investment company (the “Company”) and its Chief Executive Officer and Chairman.  Cavello Bay Reinsurance Ltd. v. Shubin Stein et al., No. 20-1371 (2d Cir. Jan. 25, 2021). 
     
  • Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of A Putative Securities Class Action Against An Electric Carmaker Related To Production Delays
     
    02/03/2021

    On January 26, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative securities class action against an electric car manufacturer (the “Company”) and certain of its officers for violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.
     
  • District Of New Jersey Dismisses Putative Class Action With Prejudice For Failure To Allege Misrepresentations
     
    01/26/2021

    On January 21, 2021, Judge Stanley R. Chesler of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed with prejudice a putative class action asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a real estate services company and certain of its current and former executives.  Tanaskovic v. Realogy Holdings Corp., No. 19-cv-15053, slip op. (D.N.J. Jan. 21, 2021).  Plaintiff alleged that the company made misrepresentations concerning:  (1) the effect of increased commissions paid to its agents; (2) technology offerings; (3) the company’s acquisition strategy; and (4) allegedly anticompetitive behavior that inflated the company’s average commissions.  The Court held that the alleged misstatements were either not alleged to be false with the required particularity or were otherwise not actionable.
     
  • Eastern District Of New York Grants Motion To Dismiss Exchange Act Claims Against Life Insurance Company In Connection With Its Retirement And Income Solution Program
     
    01/20/2021

    On January 7, 2021, Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. of the Eastern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss, with prejudice, in a putative securities class action asserting claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), and SEC Regulation S-K, Item 303, against a life insurance company (the “Company”) and certain of its executives.  Parchmann v. Metlife, et al., No. 18-cv-00780-SJ-RLM (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 7, 2021).  Plaintiff alleged that defendants made materially misleading statements regarding the Company’s financial condition and internal controls with respect to one of the Company’s Retirement and Income Solution (“RIS”) programs.  The Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss with prejudice, holding, among other things, that plaintiffs failed to adequately plead falsity, loss causation, and scienter.
     
  • Ninth Circuit Reverses In Part Dismissal Of Exchange Act Claims Against Pharmaceutical Manufacturer, Holding That Plaintiffs Adequately Pled Certain Alleged Misstatements And Loss Causation
     
    01/20/2021

    On January 11, 2021, the Ninth Circuit in an unpublished decision affirmed in part and reversed in part the dismissal at the pleading stage of Section 10(b) claims under the Exchange Act of 1934 against a pharmaceutical manufacturer (the “Company”) and several of its officers for alleged misstatements regarding an alleged price fixing scheme and the performance of one of its generic drugs.  N.Y. Hotels Trades Council & Hotel Association of NYC Inc. Pension Fund et al. v. Impax Laboratories, Inc., et al., No. 19-16744 (9th Cir. Jan. 11, 2021).  The Court held that plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint (the “SAC”) adequately alleged falsity with respect to statements allegedly made by defendants concerning the performance of one of the Company’s drugs (diclofenac) as well forward-looking statements regarding earnings projections and revenue guidance, and further held that plaintiffs adequately alleged loss causation.  Our prior analysis of the district court’s decision can be found here.
     
  • Southern District Of New York Pares Down Putative Securities Class Action Against Data Analytics Company
     
    01/13/2021

    On January 5, 2021, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action against a data analytics company (the “Company”) for alleged violations of Section 10(b), Rule 10b-5, and Section 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Item 303 of Regulation S-K (“Item 303”).  In re Nielsen Holdings PLC Securities Litigation, No. 1:18-cv-07143 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 5, 2021).  Plaintiffs alleged the Company made misstatements about the financial performance of some of its business segments and the impact of the enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) in the European Union on the Company’s measurement and analytics services.  The Court dismissed some of plaintiffs’ claims, pared down others based on the Company’s knowledge at the time of certain alleged misstatements, and granted plaintiffs’ request for leave to amend.
     
  • Northern District Of California Dismisses A Putative Securities Class Action Against A Biopharmaceutical Company Related To Its Flagship Cancer Drug In Development
     
    01/13/2021

    On December 30, 2020, Judge Haywood S. Gilliam of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted a motion to dismiss a putative class action against a biopharmaceutical company (the “Company”) and certain of its officers for violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  Malquin v. Nektar Therapeutics, No. 18-cv-06607 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 30, 2020).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company made false and misleading statements and omissions about the efficacy of its flagship cancer drug in development.  The Court dismissed the amended complaint with prejudice, confirming that securities claims cannot be based on allegations that a company failed to use the best or preferred statistical methods for evaluating the effectiveness of a new drug and that short seller reports will not constitute corrective disclosures sufficient to allege loss causation unless the reports can be characterized plausibly as revealing new information to the market.
     
  • Overview Of Cases Of Particular Interest Currently Pending Before The Supreme Court Of The United States
     
    01/13/2021

    Looking ahead, we preview cases currently pending before the Supreme Court—which have already been accepted for review by the Court, and in some cases have already been argued—that may be of particular interest to readers of the Need-to-Know Litigation Weekly.  These cases pertain to various topics in Securities Litigation, Antitrust, IP Litigation, and jurisdictional questions of broad interest.
     
  • Northern District Of California Dismisses Putative Securities Class Action Against Manufacturing Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Misrepresentations
     
    12/22/2020

    On December 10, 2020, Judge Lucy Koh of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed with prejudice a putative securities class action asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a manufacturing and design company and certain of its officers.  Kipling v. Flex Ltd., No. 18-CV-02706-LHK, 2020 WL 7261314 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 10, 2020).  Plaintiff alleged that the company made misrepresentations concerning a major contract to manufacture shoes for a shoe company.  The Court held that plaintiff failed to adequately allege actionable misstatements or omissions and, because the Court had already granted plaintiff an opportunity to replead in a prior order, dismissed the case with prejudice.
     
  • Supreme Court Will Hear Case Raising Whether Securities Class Action Defendants May Rebut The Basic  Presumption Of Reliance In Opposing Class Certification By Pointing To The Generic Nature Of The Alleged Misstatements To Demonstrate Lack Of Price Impact
     
    12/15/2020

    On December 11, 2020, the United States Supreme Court granted a petition for certiorari to review a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to address whether a defendant in a securities class action may rebut the presumption of classwide reliance recognized in Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988), by pointing to the generic nature of the alleged misstatements in showing that the statements had no impact on the price of the security (and whether, in seeking to do so, a defendant has the burden of persuasion).  Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Ret. Sys., No. 20-222 (U.S. Dec. 11, 2020).
     
  • Northern District Of California Grants Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims Against Social Media Company, Finding Plaintiffs Failed To Plead Material Misstatements And Scienter
     
    12/15/2020

    On December 10, 2020, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the Northern District of California granted a motion to dismiss a claim under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, as well as Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act, against a social media platform (the “Company”) and certain of its executives.  In re Twitter Securities Litigation, No. 19-cv-07149 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 10, 2020).  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants made materially false and misleading statements concerning the Company’s advertising products and revenue predictions that caused the Company’s stock price to drop more than 20% when the Company made purportedly corrective disclosures.  The Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ consolidated class action complaint (the “CCAC”), but granted plaintiffs leave to replead.
     
  • New York Appellate Court Reverses Denial Of Motion To Dismiss Securities Act Claim And Dismisses Complaint Against Chinese E-Commerce Company Alleging Material Omissions
     
    12/08/2020

    On December 3, 2020, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, First Judicial Department, reversed an order that denied defendants’ motion to dismiss a securities action complaint against a Chinese e-commerce marketing company (the “Company”) under Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, and directed that a judgment be entered dismissing the complaint.  Lyu v. Ruhnn Holdings Ltd., No. 12553, 2020 WL 7062118 (1st Dep’t Dec. 3, 2020).  This is the first substantive Securities Act ruling from a New York appeals court since the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Cyan Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund, 138 S. Ct. 1061 (2018), which held that state courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate class actions brought under the Securities Act and that such actions generally cannot be removed from state to federal court.
     
  • District of New Jersey Dismisses A Putative Securities Class Action Against Food and Snack Company For Failure To Allege Scienter
     
    12/08/2020

    On November 30, 2020, Judge Noel L. Hillman of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed without prejudice a putative securities class action against a food and snack company (the “Company”) and certain of its top executives for alleged violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  In Re Campbell Soup Co. Securities Litigation, No. 1:18-cv-14385 (D.N.J. Nov. 30, 2020).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company made material misrepresentations and omissions concerning the profitability of its fresh foods division (the “Fresh Foods Division”).  The Court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend because plaintiffs failed to allege scienter.
     
    CATEGORIES : Exchange Act Scienter
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses A Putative Securities Class Action Against A Weight Loss Company Related To Its Strategic Rebranding Initiative
     
    12/08/2020

    On November 30, 2020, Judge William H. Pauley III of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action asserting violations of Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 and Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a weight loss company (the “Company”), certain of its officers and directors, and its largest shareholder.  In re Weight Watchers Int’l Inc. Sec. Litig., No. 19-cv-2005 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2020).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company made false and misleading statements and omissions about its strategic rebranding initiative.  The Court dismissed these claims because plaintiffs failed to allege falsity, observing that plaintiffs’ claims “have little bearing on disclosure . . . and are [instead] fundamentally about corporate mismanagement.”  Although the Court concluded that plaintiffs’ failure to allege an actionable misrepresentation was sufficient to dismiss the case, the Court addressed the parties’ remaining arguments, including two issues on which the Second Circuit has yet to weigh in, holding that:  (1) the exercise of stock options can be considered for the purpose of determining whether an individual’s stock sales are sufficient to allege scienter; and (2) a selling shareholder is not a “statutory seller” for purposes of Section 12(a)(2) simply because it signed the registration statement.  The Court also held that the selling shareholder was not a “maker” of the allegedly misleading statements and thus could not be held liable under Section 10(b).
     
  • Utah District Court Dismisses Putative Securities Class Action Against Biotechnology Firm For Failure To Allege Falsity And Loss Causation
     
    12/01/2020

    On November 22, 2020, Judge Howard C. Nielson, Jr. of the United States District Court for the District of Utah dismissed with prejudice a putative class action asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a biotechnology company and certain of its executives.  In re PolarityTE, Inc. Sec. Litig., No. 2:18-cv-00510, 2020 WL 6873798 (D. Utah Nov. 22, 2020).  Plaintiffs alleged that the company made material misstatements in the course of a reverse merger and in subsequent SEC filings.  The Court held that plaintiffs failed to adequately allege falsity with respect to certain challenged statements and failed to establish loss causation for the remainder.
     
  • Second Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment That Had Required Investment Advisor’s Customer To Disgorge Short-Swing Profits
     
    12/01/2020

    On November 23, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated a grant of summary judgment to the plaintiff in a derivative action seeking disgorgement of alleged “short-swing profits” in an action under Section 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a registered investment advisor, its customer, and the individual defendant who held positions at both entities.  Packer v. Raging Cap. Mgmt., LLC, —F.3d—, 2020 WL 6844063 (2d Cir. 2020).  Plaintiff alleged that the customer was the “beneficial owner” of more than ten percent of a certain company’s shares and, therefore, was required to return profits it earned from buying and selling the company’s shares within a six-month period.  The district court granted summary judgment in plaintiff’s favor, but the Second Circuit vacated the judgment.  The Court held that factual issues remained regarding whether the customer was the beneficial owner of the shares in question and therefore remanded the matter for further proceedings.
     
  • Northern District Of California Grants Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims Against Battery Recycling Company, Finding Plaintiffs Failed To Plead Material Misstatements Or Scienter
     
    11/24/2020

    On November 16, 2020, Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. of the Northern District of California granted a motion to dismiss a Section 10(b) claim under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), as well as a Section 20(a) claim under the Exchange Act as it relates to the Section 10(b) claim, against a lead-acid battery recycler (the “Company”) and three of its senior officers.  In re Aqua Metals Inc. Securities Litigation, No. 17-cv-07142 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 16, 2020).  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants made materially false and misleading statements concerning the Company’s novel recycling technology and its commercialization process.  The Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss, holding that plaintiffs failed to plead any actionable material misstatements or scienter.  Certain claims in the case addressed in connection with a prior motion to dismiss were not the subject of this decision and will survive.
     
  • Eastern District Of New York Dismisses A Putative Securities Class Action Against A South African Mining Company In Connection With Safety Incidents At Its Mines
     
    11/17/2020

    On November 10, 2020, Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action asserting violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a South African precious metals mining company (the “Company”) and its CEO and CFO.  In re Sibanye Gold Ltd. Sec. Litig., No. 18-CV-3721 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 2020).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company made false and misleading statements and omissions about its mine safety program and the reasons for miner fatalities.  The Court dismissed these claims for failure to allege plausible facts supporting plaintiffs’ conclusionary allegations.
     
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