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  • Second Circuit Reverses Dismissal Of Exchange Act Claims Against REIT, Holding Plaintiffs Adequately Alleged Scienter

    On August 3, 2020, the Second Circuit reversed the dismissal of Exchange Act claims against a real estate investment trust (the “Company”) and several of its senior officers for alleged misstatements regarding the financial health of one of the Company’s healthcare facility operators (the “Operator”).  In re Omega Healthcare Investors, Inc. Securities Litigation, No. 19-1095 (2d Cir. Aug. 3, 2020).  The district court had granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint, finding that although plaintiffs adequately pled material misstatements, they failed to sufficiently plead scienter.  The Second Circuit vacated the dismissal, holding that plaintiffs sufficiently pled scienter based on defendants’ alleged consciously reckless omission of certain material information that made certain statements in public filings and conference calls regarding the financial health of the Operator misleading.
  • Seventh Circuit Vacates Decision To Certify Class, Holding That District Court Must Consider Sufficiency Of Defendants’ Evidence To Rebut Fraud-On-The-Market Presumption Of Reliance, As Required Under Halliburton II

    On July 16, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously vacated the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division’s decision to grant class certification to plaintiffs bringing securities fraud claims against a national insurance provider (the “Company”), holding that the district court decision to exclude certain evidence at the class certification stage was based in part on a legal error.  Carpenters Pension Trust Fund, et al. v. Allstate Corp., et al., No. 19-1830 (7th Cir. July 16, 2020).  The Court remanded to the district court for further proceedings, providing guidance as to what should be considered when applying Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement in the class certification process. 
  • Second Circuit Affirms In Part Dismissal Of Securities Claims Against Cancer Drug Developer, Holding Certain Alleged Misstatements Inactionable As Corporate Puffery, But Allows Claims Concerning Other Alleged Misstatements To Proceed

    On July 13, 2020, the Second Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the dismissal of Exchange Act claims against a pharmaceutical company (the “Company”) and certain individual defendants in connection with alleged misstatements regarding the efficacy of its pancreatic cancer drug, the design of the Company’s clinical trial, and the scientific literature concerning pancreatic cancer.  Nguyen v. NewLink, No. 19-642 (2d Cir. July 13, 2020).  The Second Circuit held that while some alleged misstatements were inactionable puffery, others were statements of opinion as to which, under the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Omnicare, plaintiffs adequately pled falsity.  The Second Circuit also held that plaintiff sufficiently pled loss causation.
  • Second Circuit Reinstates Judgment Reversing Dismissal Of ERISA Class Action After Supreme Court Vacated And Remanded For Additional Consideration

    On June 22, 2020, the Second Circuit reinstated its judgment entered pursuant to its initial opinion in an Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) class action after the Supreme Court vacated the decision.  Jander v. Ret. Plans Comm. of IBM, No. 17-3518 (2d Cir. June 22, 2020).  The Supreme Court remanded the action earlier this year in order for the Second Circuit to decide whether to consider in the first instance certain arguments raised for the first time before the Supreme Court.  On remand, the Second Circuit reviewed additional submissions from the parties as well as amici and reinstated its original decision, holding that the arguments raised in the supplemental briefs either were previously considered or were not properly raised and thus forfeited.  Accordingly, the Second Circuit’s prior opinion stands, holding that plaintiffs adequately pled that employee stock option plan (“ESOP”) fiduciaries violated their duty of prudence by not disclosing, earlier, insider information they allegedly possessed that, when subsequently disclosed, allegedly led to a stock price drop.
    CATEGORY: Class Actions
  • U.S. Supreme Court Holds That ERISA Plan Participants Must Demonstrate Actual Or Imminent Risk Of Loss To Establish Article III Standing To Pursue Statutory Claims Regarding The Alleged Mismanagement Of Plan Funds

    On June 1, 2020, the United States Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Kavanaugh and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito and Gorsuch, held that plaintiffs—participants of a defined-benefit pension plan—lacked Article III standing to seek restoration of alleged plan losses or injunctive relief, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), because they had no “concrete stake” in the lawsuit.  Thole v. U.S. Bank, N.A., et al., No. 17-1712 (June 1, 2020).  The case was on appeal from the Eighth Circuit, and was previously previewed in our weekly newsletter at the beginning of this year.  Plaintiffs alleged that the defined-benefit plan’s fiduciaries mismanaged the plan, causing about $750 million in losses.  The Court affirmed the Eight Circuit’s dismissal of the case, after holding that, insofar as whether plaintiffs won or lost the outcome “would not change the plaintiffs’ monthly pension benefits” under their defined-benefit plan, they had not suffered any concrete injury sufficient to satisfy Article III standing.
    CATEGORIES: Class ActionsStanding
  • California Appellate Court Holds Secondary Market Purchasers of ETFs Lack Standing To Bring Securities Act Claims

    On January 23, 2020, the Court of Appeal of the First Appellate District of California affirmed a lower court’s judgment holding that investors lacked standing to pursue claims under Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 against an open-end management investment company (the “Company”), its investment advisor, the investment advisor’s parent company, and certain members of the board of trustees of the Company.  Jensen v. iShares Tr., 44 Cal. App. 5th 618 (Ct. App. 2020), review denied (May 27, 2020).  Plaintiffs, who purchased shares of exchanged-traded funds (“ETFs”) on the secondary market, claimed that the Company failed to adequately disclose the risks associated with “flash crashes” that were known to occur in the ETF market.  The Court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal, holding that plaintiffs lacked standing under Section 11 because they could not satisfy the tracing requirement and that plaintiffs lacked standing under Section 12(a)(2) because they failed to allege direct contract with defendants.
  • Northern District Of Illinois Certifies Class In A Commodities Market Manipulation Suit, Holding That Proposed Class Made A Sufficient Showing Of Rule 23 Requirements

    On January 3, 2020, Judge Edmond E. Chang of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division granted Plaintiffs’ motion to certify a class of investors in an action alleging that two major food companies (“Defendants”) manipulated the wheat futures market.  Plaintiffs asserted claims against Defendants under Sections 6(c)(1) and 9(a)(2) of the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”), under Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act (“Sherman Act”), and for common law unjust enrichment.  Harry Ploss v. Kraft Foods Group Inc. et al., No. 1:15-cv-02937 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 3, 2020).     
  • Supreme Court Holds That Third-Party Counterclaim Defendants May Not Remove An Action Based On The General Removal Statute Or CAFA

    On May 28, 2019, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Thomas that a third-party counterclaim defendant was not permitted to remove class action claims against it under the general removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (“Section 1441”), or the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1453 (“CAFA”).  Home Depot U. S. A., Inc. v. Jackson, No. 17-1471, 587 U.S. ___ (2019).  The Court held that the term “defendant” in the two removal provisions at issue applies only to “the party sued by the original plaintiff” and should not be expanded to include third-party counterclaim defendants.  As noted in our prior post when the case was argued before the Supreme Court, this decision is the first time the Supreme Court has discussed the scope of Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100 (1941), which addressed analogous language in Section 1441’s predecessor and held that a plaintiff who originally filed an action in state court would not be permitted to later remove it to federal court as a “defendant” once counterclaims were filed against it.
  • Supreme Court Holds That Parties Must Unambiguously Consent To Class Arbitration

    On April 24, 2019, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, held that an agreement ambiguous as to whether arbitration had been agreed for class claims as well as individual claims could not provide a contractual basis for class arbitration.  Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, 587 U.S. ___, 2019 WL 1780275 (2019).  The Court addressed two questions:  (i) whether the Court had jurisdiction, given that the district court had compelled arbitration in connection with its dismissal of the underlying claims; and (ii) whether state contract law principles could be applied to interpret an arbitration clause that was ambiguous with regard to the authorization of class arbitration as authorizing such arbitration.  The Court held that it had jurisdiction because dismissal of the underlying claims qualified as a “final decision” under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”).  On the merits issue, the Court held that a contract that was ambiguous as to whether class arbitration was permitted lacked the explicit “consent” to such arbitration required under the FAA.
    CATEGORY: Class Actions
  • Supreme Court Argument On Third-party Counterclaim Defendant Removal

    On January 15, 2019, the Supreme Court heard argument on an appeal from a unanimous decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit holding that a third-party defendant against whom class action counter-claims are asserted in state court is not a “defendant” for purposes of the general removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (“Section 1441”) or the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1453 (“CAFA”).  The third-party defendant to the class action counterclaims therefore could not rely on those statutes to remove the case.  Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., v. Jackson, No. 17-1471.
    CATEGORIES: Class ActionsJurisdiction