Tenth Circuit Panel Revives Putative Class Action Against Online Education Company
On August 23, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit unanimously reversed the dismissal of a putative securities class action against an online education company (the “Company”), alleging violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), SEC Rule 10b-5, Section 20A of the Exchange Act, and Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”). Plaintiffs alleged that the Company made false and misleading statements about the size and productivity of the Company’s sales force. The district court dismissed the Exchange Act claims because plaintiffs failed to plead a strong inference of scienter and dismissed both the Exchange Act and the Securities Act claims for failure to plead a violation of Item 303 of SEC Regulation S-K. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that (i) the Exchange Act allegations “support[ed] an inference of scienter at least as compelling as any nonculpable inference” and (ii) the district court relied on “erroneous reasoning” to dismiss the Exchange Act and Securities Act claims based on the alleged violation of Item 303.
Southern District Of New York Grants Motion To Dismiss Securities Fraud Claims Against Restaurant Company, Finding Plaintiff Failed To Plead Material Misstatements
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.
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
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.
Southern District Of New York Pares Down Putative Securities Class Action Against Data Analytics Company
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.
Eastern District Of New York Denies Motion To Dismiss Putative Class Action Against Subscription-Based Meal Kit Company But Rejects Claims Based On Alleged Omission Of Intra-Quarter Decline In Key Metric
On April 22, 2020, Judge William F. Kuntz II, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss a putative securities fraud class action based on purportedly misleading statements in the prospectus and registration statement (the “Offering Materials”) filed by a subscription-based meal kit service (the “Company”) in connection with its initial public offering (“IPO”). The complaint asserted claims under Sections 11 and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 against the Company and certain of its officers. In re Blue Apron Holdings, Inc. Sec. Litig., No. 17-CV-4846 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 22, 2020). Plaintiffs alleged that the Company, which provides meal kits to customers through a weekly subscription service, concealed known risks and made misleading statements concerning challenges the Company faced with one of its product fulfilment centers. Although the Court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss claims that the Company had failed to disclose risks associated with the performance of this fulfillment center, it rejected plaintiffs’ claims based on the alleged non-disclosure of declines in a Company statistic for measuring the number of meal kits delivered on time with all of their ingredients, which were announced by the Company in the quarter immediately following the IPO. Confirming that Section 11 claims generally cannot be based on disclosures in earnings announcements following an offering, even when the quarterly earnings announcements closely follow, the Court held that the complaint failed to allege sufficiently that the declines were known even though the quarter ended one day after the IPO.
Northern District Of California Dismisses Complaint Against A Ticketing Platform Provider For Failure To Plead Falsity
On April 28, 2020, Judge Edward J. Davila of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted a motion to dismiss a putative securities fraud class action based on purportedly misleading statements in the prospectus and registration statement (the “Offering Materials”) filed by a ticketing platform provider (the “Company”) in connection with its initial public offering (“IPO”). The complaint asserted claims under Sections 11 and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against the Company and certain of its officers, and violations of Section of 11 of the Securities Act against the underwriters for the IPO. In re Eventbrite Inc. Sec. Litig., No. 5:18-CV-02019-EJD (N.D. Cal. Apr. 28, 2020). In granting the motion to dismiss, the Court held that it could rely on documents incorporated into the complaint by reference to negate conclusory allegations in the complaint and for context, and further held that plaintiffs failed to adequately plead falsity and that the Company, in any event, sufficiently disclosed risks associated with the acquisition. The Court also held that the heightened pleading requirements of Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applied to the Section 11 claims and that its risk disclosures were sufficient under Item 303.
Connecticut State Court Grants Motion To Strike Securities Act Claims
On October 24, 2019, Judge Charles T. Lee of the Connecticut Superior Court granted a motion to strike claims alleging violations of Sections 11, 12(a) and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”) in connection with an initial public offering brought against the issuer, certain of its officers, and the underwriters of the offering. City of Livonia Retiree Health & Disability Benefits Plan v. Pitney Bowes Inc.
, No. X08 FST CV 18 6038160 S (Conn. Super. Ct. Oct. 24, 2019). The Court had previously granted a protective order staying discovery pending the disposition of the motion to strike pursuant to the discovery stay provided in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, in one of the first state court decisions after the Supreme Court’s decision in Cyan Inc. v. Beaver Cty. Employees Ret. Fund
, 138 S. Ct. 1061 (2018). See
State Court Stays Discovery Under the PSLRA During Pendency of Motion to Strike, Need to Know Litigation Newsletter (May 29, 2019), https://www.lit-sl.shearman.com/State-Court-Stays-Discovery-Under-The-PSLRA-During-Pendency
. In granting the motion to strike, the Court held that plaintiffs had failed to plead violations of the Securities Act because they did not identify any actionable misstatements or omissions from the relevant offering documents.