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  • Northern District Of Illinois Certifies Class In A Commodities Market Manipulation Suit, Holding That Proposed Class Made A Sufficient Showing Of Rule 23 Requirements
     
    01/14/2020

    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).     
  • Overview Of Cases Of Particular Interest Currently Pending Before The Supreme Court Of The United States
     
    01/14/2020

    Looking ahead, we preview cases currently pending before the Supreme Court—which have already been accepted for review by the Court—that may be of particular interest to readers of the Need-to-Know Litigation Weekly.  These cases pertain to various topics in Securities, Enforcement, and, as to one, arbitration.
    CATEGORY:
  • District Of New Jersey Upholds Securities Fraud Action Against Major Student Loan Servicer Based Upon Alleged Forbearance Scheme Harming Borrowers
     
    01/07/2020

    On December 30, 2019, Judge Robert B. Kugler of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denied a motion to dismiss a putative class action raised under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 against a student loan servicer (the “Company”) and certain of its officers (collectively “Defendants”).  In Re Navient Corp. Secs. Litig., No. CV 17-8373 (RBK/AMD), 2019 WL 7288881 (D.N.J. Dec. 30, 2019).  Plaintiff claimed that Defendants made false or misleading statements about lawsuits brought against the Company by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and several State Attorneys Generals (“AGs”) for a “forbearance scheme” that allegedly harmed student borrowers in the repayment process.  The Court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, finding that plaintiff adequately pleaded falsity, scienter, and loss causation.
    CATEGORIES: CausationFraudScienter
  • District Of Nevada Denies Motion To Dismiss Putative Class Action Against Life Science Company Alleging Misstatements Regarding Patentability Of Key Product
     
    12/19/2019

    On December 10, 2019, Judge Jennifer A. Dorsey of the United States District Court for the District of Nevada denied a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a life science company specializing in cannabidiols (“CBD”) and certain of the company’s executives.  In re CV Sciences, Inc. Sec. Litig., 2019 WL 6718086 (D. Nev. Dec. 10, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that the company made misleading statements that a CBD product was proprietary and had a patent application pending by failing to disclose that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) had rejected its patent application twice, including a “final rejection” on the ground that the proposed invention was obvious.  Id. at *1.  The Court held that plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged the falsity of the alleged misrepresentations at the motion-to-dismiss stage, and therefore declined to dismiss the complaint.
  • Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Putative Class Action For Failure To Allege With Particularity Illegal Acts Underlying Alleged Misrepresentations
     
    12/19/2019

    On December 10, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a chicken producing company and certain of its executives.  Gamm v. Sanderson Farms, Inc., —F.3d—, 2019 WL 6704666 (2d Cir. 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants’ SEC filings contained misrepresentations because they failed to disclose an illegal antitrust conspiracy to drive up chicken prices by reducing supply and to manipulate a chicken price index.  The Court held that the complaint was properly dismissed because plaintiffs failed to plead with sufficient particularity facts supporting the alleged antitrust conspiracy, explaining that “when a securities fraud complaint claims that statements were rendered false or misleading through the nondisclosure of illegal activity, the facts of the underlying illegal acts must be pleaded with particularity in accordance with the requirements of Rule 9 and the PSLRA.”  Id. at *9.
  • District Of Kansas Allows Exchange Act Claims Against Financial Services Company To Proceed, Finding That Plaintiffs Adequately Alleged Material Misstatements, Omissions And Scienter
     
    12/10/2019

    On December 3, 2019, Judge John W. Lungstrum of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas denied a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action involving claims brought under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, against a financial services company (the “Company”), three of its senior officers and several of its founder directors.  Yellowdog Partners, LP and Carpenters Pension Fund of Illinois v. CURO Group Holdings Corp. et al., 18-cv-02662 (D. Kan. Dec. 3, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company and the three officer defendants made false and materially misleading statements concerning the Company’s business transition away from its most profitable product and its effect on the Company’s financial condition.  The Court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded falsity and scienter.
     
  • Southern District Of California Denies Summary Judgment For Defendants, Ruling That There Are Triable Issues Of Fact Related To Loss Causation, Materiality, Scienter, And Damages
     
    12/03/2019
    On November 6, 2016, Judge Michael A. Anello of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment in a securities class action against a theme park and entertainment company (“defendant” or the “Company”), certain members of its management, and its largest shareholder.  Baker v. SeaWorld Entm’t, Inc., No. 14CV2129-MMA (AGS), 2019 WL 6118448 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 18, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants violated Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by making materially misleading misstatements and omissions about the effect of Blackfish, a documentary film concerning killer whales in captivity, on attendance at the theme park and its earnings.  The Court denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the basis that there were genuine issues of material fact with respect to each element of a securities fraud claim. 
  • Northern District Of Ohio Dismisses Securities Fraud Action Against REIT Based Upon Lack Of Scienter Of Healthcare Company-Lessee’s Alleged Billing Fraud
     
    12/03/2019

    On November 22, 2019, Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio dismissed a putative class action asserting claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 10b-5 against a real estate investment trust (“REIT”) and its former officers (collectively “Defendants”), along with a healthcare company with which the REIT transacted (the “Company”) and its officers.  Boynton Beach Firefighters' Pension Fund v. HCP, Inc., No. 3:16-CV-1106, 2019 WL 6251435 (N.D. Ohio Nov. 22, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged Defendants made false or misleading statements about the Company’s future prospects, but knew or should have known that the Company was engaged in unlawful billing practices because of due diligence in connection with the transaction with the Company and a subsequent government investigation.  The Court held that plaintiffs’ allegations of scienter were based on impermissible hindsight pleading and dismissed the complaint.
     
    CATEGORIES: Exchange ActScienter
  • Southern District Of New York Denies Motion To Revive Exchange Act Claims Against Underwriter Of Regulation A+ Offering, Based On Failure To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    11/26/2019

    On November 15, 2019, Judge Denise Cote of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied a motion seeking to revive claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against the underwriter of a Regulation A+ offering.  In Re Longfin Corp. Sec. Class Action Litig., No. 18 CV 2933(DLC), 2019 WL 6045308 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 15, 2019).  As noted in our prior post, on July 29, 2019, the Court granted the underwriter’s motion for reconsideration and dismissed the claims against it with prejudice for failure to adequately allege scienter.  In response to that ruling, plaintiffs filed a motion for relief from the prior order under Rule 60(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and sought to file a new amended complaint, based on the contention that plaintiffs had identified new evidence.  Judge Cote held, however, that the proposed new allegations still failed to adequately allege scienter.

     
    CATEGORY: Scienter
  • District Of Nebraska Dismisses Putative Class Action Alleging State-Law Claims Against Brokerage Company As Precluded By SLUSA
     
    11/26/2019

    On November 15, 2019, Judge Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. of the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska dismissed a putative class action brought by investors who maintained investment accounts at a brokerage company.  Plaintiffs asserted claims for breach of contract and negligence under Nebraska state law against the brokerage company and its affiliates, alleging that they failed to properly manage a tax-loss harvesting feature of certain investment portfolios.  Knowles v. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., No. 8:19-cv-47, slip op. (D. Neb. Nov. 15, 2019), ECF No. 36.  The Court held that these claims were precluded by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (“SLUSA”) and dismissed the action with prejudice.
     
    CATEGORY: SLUSA
  • Middle District Of Tennessee Pares Claims In Putative Class Action Against Healthcare Company And Its Previous Owner
     
    11/26/2019

    On November 19, 2019, Judge William M. Campbell of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granted in part and denied in part motions to dismiss a putative class action under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a healthcare company, certain of its officers and directors, and a private equity firm that previously owned the company.  Plaintiffs alleged that the company failed to disclose that allegedly improper business practices were responsible for its revenue growth.  In re Envision Healthcare Corp. Sec. Litig., No. 3:17-CV-01112, 2019 WL 6168254 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 19, 2019).  The Court held that certain of the claims against the company and the individual defendants were adequately pleaded and others were not, but dismissed all claims against the private equity firm for failure to adequately allege scienter.
     
  • District Of Massachusetts Dismisses Exchange Act Claims For Failure To Adequately Allege A Material Misleading Statement Or Scienter
     
    11/19/2019

    On November 13, 2019, Judge Leo T. Sorokin of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed a putative securities class action involving claims brought under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, against a biopharmaceutical company (the “Company”) and two of its senior officers.  LSI Design and Integration Corp. v. Tesaro Inc. et al., 18-cv-12352 (D. Ma. Nov. 13, 2019).  Plaintiff alleged that the Company and its CEO and CFO made materially misleading statements in violation of the Exchange Act concerning the Company’s financial condition and drug sales.  The Court dismissed the amended complaint finding that plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead falsity or scienter.
     
  • Northern District Of California Allows Securities Class Action Based On Alleged Price-Fixing To Proceed Against Pharmaceutical Wholesaler
     
    11/05/2019

    On October 29, 2019, Judge Charles R. Breyer of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action brought against a pharmaceutical wholesaler and two of its former executives.  Evanston Police Pension Fund v. McKesson Corp., et al., 18-cv-06525-CRB (N.D. Cal. Oct. 29, 2019).  Plaintiffs asserted claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, alleging that defendants knew about and participated in a price-fixing conspiracy that allowed the company to profit from the inflated prices of generic drugs during the alleged class period and caused the company to suffer decreased earnings once reports revealed government investigations into alleged price-fixing and prices dropped.  The Court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, holding that plaintiffs adequately alleged material misstatements, scienter, and loss causation at the pleading stage.
     
  • Connecticut State Court Grants Motion To Strike Securities Act Claims
     
    11/05/2019

    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.
     
  • Northern District Of California Denies In Part Motion To Dismiss Securities Act Claims Against A Medical Technology Company, Finding That Plaintiff Adequately Alleged Material Misstatement
     
    10/29/2019

    On October 18, 2019, Judge Edward J. Davila of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss a putative class action asserting claims under Sections 11 and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”) and Item 303 of Regulation S-K against a medical technology company (the “Company”) and certain of its executives and directors, venture capital firms, and underwriters.  In re Restoration Robotics, Inc. Securities Litigation, No. 18-cv-03712 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 18, 2019).  Plaintiff alleged that defendants made materially misleading statements and omissions concerning the Company’s marketing function, hair transplant technology, product sales and revenue in offering documents in connection with the Company’s initial public offering (“IPO”).  The Court granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motion to dismiss, and granted plaintiff leave to amend to cure the complaint’s deficiencies.
     
  • Northern District Of Illinois Dismisses Putative Class Action Against In-Flight Internet Provider For Failure To Adequately Allege Falsity And Scienter
     
    10/29/2019

    On October 16, 2019, Judge Jorge L. Alonso of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division dismissed a putative securities class action against an in-flight internet connectivity services provider (the “Company”) and some of its current and former executives.  Pierrelouis v. Gogo Inc., et al., No. 18-cv-04473 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 16, 2019).  Plaintiffs, who brought claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, alleged that defendants misrepresented the Company’s financial health and the performance and reliability of its in-flight internet services by failing to disclose the extent of a de-icing fluid issue that was affecting its ability to provide those services, and that the eventual disclosure of the issue caused the Company’s stock price to decline.  The Court held that plaintiffs failed to plead a material misrepresentation or omission and also failed to adequately allege a strong inference of scienter, and therefore dismissed the amended complaint without prejudice.
     
  • Western District Of Washington Partially Dismisses Exchange Act Claims Against Technology Company
     
    10/17/2019

    On October 4, 2019, Judge Robert Lasnik of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a technology company and certain of its executives.  In re Impinj, Inc., Sec. Litig., No. C18-5704 RSL, 2019 WL 4917101 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 4, 2019).  The Court held that plaintiffs failed to alleged falsity as to certain alleged misrepresentations and dismissed claims against one of the company’s executives for failure to adequately allege scienter, but otherwise upheld plaintiffs’ claims.

     
  • Eastern District Of Pennsylvania Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Semiconductor Equipment Manufacturer For Failure To Adequately Allege Falsity And Scienter
     
    10/17/2019

    On October 9, 2019, Judge C. Darnell Jones, II of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed a putative securities class action asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against a manufacturer of equipment and tools used to assemble semiconductors and its CEO and CFO.  Kumar v. Kulicke & Soffa Indus., Inc., No. CV 19-0362, 2019 WL 5081896 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 9, 2019).  Based on the company’s disclosure of control deficiencies, improper transactions by an unnamed “senior finance employee,” the resignation of the company’s CFO, and amended financial statements, plaintiffs alleged that the company’s SEC filings and SOX certifications contained material misrepresentations.  Id. at *2.  The Court held that plaintiffs had identified actionable misstatements as to the CFO but had not adequately alleged scienter and, therefore, dismissed the case, while allowing plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint.

     
  • New York State Court Dismisses Securities Act Claims, Despite Holding That Claims Did Not “Sound In Fraud” And No Heightened Pleading Standard Therefore Applied
     
    10/17/2019

    On September 26, 2019, Justice Saliann Scarpulla of the New York State Supreme Court, County of New York, Commercial Division, dismissed a putative class action against a dental products and services company and certain of its executives and directors asserting claims under Sections 11, 12(a)(2) and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933.  In re Densply Sirona, Inc. S’holders Litig., No. 155393/2018 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cnty., Sept. 26, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants made material misrepresentations in a registration statement filed with the SEC in connection with a merger.  The crux of plaintiffs’ allegations was that the registration statement failed to disclose material information about an alleged “anticompetitive scheme” to control supply and distribution of the company’s products.  The Court held that, even though New York’s heightened pleading standard for fraud claims did not apply in the case at bar, the alleged misstatements were non-actionable statements of opinion or puffery or were not misleading when made.

     
  • Eastern District Of New York Dismisses Exchange Act Claims For Failure To Adequately Allege Falsity Or Scienter
     
    10/08/2019

    On September 30, 2019, Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed a putative securities class action asserting claims brought under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) against a footwear retailer (the “Company”) and several of its executives.  City of Warren Police and Fire Retirement System v. Foot Locker Inc. et al., 18-cv-01492 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company and its executives made materially misleading statements and omissions in violation of the Exchange Act concerning its competitive position in the market, the strength of the Company’s relationship with its vendors, and its product allocation and inventory.  The Court dismissed the complaint without prejudice, holding that plaintiffs failed to sufficiently plead falsity and scienter, and granted plaintiffs leave to amend.
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Securities Class Action Against Pharmaceutical Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    10/08/2019

    On September 30, 2019, Judge J. Paul Oetken of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a putative securities class action brought against a pharmaceutical company and certain of its current and former executives.  Tung v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., et al., 18-cv-1611 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2019).  Plaintiffs allege that the pharmaceutical company (the “Company”) and defendant executives made materially misleading statements and omissions concerning the design of the Company’s clinical trial that tested the efficacy of a newly-developed anticancer drug in violation of Sections 10(b), 20(a), and 20A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder.  The Court dismissed the claims finding that plaintiffs failed to sufficiently plead scienter, but granted plaintiffs leave to amend to address the pleading deficiencies.
    CATEGORIES: Exchange ActScienter
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses Federal Securities Claims Against Asset Management Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Reliance Or Causation
     
    10/08/2019

    On September 30, 2019, Judge Loretta A. Preska of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed federal securities claims brought against a Japanese investment advisor and asset manager (the “Company”), its parent, and its former CEO.  Alfandary, et al. v. Nikko Asset Management, et al., 17-cv-05137 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2019).  Plaintiffs, former senior executives of the Company or one of its subsidiaries, alleged that defendants engaged in a scheme to devalue plaintiffs’ stock acquisition rights (“SARs”) and to force them to sell their SARs back to the Company at the artificially deflated price, in violation of section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder.  The Court dismissed the Exchange Act claims finding that most plaintiffs failed to sufficiently allege a sale, and that all plaintiffs failed to allege reliance or loss causation.
  • District Of Massachusetts Holds That Plaintiff Who Purchased Stock After Corrective Disclosure Lacks Standing To Pursue Putative Securities Class Action
     
    10/01/2019

    On September 23, 2019, Judge Denise J. Casper of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied class certification in a securities fraud action brought against a biopharmaceutical company (the “Company”) and several of its current and former officers and directors, and granted defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings in connection with plaintiff’s individual claim.  Karth v. Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., C.A. No. 16-11745-DJC (D. Mass. Sept. 23, 2019).  Plaintiff alleged that the Company misled investors about the number of entities that manufactured its FDA-approved drug and that its stock price declined when it revealed that it only had a single manufacturer, which was experiencing issues that affected the drug’s availability for sale.  The Court declined to certify the putative class, finding that plaintiff was an inadequate representative because the timing of his stock purchases made his claims atypical from those of the proposed class.  As to his individual claim, the Court granted defendants’ judgment on the pleadings, finding that plaintiff could not plead loss causation because the Company’s disclosures about the single manufacturer pre-dated the alleged stock drop by six months, and finding that plaintiff could not plead reliance because plaintiff purchased his shares two months after the curative disclosures.
  • Northern District Of Illinois Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Pharmaceutical Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Falsity Or Scienter
     
    09/24/2019

    On September 18, 2019, Judge Charles P. Kocoras of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed a putative class action against a pharmaceutical company asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and Section 14(e) of the Williams Act.  Walleye Trading LLC v. AbbVie, Inc., No. 18 C 05114, 2019 WL 4464392 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 18, 2019).  Plaintiff alleged that the company’s statement announcing the preliminary results of a tender offer contained misrepresentations regarding the number of shares tendered and the price per share at which the tendered shares would be acquired, which later had to be corrected in a revised statement.  The Court held that plaintiff failed to allege that the alleged misrepresentation was false when made or to adequately allege a strong inference of scienter.
  • Northern District Of California Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Digital Payments Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    09/24/2019

    On September 18, 2019, Judge Edward M. Chen of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a putative class action against a digital payment services company and certain of its officers asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act.  Sgarlata v. PayPal Holdings, Inc., 17-CV-06956-EMC (N.D. Cal. Sept. 18, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that the company made misrepresentations in a series of press releases regarding a data breach.  The Court held that plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient to raise a strong inference of scienter. 
  • District Of Nevada Grants In Part And Denies In Part Motion To Dismiss Exchange Act Claims Against Airline Company And Its Executives, Finding That Plaintiffs Adequately Alleged Scienter With Respect To Certain Alleged Statements Regarding The Airline’s Safety And Mechanical Reliability
     
    09/17/2019

    On September 9, 2019, Judge Andrew P. Gordon of the United States District Court for the District of Nevada partially dismissed a putative securities class action brought against an airline company and certain of its current and former executives.  Brendon et al. v. Allegiant Travel Co. et al., 2:18-cv-01758 (D. Nev. Sept. 9, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged in their first amended complaint (“FAC”) that the airline and its parent company (collectively, the “Airline”) and certain of its executives made materially misleading statements and omissions concerning the safety and mechanical reliability of its aircrafts and the competency of its maintenance staff in violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, and Section 20(a).  The Court allowed claims related to certain alleged false statements by defendants to proceed, dismissed certain of the claims that plaintiffs failed to sufficiently plead falsity and scienter, and granted plaintiffs leave to amend to address certain of the pleading deficiencies.
    CATEGORIES: Exchange ActScienter
  • Third Circuit Reverses Dismissal Of State Law Securities Claims Against Pharmaceutical Manufacturer By Investors Who Opted Out Of Settled Federal Class Action, Holding That Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act Did Not Preclude Opt-Out Claims
     
    09/17/2019

    On September 12, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of state law securities actions by individual investors who elected to opt out of a related class action against a pharmaceutical company (the “Company”).  North Sound Capital LLC v. Merck & Co. Inc., Nos. 18-2317 (3d Cir. Sept. 12, 2019).  Opt-out plaintiffs—individual investors who opted out of the class action and who filed separate state law actions against the Company—brought individual actions asserting claims under New Jersey common law, and included allegations that the District Court noted “track, sometimes verbatim, those filed in the class actions.”  The District Court held that such opt-out actions were precluded by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act (“SLUSA”) and dismissed the individual actions.  The Third Circuit reversed, finding that SLUSA does not prohibit investors who opt out of a class action from bringing individual actions under state law.
    CATEGORY: SLUSA
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses In Part Securities Fraud Claims Against Major Industrial Conglomerate, Allowing Claims Based Upon Factoring In Financial Filings To Proceed
     
    09/10/2019

    On August 29, 2019, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed most of the securities fraud claims in a putative class action against a major industrial conglomerate (the “Company”), and certain of its current and former executives, brought under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 10b-5.  AP-Fonden v. Gen. Elec. Co., 2019 BL 325702 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged defendants concealed performance problems in the Company’s insurance and power divisions.  The Court found, among other things, that plaintiffs did not adequately plead claims based upon allegedly misrepresented liabilities in the Company’s long-term care (“LTC”) insurance portfolio.  The Court did not, however, dismiss plaintiffs’ claim that the Company failed to disclose that it used “factoring” arrangements to generate current revenue by selling future revenues to third parties.
  • Second Circuit Holds That Commodities Exchange Act Antifraud And Private Right Of Action Provisions Do Not Apply Extraterritorially
     
    09/04/2019

    On August 29, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action under the Commodities Exchange Act (“CEA”) alleging that defendants manipulated the foreign benchmark for the price of Brent crude oil by using fraudulent bids, offers and transactions.  Prime International Trading Ltd, et al., v. BP PLC, et al., No. 17-2233 (2d Cir. Aug. 29, 2019).  The Court held that the CEA provisions at issue did not apply extraterritorially because they lacked a “clear statement of extraterritorial effect” and the alleged misconduct was predominantly foreign.
    CATEGORY: Jurisdiction
  • Second Circuit Finds New Private Right Of Action Under Investment Company Act Of 1940
     
    09/04/2019

    Rejecting a widely-held consensus, on August 5, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that Section 47(b)(2) of the Investment Company Act (“ICA”) creates an implied private right of action for rescission in favor of a party to a contract that allegedly violates the ICA (or whose performance allegedly violates the ICA).  Oxford University Bank v. Lansuppe Feeder, Inc., No. 16-4061 (2d Cir. Aug. 5, 2019).
    CATEGORY: Standing
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Digital Services Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Misstatements And Scienter
     
    09/04/2019

    On August 28, 2019, Judge Lorna G. Schofield of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a putative class action against the digital services and development company Synacor, Inc. and certain of its officers asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Lefkowitz, et al. v. Synacor, Inc., et al., 18-CV-2979 (LGS) (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 28, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged misrepresentations regarding revenue projections relating to a contract with a major customer, the customer’s control over monetizing the contract and weaknesses in the company’s internal controls for financial reporting.  The Court held that the alleged misrepresentations in question were either not actionable or were inadequately pleaded with respect to scienter, and therefore dismissed the complaint in its entirety, but granted leave to replead. 
  • Southern District Of Florida Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Beverage Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Misstatements, Scienter And Loss Causation
     
    09/04/2019

    On August 29, 2019, Judge K. Michael Moore of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed a putative class action against National Beverage Corporation and certain of its officers asserting claims under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Luczak v. National Beverage Corporation, et al., 18-cv-61631-KMM (S.D. Fla. Aug. 29, 2019).  Plaintiff alleged that defendants’ public statements contained misrepresentations regarding the company’s main product (a brand of sparkling water), the use of purportedly unique proprietary methods to drive growth, and sexual harassment allegations with respect to the company’s CEO.  The Court held that the alleged misrepresentations were inadequately pleaded with respect to either falsity, scienter or loss causation, and therefore dismissed the complaint in its entirety.
  • District Of Maryland Dismisses Exchange Act Claims For Failure To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    08/27/2019

    ​On August 19, 2019, Judge Richard Bennett of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland dismissed 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. Aug. 19, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that the Company misrepresented its financial health by concealing that consumer demand had declined and the Company had resorted to discounting to prop up its sales.  In a prior decision, the Court had dismissed plaintiffs’ claims but permitted plaintiffs to replead the Exchange Act claims to attempt to plead scienter.  The Court held, however, that plaintiffs’ further amended complaint suffered from the same defects as their prior complaint, and therefore dismissed the action with prejudice.
  • Fifth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Putative Securities Class Action Against Home Furnishings Retailer For Failure To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    08/27/2019

    On August 19, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal by a Northern District of Texas court of a putative securities class action asserting a Section 10(b) claim under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) against a home furnishings retailer (the “Company”) and two of its senior officers.  Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Michigan v. Pier 1 Imports Inc. et al., No. 18-10998 (5th Cir. Aug. 19, 2019).  Plaintiff alleged that defendants failed to disclose that the Company’s inventory was too high and was subject to significant “markdown risk” because it had too much inventory that was too “seasonal” and “subject to changing consumer tastes.”  The Court affirmed the district court’s decision that plaintiff’s allegations did not adequately support the required strong inference of scienter.
  • Northern District Of California Dismisses Putative Securities Class Action For The Second Time Against Generic Drug Maker For Inadequate Pleading, This Time Without Leave To Amend
     
    08/20/2019

    On August 12, 2019, Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed without leave to amend a putative securities class action against a pharmaceutical company, and certain of its officers, under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 10b-5.  New York Hotel Trades Council & Hotel Assoc. of N.Y.C., Inc. Pension Fund v. Impax Laboratories Inc., No. 16 Civ. 6577 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2019).  As to alleged misrepresentations regarding alleged price fixing, the Court held that the announcement of a government investigation cannot, as a matter of law, amount to a “corrective disclosure” sufficient to allege loss causation.  As to other alleged misrepresentations regarding price erosion as to certain drugs, the Court held that plaintiff failed to plead a false statement, materiality, and/or scienter.    
  • District Of New Jersey Allows Class Action Based On Alleged Price-Fixing To Proceed Against Pharmaceutical Company
     
    08/13/2019

    On August 6, 2019, Judge Katherine S. Hayden of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denied a motion to dismiss a putative securities class action asserting claims under Sections 10(b) and 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rules 10b-5 and 14a-9 promulgated thereunder.  In re Allergan Generic Drug Pricing Sec. Litig., No. 16- CV-9449, 2019 WL 3562134 (D.N.J. Aug. 6, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that a pharmaceutical company and several of its executives participated in a price-fixing conspiracy that caused the prices of six generic drugs sold by the company to increase dramatically during the alleged class period—as ultimately revealed through a U.S. Department of Justice investigation—and that defendants made material misstatements and omissions regarding the alleged conspiracy.  The Court held that plaintiffs adequately pleaded their claims, including with respect to material misstatements, scienter and loss causation.
  • New York State Court Holds PSLRA Bars Discovery In State Securities Act Cases Pending A Motion To Dismiss
     
    08/13/2019

    On August 7, 2019, New York State Supreme Court Justice Andrew Borrok issued a stay of discovery, pending resolution of a motion to dismiss, in a putative class action asserting claims under the Securities Act of 1933.  In re Everquote, Inc. Sec. Litig., Index No. 651177/2019, 2019 WL 3686065 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cnty. Aug. 7, 2019).  Justice Borrok held that the automatic discovery stay under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”) applied to Securities Act claims brought in state court.
    CATEGORY: Discovery
  • Eastern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Pharmaceutical Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Misstatements And Scienter
     
    08/13/2019

    On August 6, 2019, Judge Edward R. Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed a putative securities class action asserting claims against a pharmaceutical company and certain of its officers under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  In re Aceto Corp. Sec. Litig., No. 18-CV-2425 (ERK-AYS) (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 6, 2019).  Plaintiff alleged that defendants made misrepresentations in connection with disclosures concerning the company’s compliance with internal controls, earnings forecasts, and regarding the valuation of goodwill and intangible assets.  The Court held that the complaint failed to plead an actionable misstatement or scienter, but granted leave to replead.
  • Southern District Of New York Grants Reconsideration And Dismisses Exchange Act Claims Against Underwriter Of Regulation A+ Offering, Finding Plaintiffs Failed To Adequately Allege Scienter
     
    08/06/2019

    On July 29, 2019, Judge Denise Cote of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted reconsideration of her prior decision and dismissed securities fraud claims brought against an underwriter in a putative securities class action.  In re Longfin Corp. Securities Class Action Litigation, 1:18-cv-02933 (DLC) (S.D.N.Y. July 29, 2019).  As discussed in our prior post, plaintiffs filed securities law claims against a financial and technological services company (the “Company”), its executives, and the lead underwriter (“Underwriter”) of the Company’s Regulation A+ (“Reg A+”) offering in 2017 (the “Offering”).  On April 11, 2019, the Court granted the Underwriter’s motion to dismiss claims brought under the Securities Act of 1933, but denied its motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ claim that the Underwriter committed fraud in violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder.  In granting the Underwriter’s motion for reconsideration and dismissing the Exchange Act claims, the Court found that plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) failed to plausibly allege the Underwriter knew and participated in an alleged fraudulent “scheme” and that the more compelling inference was that the Company lied to the Underwriter to secure its participation in the Offering.
    CATEGORIES: Exchange ActSchemeScienter
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Building Materials Company For Failure To Adequately Allege Misstatements And Scienter
     
    07/23/2019

    On July 12, 2019, Judge Valerie Caproni of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a putative securities class action brought against the building materials company Cemex and certain of its officers, asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Schiro v. Cemex, S.A.B. de C.V., No. 18-CV-2352 (VEC), 2019 WL 3066487 (S.D.N.Y. July 12, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants misrepresented the company’s internal controls and compliance with anti-bribery laws and failed to disclose an alleged bribery scheme involving the company’s Colombian subsidiary.  The Court held the misrepresentations in question were either not actionable or were inadequately pleaded with respect to scienter, and therefore dismissed the complaint in its entirety, while granting leave for plaintiffs to amend.
  • New York Supreme Court Dismisses Securities Act Of 1933 Claims, Holding That Plaintiffs’ Allegations Of Misleading Statements Are Inactionable Forward-Looking Statements Or Opinions Under Omnicare
     
    07/23/2019

    On July 11, 2019, Justice Andrew Borrok of the New York State Supreme Court, County of New York, Commercial Division, dismissed a putative securities class action against a Brazilian based online retailer (the “Company”), certain of its executives and directors, and its underwriters in connection with the Company’s initial public offering (“IPO”).  In re Netshoes Sec. Litig., Index No. 157435/2018 (Sup. Ct., N.Y. Cty., July 11, 2019).  Plaintiffs—purchasers of the Company’s stock—brought claims under Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”), claiming that defendants made materially false and misleading statements in a registration statement filed with the SEC in connection with the IPO.  The Court dismissed the Securities Act claims without prejudice, finding that the allegations were inactionable opinions under the Supreme Court’s decision in Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers Dist. Council Const. Indus., 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), or were inactionable because they were about past performance, were forward-looking, or were expressions of puffery.
  • Fifth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Class Action Against Pipeline Operator For Failure To Adequately Allege Misstatements Or Scienter
     
    07/23/2019

    On July 16, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a decision by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas that dismissed a putative class action against the oil and gas pipeline operator Plains All American Pipeline, certain of its officers, directors and related parties, and the underwriters for the securities offerings at issue.  Police & Fire Ret. Sys. of the City of Detroit v. Plains All Am. Pipeline, L.P., —Fed. App’x—, 2019 WL 3213543, slip. op. (5th Cir. 2019).  As discussed in our prior post, plaintiffs, investors who purchased equity and debt instruments issued by entities affiliated with Plains All American Pipeline in seven different public offerings, brought claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Securities Act of 1933, alleging that statements regarding the company’s compliance program were false in light of events surrounding a May 2015 oil spill.  The district court dismissed plaintiffs’ second amended complaint with prejudice, finding that plaintiffs either did not allege an actionable misstatement or did not sufficiently plead scienter.  The Fifth Circuit affirmed.
  • Federal Court Denies Motion To Dismiss Section 20A Insider Trading Claims, Finding Plaintiffs Sufficiently Pleaded Scienter Where Allegations Were “Equally Compelling” As The Opposing Inference
     
    07/09/2019

    On July 1, 2019, Judge Michael A. Shipp of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denied a motion to dismiss a complaint alleging insider trading in violation of Section 20A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  In re Valeant Pharma. Int’l Inc. Sec. Litig., 15-7685 (MAS) (LHG) (D.N.J. July 1, 2019).  The complaint asserts the Section 20A claims against a board member of a large pharmaceutical corporation (the “Company”) and an investment advisory firm and affiliates co-founded by that board member that traded in the Company’s stock.  The Court, which had already considered and denied a motion to dismiss the Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 claims in a prior ruling, concluded that the complaint adequately alleged Section 20A claims and denied the motion to dismiss.
    CATEGORIES: Insider TradingScienter
  • District Of Connecticut Certifies Class In Cryptocurrency Mining Suit, Holding That Proposed Class Could Establish Reliance Based On Common Proof
     
    07/02/2019

    On June 21, 2019, Judge Michael P. Shea of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut granted plaintiffs’ motion to certify a class of investors in an action alleging that two cryptocurrency companies falsely represented that they were using investors’ money to mine for cryptocurrency when, in fact, they were engaged in a Ponzi scheme.  Plaintiffs asserted claims against the companies and their owners under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Connecticut securities law, and for common law fraud.  Audet v. Fraser, No. 3:16-CV-0940 (MPS), 2019 WL 2562628 (D. Conn. June 21, 2019).  The Court held that each of the requirements for class certification was satisfied and, in particular, that even though no presumption of reliance was available, reliance on misrepresentations could be established on a class-wide basis based on common proof. 
  • Eastern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Regarding Mutual Fund Disclosures For Failure To Adequately Allege Misstatements And Omissions
     
    07/02/2019

    On June 25, 2019, Judge Arthur Spatt of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed with prejudice a putative securities class action brought by investors in a mutual fund asserting violations of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) against the fund’s registrant, certain executives, investment advisor, and underwriter.  Emerson v. Mutual Fund Series Trust, No. 2:17-CV-02565 (ADS) (GRB), 2019 WL 2601664 (E.D.N.Y. June 25, 2019).  Plaintiffs alleged that the fund’s offering materials misrepresented that the fund was low-risk, when in fact it engaged in speculative investments that exposed the fund to substantial downside risk in rising markets.  Id. at *1.  The Court held that the complaint alleged “no actionable misstatements or omissions,” and dismissed the complaint with prejudice.  Id. at *15.
  • Supreme Court Denies Petition For Certiorari In Toshiba, Leaving In Place Arguable Circuit Split Regarding Extraterritorial Reach Of Section 10(b)
     
    07/02/2019

    On June 24, 2019, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari to review a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that a foreign issuer that has no involvement in establishing or selling ADRs can be subject to liability under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as long as plaintiff purchased or sold the ADRs in a domestic transaction.  Toshiba Corp. v. Auto. Indus. Pension Trust Fund, et al., No. 18-486 (U.S. June 24, 2019).  Pursuant to its typical practice, the Court did not comment on its reasons for denying certiorari. 
    CATEGORY:
  • Supreme Court Expands Scope Of Confidential Information Disclosure Exemption Under Freedom Of Information Act
     
    07/02/2019

    On June 24, 2019, the United States Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Gorsuch, held that information that “is both customarily and actually treated as private by its owner and provided to the government under an assurance of privacy” is protected from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) pursuant to Exemption 4 thereto, which protects “commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”  Food Mktg. Inst. v. Argus Leader Media, —U.S.—, 2019 WL 2570624 (June 24, 2019).  The Court thus reversed a decision of the Eighth Circuit that had required an additional showing that disclosure would cause “substantial competitive harm.” 
    CATEGORY:
  • Southern District Of New York Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Brazilian Mining Company For Failure To Allege A Domestic U.S. Securities Transaction

    06/25/2019

    On June 18, 2019, Judge Richard Berman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a putative securities class action brought by a Cayman Islands branch of a Brazilian bank against a Brazilian mining company (the “Company”) and its Brazilian parent companies on behalf of investors in certain of the Company’s bonds. Banco Safra S.A. - Cayman Islands Branch v. Samarco Mineracao S.A., et al, 1:16-cv-08800 (S.D.N.Y. June 18, 2019). Plaintiff alleged that defendants made misrepresentations about the safety of the Company’s mining operations in the wake of an “environmental disaster” in Brazil involving the bursting of one of the Company’s dams in violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. Plaintiff also alleged violations of Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act, along with claims for common law fraud, aiding and abetting fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. The bonds at issue were not listed on a U.S. securities exchange and had been initially offered only outside the United States, and plaintiff’s alleged purchases were largely made in the secondary market. The Court, in dismissing the amended complaint, held that plaintiff failed to allege a U.S. domestic securities transaction as required to overcome the presumption against the extraterritorial application of the U.S. securities laws.

    CATEGORIES: Exchange ActJurisdiction
  • Northern District Of California Dismisses Putative Class Action Against Cybersecurity Company Based On Failure To Adequately Allege Misrepresentations And Scienter
     
    06/25/2019

    On June 14, 2019, Judge William Alsup of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a putative class action against a cybersecurity company (the “Company”) and certain of its executives. SEB Inv. Mgmt. AB v. Symantec Corp., No. 18-02902 (N.D. Cal. June 14, 2019). After the Company announced that its audit committee had commenced an internal investigation and had voluntarily contacted the SEC after a former employee raised unspecified concerns, plaintiff, an investor in the Company, alleged that defendants made misrepresentations in connection with the Company’s growth as a result of its acquisition of two security firms, in violation of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder. The Court held that plaintiff failed to allege actionable material misrepresentations and/or scienter as to various categories of alleged misstatements, and dismissed the complaint without prejudice.
     
  • Southern District Of New York Denies Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings, Rejecting Argument That Code Of Conduct Statements Were Inactionable Puffery
     
    06/18/2019

    On June 11, 2019, Judge Colleen McMahon of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings in a putative securities class action asserting violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) against a jewelry retailer (the “Company”) and certain of its senior executives.  In re Signet Jewelers Limited Sec. Litig., No. 16-cv-6728, 2019 WL 2428529 at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 26, 2018).  Plaintiff alleged that certain declarations filed in connection with a separate gender discrimination case rendered false and misleading the Company’s public statements about its commitment to preventing gender discrimination.  Rejecting defendants’ argument that the Company’s statements were inactionable puffery, the Court ruled that plaintiff had adequately pleaded that the statements were material because, among other things, they appeared to be directly and specifically at odds with the conduct alleged in the complaint.
     
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