Archive for the ‘Court Cases’ Category

Supreme Court’s Omnicare Decision Muddies Section 11 Opinion Liability Standards

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday March 31, 2015 at 9:05 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jon N. Eisenberg, partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP, and is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The Supreme Court has a long history of rejecting expansive interpretations of implied private rights of action under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act. Most notably, since 1975, it rejected the argument that mere holders, rather than only purchasers and sellers, may bring private damage actions under Section 10(b), rejected the argument that Section 10(b) liability may be imposed based on negligence rather than scienter, rejected the argument that Section 10(b) may be applied to “unfair” as opposed to fraudulent conduct, rejected the argument that purchase price inflation is enough to show damages under Section 10(b), rejected the argument that Section 10(b) reaches aiders and abettors rather than only primary violators, and rejected efforts to muddy the distinction between primary and secondary liability under Section 10(b).

The Court, however, has barely even mentioned Section 11 of the Securities Act in its opinions, much less interpreted it. Section 11, unlike Section 10(b), 1) provides an express private right of action, 2) is limited to misrepresentations and omissions in a registration statement, and 3) requires no proof of culpability although defendants other than an issuer have due diligence affirmative defenses. The Supreme Court’s March 24, 2015 decision in Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, No. 13-435, is the Court’s first meaningful foray into Section 11. Unfortunately, the decision, which addresses opinion liability under Section 11, provides an amorphous standard that is likely to lead to unpredictable results. It should provide little comfort to plaintiffs or defendants and should make defendants more cautious about including unnecessary opinions in registration statements and, where appropriate, should lead them to carefully qualify opinions that they do include.

…continue reading: Supreme Court’s Omnicare Decision Muddies Section 11 Opinion Liability Standards

Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday March 29, 2015 at 9:42 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Brent J. McIntosh, Theodore O. Rogers, and Jeffrey B. Wall; the complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The U.S. Supreme Court held on March 9, 2015 that agencies are not required to follow notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures when amending or repealing their interpretations of existing regulations. The Court ruled that the D.C. Circuit’s longstanding Paralyzed Veterans doctrine, which required agencies to follow notice-and-comment procedures when changing interpretive rules, was contrary to the text of the Administrative Procedure Act and exceeded the scope of judicial review authorized by Congress. The Court suggested, however, that changed interpretations should be subject to more searching review by courts, especially when regulated entities have extensively relied on the prior interpretation, and may face limitations in retroactive application. Three Justices wrote separately to question the fundamental appropriateness of judicial deference to agencies’ interpretations of their own regulations. Though the Court directed that an agency will need to provide a more substantial justification for its new interpretation if the new interpretation unsettles serious reliance interests or if it is based on factual findings contrary to prior findings, yesterday’s decision may make it easier for an agency to modify or even reverse its interpretation of existing regulations.

…continue reading: Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association

Supreme Court Clarifies Liability for Opinions in Registration Statements

Posted by Robert J. Giuffra, Jr., Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, on Saturday March 28, 2015 at 9:33 am
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Editor’s Note: Robert Giuffra is a partner in Sullivan & Cromwell’s Litigation Group. The following post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Mr. Giuffra, Brian T. Frawley, Brent J. McIntosh, and Jeffrey B. Wall; the complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

On March 24, 2015 in Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, No. 13-435, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the requirement in Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933 that a registration statement not “contain[] an untrue statement of a material fact” or “omit[] to state a material fact … necessary to make the statements therein not misleading.” Specifically, the Court considered what plaintiffs need to plead under each of those phrases with respect to statements of opinion. The Court’s guidance is significant in light of the importance of pleading standards and motions to dismiss in securities litigation. The Court held, consistent with a majority of the federal courts of appeals, that a pure statement of opinion offered in a Section 11 filing is “an untrue statement of material fact” only if the plaintiff can plead (and ultimately prove) that the issuer did not actually hold the stated belief. At the same time, the Court held that the omission of certain material facts can render even a pure statement of opinion actionably misleading under Section 11. But the Court emphasized that pleading an omissions claim will be difficult because a plaintiff must identify specific, material facts whose omission makes the opinion statement misleading to a reasonable person reading the statement fairly and in context. The Supreme Court’s decision should curtail Section 11 litigation over honestly held opinions that turn out to be wrong, but it may cause the plaintiffs’ bar to bring claims that issuers have not accompanied their opinions with sufficient material facts underlying those opinions. To ward off the risk of such lawsuits, issuers should consider supplementing their disclosure documents with information about the bases of their opinions that could be material to a reasonable investor.

…continue reading: Supreme Court Clarifies Liability for Opinions in Registration Statements

Delaware Court: Fee-Shifting Bylaw Does Not Apply to Former Stockholder

Posted by Toby S. Myerson, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, on Thursday March 26, 2015 at 9:11 am
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Editor’s Note: Toby Myerson is a partner in the Corporate Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and co-head of the firm’s Global Mergers and Acquisitions Group. The following post is based on a Paul Weiss memorandum, and is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In Strougo v. Hollander, the Delaware Court of Chancery held that a fee-shifting bylaw did not apply to a former stockholder’s challenge to the fairness of a 10,000-to-1 reverse stock split that the corporation undertook in connection with a going-private transaction because (i) the bylaw was adopted after the stockholder’s interest in the corporation ceased to exist due to the reverse stock split and (ii) Delaware law does not authorize a bylaw that regulates the rights or powers of former stockholders. While the proposed 2015 amendments to the Delaware General Corporation Law, if adopted, would themselves invalidate fee-shifting provisions in corporate charters and bylaws, Delaware corporations should consider the implications of this opinion’s holding that former stockholders are not bound by bylaws (or, by implication, charter provisions) adopted after their interests as stockholders cease to exist.

…continue reading: Delaware Court: Fee-Shifting Bylaw Does Not Apply to Former Stockholder

Delaware Court: Minority Stockholders Did Not Waive Appraisal Rights

Posted by Toby S. Myerson, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, on Monday March 16, 2015 at 9:05 am
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Editor’s Note: Toby Myerson is a partner in the Corporate Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and co-head of the firm’s Global Mergers and Acquisitions Group. The following post is based on a Paul Weiss memorandum. Justin A. Shuler contributed to this post. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In Halpin v. Riverstone National, Inc., a controlling stockholder caused the company to complete a merger, but did so without exercising drag-along rights that would have compelled the minority stockholders to vote in favor of the merger and thereby waive their statutory rights to judicial appraisal. After receiving notification of the merger, the minority stockholders filed an action for statutory appraisal of their shares, and in response the company sought an order requiring the minority stockholders to vote in favor of the merger so that the company could avail itself of the benefits of the drag-along rights. The Delaware Court of Chancery held that because the company failed to properly exercise its drag-along rights in advance of the merger, the minority stockholders were not required to vote in favor of the merger and thus could pursue their appraisal rights.

…continue reading: Delaware Court: Minority Stockholders Did Not Waive Appraisal Rights

California Court Clarifies Scope of Class Action Judgment Reduction Provision

Posted by Brad S. Karp, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, on Sunday March 8, 2015 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Brad Karp is chairman and partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This post is based on a Paul Weiss client memorandum.

In Rieckborn v. Velti plc, 2015 WL 468329 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 3, 2015) (Orrick, J.), the United States District Court for the Northern District of California clarified the scope of the judgment reduction provision that is found in almost all class action settlement agreements by holding that nonsettling defendants are entitled to a judgment reduction measured by the proportion of fault of all settling defendants, not just a dollar-for-dollar judgment reduction, on all settled claims under the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”). In so holding, the court handed a major victory to nonsettling defendants in actions under the Securities Act by granting them a favorable form of judgment reduction on claims not explicitly covered by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (the “PSLRA”). The court’s opinion also makes clear that bar orders cannot preclude “independent claims” and that bar orders must be “mutual,” thereby giving guidance to the drafters of class action settlement agreements.

…continue reading: California Court Clarifies Scope of Class Action Judgment Reduction Provision

The Difficulties of Reconciling Citizens United with Corporate Law History

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday February 27, 2015 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post is based on a recent article earlier issued as a working paper of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance, by Leo Strine, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court and a Senior Fellow of the Program, and Nicholas Walter, associate in the litigation department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The article, Originalist or Original: The Difficulties of Reconciling Citizens United with Corporate Law History, is available here. Related research from the authors includes Conservative Collision Course?: The Tension between Conservative Corporate Law Theory and Citizens United, discussed on the Forum here. Research from the Program on Corporate Governance about corporate political spending includes Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert Jackson, discussed on the Forum here, Corporate Political Speech: Who Decides? by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert Jackson, available here. and Conservative Collision Course?: The Tension between Conservative Corporate Law Theory and Citizens United by Leo Strine and Nicholas Walter, discussed on the Forum here.

Citizens United has been the subject of a great deal of commentary, but one important aspect of the decision that has not been explored in detail is the historical basis for Justice Scalia’s claims in his concurring opinion that the majority holding is consistent with originalism. In this article, we engage in a deep inquiry into the historical understanding of the rights of the business corporation as of 1791 and 1868—two periods relevant to an originalist analysis of the First Amendment. Based on the historical record, Citizens United is far more original than originalist, and if the decision is to be justified, it has to be on jurisprudential grounds originalists traditionally disclaim as illegitimate. The article is available on SSRN at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2564708.

Citizens United v. FEC struck down McCain-Feingold’s restraints on electoral expenditures by corporations. In his concurring opinion, Justice Scalia argued that the decision could be justified through the originalist approach to constitutional interpretation. In particular, Justice Scalia asserted that there was “no evidence” that, at the time of the Founding, corporations were not subject to government regulation of their ability to spend money to advocate the election or defeat of political candidates.

…continue reading: The Difficulties of Reconciling Citizens United with Corporate Law History

Jurisdiction Shifting—Creative Structuring Opportunities

Posted by Daniel E. Wolf, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, on Monday February 9, 2015 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: Daniel Wolf is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis focusing on mergers and acquisitions. The following post is based on a Kirkland memorandum by Mr. Wolf, Sarkis Jebejian, and David B. Feirstein.

As we have noted in prior M&A Updates, when dealmakers face a transaction where one or both of the parties are incorporated outside the Delaware comfort zone, they often confront unexpected structuring issues unique to entities or deals undertaken in that state or country. These may include corporate law, tax, accounting or structuring concerns and, most often, the deal teams will have to adjust the transaction terms to accommodate these issues.

But a recent decision from the Virginia Supreme Court is a timely reminder that, on occasion, these issues can be managed using some resourceful and creative structuring involving shifting jurisdictions. In the case, a Virginia corporation planned to sell its assets which, under Virginia law, would trigger appraisal rights for minority stockholders. Seemingly to avoid this result, the seller undertook a multi-step restructuring ahead of the sale which began with a “domestication” under Virginia law that shifted its jurisdiction of incorporation to Delaware. Under the Virginia statute, no appraisal rights apply to such a reincorporation. Once reincorporated in Delaware, the seller continued its restructuring, ultimately selling its assets to the buyer. Notably, Delaware does not provide for appraisal rights in an asset sale. The Virginia court dismissed the minority stockholders’ argument that they were entitled to appraisal rights. It rejected a “steps transaction” argument that looked to collapse the multiple steps and focus on the substance of the transaction (i.e., a sale of the company’s assets to the buyer), favoring instead the seller’s assertion that the first-stage move to Delaware had independent legal significance and therefore was effective to shift the appraisal rights analysis to Delaware law.

…continue reading: Jurisdiction Shifting—Creative Structuring Opportunities

Regulation S-K Failure to Disclose Creates Liability Under Section 10(b)

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday February 8, 2015 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jonathan C. Dickey, partner and Co-Chair of the National Securities Litigation Practice Group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn publication.

On January 12, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an unprecedented decision holding that a company’s failure to disclose a known trend or uncertainty in its Form 10-Q filings, as required by Item 303 of SEC Regulation S-K, can give rise to liability under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Stratte-McClure v. Morgan Stanley, 2015 WL 136312 (2d Cir. Jan 12, 2015). The decision in Stratte-McClure is in direct conflict with the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling in In re NVIDIA Corp. Securities Litigation, 768 F.3d 1046 (9th Cir. 2014) (“NVIDIA“), the only other court of appeals decision to squarely address this issue. The Second Circuit’s decision, while affirming the dismissal of the case against Morgan Stanley, potentially exposes issuers to greater liability under Section 10(b) for alleged failures to disclose known adverse trends and uncertainties as required by Item 303, in addition to the already existing exposure to regulatory claims arising out of such alleged disclosure violations. In light of Stratte-McClure, issuers should proceed with even greater care in crafting their MD&A disclosures, and in particular their disclosures related to known trends and uncertainties.

…continue reading: Regulation S-K Failure to Disclose Creates Liability Under Section 10(b)

Delaware in 2014: Increasing Deference to Directors’ Decision

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday February 3, 2015 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David N. Shine, partner and co-head of the Mergers and Acquisitions Practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and is based on a Fried Frank publication by Mr. Shine, Steven Epstein, Philip Richter and Gail Weinstein. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

A foundational premise of Delaware jurisprudence has been the courts’ deference to decisions made by independent and disinterested directors. Over the last year, the Delaware courts have continued a trend in their opinions toward increased judicial deference to the decisions of independent and disinterested directors. Thus, for example, the Delaware Supreme Court’s seminal MFW decision provides a roadmap to business judgment review even of controller transactions (which used to be reviewed under an entire fairness standard).

Other than MFW, however, the courts have not changed the fundamental ground rules for review of a sale process. Thus, as in the past:

…continue reading: Delaware in 2014: Increasing Deference to Directors’ Decision

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