Archive for the ‘Securities Litigation & Enforcement’ Category

European Court of Human Rights Shakes Insider Trading Rules

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday April 13, 2014 at 9:24 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Guido Rossi, former Chairman of the Consob (Italian SEC), and Marco Ventoruzzo of Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law, and Bocconi University.

A recent and groundbreaking decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasburg might shatter the entire structure of the Italian and European regulation of market abuse (insider trading and market manipulations). The case is “Grand Stevens and others v. Italy”, and was decided on March 4, 2014.

The facts can be briefly summarized as follows. In 2005, the corporations that controlled the car manufacturer Fiat, renegotiated a financial contract (equity swap) with Merrill Lynch. One of the goals of the agreement was to maintain control over Fiat without being required to launch a mandatory tender offer. Consob, the Italian securities and exchange commission, initiated an administrative action against the corporation and some of its managers and consultants, accusing them of not having properly disclosed the renegotiation of the contract to the market. The procedure resulted in heavy financial fines (for some individuals, up to 5 million euro), and additional measures prohibiting some of the people involved from serving as corporate directors and practicing law. At the same time, a criminal investigation was launched for the same facts. It is not necessary here to discuss the merits of the controversy, it is sufficient to mention that the sanctioned parties challenged the sanctions in Italian courts, but did not prevail.

…continue reading: European Court of Human Rights Shakes Insider Trading Rules

Rethinking Basic: Towards a Decision in Halliburton

Posted by Lucian Bebchuk and Allen Ferrell, Harvard Law School, on Wednesday April 9, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: Lucian Bebchuk is William J. Friedman and Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance and Director of the Program on Corporate Governance, Harvard Law School. Allen Ferrell is Greenfield Professor of Securities Law, Harvard Law School. They are co-authors of Rethinking Basic, a Harvard Law School Discussion Paper that is forthcoming in the May 2014 issue of The Business Lawyer and available here.

We have recently revised our paper Rethinking Basic (discussed earlier on the Forum here). Our revision, which will be published in the May issue of the Business Lawyer, takes into account, and relates our analysis to, the Justices’ questions at the Halliburton oral argument. As our revision explains, questions asked by some of the Justices at the oral argument suggest that the fraudulent distortion approach we support might appeal to the Court.

In the Halliburton case, the United States Supreme Court is expected to reconsider the Basic ruling that, twenty-five years ago, adopted the fraud-on-the-market theory, which has since facilitated securities class action litigation. Our paper seeks to contribute to this reconsideration by providing a conceptual and economic framework for a reexamination of the Basic rule.

…continue reading: Rethinking Basic: Towards a Decision in Halliburton

Perspectives on Strengthening Enforcement

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Wednesday April 2, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s remarks to the Annual Forum of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Greg [Tanzer, ASIC Commissioner] suggested that I talk about my perspectives on international cooperation in the enforcement context, as well as what we at the SEC are doing to try to make our own enforcement program even more robust and responsive to the issues presented by interconnected and fast moving markets. I am happy to do that. But, before I do, I would like to share a couple of thoughts on the topic of your first session—“Enforcement—does the punishment fit the crime?”

Much of my professional background has been in enforcement and strong enforcement was one of my primary focuses when I became Chair of the SEC almost a year ago and it remains so. Vigorous enforcement of the securities laws in the United States, in Australia and around the world is obviously a critical component of our investor protection mission.

…continue reading: Perspectives on Strengthening Enforcement

Supreme Court Expands Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Provision

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday March 24, 2014 at 9:25 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 Robin D. Fessel, Julia M. Jordan, Theodore O. Rogers, Christina Andersen.

In Lawson v. FMR LLC, No. 12-3 (Mar. 4, 2014), the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the scope of whistleblower protection provided by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”), holding that employees of private contractors and subcontractors of public companies are protected by the whistleblower provision set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 1514A of the Act. The Court, acknowledging that the language of the Act is ambiguous, interpreted it to allow persons employed by non-public contractors to public companies—such as lawyers or accounting firms—to bring whistleblower claims under the Act. In a strong dissent, Justice Sotomayor objected to the “stunning reach” of this interpretation. The majority opinion, responding to that criticism, cited “various limiting principles” proposed by the plaintiffs and Solicitor General, which employers will need to rely on in the future. Among other things, the “limiting principles” include that the types of contractors whose employees could make use of SOX are those “whose performance will take place over a significant period of time,” and that an employee of a contractor would only be able to invoke SOX as to complaints arising out of the contractor’s “fulfilling its role as contractor for the public company, not the contractor in some other capacity.” Ultimately, however, the Court declined to address the precise bounds of § 1514A, finding that the whistleblower claims at issue fell squarely within the “mainstream application” of the statute, as both plaintiffs claimed retaliation after reporting allegedly fraudulent activity that plainly implicated mutual funds’ shareholders.

…continue reading: Supreme Court Expands Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Provision

Chairman’s Address at SEC Speaks 2014

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Wednesday March 19, 2014 at 9:39 am
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Editor’s Note: Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s remarks at the 2014 SEC Speaks Conference; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Good morning. I am very honored to be giving the welcoming remarks and to offer a few perspectives from my first 10 months as Chair. Looking back at remarks made by former Chairs at this event, the expectation seems to be for me to talk about the “State of the SEC.” I will happily oblige on behalf of this great and critical agency.

In 1972, 42 years ago at the very first SEC Speaks, there were approximately 1,500 SEC employees charged with regulating the activities of 5,000 broker-dealers, 3,500 investment advisers, and 1,500 investment companies.

Today the markets have grown and changed dramatically, and the SEC has significantly expanded responsibilities. There are now about 4,200 employees—not nearly enough to stretch across a landscape that requires us to regulate more than 25,000 market participants, including broker-dealers, investment advisers, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, municipal advisors, clearing agents, transfer agents, and 18 exchanges. We also oversee the important functions of self-regulatory organizations and boards such as FASB, FINRA, MSRB, PCAOB, and SIPC. Only SIPC and FINRA’s predecessor, the NASD, even existed back in 1972.

…continue reading: Chairman’s Address at SEC Speaks 2014

Do Conservative Justices Favor Wall Street?

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday March 19, 2014 at 9:35 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Marco Ventoruzzo of Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law, and Bocconi University.

The appointment of Supreme Court justices is a politically-charged process and the “ideology” (or “judicial philosophy”) of the nominees is perceived as playing a potentially relevant role in their future decision-making. It is fairly easy to intuit that ideology somehow enters the analysis with respect to politically divisive issues such as abortion and procreative rights, sexual conduct, freedom of speech, separation of church and state, gun control, procedural protections for the accused in criminal cases, and governmental powers. Many studies have tackled the question of the relevance of the ideology of the justices or appellate judges on these issues, often finding a correlation between policy preferences and decisions.

…continue reading: Do Conservative Justices Favor Wall Street?

Supreme Court Allows State-Law Securities Class Actions to Proceed

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday March 18, 2014 at 9:29 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 February 26, 2014, the Supreme Court decided Chadbourne & Parke LLP v. Troice, 571 U.S. ___ (2014), ruling by a 7-2 vote that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (“SLUSA”) does not bar state-law securities class actions in which the plaintiffs allege that they purchased uncovered securities that the defendants misrepresented were backed by covered securities. The decision is the first in which the Court has held that a state-law suit pertaining to securities fraud is not precluded by SLUSA, suggesting that there are limits to the broad interpretation of SLUSA’s preclusion provision that the Court has recognized in previous cases. While Chadbourne leaves many questions unanswered concerning the precise contours of SLUSA preclusion, and could encourage plaintiffs to pursue securities-fraud claims under state-law theories, the unusual facts in Chadbourne could limit the reach of the holding and provide defendants with avenues for distinguishing more typical state-law claims in other cases.

…continue reading: Supreme Court Allows State-Law Securities Class Actions to Proceed

SEC v. Contorinis: SEC gets Powerful New Tool—For Now

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday March 16, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Paul N. Monnin, partner in the Litigation and Regulatory practice at DLA Piper LLP, and is based on a DLA Piper publication by Mr. Monnin and Zachary LeVasseur.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has broadened the Securities and Exchange Commission’s power to seek civil disgorgement of profits from insider trading violations even where an individual did not personally profit from the illegal trades.

In its panel opinion in SEC v. Contorinis, decided on February 18, the Second Circuit upheld a trial court order requiring that Joseph Contorinis, the former managing director of the Jeffries Paragon Fund, disgorge more than US$7 million in unlawful profits obtained by the fund as a result of Contorinis’s trading on material nonpublic information. This is despite the fact that he did not trade with his own personal assets and his personal compensation from the trades amounted to only US$427,875.

…continue reading: SEC v. Contorinis: SEC gets Powerful New Tool—For Now

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Halliburton

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 Jeffrey B. Wall. The Supreme Court’s reconsideration of Basic is also discussed in a Harvard Law School Discussion Paper by Professors Lucian Bebchuk and Allen Ferrell, Rethinking Basic, discussed on the Forum here.

On March 5, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., No. 13-317, which presents whether to overrule or significantly limit plaintiffs’ ability to rely on the legal presumption that each would-be class member in a securities fraud class action relied on the statements challenged as fraudulent in the lawsuit. Without this so-called fraud-on-the-market presumption of classwide reliance, putative class action plaintiffs would face substantial barriers in maintaining securities fraud class actions. The Court’s decision in Halliburton, which is expected by June 2014, could lead to a significant change in the conduct of securities class actions. Even if the Court ultimately retains some formulation of the fraud-on-the-market presumption of reliance, the Court could increase defendants’ ability to contest what in practice has evolved into a virtually irrebuttable presumption.

…continue reading: Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Halliburton

Remarks on the Halliburton Oral Argument (3): The Consistency of a Fraudulent Distortion Approach with Not Resolving Merit Issues at Class Certification

Posted by Lucian Bebchuk and Allen Ferrell, Harvard Law School, on Thursday March 13, 2014 at 8:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Lucian Bebchuk is William J. Friedman and Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance and Director of the Program on Corporate Governance, Harvard Law School. Allen Ferrell is Greenfield Professor of Securities Law, Harvard Law School. They are co-authors of Rethinking Basic, a Harvard Law School Discussion Paper forthcoming in the May 2014 issue of The Business Lawyer, that is available here. This post is the third in a three-part series in which they remark on the oral argument at the Halliburton case; the first two posts are available here and here.

As we discussed in our first two posts, the Halliburton oral argument (transcript available here), provided encouraging signs that a number of the Justices might choose to avoid making a judgment on the state of efficient market theory and to focus on the presence of fraudulent distortion (sometimes also referred to as price impact). In this post, we respond to arguments that the adoption of such an approach would be inconsistent with or at least in tension with the Court’s earlier rulings that merit issues should not be resolved at the class certification case.

In Rethinking Basic, we explain that class-wide reliance should depend not on the “efficiency” of the market for the company’s security but on the existence of fraudulent distortion of the market price, and that focusing on fraudulent distortion would provide a coherent and implementable framework for identifying class-wide reliance in appropriate circumstances. We also go on to explain that, in contrast to some claims to the contrary, determining fraudulent distortion would not usurp the merits issues of materiality and loss causation.

In responses to our paper (see, e.g., Kevin LaCroix of D&O blog’s thoughtful post here http://www.dandodiary.com/2014/01/articles/securities-litigation/dump-fraud-on-the-market-yet-preserve-securities-plaintiffs-ability-to-establish-reliance/) and in reactions to the oral argument in Halliburton, commentators raised the possibility that adopting a fraudulent distortion approach would create tension with some recent Supreme Court rulings.

In particular, questions were raised as to (1) whether a finding of fraudulent distortion would necessarily imply a finding of materiality, an issue that the Court held in Amgen to be a merits issue?, and (2) whether such a finding would necessarily imply a finding of loss causation, an issue that the Court in the earlier Halliburton case held also to be a merits issue?

As we explain below, based on our analysis in Rethinking Basic, the answer to both questions is no. We first address the question of materiality and then turn to loss causation.

…continue reading: Remarks on the Halliburton Oral Argument (3): The Consistency of a Fraudulent Distortion Approach with Not Resolving Merit Issues at Class Certification

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