On January 7, 2013, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Section 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which provides for the disgorgement of profits that corporate insiders realize “from any purchase and sale, or any sale and purchase, of any equity security” of the corporate issuer within any period of less than six months (the “short-swing profit rule”), does not apply to a corporate insider’s purchase and sale of shares of different types of stock in the same company where those securities are separately traded, nonconvertible stocks that have different voting rights. Gibbons v. Malone, No. 11 Civ. 3620, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 398 (2d Cir. Jan. 7, 2013). Throughout its analysis, the court characterized § 16(b) as a blunt, mechanical rule that prioritizes ease of enforcement over maximum deterrence. Acknowledging the policy reasons for a more flexible interpretation of the rule, the Second Circuit invited the SEC to consider interpreting the short-swing profit rule to cover “similar” equity securities.
Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Lewis Liman, partner focusing on commercial litigation at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum by Mr. Liman and Jennifer Kennedy Park.