Motions to dismiss have been called “the main event” in securities class actions. They are filed in over 90% of securities class actions and they result in dismissal close to 50% of the time they are filed. In contrast, out of 4,226 class actions filed between 1995 and 2013, only 14 were resolved through a trial, and of those, only five resulted in verdicts for the defendant. In between a denial of a motion to dismiss and a trial are i) discovery, ii) opposition to class certification, iii) motion for summary judgment, iv) mediation, and v) settlement. Unfortunately for defendants in securities class actions, class certification is granted in whole or in part 84% of the time, and there is no summary judgment decision at all over 90% of the time. Thus, for most defendants in securities class actions, a denial of a motion to dismiss usually results in writing a settlement check, often after years of costly discovery. Defendants that fail to give adequate attention to motions to dismiss are shortchanging the very best opportunity they have to avoid what may otherwise become multi-year, expensive litigation.
Posts Tagged ‘Securities Act’
Severe turmoil in financial markets—whether the Panic of 1826, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, or the Global Financial Crisis of 2008—often raises significant concerns about the effectiveness of pre-existing securities market regulation. In turn, such concerns tend to result in calls for more and stricter government regulation of corporations and financial markets. It is widely considered that the most significant change to U.S. financial regulation in the past 100 years was the Securities Act of 1933 and the subsequent creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to enforce it. Before the SEC creation, federal securities market regulation was essentially absent in the U.S. In our paper, Corporate Governance and the Creation of the SEC, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine how companies listing in the U.S. responded to this significant increase in the provision of government-sponsored corporate governance. Specifically, did this landmark legislation have any significant effects on board governance (e.g., the independence of boards) and firm valuations?
This post deals with certain of the liability provisions of the federal securities laws: §§ 11, 12, 15 and 17 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”), and §§ 10, 18 and 20 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”). It does not address other potential sources of liability and sanction, such as federal mail and wire fraud statutes, state fraud statutes and common law remedies, RICO and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) disciplinary powers.
On December 22, 1995, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (the “Reform Act” or “PSLRA”) became law after the Senate overrode President Clinton’s veto. Pub. L. No. 104-67, 109 Stat. 737 (1995). Where relevant, this post discusses changes and additions that the PSLRA made to the liability provisions of the Securities Act and the Exchange Act.
China Natural Resources, Inc. (“CHNR”), a natural resources company based in the People’s Republic of China (the “PRC”) with shares listed on the NASDAQ Capital Market, recently completed the spin-off (the “Spin-Off”) and listing by introduction (the “Listing by Introduction”) on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the “Hong Kong Stock Exchange”) of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Feishang Anthracite Resources Limited (“Feishang Anthracite”), which operated CHNR’s coal mining and related businesses prior to the Spin-Off.  S&C represented CHNR and Feishang Anthracite in connection with the Spin-Off and Listing by Introduction, which is the first-of-its-kind where a U.S.-listed company successfully spun off and listed shares of its businesses on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, including advising on the U.S. and Hong Kong legal issues that arose in connection with this transaction.
On December 18, 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) voted to propose amendments to its public offering rules to exempt an additional category of small capital raising efforts as mandated by Title IV of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”). The SEC has proposed to amend Regulation A to exempt offerings of up to $50 million within a 12-month period, and in so doing has created two tiers of offerings under Regulation A: Tier 1, for offerings of up to $5 million in any twelve-month period, and Tier 2, for offerings of up to $50 million in any twelve-month period. Rules regarding eligibility, disclosure and other matters would apply equally to Tier 1 and Tier 2 offerings and are in many respects a modernization of the existing provisions of Regulation A. Tier 2 offerings would, however, be subject to significant additional requirements, such as the provision of audited financial statements, ongoing reporting obligations and certain limitations on sales.
Today [Oct. 23, 2013], the Commission is proposing new rules to implement Title III of the JOBS Act, which exempts qualifying crowdfunding transactions from the registration and prospectus delivery requirements of the Securities Act. The new Regulation Crowdfunding is expected to be used primarily by small companies. As is well known, although personal savings is the largest source of capital for most start-ups, external financing is very important to many small and medium-sized businesses. Unfortunately, as is also well known, many small businesses have difficulty finding external capital. It is worth noting that the need for outside investment is even greater among minority entrepreneurs, who tend to have lower personal wealth than their non-minority counterparts.
Supporters of crowdfunding believe that it may offer a potential solution to the small business funding problem. Observers point to the success of existing crowdfunding services around the world, which raised almost $2.7 billion in 2012, an increase of more than 80% from the prior year.
Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933 is slowly dying. We have to be careful about making such a bold-sounding claim because Section 5 performs two distinct legal functions. First, it creates a presumption that offerings of securities using the facilities of interstate commerce have to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That is not the aspect of Section 5 that concerns us here, however. Our aim in our current research is entirely at the separate function that takes up most of Section 5’s statutory text: restraining the marketing of registered public offerings so that salesmanship does not run ahead of the mandatory disclosure that is supposed to inform investor decisions of whether to buy or not, often referred to as “gun-jumping.” This is a devolution we find interesting and insufficiently examined in legal scholarship. Our focus is entirely on the IPO, the paradigmatic form of issuer capital-raising, and not offerings by seasoned issuers.
We describe this as a slow death because it began almost as soon as the Act was passed. Section 5 started as a simple, rigid and coherent rule that limited sales efforts after the SEC had declared the registration statement “effective.” The industry found this impracticable and to some extent just ignored it, setting in motion two decades of negotiations as to a proper balance between the demand for pre-effective marketing and the concerns about gun-jumping. A legislative compromise, eventually reached in 1954, gave us the statutory language that is mostly still with us today.
FINRA has proposed a trade-reporting rule change that would result in the public dissemination of secondary market transactions in corporate debt securities sold under Securities Act Rule 144A. If adopted, this change could affect secondary market transactions in a number of assets classes, including high-yield debt securities.
On July 8, 2013, the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) submitted an amendment to its Rule 6750 to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). If adopted, the amendment would allow FINRA to disseminate information on transactions effected pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933 (“Rule 144A”) through the Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (“TRACE”), the principal trade-reporting system for fixed-income securities. The proposed amendment would allow FINRA to disseminate information regarding secondary transactions effected pursuant to Rule 144A. It would not require the reporting of primary transactions.
On July 10, 2013, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) approved final rules that eliminate the prohibition against general solicitation and general advertising (collectively referred to herein as “general solicitation”) in certain offerings of securities pursuant to Rule 506 of Regulation D (“Reg D”) and Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). The SEC also approved final rules disqualifying felons and other “bad actors” from Rule 506 offerings, and proposed related amendments to Reg D, Form D and Rule 156 under the Securities Act. The final rules become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register (with an estimated effective date of September 13, 2013). The proposed amendments will be open for comment for a period of 60 days after publication.
I. Rules Permitting General Solicitation in Private Offerings
The final rules create a new form of offering under Rule 506(c) that permits issuers to use general solicitation in connection with the sale of securities in private placements if: (i) the purchasers of all securities are “accredited investors;”  and (ii) the issuer takes reasonable steps to verify that the purchasers are accredited investors. The new rules leave intact Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act (which exempts from registration transactions by an issuer “not involving any public offering”) and existing Rule 506(b) (which provides a safe harbor under Section 4(a)(2) for offerings conducted without general solicitation).
Although new Rule 506(c) allows for the use of advertising in connection with fundraising activities, there are certain limitations for private funds relying on Rule 506(c):
At long last, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took action July 10, 2013 to implement rules that complied with the JOBS Act mandate to relax the prohibition against general solicitation in certain private offerings of securities. The original SEC proposal from August 2012, proposing amendments to Rule 506 of Regulation D and Rule 144A under the Securities Act, had drawn significant comments. The final rule, as well as the SEC’s proposed rules relating to private offerings discussed below, are likely to generate additional commentary. One might say that the July 10, 2013 webcast of the SEC’s open meeting provided a glimpse into the too-hot/too-cold Goldilocks-type debate that will continue to play out over the next few months regarding the appropriate balance between measures that facilitate capital formation and investor protection provisions.
In addition to promulgating rules to relax the ban on general solicitation, which will have a significant market impact, the SEC also adopted the bad actor provisions for Rule 506 offerings that it was required to implement pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act. The bad actor proposal had been released in 2011, and SEC action had been anticipated on the bad actor proposal for some time. The SEC also approved a series of proposals relating to private offerings that are intended to safeguard investors in the new world of general advertising and general solicitation. All told, will these measures encourage or discourage issuers and their financial intermediaries from availing themselves of the opportunity to use general solicitation? Will this new ability to reach investors with whom neither the issuer nor its intermediary have a pre-existing relationship create serious investor protection concerns? Will the proposed investor protection measures be sufficient to address the concerns of consumer and investor advocacy groups, or will we ultimately see revamped investor accreditation standards?
Below we provide a very brief summary of the July 10, 2013 actions.