Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Securities Law
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Lead plaintiff Maryland Electrical Industry Pension Fund alleged that HP and individual Defendants made fraudulent statements about HP’s printing supplies business. The district court concluded that the complaint, filed in 2020, was barred by the two-year statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. Section 1658(b)(1), because the public statements, loss in profits, and reductions in channel inventory at the heart of Maryland Electrical’s claims had all taken place by 2016.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that under the discovery rule discussed in Merck & Co., Inc. v. Reynolds, 559 U.S. 633 (2010), a reasonably diligent plaintiff has not “discovered” one of the facts constituting a securities fraud violation until he can plead that fact with sufficient detail and particularity to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The panel held that a defendant establishes that a complaint is time-barred under Section 1658(b)(1) if it conclusively shows that either (1) the plaintiff could have pleaded an adequate complaint based on facts discovered prior to the critical date two years before the complaint was filed and failed to do so, or (2) the complaint does not include any facts necessary to plead an adequate complaint that was discovered following the critical date.   The panel held that Defendants’ allegedly fraudulent statements, on their own, were insufficient to start the clock on the statute of limitations. Instead, Maryland Electrical could not have discovered the facts necessary to plead its claims, including the “fact” of scienter, until after the publication of a Securities and Exchange Commission order in 2020. View "YORK COUNTY, ET AL V. HP, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged that during the class period, Defendants made false or misleading statements about Forescout’s past financial performance, presently confirmed sales, and prospects for future sales. They alleged that Defendants misled investors with respect to (1) the strength of Forescout’s sales pipeline, meaning its presently booked sales and prospects for future sales; (2) the experience of Forescout’s sales force; (3) the business Forescout lost with certain business partners, or “channel partners,” when it announced a merger with Advent International, Inc.; and (4) the likelihood that the merger would close.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of a securities fraud class action under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5. The panel held that Plaintiffs adequately pleaded both falsity and scienter as to some of the challenged statements and that the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act’s safe harbor for forward-looking statements did not preclude liability as to some of these statements. The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal as to certain statements, and it reversed and remanded for further proceedings as to other challenged statements regarding the sales pipeline and the Advent acquisition. View "GLAZER CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, L.P, ET AL V. FORESCOUT TECHNOLOGIES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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The board of directors of Finjan Holdings, Inc., struck a deal with Fortress Investment Group LLC for Fortress to purchase all Finjan shares. Finjan’s shareholders approved the deal. Shareholder Plaintiff then sued Finjan, its CEO, and members of its board of directors, alleging that revenue predictions and share-value estimations sent by Finjan management to shareholders before the sale had been false and in violation of Section 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claim.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that to state a claim under Section 14(e), Plaintiff was required to plausibly allege that (1) Finjan management did not actually believe the revenue protections/share-value estimations they issued to the Finjan shareholders (“subjective falsity”), (2) the revenue protections/share value estimations did not reflect the company’s likely future performance (“objective falsity”), (3) shareholders foreseeably relied on the revenue-projections/share-value estimations in accepting the tender offer, and (4) shareholders suffered an economic loss as a result of the deal with Fortress. The district court ruled that the subjective falsity element of Grier’s claim required allegations of a conscious, fraudulent state-of-mind, also called “scienter.”   The panel, however, held that, for Plaintiff’s claim under Section 14(e), scienter was not required, and his allegations need to provide only enough factual material to create a “reasonable inference,” not a “strong inference,” of subjective falsity. The panel held that, nonetheless, Plaintiff’s allegations did not create even a “reasonable inference” of subjective falsity. View "IN RE: ROBERT GRIER, ET AL V. FINJAN HOLDINGS, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought claims under Section 12(a)(2) of the Securities Act against all Defendants, and a claim pursuant to Section 15 of the Securities Act against Cardone and Cardone Capital. At issue was whether Cardone and Cardone Capital count as persons who “offer or sell” securities under Section 12(a) based on their social media communications to prospective investors. The district court concluded that Cardone and Cardone Capital did not qualify as statutory sellers.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The panel concluded that Section 12 contains no requirement that a solicitation be directed or targeted to a particular plaintiff, and accordingly, held that a person can solicit a purchase, within the meaning of the Securities Act, by promoting the sale of a security in mass communication. Because the First Amended Complaint sufficiently alleges that Cardone and Cardone Capital were engaged in solicitation of investments in Funds V and VI, the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s claim against Cardone and Cardone Capital under Section 12(a)(2), and also erred in dismissing his Section 15 claim for lack of a primary violation of the Securities Act. View "LUIS PINO V. CARDONE CAPITAL, LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Appellants alleged they were not “brokers,” and thus did not have to register with the SEC because their client called the shots. Appellants appealed the district court’s liability and remedies orders. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of the SEC in its enforcement action against Appellants alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.   The panel held that under the Exchange Act, the term “broker” encompassed much broader conduct: it included any person trading securities “for the account of others.” 15 U.S.C. Section 78c(a)(4)(A). Because Appellants put their client’s capital at risk on their trades and acted as his agents, they behaved as “brokers” under the Exchange Act. By not registering as brokers with the SEC, Appellants appeared as if they were merely retail investors (who receive priority for municipal bonds), allowing them to circumvent municipal bond purchasing order priority. The panel affirmed the civil penalties imposed against Appellants. Though it appears that no individual investor suffered financial harm, Appellants’ conduct undermined the SEC’s system of broker-dealer oversight and circumvented retail priority regulations allowing municipalities to raise capital at the lowest possible price. View "USSEC V. JOCELYN MURPHY, ET AL" on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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NMS Capital Group, LLC, which was wholly owned by Petitioner purchased MCA Securities, LLC, and changed its name to NMS Capital Securities. MCA, now NMS Securities, was a member of FINRA, a securities industry self-regulatory organization registered with the SEC. NMS Securities submitted a Continuing Member Application (“CMA”) to request approval of the change in ownership. FINRA discovered that NMS Securities had failed to disclose that another registered investment advisor owned by Petitioner, NMS Capital Asset Management, was being investigated by the SEC for deficiencies in its compliance with securities laws. FINRA imposed Interim Restrictions on NMS Securities. While the Interim Restrictions were in effect, Petitioner signed agreements with investment banking clients on behalf of NMS Securities and engaged in other activities. FINRA began an investigation into whether Petitioner had violated the Interim Restrictions, and a FINRA panel found that Petitioner had violated FINRA.The Ninth Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Petitioner’s challenge to the SEC’s determination. The panel held that because the court could review only a “final order” of the SEC under 15 U.S.C. Section 78y(a), there was no jurisdiction to review whether the SEC had substantial evidence to find that Petitioner violated FINRA Rules 8210 and 2010 by failing to produce and testify truthfully about his computers because the sanction for this violation was still pending before FINRA. However, the panel further held that the SEC’s determinations concerning the sanction of two industry bars did constitute a final order for the purposes of establishing jurisdiction. The panel denied Petitioner’s petition for review of the SEC’s decision to affirm those two sanctions. View "TREVOR SALIBA V. USSEC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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Plaintiff alleged that corporate executives at Align Technology, Inc., a medical device manufacturer best known for selling “Invisalign” braces, misrepresented their company's prospects in China.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the securities fraud class action under Sections 10(b), 20(a), and 20A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The court rejected as unsupported Defendants’ argument that their statements could not be considered false at the time they were made because Plaintiff did not allege sufficient facts to make plausible the inference that the rate of Align’s growth in China had begun to decline significantly when the challenged statements were made. The court concluded that former employees’ reports, viewed alongside circumstantial evidence of the short period of time between the twelve challenged statements and the downturn of Align’s prospects in China, sufficiently supported the inference that Align’s growth in China had slowed materially when the statements were made.   The court held that the district court correctly found that six of the challenged statements were non-actionable “puffery,” which involves vague statements of optimism expressing an opinion that is not capable of objective verification. The district court also correctly found that the remaining six statements did not create a false impression of Align’s growth in China and so were not actionable. Having determined that all of the challenged statements were nonactionable, the panel declined to reach issues of scienter and control-person or insider-trading liability. View "MACOMB COUNTY EMPL. RET. SYS. V. ALIGN TECHNOLOGY, INC." on Justia Law

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Nektar Therapeutics (“Nektar”) touted the results from a Phase 1 clinical trial (dubbed “EXCEL”) of its anti-cancer drug. A different and more comprehensive Phase 1/2 clinical trial (called “PIVOT”) showed that the drug was not as effective as the initial trial had suggested. Two public pensions sued Nektar for securities fraud, alleging that Nektar misleadingly relied on outlier data from a single patient during the Phase 1 EXCEL clinical trial. The district court dismissed their operative complaint.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal for two reasons. First, the court held that Plaintiffs did not adequately allege falsity under section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. Section 78j(b), and Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 10b-5. The complaint failed to articulate why Nektar’s statements about the Phase 1 EXCEL clinical trial would be materially misleading to investors. Plaintiffs do not sufficiently explain what the clinical trial would have shown without the alleged outlier data, nor do they specify how that would have affected the investing public’s assessment of the drug.Second, Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege loss causation. Nothing in the operative complaint suggests that Nektar’s disclosure of its later Phase 1/2 PIVOT clinical trial results uncovered the “falsity” of the earlier Phase 1 EXCEL trial. Rather, Plaintiffs’ factual allegations suggest a more mundane explanation: the different and more robust Phase 1/2 PIVOT clinical trial merely showed that the drug may not be as effective as the initial Phase 1 EXCEL clinical trial had suggested. View "OKLAHOMA FIREFIGHTERS PENSION V. NEKTAR THERAPEUTICS" on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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The Ninth Circuit panel held that defendant was not required to disgorge to CytoDyn his short-swing profits from exercising options and warrants granted by CytoDyn, entitling him to purchase and later sell CytoDyn shares. The panel held that the short-swing transaction fell within an exemption, set forth in SEC Rule 16b-3(d)(1) because the option and warrant award was “approved by the board of directors” of CytoDyn. The circuit court concluded that the affirmative votes of three of CytoDyn’s five board members, at a meeting where only four board members were present, were sufficient, and a unanimous decision was not required under either the plain text of Rule 16-3(d)(1), Delaware corporate law, or CytoDyn’s bylaws.The court left the determination of what a corporate board must do to approve insider-issuer acquisitions to the laws of the state where the corporation is incorporated. Reasoning that federal securities law defers to—and does not displace—the state laws governing corporate boards. Thus, the circuit court affirmed the district court’s ruling. View "ALPHA VENTURE CAPITAL PARTNERS V. NADER POURHASSAN" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a securities fraud lawsuit against Twitter under sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5, alleging that Twitter misled investors by hiding the scope of software bugs that hampered its advertisement customization. The panel concluded that securities laws do not require real-time business updates or complete disclosure of all material information whenever a company speaks on a particular topic. Rather, a company can speak selectively about its business so long as its statements do not paint a misleading picture. In this case, Twitter's statements about its advertising program were not false or misleading because they were qualified and factually true, and the company had no duty to disclose any more than it did under federal securities law. View "Weston Family Partnership LLLP v. Twitter, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law