Suit Against Auction Rate Securities Investor Dismissed: When plaintiff investors first sued Mind M.T.I. and certain of its directors and officers in the Southern District of New York in August 2009, I noted at the time that the new suit seemed to reflect two securities class action lawsuit filing trends: first, the case presented an example of a "belated" lawsuit filing, where the initial filing came more than a year after the proposed lawsuit date; and second, the case represented another instance where a company’s shareholders had filed suit due to their company’s investment auction rate securities.
The case, however, failed to surmount initial pleading thresholds, and July 2, 2010 was dismissed with prejudice.
Unlike many auction rate securities cases, which typically were brought against the firm that had sold the plaintiffs the securities, this suit (like others, refer here) was brought against a company that had invested in the auction rate securities.
The lawsuit pertained to the company’s 2006 purchase of $22.8 million in auction rate securities. The securities the company purchased were issued by the now-infamous Mantoloking CDO, about which refer here.
The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants "knowingly and recklessly concealed that most of Mind’s reported cash position was comprised of illiquid Auction Rate Securities (ARS)" and that the company’s internal controls for monitoring, accounting and reporting of the Company’s investments in cash equivalents and/or short-term investments were materially deficient." The defendants moved to dismiss on the grounds that plaintiffs’ had not sufficiently pled scienter.
In a July 2, 2010 order (here), Southern District of New York Judge Richard M. Berman, granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss with prejudice, holding that the plaintiffs had failed to allege sufficient facts showing a motive and opportunity for the fraud, and also had failed to alleged facts sufficient to constitute strong circumstantial evidence of conscious misbehavior or recklessness.
In concluding that the plaintiffs had not sufficiently alleged scienter, the court noted that the defendants had argued that the company "rather than acting with scienter, was itself defrauded by its investment bankers into believing its investment was a safe, liquid alternative to bank deposits." Judge Berman found that the plaintiffs allegation do not offer any factual explanation in contradiction of this contention. According, he concluded that the plaintiff had failed to raise an inference of scienter that is cogent and at least as compelling as any opposing inference of nonfraudulent intent.
After the marketplace for auction rate securities froze in February 2008, plaintiffs’ lawyers launched a barrage of lawsuits against the investment banks and other firms that had sold investors these securities. By and large, these cases against the auction rate securities have fared poorly, particularly with respect to the financial firms that separately entered regulatory settlements intended to provide small investors relief regarding their illiquid securities investments.
For example, the securities suit filed on behalf of auction rate securities investors against UBS, which had entered into a auction rate securities-related regulatory settlement was initially dismissed with prejudice. After the plaintiffs amended their pleading, the court granted the defendants’ renewed dismissal motion but allowed the plaintiffs leave to attempt to further amend their pleadings. However, on July 7, 2010, after the plaintiffs failed to file further amendments within the allotted time, the court entered judgment on behalf of the defendants.
The poor track record in the auction rate securities cases has not been limited just to companies that had entered regulatory settlements, as was demonstrated, for example, in the dismissal granted in auction rate securities suit filed against Raymond James (about which refer here).
Similarly, the dismissal granted on the Merrill Lynch auction rate securities suit in March 2010 (about which refer here) did not depend on Merrill’s entry into a regulatory settlement, but was on the merits.
But the suits filed against the financial firms that had sold the auction rate securities represented only one type of auction rate securities lawsuit. In addition, there were a number of suits filed against the companies that had purchased the securities, in which it was alleged that the companies had misrepresented the companies’ financial condition by failing to disclose its investment. The dismissal of the Mind C.T.I. suggests that these suits against auction rate investors may fare not better than the many suits filed against the auction rate securities investors.
2010 Securities Suit Filings at the Year’s Midpoint: In a publication issued this past week, Charles River Associates issued its review of the Second Quarter 2010 securities lawsuit filings, including an analysis of the 2010 filings for the first half of the year. Though different in some details, the Charles River report is directly consistent with the observations noted on my recent post (here) on first half filings.
Among other things, the report notes that though second quarter 2010 filings were up 25% compared to the second quarter of 2009, the filings in the first half of 2010 were down 9% compared to the first half of 2009, and down 38% compared to the first half of 2008.
The report also notes that though the second quarter filings involved companies in a wide range of industries, the filings were "primarily concentrated in the financial services and oil and gas sectors." The report also notes that a number of the second quarter filings involved class periods that ended more than a year prior.
Special thanks to Christopher Noe of Charles River for providing a copy of the report.
The Dodd-Frank Bill and Securities Litigation: If the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is finally enacted into law, we can all look forward to months of commentaries beginning like this: "A little noticed provision of the financial reform legislation may have unexpected implications." The sheer sweep of the Bill’s 2,500-plus pages and countless provisions virtually ensures that for months and years the legislation will be slowly revealing sometimes unexpected implications.
Among many other subjects that the Bill touches upon is securities litigation. Though the Bill does not reach as far as it initially appeared it might, the Bill does contain a number of provisions with securities litigation implications. These implications are helpfully catalogued in a couple of recent law firm memos.
First, in a July 9, 2010 article entitled "The Impact of Financial Reform on Securities Litigation Enforcement" and posted on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation blog (here), several attorneys from the Wachtell Lipton firm catalogue the Bill’s various provisions.
Second, in a July 9, 2010 memo entitled "Securities Litigation Implications of the Dodd-Frank Bill," the Paul Weiss firm takes a look at the Bill’s securities litigation provisions and also review the various additional proposed provisions that did not make it into the Bill’s final version.
Finally, a July 6, 2010 memo by the Katten Muchin law firm entitled "Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act Corporate Governance and Disclosure Provisions" reviews the Bill’s various provisions relating to corporate governance and disclosure practices.
These memos are detailed and helpful. Just the same, the massive Bill seem likely to have yet other sections that may involved undiscovered implications that will only be revealed in the fullness of time.
World Cup Final Notes:
1. I agree with my sixteen year old son’s assessment — I am sorry the World Cup is over. Notwithstanding those damn vuvuzelas.
2. The Spaniards should be proud, they scored and they won. Iker Casillas, Spain’s goalie, played just well enough to allow his team to win. But truth be told, the tournament’s final match was not a very good game. It was marred by unnecessary violance and poor sportsmanship, not to mention astonishing failures by both teams to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
3. The consolation round game on Saturday was a much better game, which I am very glad I watched. It was an exciting, fair match well played by both Uraguay and Germany. And it literally came down to the last tick of the clock. A great game all the way around.
4 I aboslutely concur in the award of the golden ball to Diego Forlan of Uraguay. He had a great tournament and he is an exciting player to watch. Rumors that he is about to sign with the Miami Heat apparently are totally unfounded.