In a development that will come as a surprise to no one who has been reading the business news pages over the last few weeks, Eastman Kodak and certain of its executives have been hit with a securities class action lawsuit based on allegations surrounding the disclosure of a $765 loan to the company from a government agency for the company to develop pharmaceutical materials, including ingredients of COVID-19 drugs, as well as on allegations of insider trading relating to the loan disclosures. As discussed below, the lawsuit is the latest in a series of securities class action lawsuits that have been filed related to the coronavirus outbreak. The complaint in the Kodak lawsuit can be found here.
Continue Reading Kodak Hit With Securities Suit Over COVID-19-Related Loan Disclosure and Related Trading

Companies navigating the current heath crisis and dealing with its financial effects face a number of risks. Among the many risks is the possibility of business litigation. For publicly traded companies, the litigation risks include the possibility of securities class action litigation. Even in the midst of a pandemic, the steps companies can take to try to mitigate their securities class action litigation remain the same – manage disclosures, control insider trading, and handle bad news appropriately, among other things – but the coronavirus outbreak has added new dimensions to these steps. Well-advised companies will be making the appropriate adjustments, and, as discussed below, D&O insurance underwriters will be (or perhaps, should be) monitoring companies closely to see which companies are making the adjustments.
Continue Reading Securities Litigation Loss Prevention in the Midst of a Pandemic

In several recent conversations, I have been asked whether I thought that the whole #MeToo movement might have more or less played out, and that we might not be seeing as many, or even any, more D&O claims based on underlying allegations of sexual misconduct. In response, I said that I didn’t think the phenomenon had played out but I did suggest that I thought that the phenomenon might be shifting and that the kinds of underlying allegations would change. Although it does not represent exactly the kind of thing I had in mind, a new securities class action lawsuit filed against Teladoc Health and based on alleged misconduct of one of its senior executives does at least represent a variant on the kinds of D&O claims following in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct.
Continue Reading Securities Lawsuit Filed Based on Reports of Alleged Inappropriate Office Relationship

The SEC’s disclosure that its EDGAR system had been had hacked was big news last week, as was the accompanying disclosure that the information accessed may have been used for improper trading. In the following guest post, John Reed Stark takes a look at the interesting and important legal issues that might arise if the authorities were to try to pursue claims against persons trying to trade on the information stolen from the SEC.  John is President of John Reed Stark Consulting and former Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement. I would like to thank John for his willingness to allow me to publish his article on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this site’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is John’s guest post.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Think the SEC EDGAR Data Breach Involved Insider Trading? Think Again.

Seventeen years ago this month, the SEC instituted Rule 10b5-1 to permit company insiders – who often hold a significant portion of their wealth in company stock – to sell their shares without incurring liability under the federal securities laws. The Rule permits insiders who have traded in company shares to rebut the inference of scienter by showing that the trades were pre-scheduled and not suspicious. Over time, questions have been raised about the ways that some company executives have tried to use the plans. As discussed in an August 10, 2017 memo by the Simpson Thacher law firm on the CLS Blue Sky Blog entitled “Combatting Securities Fraud with 10b5-1 Trading Plans” (here), “sales made under 10b5-1 plans can substantially assist a company in getting such a claim dismissed by helping to rebut the inference of scienter that normally results when plaintiffs present evidence of insider stock sales during the class period.”

However, as discussed further below, while the plans can provide a substantial defensive boost, there are a number of steps companies should take in order to improve the likelihood that the existence of the plan will provide the intended protection.
Continue Reading Rule 10b5-1 and the Defense of Securities Fraud Claims

sup ct 5In the D&O insurance world, private company liabilities, exposures, and insurance are viewed as categorically distinct from public company liabilities, exposures, and insurance. There are completely separate and distinct insurance policy forms for each of the two categories of companies. In this traditional view, one of the key distinctions between two kinds of companies is the potential liability of public companies and their directors and officers under the federal securities laws. However, it has recently become apparent to me that this perceived difference between the two categories of companies may be less distinct than I had perceived. For example, as I noted in a recent post, the SEC has recently made it clear it is watching private companies, and is particularly concerned with so-called “unicorns” (private start-up firms with valuations greater than $1 billion).

This issue of the potential private company liabilities under the federal securities laws came up again for me recently when I read about a petition for a writ of certiorari that a securities claim plaintiff has filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. As discussed in a June 8, 2016 post on Jim Hamilton’s World of Securities Litigation (here), the petition asks the Court to address the question whether a privately held corporation trading in its own stock has an Exchange Act duty to disclose all material information or abstain from trading. As discussed below, the petition and the underlying claim raise important questions about the potential liabilities of private companies under the federal securities laws. The May 31, 2016 cert petition in the case of Fried v. Stiefel Laboratories, Inc. can be found here.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Asked to Clarify Private Company’s Federal Securities Law Stock Purchase Disclosure Duties

sec sealThe SEC promulgated Rule 10b5-1 nearly 16 years ago to allow executives (whose wealth often is entirely locked up in company shares) to trade in their company’s stock without incurring possible liability under the securities laws. The Rule provides an affirmative defense against allegations of improper trading. In many cases defendants have  relied on the existence of a Rule 10b5-1 trading plan in order to have the securities claims against them dismissed (for example,  here and here). However, the Rule has also been subject to criticism, and some have questioned whether corporate executives are abusing their plans in order to shield questionable trading.

A recent academic study corroborates the view that the plans “are being abused to hide more informed insider trading.” The study, by Gothenburg University Professor Taylan Mavruk and  University of Michigan Business School Professor H. Nejat Seyhun and entitled “Do SEC’s 10b5-1 Safe Harbor Rules Need to Be Rewritten?” (here) concludes that “safe harbor plans are being abused to hide profitable trades made while in possession of material non-public information.” The authors suggest a number of revisions to the Rule in order to “prevent further abuse.” The authors summarized their findings in a short June 2, 2016 post on the CLS Blue Sky Blog (here).
Continue Reading Does Rule 10b5-1 Need Revision to Prevent Improper Insider Trades?

paul weiss largeThe U.S. government’s petition for writ of certiorari in the case of United States v. Newman had been very closely watched. The government hoped to have the Supreme Court set aside the Second Circuit’s 2014 decision in the case (here), which had overturned the convictions of two hedge fund managers accused of insider trading. In an unexpected development, on the first day of the Supreme Court’s 2015-16 term, the Court declined take up the case.

The following guest post from the Paul Weiss law firm takes a look at this development and analyzes the implications. I would like to that the authors for their willingness to publish their article on this blog. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is the Paul Weiss firm’s guest post.

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Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the petition for a writ of certiorari (the “Petition”)  filed by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in United States v. Newman, 773 F.3d 438 (2d Cir. 2014), a landmark decision that dismissed indictments against two insider trading defendants.  By declining to hear the Petition, the Supreme Court ensured that the Second Circuit’s decision in Newman will remain binding in the Second Circuit and influential across the country.

As we explain below, two of Newman’s holdings are particularly important: first, that the government must prove that a remote tippee knew or should have known of the personal benefit received by a tipper in exchange for disclosing nonpublic information; and second, that the benefits alleged by the government in United States v. Newman were not sufficient to support a conviction, as they were not sufficiently “consequential.”
Continue Reading Guest Post: Supreme Court Declines To Consider Second Circuit’s Landmark Insider Trading Ruling