When Congress enacted the PSLRA in 1995, one of the goals was to try to deter frivolous litigation. As time has passed, it has also become clear that many of the PSLRA’s procedural reforms also created a structure of incentives for plaintiffs’ lawyers. For example, the PSLRA’s most adequate plaintiff requirement created an incentive for plaintiffs’ lawyers to seek to represent institutional investors. However, according to a recent academic study, with the passage of time, some of the incentives have had a distorted impact, as the incentives motivate plaintiffs’ lawyers to try to get hold of a mega-case “lottery ticket” that will produce a jackpot outcome – for the lawyers. These distortions in turn are creating many of the ills we are now seeing the securities class action litigation arena, justifying, according to the academic authors, another round of securities litigation reform.
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In 1995, Congress passed the Private Securities Class Action Reform Act (PLSRA) over President Clinton’s veto in order to try to address perceived securities class action litigation abuses. According to a new report from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform entitled “A Rising Threat: The New Class Actions Racket That Harms Investors and the Economy,” despite the PSLRA’s reforms, many of the same abuses that led to the PSLRA’s enactment have returned, and as a result the securities class action system is “spinning out of control.” According to the report, the time has come for Congress to intervene again to curb “abusive practices that enable the filing of unjustified actions.” The Institute’s October 23, 2018 report can be found here
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As I noted at the time, on March 20, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund, holding that state courts retain concurrent jurisdiction for liability actions under the Securities Act of 1933. In the following guest post, Doug Greene, Jessie Gabriel, Marco Molina, and Brian Song of the Baker & Hostetler law firm take a comprehensive look at the decision, including its context and significance. As the authors note, the decision has important implications for companies and their D&O insurers, as well as for claims going forward. I would like to thank the authors for allowing me to publish their article as a guest post on this site. 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 authors’ article.
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In a unanimous March 20, 2018 opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan, the U.S. Supreme Court held that state courts retain concurrent jurisdiction over class action lawsuits alleging only violations of the Securities Act of 1933’s liability provisions and that these state court class action lawsuits are not removable to federal court. The court’s holding resolves a lower court split in the authorities on question of whether or not the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA) eliminated concurrent state court jurisdiction for these ’33 Act class action lawsuits or made the state court ’33 Act lawsuits removable to federal court.

As discussed below, Court’s ruling is likely to result in an increase in ’33 Act claims in state court, a development that could have unwelcome consequences for corporate defendants and their insurers. The Supreme Court’s March 20, 2018 decision in Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund can be found here.
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As a result of the PSLRA’s heightened pleading standard and pre-dismissal motion discovery bar, as well as the requirements of cases such as Tellabs, plaintiffs in liability suits under the federal securities laws frequently rely on confidential witnesses. This practice has led to  the “confidential witness problem” in securities litigation. In a September 25, 2017 post on The CLS Blue Sky Blog entitled “Confidential Distortion: Dealing with Confidential Witnesses in Securities Litigation” (here), Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee takes a look at the problems that have arisen in connection with confidential witness practices and the ways court have tried to deal with the problems. He then explores some possible “best practices” for courts and parties to use to try to avoid the problems, which I discuss below.
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sup ct 3In a June 27, 2017 order (here), the United States Supreme Court granted the petition of Cyan, Inc. for a writ of certiorari to consider the question of whether or not state courts retain concurrent jurisdiction for liability lawsuits under the ’33 Act, or whether as a result of changes to the relevant statutes under the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA), state courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over ’33 Act suits. This case will address what has become a significant issue in IPO-related securities class action litigation, particularly in California, which is whether or not the plaintiffs’ state court securities class lawsuits can be removed to federal court or must be remanded back to state court.
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Bruce Ericson
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Stacie Kinser

One of the most important ways a company can try to avoid potential liability under the federal securities laws is to incorporate precautionary disclosure in its public statements and regulatory filings. However, in a June 23, 2015 decision in In re Harman International Industries Securities Litigation (here), the D.C. Circuit provided a reminder to companies on the importance of keeping their precautionary disclosures up-to-date.

 

In the following guest post, Bruce A. Ericson and Stacie Kinser of the Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP law firm take a detailed look at the D.C. Circuit’s recent opinion and consider the decision’s practical implications for companies’ precautionary disclosures. Ericson is a partner and Kinser is an associate at the Pillsbury law firm. Ericson is also Managing Partner of Pillsbury’s San Francisco Office, and Co-Head of Pillsbury’s Securities Litigation and Enforcement Team. A version of this article previously was published as a Pillsbury client alert and on Law 360.

 

I would like to thank Bruce and Stacie for their willingness to publish their article as a guest post on my 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 Bruce and Stacie’s guest post.

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SEC Rule 10b-5 makes it unlawful to misstate a material fact (or omit to say something if the omission would render misleading what you do say) in connection with the purchase or sale of a security. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) created a safe harbor for statements that are forward-looking and accompanied by meaningful cautionary language. In a recent decision, the D.C. Circuit revisited the standard for forward-looking statements, and placed special emphasis on the accompanying cautionary language, holding that statements which fail to account for historical facts cannot be meaningful. The opinion should serve as a timely reminder for companies to review and update their cautionary language.
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In a decision noteworthy both for the prominence of the case and for the implications of its analysis, the Seventh Circuit, hearing the Makor Issues & Rights Ltd. v. Tellabs Incorporated case on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, has once again reversed the district court’s dismissal of the case.

The Supreme Court, in its