One of the more distinctive developments in the capital markets in recent years has been the rise in the number of very large private companies. These companies are sometimes referred to as “unicorns,” as if they are very rare creatures — but the reality is that worldwide there over 1,230 of them.  Because the rise of so many large private companies is relatively recent, many of the legal principles and procedures relevant to these companies are just forming – giving rise to what University of Illinois Law Professor Verity Winship describes as the “gaps between private-market reality and legal structures that were designed for public companies.”

Among the “uncharted areas” is shareholder litigation; in a new paper, Professor Winship considers what shareholder litigation has meant in the context of these unicorn companies. What she found is that shareholder litigation involving these companies is rare, and that the procedural mechanisms available to investors are limited, at least by comparison to the mechanisms available to public company investors. Professor Winship describes her paper in an April 25, 2024,  Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance post entitled “Unicorn Shareholder Suits” (here). The paper itself can be found here.  Continue Reading Unicorn Companies and Securities Litigation

In reliance on the federal forum provision (FFP) in the company’s corporate charter, a California Superior Court judge has granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the state court ’33 Act liability action pending against Uber. The ruling represents the second occasion on which a California state court has dismissed a state court ’33 Act liability action in reliance on an FFP in the corporate defendant’s charter, providing further hope that the adoption of FFPs may help companies address the Cyan problem – that is, the possibility of having to face identical ’33 Act liability actions in both state and federal court. The California Superior Court’s November 16, 2020 order in the Uber case can be found here.
Continue Reading State Court Securities Suit Against Uber Dismissed Based on Federal Forum Provision

The news late last week that London’s transport authority had stripped ride-hailing firm Uber of its ride-hire license on the grounds that it was “unfit to operate” in the U.K. capital was merely the latest blow to the company, following a string of scandals, probes, and damaging revelations. Now the company – which, despite its enormous size, is still a privately held firm — has been hit with a federal court securities class action lawsuit, the most recent instance where one of the high-flying “unicorn” companies has been hit with a securities fraud lawsuit after a decline in fortune. The new lawsuit has a number of interesting features, discussed below.
Continue Reading Though a Private Company, Uber Hit With Securities Class Action Lawsuit