Articles Posted in Securities Law

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During October 2008 the Trust lost $3.6 million trading futures contracts. Contending that errors by Dorman, a futures commission merchant, caused some of these losses, in October 2011 the Trust asked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to order Dorman to make reparation, 7 U.S.C. 18(a)(1). The Commission dismissed the claim as untimely. The Trust had made a claim within the two-year limitations period, but with the National Futures Association, which referred it to arbitration. The arbitrators awarded the Trust $500,000 against several defendants but ruled in favor of Dorman because the Trust’s contract with that entity set a one‐year time limit for financial claims. The Commission rejected the Trust’s claim of equitable tolling. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. The Trust knew about the trading losses as soon as they occurred but did nothing for almost two years; it did not diligently pursue the Commission’s processes. The Trust did not say that any circumstance, let alone an extraordinary one, prevented timely filing. The court reasoned that the arbitral award, right or wrong, has nothing to do with equitable tolling. View "Conway Family Trust v. Commodity Futures Trading Commission" on Justia Law

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JPMorgan offers to manage clients’ securities portfolios. Its affiliates sponsor mutual funds in which the funds can be placed. Plaintiffs in a putative class action under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), alleged that customers invested in these mutual funds believing that, when recommending them as suitable vehicles, JPMorgan acts in clients’ best interests (as its website proclaims), while JPMorgan actually gives employees incentives to place clients’ money in its own mutual funds, even when those funds have higher fees or lower returns than third-party funds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal under the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, 15 U.S.C. 78bb(f), which requires the district court to dismiss any “covered class action” in which the plaintiff alleges “a misrepresentation or omission of a material fact in connection with the purchase or sale of a covered security.” Under SLUSA, securities claims that depend on the nondisclosure of material facts must proceed under the federal securities laws exclusively. The claims were framed entirely under state contract and fiduciary principles, but necessarily rest on the “omission of a material fact,” the assertion that JPMorgan concealed the incentives it gave its employees. View "Holtz v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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If a LaSalle Bank custodial account had a cash balance at the end of a day, the cash would be invested in (swept into) a mutual fund chosen by the client. The Trust had a custodial account with a sweeps feature. After LaSalle was acquired by Bank of America, clients were notified that a particular fee was being eliminated. The trustee, who had not known about the fee, brought a putative class action in state court, claiming breach of the contract (which did not mention this fee) and violation of fiduciary duties. The bank removed the suit to federal court, relying on the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, 15 U.S.C. 78bb(f), which authorizes removal of any “covered class action” in which the plaintiff alleges “a misrepresentation or omission of a material fact in connection with the purchase or sale of a covered security.” The statute requires that such state‑law claims be dismissed. The district court held that the suit fit the standards for removal and dismissal. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The complaint alleged a material omission in connection with sweeps to mutual funds that are covered securities; no more is needed. The Trust may have had a good claim under federal securities law, but chose not to pursue it; the Act prohibits use of a state-law theory. View "Goldberg v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law

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Witter contends that in August 2007 he telephoned Skelton, an employee of his broker, TransAct, with instructions to cancel several standing orders. Skelton did not do so, and Witter lost $23,000 on the resulting market position. Skelton claims that Witter never told him to cancel all seven of the working orders at issue. Witter filed a complaint with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 7 U.S.C. 18(a), which found no violation. The judgment officer refused to draw an adverse inference based on TransAct’s failure to produce a recording of the “one crucial conversation” because TransAct was not required to record the call; he found that Skelton’s version was more plausible and Witter had a “propensity to confuse trading terms” like “position” and “order.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding the Commission’s decision was supported by the evidence. Federal regulations require that, before buying or selling a commodity, a merchant must receive either “specific authorization” or “authorization in writing,” 17 C.F.R. 166.2. No regulation requires the merchant to record phone calls to cancel previously authorized orders to buy or sell. View "Witter v. Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Stevens, an insurance salesman, wanted to sell investment products. Because he was not registered with the SEC, Stevens needed to associate himself with a registered investment advisor, 15 U.S.C. 80b-3(a). In 2003, he associated with IFA, a loosely confederated investment advisory firm. In exchange for sharing clientele and fees with IFA, Stevens had access to IFA’s market resources and proprietary information, including access to a cloud-based data system. Stevens uploaded sensitive nonpublic information, concerning both investment clients and insurance clients (who were not IFA clients). IFA did not know that Stevens had entered the non-IFA client information into the database. IFA learned that Stevens was involved in a Ponzi scheme, severed its association with Stevens, and blocked Stevens from accessing the database. Stevens sued, alleging conversion, violation of the Illinois Trade Secrets Act, and tortious interference with business expectancy. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for IFA on claims relating to securities clients. Federal law prevents a financial institution from disclosing nonpublic information of its clients to a nonaffiliated third party like Stevens. The court also affirmed a verdict in favor of IFA concerning insurance clients, upholding the trial court’s response to a question sent by the jury during deliberations, “Can we consider [filing] the lawsuit a demand for property?” The court stated that filing did not constitute a demand for the purposes of an Illinois law conversion claim. View "Stevens v. Interactive Fin. Advisors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Trachte, a Wisconsin manufacturer, established an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) in the mid-1980s. In the late 1990s, Fenkell and his company, Alliance, began buying ESOP-owned, closely-held companies with limited marketability. Typically, Fenkell would merge the acquired company's ESOP into Alliance’s ESOP, hold the company for a few years with its management in place, and then spin it off at a profit. Alliance acquired Trachte in 2002 for $24 million and folded its ESOP into Alliance’s ESOP. Trachte’s profits, however, were flat and its growth stalled, so Fenkell arranged a complicated leveraged buyout involving creation of a new Trachte ESOP managed by trustees beholden to Fenkell. The accounts in the Alliance ESOP were spun off to the new Trachte ESOP, which used the employees’ accounts as collateral to purchase Trachte’s equity back from Alliance, Trachte and its new ESOP paid $45 million for Trachte’s stock and incurred $36 million in debt. The purchase price was inflated; the debt load was unsustainable. By the end of 2008, Trachte’s stock was worthless. The employee participants in the new ESOP sued Alliance, Fenkell, and trustees, alleging breach of fiduciary duty in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The district court found the defendants liable, crafted a remedial order to make the class whole, awarded attorney’s fees, and approved settlements among some of the parties. Fenkell conceded liability. The Seventh Circuit​ affirmed the order requiring him to indemnify his cofiduciaries. View "Chesemore v. Fenkell" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA, Securities Law

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The Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulates contracts concerning commodities for future delivery when offered on margin or another form of leverage, 7 U.S.C. 2(c)(2)(D), with an exception for contracts that “results in actual delivery within 28 days or such other longer period as the Commission may determine by rule or regulation based upon the typical commercial practice in cash or spot markets for the commodity involved”. The CFTC began investigating whether Monex's precious-metals business was within this exception. Monex refused to comply with a subpoena, arguing that since 1987, when it adopted its current business model, the CFTC has deemed its business to be in compliance with all federal rules and that, because it satisfies the exception, the Commission lacked authority even to investigate. The district court enforced the subpoena. Monex turned over the documents. Monex appealed, seeking their return and an injunction to prevent the CFTC from using them in any enforcement proceeding. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that Monex was impermissibly using its opposition to the subpoena to get a judicial decision on the merits of its statutory argument, before the CFTC makes a substantive decision. The propriety of an agency’s action is reviewed after the final administrative decision. Contesting the agency’s jurisdiction does not change the rules for determining when a subpoena must be enforced. View "Commodities Futures Trading Comm'n v. Monex Deposit Co." on Justia Law

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Magruder bought 940,000 shares of Bancorp through his Fidelity account, paying $9,298. Years later he asked Fidelity for a certificate showing his ownership. When Fidelity did not comply, Magruder initiated arbitration through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Magruder and Fidelity chose simplified arbitration, in which the arbitrator cannot award more than $50,000 in damages or order specific performance that would cost more than $50,000. Magruder had demanded $28,000 (actual plus punitive damages). The arbitrator directed Fidelity to deliver a stock certificate or explain why it could not do so. Fidelity explained that in 2005 the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, responsible for issuing Bancorp paper certificates, had placed a “global lock” on that activity as a result of Bancorp reporting that fraudulent shares bearing identification number 106 were flooding the market. In 2012 Bancorp offered to swap series 106 shares for new series 205 shares, but by then Bancorp had been delisted from stock exchanges and FINRA blocked the swaps. The arbitrator accepted this explanation. Magruder then filed suit. The district judge sided with Fidelity. The Seventh Circuit vacated for lack of jurisdiction. Even assuming that the parties are of diverse citizenship, the stakes cannot exceed $50,000, and the minimum under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a) is $75,000. View "Magruder v. Fidelity Brokerage Servs., LLC" on Justia Law

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Sentinel, a cash-management firm, invested customers' cash in liquid low-risk securities. It also traded on its own account, using money borrowed from BNYM, pledging customers’ securities; 7 U.S.C. 6d(a)(2), 6d(b)), and the customers’ contracts required the securities to be held in segregated accounts. Sentinel experienced losses that prevented it from maintaining its collateral with BNYM and meeting customer demands for redemption of their securities. Sentinel used its BNYM line of credit to meet those demands. In 2007 it owed BNYM $573 million; it halted customer redemptions and declared bankruptcy. BNYM notified Sentinel that it planned to liquidate the collateral securing the loan. The bankruptcy trustee refused to classify BNYM as a senior secured creditor, considering the use of customer funds as collateral to be fraudulent transfers, 11 U.S.C. 548(a)(1)(A) and claiming that BNYM was aware of suspicious facts that should have led it to investigate. The district judge dismissed the claim, finding that Sentinel had not been shown to have intended to defraud its customers. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that Sentinel made fraudulent transfers. On remand, the judge neither conducted an evidentiary hearing nor made additional findings, but issued a “supplemental opinion” that BNYM was entitled to accept the collateral without investigation. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. BNYM remains a creditor in the bankruptcy proceeding, but is an unsecured creditor because it was on inquiry notice that the pledged assets had been fraudulently conveyed. View "Grede v. Bank of New York" on Justia Law

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Defendants are national securities exchanges registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and operate as self‐regulatory organizations that regulate markets in conformance with securities laws under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78a. Plaintiffs are securities firms and members of the defendant exchanges. They compete for customer order flow by displaying buy and sell quotations for particular stocks. Between at least January 2004 and June 2011, each defendant charged “payment for order flow” (PFOF) fees. Each defendant exchange imposes PFOF fees when a trade is made for a customer; however, these fees are not imposed for proprietary “house trades,” where a firm trades on its own behalf. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of plaintiffs’ suit, in which they sought to recover PFOF fees they claim were improperly charged. The district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction based on plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust administrative remedies before the SEC. View "Citadel Sec., LLC v. Chicago Bd. Options Exch., Inc." on Justia Law