When Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial reform law in 2010, it provided broad protection for whistle-blowers. The law prohibited employers from retaliating against anyone who reported securities violations to the Securities and Exchange Commission, assisted in an SEC investigation or otherwise made disclosures required by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 or any other securities law. Dodd-Frank also defined criteria for whistle-blowers: They are people who provide information about securities violations “in a manner established, by rule or regulation, by the Commission.” In August 2011, the SEC issued its final interpretation of Dodd-Frank’s provisions, requiring that whistle-blowers must have a reasonable belief that they’re reporting violations of securities laws and must follow specific procedures when giving that information to the commission.
By Alison Frankel and Dan Levine
Samsung doesn’t want you to know why it believes juror misconduct tainted the $1.05 billion verdict that a San Jose federal court jury delivered to Apple in August. Its lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan redacted that entire section of the motion for judgment as a matter of law that they filed Friday with U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California. But from a close examination of the statute and cases Samsung cited in the redacted section, we’ve discerned Samsung’s two-pronged argument for juror misconduct: The nine-person jury improperly considered extraneous evidence during deliberations and jury foreman Velvin Hogan failed to disclose in voir dire that he was involved in 1993 litigation with a former employer that led him and his wife to declare personal bankruptcy.
Disqualifying defense counsel two years into a case is a rare and drastic step, but on Monday that’s what U.S. District Judge Richard Andrews of Wilmington, Delaware, did to a company called MobiTV and its lawyers at Latham & Watkins. Andrews tossed Latham because it formerly represented the parent of the company suing MobiTV (and many, many others) for patent infringement — even though the client relationship ended in 1995, two years before the patent at issue in the case was even awarded and eight years before any alleged infringement by MobiTV began.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges has asked a great question in a new post at the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance: Why is the U.S. Supreme Court suddenly so passionate about federal securities litigation? According to Weil’s survey, the justices have generated more securities fraud precedent in the last two years than in the previous two decades: Merck v. Reynolds and the infamous Morrison v. National Australia Bank in 2010; Matrixx Initiatives v. Siricusano, Erica P. John Fund v. Halliburton, Janus v. First Derivative Traders and (tangentially) Wal-Mart v. Dukes in 2011. The court has looked at when shareholders are on notice of fraud, how broadly U.S. securities law extends to foreign defendants, who can be sued for misstatements and when companies have a duty to inform shareholders of potential problems — in other words, a huge range of issues reflecting deep interest in shareholder rights (or lack thereof).
On Wednesday, Reuters confirmed what it first reported last month: Apple and four book publishers have offered to settle a European Commission investigation of price-fixing in the market for e-books. That’s particularly notable because Apple and two of those publishers – Macmillan and Viking – have refused to settle with the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division, which reached an agreement last April with three other publishers accused of conspiring with Apple to change the pricing model for e-books. Neither the DOJ settlement nor the proposed EC deal involve a financial penalty, so why would Apple, Viking and Macmillan agree to settle with antitrust regulators from the European Union but not their U.S. counterparts?
If there’s one theme that ran through U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s interview Monday with Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler, it’s that words matter. Time and time again, Scalia and Bryan Garner, the co-author with Scalia of the book Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, endorsed originalism and textualism, doctrines that demand judges stick to interpreting the words in front of them rather than attempting to divine legislative intent or (heaven forbid!) imposing their own policy agendas. According to Garner and Scalia, textualism is a sure-footed guide, regardless of where it leads.
Earlier this month, when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in a Goldman Sachs case that redefined standing in class actions involving mortgage-backed securities, I questioned how much impact the opinion would have, given that we’re four years into MBS class litigation. Sure, the 2nd Circuit opened the door to much broader MBS classes when it held that name plaintiffs can pursue claims on behalf of all the trusts backed by mortgages originated by the same lenders as those they invested in. But I wondered, as a practical matter, whether the ruling was too late to help most MBS class claimants, since most of their cases have long since crossed the threshold of standing.
The old proverb says that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. In the context of litigation, you can add one additional inevitability to that list: legal fees. In a ruling Thursday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals avoided the subject of taxes, but took the opportunity of a case about death to address the question of attorneys’ fees.
For good or ill, one of my themes over the last 18 months has been frustration with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement efforts. And according to a recently published study by Berkeley Law professor Stavros Gadinis, I’m not alone. Gadinis’s paper, posted Wednesday at the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, said that it’s been three decades since any academic analysis of SEC enforcement actions against broker-dealers. In that time, Gadinis wrote, the information vacuum has been filled with complaints about the commission’s perceived foot-dragging and questions about the so-called revolving door between the SEC and private law firms. To add some substance to the discussion, Gadinis undertook what he said was the first systematic examination of SEC enforcement actions against broker-dealers — a category that includes major financial institutions — in 30 years, analyzing more than 400 cases finalized in 1998 and 2005-2007. (Gadinis added 1998 to the study so it would include cases brought in a Democratic administration.) His overall conclusion: Size matters, at least when you’re a broker-dealer facing off against the SEC. According to the prof’s data, firms with more than 1,000 employees fared much better than their smaller counterparts in terms of whether cases are brought against individual defendants; whether the SEC brought cases as administrative proceedings; and what kind of sanctions the SEC extracted.