Category Archives: Rule 10b-5

Supreme Court Holds 5-Year Statute of Limitations Applies to SEC Disgorgement

On June 5, 2017, by unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that disgorgement – a remedy that generated $3 billion in 2015 – is a “penalty” thereby subjecting it to the 5-year statute of limitations that applies to any “action, suit or proceeding for the enforcement of any civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture, pecuniary or otherwise.” Kokesh v. SEC, No. 16-529, slip op. at 1 (June 5, 2017) (quoting 28 U.S.C. §2462). The Court’s decision relieved Kokesh of a $30 million disgorgement order entered in the lower court.

The SEC had argued that disgorgement is a different animal – it simply places the defendant in the same position as he or she would have been but for the offense. The Court strongly disagreed noting the deterrent qualities of disgorgement, which is a hallmark of a penalty, “[s]anctions imposed for the purpose of deterring infractions of public laws are inherently punitive.” Id. at 8. The Court observed that the victims (if there are any) of a securities law violation need not participate in the enforcement action and may not even support it. In addition, money that is disgorged to the Treasury often stays there; i.e., there is no absolute requirement that the money that is recovered be distributed to the purportedly aggrieved investors.

Going forward, the SEC is faced with having to speed up its investigations and charging decisions.  That can be a challenge, especially in complex cases where the Enforcement Division would prefer to thoroughly build out a case in advance.

Here is the decision:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-529_i426.pdf

 

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EB-5 Program Operator Settles With SEC For Over $7.9 Million

The SEC has announced that an Idaho man who operated an EB-5 regional center has agreed to settle a case against him alleging that he took millions of dollars to pay for luxury cars and investments unrelated to the purpose of the particular EB-5 program at issue, i.e., to develop luxury real estate and invest in gold mining ventures in Idaho and Montana.

The EB-5 program is a special expedited path to a green card for foreign investors who provide a set minimum of investment capital that creates at least 10 U.S. jobs within 2 years of the investment. The program is designed to incentivize investment in rural areas (e.g., Idaho) or high unemployment areas. Whereas the minimum for such “targeted employment areas” is $500,000, the minimum for more affluent areas is $1 million.

The respondent, Serofim Muroff, and his assistant and bookkeeper are alleged to have diverted about $5.5 million of the $140.5 million in investment money provided by Chinese investors. In addition to disgorging the allegedly diverted proceeds, Muroff has agreed to a $2 million penalty plus interest, and to be barred from conducting further EB-5 offerings. Neither Muroff nor his assistant admitted or denied the allegations in the SEC’s complaint.

Here is the press release.

https://www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2017/lr23818.htm

Fifth Time’s A Charm – A Series Of Corporate Disclosures, Together, Can Be A “Corrective Disclosure.”

On October 2, 2014, a federal appeals court revived an investor class action that had been dismissed by the trial court for failure to plead loss causation. The case is Public Employees Ret. Sys. of Mississippi v. Amedisys, Inc., 13-30580 (5th Cir. Oct. 2, 2014).[1] In it, the Court found that a series of partial disclosures could collectively constitute a “corrective disclosure” of the defendant’s misrepresentations, which the plaintiffs plausibly alleged caused a decline in the defendant’s stock price.

The plaintiffs filed a complaint against Amedisys, a home health care services provider, and certain executives alleging that the company issued false and misleading public statements that concealed its fraudulent Medicare billing practices and artificially inflated its stock price between 2005 to 2010. The complaint alleged that a series of five “partial disclosures,” spread over two years, revealed the misrepresentations and caused a decline in the stock price, as the truth became known.

The disclosures, which spanned from August 2008 to September 2010, included two news reports questioning Amedisys’s billing practices; a press release announcing the resignation of its CEO and CIO; announcements of investigations into the company by the Senate Finance Committee, the SEC, and the DOJ; and the announcement of disappointing operating results in the second quarter of 2010. During the same time period, Amedisys’s stock price gradually declined from $66.07 to $24.02, a drop of over 60%.

The district court analyzed each of the disclosures separately and found that none of them constituted a “corrective disclosure,” which exposed the falsity of Amedisys’s prior statements. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to adequately plead that the plaintiffs’ losses were caused by the company’s misrepresentations.

The Fifth Circuit, however, found that a corrective disclosure does not have to be a single disclosure and analyzed the five disclosures in the Complaint “collectively.” The Court admitted that, if taken alone, the individual disclosures did not make the existence of fraud more probable, noting that neither media speculation concerning wrongdoing nor the mere commencement of a government investigation constitute a corrective disclosure of fraud. Nevertheless, the Court ruled that when taken together, the entire series of events plausibly indicated that the market “was once unaware of Amedisys’s alleged Medicare fraud, had become aware of the fraud and incorporated that information into the price of Amedisys’s stock.” Importantly, the Court noted that the Complaint linked each of the partial disclosures to a corresponding drop in stock value. Accordingly, the Court held that the plaintiffs adequately pled that Amedisys’s alleged false statements caused their loss and reversed the district court’s dismissal.

[1] http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions%5Cpub%5C13/13-30580-CV0.pdf