Securities and Exchange Commssion

Counsel for public companies—it may be time to take another look at your litigation disclosures. A recent federal district court opinion held that one company’s use of the phrase “without merit” to describe ongoing litigation in its public filings could give rise to federal securities fraud claims. The ruling serves as the latest admonition to exercise care in crafting litigation disclosures.

The FTC and SEC have their own administrative dispute resolution regime, presided over by their own administrative judges (“ALJs”). Until now, those regimes were virtually immune from attack on a constitutional basis, because any such challenge had to wait until appeal to the federal courts (which only happened after a full trial and appeal to the agency itself). No longer. On April 14, 2023, the Supreme Court held that the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Securities Exchange Act do not create an alternative review scheme in which constitutional challenges must first go through the agencies, and only later receive federal court review in a court of appeals. 

In late-July, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought insider trading charges against a former manager at Coinbase—the largest crypto asset trading platform in the United States. The charges are the latest move in the agency’s efforts to regulate cryptocurrency, and could spur an increase in cryptocurrency-related securities litigation.

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On November 25, 2020, a shareholder of First American Financial Corporation (“First American”) filed suit against the company and its officers and directors over a massive data security breach that exposed hundreds of millions of sensitive customer records. The shareholder derivative action, filed by Norman Hollett in Delaware federal court, alleges breaches of fiduciary duties, unjust enrichment, abuse of control, gross mismanagement, waste of corporate assets, and multiple violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, all relating to the failure to contain and timely disclose the breach.

In times of crisis, fraudsters attempt to exploit the latest news developments to lure investors into scams, and the once-in-a-century global health crisis we are currently facing is no exception. On February 4, 2020, the SEC noted in an Investor Alert that it was aware of a number of web-based promotions claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies could prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19—and that the stock of these companies would skyrocket as a result. The Investor Alert warned market participants to be vigilant and put publicly-traded companies on notice that the Commission is watching.

In today’s world, cybersecurity breaches and threats are pervasive concerns for any business entity, without exception. Working from home arrangements due to COVID-19 constraints only magnify the risk and create further vulnerabilities for companies. Companies should be aware of (1) the key cyber threats they face, (2) the consequences of a breach, and (3) the statutory and regulatory framework governing cybersecurity. Cybersecurity breaches are unique in that an entity can both be the victim of the breach and still be found to have a degree of responsibility. Fortunately, there are precautionary measures that companies can implement to help prevent a breach and to mitigate the scope and damage of a breach if one were to occur. We will elaborate on the steps to take to guard against a breach and how to effectively respond to a breach in a forthcoming post.

SECThe outcome of the presidential election, and Mary Jo White’s announcement of her intent to step down as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, are sure to kick off an avalanche of prognostication about her successor, the direction of the SEC, and the fate of some of the laws