Articles Posted in Corporate Compliance

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A class representing purchasers of securities sued the company and two high-ranking officers, alleging that the company issued false or misleading public statements about demand for its products in violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), and related regulations. The district court granted summary judgment to the company. The First Circuit affirmed. Once a downward trend became clear, the company explicitly acknowledged that its forecasts had been undermined. Whether it was negligent to have remained too sanguine earlier, there was no evidence of anything close to fraud.

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Plaintiffs brought separate suits alleging unlawful retaliation by their corporate employers, which are private companies that act as contract advisers to and managers of mutual funds organized under the Investment Company Act of 1940. The district court addressed both cases in a single order, holding that the whistleblower protection provision within the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, 18 U.S.C. 1514A extends beyond "employees" of "public" companies to encompass employees of private companies that are contractors or subcontractors to those public companies if the employees report violations "relating to fraud against shareholders." The First Circuit reversed, concluding that the protections are limited to employees of public companies, as defined by the statute.

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The Mississippi Public Employees' Retirement System filed a class action, claiming that senior management of a publicly traded manufacturer of medical devices in which it invested, withheld material information and made misleading statements about devices for treating coronary artery disease, in violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), 78t(a), and Securities Exchange Commission Rule 10b-5, 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5. In an earlier opinion, the First Circuit reversed dismissal, finding that the inference of scienter advanced by the plaintiff was at least as cogent and compelling as the contrary inference, satisfying the "strong inference" pleading standard of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. After discovery, the district court entered summary judgment in favor of defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, finding that plaintiff did not produce evidence that would support a reasonable inference of scienter. Given the statements and disclosures that defendants did make concerning the devices, they had no obligation to disclose the fact that they were working on an improvement that would reduce the very small number of no-deflate complaints that they received, and of which the market was aware.