Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Securities Law
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In this case, a byproduct of litigation stemming from the derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, Ltd. (MMA) freight train carrying crude oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of judgment in favor of Robert Keath, the estate representative of MMA, and against creditor Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company, holding that, giving due deference to the fact-finder's resolution of the burden of proof, the judgment must be affirmed.One month after the derailment, MMA filed a voluntary petition for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Wheeling instituted an adversary proceeding in the bankruptcy court against MMA and the estate representative, seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the existence and priority of its security interest in certain property of the MMA estate. The case involved intricate questions concerning secured transactions, carriage of goods, and corporate reorganization. After a settlement, the bankruptcy court ruled in favor of the estate representative. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) ultimately, this case turned on principals relating to the allocation of the burden of proof and the deference due to the finder of fact; and (2) giving due deference to the fact-finder's resolution of the burden of proof issue, the district court's judgment must be affirmed. View "Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. v. Keach" on Justia Law

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In 2005, the Harrises bought tens of thousands of shares in Bancorp through a TD Ameritrade account. Six years later, the Harrises sought to hold some of their Bancorp stock in another form, registered in their name and reflected in a physical copy of a certificate signifying their ownership. TD Ameritrade refused to convert the Harrises’ form of ownership, stating that all Bancorp stock was in a “global lock,” prohibiting activity in the stock, including changing the Harrises’ form of ownership. The lock was created because someone had fraudulently created hundreds of millions of invalid shares of Bancorp stock. The Harrises sued, alleging that TD Ameritrade had violated SEC Rule 15c3-3 and Nebraska’s version of the Uniform Commercial Code. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal.. Neither the SEC Rule nor Nebraska’s Commercial Code creates a private right of action to vindicate the alleged problem. View "Harris v. TD Ameritrade, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rahman filed a securities class action against KB, an importer of infant furniture and products, and individuals, alleging violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and SEC Rule 10b-5 and (2) and Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act. The complaint alleged that defendants misled investors by artificially inflating KB’s stock price by issuing deceptive public financial reports and press releases dealing with compliance with customs laws and overall financial performance. A second amended complaint specified failure to disclose product recalls, safety violations, and illegal staffing practices. The district court dismissed for failure to satisfy the heightened scienter pleading standard required by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, 15 U.S.C. 78u-4(b)(2). The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Rahman v. Kid Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case presented a battle between banks over the proceeds of the sale of cattle by a financially strapped borrower who had financial dealings with both banks. When Security Savings Bank (Security) obtained the proceeds of the sale, Peoples Trust and Savings Bank (Peoples) claimed a security interest in the proceeds and sued for conversion. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Peoples. After Security appealed, Peoples commenced garnishment proceedings against Security to enforce its judgment, and Security paid the underlying judgment. The court of appeals then determined that Security had waived its right to appeal and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a defendant faced with post-judgment garnishment does not waive a pending appeal by paying the judgment in order to avoid further enforcement proceedings; and (2) the district court correctly determined that Peoples had a security interest in the proceeds superior to Security's interest and that Peoples did not waive its superior position through its course of conduct.View "Peoples Trust & Savings Bank v. Sec. Savings Bank" on Justia Law

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Earl and Nawana Wallace (the Senior Wallaces) borrowed $15,789 from Pinnacle Bank - Wyoming to finance a vehicle the Senior Wallaces purchased for their son and his wife (the Junior Wallaces). The collateral for the loan was the vehicle the Senior Wallaces bought for and titled in the Junior Wallaces' names. To that end, the Junior Wallaces signed a third party security agreement pledging the vehicle as collateral. The Junior Wallaces subsequently filed a bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy trustees eventually sold the vehicle to benefit the bankruptcy estate. The Senior Wallaces thereafter stopped making payments on the loan. Pinnacle then filed a complaint seeking damages in the amount of the principal due on the note. The district court granted Pinnacle's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that none of the Senior Wallaces' asserted defenses excused them from meeting their loan obligation. View "Wallace v. Pinnacle Bank - Wyo." on Justia Law

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Platte Valley Bank (PVB), a banking corporation, claimed a perfected security interest in certain equipment owned by Heggem Construction, Inc. In 2008, Heggem sold the equipment in a sale and leaseback transaction to Tetra Financial Group, LLC. Tetra later transferred the equipment to Republic Bank, Inc. (with Tetra, Appellees). PVB sued Appellees, claiming Appellees converted the equipment and the collateral proceeds of the sale. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees, finding the undisputed facts in the record did not support PVB's conversion claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in concluding any interference by Appellees with PVB's right in the equipment was not so serious or important as to constitute conversion; and (2) because PVB failed to articulate any significant harm it suffered as a result of Appellees' action with respect to its deposit account, the district court did not err in concluding no conversion occurred. View "Platte Valley Bank v. Tetra Fin. Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Griffin, a futures commission merchant, went bankrupt in 1998 after one of its customers, Park, sustained trading losses of several million dollars and neither Park nor Griffin had enough capital to cover the obligations. The Bankruptcy Court first relied on admissions by the controlling Griffin partners that they failed to block a wire transfer, allowing segregated customer funds to be used to help cover Park’s (and thus Griffin’s) losses. On remand, the court reversed itself and held that the trustee failed to establish that the partners actually caused the loss of customer funds and failed to establish damages. The district court affirmed, applying the Illinois version of the Uniform Commercial Code to a series of transactions that was initiated by the margin call that caused Griffin’s downfall. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that there is no reason why the transactions at issue (which involved banks in England, Canada, France, and Germany, but not Illinois) would be governed by Illinois law. The Bankruptcy Court’s first decision appropriately relied on the partners’ admission that they failed in their obligation to protect customer funds, which was enough to hold them liable for the entire value of the wire transfer. View "Inskeep v. Griffin" on Justia Law

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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. View "OK Firefighters Pension v. Smith & Wesson Holding Corp." on Justia Law

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The parties to this lawsuit claimed rights to a punch press used in the manufacturing business of now-defunct Vitco Industries. Plaintiff, Gibraltar Financial Corporation, held a perfected security interest in Vitco's tangible and intangible property, including its equipment. Defendants, several entities including Prestige Equipment, who had acquired the press, and Key Equipment Finance, claimed that the security interest did not cover the press because the press was not Vitco's equipment, but rather, the press had been leased to Vitco by Key Equipment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants after concluding that the lease was a true lease. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether the press was leased. The Court noted that no evidence was on the record relating to the economic expectations of Vitco and Key Equipment at the time the transaction was entered into. Remanded. View "Gibraltar Fin. Corp. v. Prestige Equip. Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant on his claim of malicious prosecution under Arkansas law. The district court held that plaintiff failed to present evidence sufficient to withstand summary judgment on two of the five elements necessary to sustain his claim. The court held that the district court erred in holding that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to sustain plaintiff's claim that defendant brought suit against him on the guaranty without probable cause. The court also held that a jury must decide what was defendant's motive or purpose in suing plaintiff if it in fact understood it had no reasonable chance of prevailing on the merits of its claim against plaintiff.