Tagged: Motions to Dismiss

Fourth Time’s a Charm: The Third Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Trade Secrets Complaint and Clarifies Pleading Standard

The Third Circuit issued a precedential decision in Oakwood Laboratories LLC v. Bagavathikanun Thanoo et al. that clarified the pleading requirements for trade secrets misappropriation claims under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1836(b) (DTSA). In that decision, the Third Circuit held that the Third Amended Complaint was “so factually detailed that, on appeal, we conclude it easily meets the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and pertinent substantive law.” Earlier, the District Court for the District of New Jersey had dismissed four of Oakwood Laboratories LLC’s (“Oakwood”) complaints on the grounds that each complaint was not specific enough to support a claim. The District Court dismissed Oakwood’s Third Amended Complaint (its most recent attempt), because it did not show precisely how defendants misappropriated Oakwood’s trade secrets, but noted that Oakwood did plead facts sufficient to identify its trade secrets and support the information’s protected status. Oakwood appealed, and the Third Circuit reversed. Oakwood alleged that defendants Aurobindo Pharma U.S.A. and its subsidiaries misappropriated Oakwood’s trade secrets regarding microsphere technology when Aurobindo hired an Oakwood employee who specializes in this technology, Dr. Bagavathikanun Thanoo, and relied on a memorandum provided for the limited purpose of exploring a business opportunity to develop Aurobindo’s own microsphere technology. In reversing the District Court’s...

District of New Jersey’s Dismissal of Securities Class Action Reiterates Significant Hurdles to Sufficiently Pleading Scienter

A decision last week from the District of New Jersey is the latest of several recent decisions from the District and the Third Circuit making clear that securities fraud plaintiffs face a high bar in pleading an inference of scienter strong enough to withstand a motion to dismiss. In In re Electronics For Imaging, Inc. Securities Litigation, Plaintiffs brought a securities fraud class action alleging that Electronics For Imaging, Inc. (EFI), and two of its executives, violated sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. According to Plaintiffs, Defendants falsely assured investors in a Form 10-K and Form 10-Q (and accompanying Sarbanes Oxley certifications) that EFI’s internal controls over financial reporting were functional and effective—including by asserting that those controls had been reviewed, evaluated, and improved. A subsequent press release and amendments to the Form 10-K and Form 10-Q identified material weaknesses in EFI’s internal controls. Plaintiffs filed suit in the wake of a drop in EFI stock price that occurred after the press release was issued. Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to sufficiently plead scienter. In support of scienter, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants’ record keeping practices so egregiously violated generally accepted accounting principles that Defendants either: (i) lied when they asserted they had previously reviewed and evaluated...

New Jersey Federal Court Holds that Cryptocurrency Allegations Sufficiently Alleged a “Security” Subject to ’33 Act Registration Requirements

In Solis v. Latium Network, Inc., Susan D. Wigenton, a United States District Judge in the District of New Jersey, held that a class action plaintiff adequately alleged that a particular cryptocurrency was a “security” subject to the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 and, by extension, the regulatory strictures of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Solis alleged that Latium operates a blockchain-based, crowdsource tasking platform, which allows users to create tasks, find people to complete the tasks, and then verify completion of the tasks according to specified standards. Users of the platform pay for the completed tasks using Latium X tokens, Latium’s proprietary cryptocurrency, which can be used only on Latium’s platform. Solis also alleged that, to raise money for the platform, Latium offered its tokens for sale to the public in exchange for U.S. dollars or the cryptocurrency Ether. The sale was conducted in several stages, with the cost of a token increasing with each successive stage. When marketing the tokens, Latium stressed the limited quantity of tokens to be issued and characterized its tasking platform, particularly in tandem with the tokens, as a “unique investment opportunity.” Solis purchased $25,000 in Latium X tokens and later sued Latium in a class action, alleging that the Latium X tokens are “securities”—specifically...

Third Circuit Relies on Spokeo to Shed Light on What is Needed For Article III Injury-in-Fact Standing

In Long v. SEPTA, the Third Circuit considered whether and when a violation of a statute is a standing-conferring injury-in-fact satisfying the Constitution’s “case or controversy” requirement. At issue in Long was whether the plaintiffs, who were denied employment by SEPTA when background checks disclosed disqualifying criminal histories, could sue SEPTA for failing to provide them with copies of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and copies of their background consumer reports before being denied employment, both of which are required by FCRA. The district court dismissed the complaint, stating that the plaintiffs did not allege a “concrete injury in fact,” because the alleged FCRA violations were “bare procedural violations.” On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim based on SEPTA’s failure to provide the plaintiffs notice of their FCRA rights. The Court held that, because the plaintiffs understood their rights well enough to bring the suit, they were not injured by SEPTA’s failure to give them notice of those rights and, therefore, lacked standing to pursue the claim. But the Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the claim based on SEPTA’s failure to provide copies of the plaintiffs’ consumer reports. The Third Circuit applied the two tests “for whether an intangible injury can be . . . concrete”...

Recent ERISA Preemption Decision in District of New Jersey Marks Departure from Prior Precedent

In Glastein v. Aetna, Inc., et al., the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, departing from several recent decisions in the District, denied Defendant Aetna, Inc.’s motion to dismiss a medical provider’s claim for reimbursement of insurance benefits on the ground that such claim was preempted by ERISA. Glastein, an out-of-network orthopedic surgeon, allegedly performed a medically necessary surgery for an Aetna-insured patient. Prior to the surgery, Glastein secured a written authorization for the service from Aetna. Glastein later billed Aetna $209,000, allegedly the “normal and reasonable” charges for the procedure. Aetna did not pay any portion of the charged amount. Glastein sued Aetna, alleging several state common law claims, including breach of contract, promissory estoppel, accounting, and fraudulent inducement. After removing the action from the Superior Court of New Jersey to the District of New Jersey, Aetna moved to dismiss Glastein’s complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant’s sole argument for dismissal was that Plaintiff’s state-law causes of action were expressly preempted by ERISA’s “express preemption” provision, under which ERISA preempts state laws where the state law refers to an ERISA plan or has an impermissible connection with an ERISA plan. In support of its preemption argument, Aetna cited to several recent decisions where the District dismissed complaints alleging...

In Affirming Dismissal of Putative Securities Class Action, Third Circuit Provides Important Guidance for Evaluating Sufficiency of Scienter Allegations

A recent precedential decision from the Third Circuit may make it more difficult for putative securities class actions to withstand motions to dismiss and provides useful guidance for district courts in making the often difficult determination whether a complaint adequately pleads the strong inference of scienter necessary to sustain a federal securities fraud claim. In In re Hertz Global Holdings, Inc., certain pension funds brought a securities fraud class action alleging that Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. and certain of its current and former executives violated sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. Plaintiffs’ complaint relied heavily on a financial restatement Hertz issued with its fiscal year 2014 Form 10-K, which corrected errors to Hertz’s 2011, 2012, and 2013 financial statements. According to the restatement, Hertz had overstated its pre-tax income by a total of $215 million and its net income by a total of $132 million during the three-year period. The restatement explained that “an inconsistent and sometimes inappropriate tone at the top was present under then existing senior management” which “resulted in an environment which in some instances may have led to inappropriate accounting decisions and the failure to disclose information critical to . . . effective review.”  Plaintiffs alleged that the restatement constituted an admission that...

Enough Said: Southern District of New York Decision Reiterates Limits of Disclosure Obligations Under Securities Laws

The Southern District of New York’s recent decision in Employees Retirement System of the City of Providence v. Embraer S.A. may provide useful guidance for companies struggling with disclosure obligations in the midst of ongoing investigations into potential unlawful conduct. Defendant Embraer, S.A., a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, made a series of disclosures regarding external and internal investigations into potential U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations. Specifically, in November 2011, Embraer disclosed investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and advised that it had retained outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation. Although the company repeatedly warned that it may be required to pay substantial fines or incur other sanctions, it also stated early in the investigation that it did not believe there was a basis to estimate reserves or quantify any loss contingency. In July 2016, Embraer announced that settlement negotiations with the DOJ and SEC had progressed to a point warranting recognition of a $200 million loss contingency. Nearly three months later, the company announced a settlement that included a fine of over $107 million and disgorgement of nearly $84 million in profits. On December 13, 2016, Employees’ Retirement System of the City of Providence filed an amended class action complaint alleging violations of Securities Exchange Act...

No Harm to Competition: Third Circuit Upholds Decision for Uber in Antitrust Challenge by Philadelphia Taxicab Drivers

The Third Circuit’s newly-issued precedential opinion in Philadelphia Taxi Association v. Uber Technologies, Inc. is a classic reminder that the antitrust laws protect against harm to competition – not harm to competitors. In 2016, a group of Philadelphia taxicab drivers sued Uber in federal district court, alleging that the ride-sharing service was unlawfully attempting to monopolize the vehicle-for-hire market in Philadelphia. Plaintiffs pointed to the fact that, in October 2014, just prior to Uber’s entry into Philadelphia, there were 7,000 taxi drivers, and each of the city’s 1,610 taxicab medallions was valued at an average of $545,000. Two years later, 1,200 medallion taxi drivers had fled to Uber, those still driving taxis saw a thirty percent decline in their earnings, and the value of a medallion plummeted to just $80,000. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that the plaintiffs had not pled antitrust injury – i.e., harm that the antitrust laws are designed to prevent – and thus did not have antitrust standing to maintain their suit. This appeal followed. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal but, unlike the district court, did so first based on plaintiffs’ failure to plausibly allege the elements of their attempted monopolization claim – i.e., that Uber (1) engaged in anticompetitive conduct with a (2) specific intent to monopolize and...

Slow Down You’re Moving Too Fast: Third Circuit Directs District Court to Resolve Motion to Compel Arbitration Before Motion to Dismiss

In a recent decision, the Third Circuit made it abundantly clear that a motion to compel arbitration must be decided before a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Joshua Silfee filed a lawsuit against ERG Staffing Service, his former employer, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, claiming the company’s payroll policies violated state law because workers were required to use a fee-carrying debit card. ERG filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act, asserting that the arbitration agreement between Silfee and ERG’s payroll vendor precluded the suit against ERG. ERG also filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Silfee’s complaint based on the merits of his state law claims against the company. The district court decided to delay consideration of ERG’s motion to compel arbitration and denied the company’s motion to dismiss the case. ERG appealed. The Third Circuit concluded that the district judge erred in delaying the arbitrability inquiry, explaining that arbitrability is a “gateway” issue and that, after a motion to compel arbitration is filed, a court “must refrain from further action until it determines arbitrability.” The Third Circuit noted that “[t]he seeds of the District Court’s confusion may have been sown by our decision in Guidotti,” where the court explained that a motion to compel arbitration...

Third Circuit Relaxes Pleading Requirements for Limited Liability Company Defendants and Urges Supreme Court to Redefine Citizenship Rule

Should limited liability companies continue to be treated differently than corporations for diversity-of-citizenship purposes? If a limited liability company’s citizenship continues to be determined by the citizenship of each of its members, how can a plaintiff get past the pleading stage if the identity of one or more members is unknown even after a diligent pre-filing investigation? In a recent precedential opinion, the Third Circuit in Lincoln Benefit Life Company v. AEI Life, LLC answered the latter question for the first time, holding that a plaintiff need not affirmatively allege the citizenship of each member of a defendant limited liability company to survive a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. And in a separate concurrence targeted directly at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Third Circuit urged the Supreme Court to consider the former question and adopt a more practical rule for determining the citizenship of limited liability companies.