10b-5 Liability: Exec Gets Sanctioned for “Failure to Correct”
Earlier this year, John blogged that the US Supreme Court gave the SEC a big win when it held – in Lorenzo v. SEC – that individual anti-fraud liability can apply under Rules 10b-5(a) and (c) to someone who “disseminates” false or misleading statements, even if that person didn’t “make” the statement under Rule 10b-5(b). Now, the 10th Circuit has become the first circuit court to apply Lorenzo – and it couldn’t have gone much better for the SEC. An Arnold & Porter memo explains the facts of this case – Malouf v. SEC:
Dennis Malouf served as an executive at both a securities brokerage and an investment adviser. He subsequently sold his interest in the brokerage in a transaction in which he continued to receive installment payments based on the commissions the brokerage collected from securities sales. Malouf facilitated these installment payments by routing client trades through the brokerage without disclosing his financial interest to clients or to the investment adviser and despite knowing that the investment adviser represented that Malouf did not have any conflicts of interest.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought an enforcement action against Malouf, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed an administrative law judge’s finding that Malouf had violated Exchange Act Rules 10b-5(a) and (c) and Sections 17(a)(1) and (a)(3) of the Securities Act. The Tenth Circuit reasoned that Malouf had engaged in an unlawful fraudulent scheme because he knew that a conflict existed while the investment adviser was telling clients that he was independent and, despite this knowledge, failed to take steps to correct the misstatements or to disclose the conflict. The Tenth Circuit rejected Malouf’s argument that the SEC had “obliterated[d] the distinction” between Rule 10b-5 subsections (b) on one hand and (a) and (c) on the other because, as the Court in Lorenzo expressly held, defendants could be liable under sections of the Securities Act and Rule 10b-5 dealing with fraudulent schemes in connection with misstatements without having been the “maker” of misstatements.
Malouf was fined $75,000, had to disgorge $562,000 in profits, and is now barred for life from working in the securities industry. To me, it seems pretty clear that someone should correct known misstatements about their own conflicts – and if you dig into the facts of this case, you’ll see that the defendant was also involved with causing the misstatement in the first place. But, this wasn’t a slam dunk case for the SEC since there’s still some uncertainty around how Lorenzo will be applied. The memo notes that the holding gives the SEC even more encouragement to pursue anti-fraud charges against individuals who aren’t “makers” of statements. We don’t know yet whether plaintiffs will try to extend these theories to private class actions. . .
-Liz Dunshee, TheCorporateCounsel.net September 16, 2019
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