Daniel Dunne, a partner in Orrick's Seattle office, is a member of the Litigation Division, specifically the Securities Litigation, Investigations and Enforcement Group.
Dunne focuses his practice on defense of financial institutions, corporations,
directors and officers, and accountants in complex litigation in federal and
state courts. Dan has tried more than a dozen cases to verdict in state
and federal courts.
Dan has enjoyed considerable success in high-profile national
matters with the finest law firms in the country, from arguing in the Delaware
Court of Chancery on behalf of Blucora’s directors, to arguing in October in
the Washington Supreme Court on behalf of Credit Suisse on a critical issue of
first impression under the Washington State Securities Act, to a complete
victory following a two-week trial in the Western District of Washington in a
major tax dispute against the United States and the Tulalip Tribes, dismissal
of an activist investor proxy lawsuit against a Seattle-based bank, and an
October 2018 dismissal of a National Rifle Association suit challenging a City
of Seattle safe gun storage ordinance. Dan also has active matters advising
Washington’s most sophisticated legal clients with respect to shareholder
matters, including Microsoft, Seattle Genetics (Washington’s most successful
independent biotechnology company) and HomeStreet Bank.
Dan has also been a key part of the
winning Orrick team, leading the defense of Credit Suisse against an avalanche
of litigation related to claims involving residential mortgage-backed
Today the Supreme Court rejected calls from lawyers, economists and corporate associations to overrule the “fraud-on-the-market” theory that makes it possible to litigate federal securities fraud claims as class actions, instead handing defendants a modest procedural victory. In Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., the Court declined to overrule a decision that for more than twenty-five years has been used by securities plaintiffs to certify thousands of federal class actions, but also recognized that defendants can rebut class certification by showing that allegedly misleading statements did not affect the price of a company’s securities. Halliburton kills what had been a growing movement to eliminate federal securities fraud class actions for all intents and purposes.
Plaintiff-respondent Erica P. John Fund, Inc. (the “Fund”) purchased stock in Halliburton and lost money when Halliburton’s stock price dropped upon the release of certain negative news regarding the company. The Fund filed suit against Halliburton and its CEO David Lesar (collectively, “Halliburton”), alleging that Halliburton had made knowing or severely reckless misrepresentations concerning those topics, in violation of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 10b-5. READ MORE
ATP Tour: The Little Case That Could
On May 8, 2014 the Delaware Supreme Court upheld a “loser pays” fee-shifting bylaw for a Delaware non-stock corporation in ATP Tour, Inc. v. Deutscher Tennis Bund. While the decision was released with little heralding, if ATP Tour’s “loser pays” provisions are widely adopted by public corporations and held also to be valid, the decisionmay create a significant impediment to the ubiquitous lawsuits alleging that directors have breached their fiduciary duties of loyalty and care to the corporation.
The board of ATP Tour, a membership organization that operates men’s professional tennis competitions, enacted a fee-shifting bylaw which provides that a “Claiming Party,” i.e. a member organization, would be liable for the corporation’s attorneys’ fees and other litigation expenses if it loses in an intra-corporation claim against the company. The fee-shifting bylaw obligates any Claiming Party to reimburse the League and any member or owner of ATP Tour that the Claiming Party also sued. READ MORE
This is the second post in our series on the Supreme Court’s coming ruling in Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., Case No. 13-317. Here’s our post from last week concerning background information about the case.
As the securities litigation bar holds its breath while the Supreme Court deliberates the fate of the fraud-on-the-market presumption of reliance, we take a moment to review some of the positions submitted by amici in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc.
Momentum for the SEC’s Dodd Frank whistleblower program is growing, and 2014 can be expected to bring continued expansion of the program and the number and types of whistleblower actions initiated by the SEC. The SEC’s annual report to Congress reported that 3,238 whistleblower tips were received in 2013, up almost 10% from 2012, and awards to whistleblowers who provide information to the SEC are increasing as more substantive tips are received.
An investigation by the SEC into a whistleblower tip can take several years to culminate in an enforcement action, so the last year likely saw just the beginning of a wave of enforcement actions. Despite the fact that over 6,000 tips have been received through 2013, the SEC has issued only six separate awards to tipsters. Those awards have ranged from $125,000 to a record $14 million, representing 10 to 30 percent of the overall funds recovered by the SEC in these whistleblower cases. READ MORE
A new route to soliciting direct securities investments has opened. For the first time in 80 years, start-ups and small businesses can broadly advertise and broadly solicit to raise money for private offerings. Changes to SEC Rule 506, which took effect September 23, 2013, allow companies to avoid complex and costly public offerings and instead search for investors via the Internet, newspaper, social media, direct mail, and other media. The change is the result of the JOBS Act, which required the SEC to permit general solicitation for certain private placements that are exempt from the registration requirements of Section 5 of the 1933 Act.
To travel this route, investors must be “accredited,” defined in the new rule as having a net worth of over $1,000,000 or at least $200,000 in annual income. While the accreditation has long been required for private placements, issuers were permitted to sell to non-accredited investors who qualified as sophisticated purchasers. Businesses who raise funds under the new rule must now take additional “reasonable steps” to ensure all investors are accredited. Rule 506(c) provides a non-exclusive list of means to satisfy this “reasonable steps” requirement. Issuers may use investor’s tax forms, bank statements, credit reports, and certifications from accountants, brokers, and investment advisors to ensure accreditation – assuming that investors are willing to deliver copies of such documents to issuers. There may be other means not specified that would also be acceptable also. Issuers will want to keep careful records about how they accredit investors, because they will bear the burden to establish their exemption from the registration provisions of the Securities Act. If an issuer cannot do so, it may be subject to liability for general solicitation in connection with an unregistered offering in violation of the federal securities laws. READ MORE
In 2008, Rajat Gupta made a handful of short phone calls to his friend Raj Rajaratnam. The information that Gupta conveyed to Rajaratnam in those phone calls is now likely to cost Gupta millions of dollars, two years in prison, and the loss of his livelihood. These are the fateful consequences of the government’s use of wiretapping to uncover evidence of insider trading on Wall Street.
In June 2012, after a weeks-long trial and relying heavily on recorded conversations between Gupta and Rajaratnam, a jury convicted Gupta of three counts of federal securities fraud and one count of criminal conspiracy. The jury found that Gupta, a former director of Goldman Sachs, had provided Rajaratnam with material non-public information regarding Goldman’s then-unreported financial results and an imminent investment by Berkshire Hathaway at the height of the financial crisis. Though the court found that Gupta did not receive “one penny” in return for providing the information, he was convicted and ultimately sentenced by Judge Jed Rakoff to two years in prison and assessed a $5 million fine, a heavy penalty for his gratuitous generosity to his friend, Rajaratnam. To prove insider trading, the government is not required to prove that the “tippee” receive any direct financial benefit in recompense for transmitting material nonpublic information in violation of a duty of nondisclosure.
It is important to note that Gupta’s brief phone calls, which later became the key evidence used against Gupta in the criminal trial, were recorded by federal criminal prosecutors without Gupta’s knowledge or consent. (The SEC can seek to obtain wiretap evidence from criminal proceedings through civil discovery.) While the nation debates NSA snooping, this is a reminder that the Department of Justice could be listening to and recording your most sensitive domestic telephone conversations with court authorization. Gupta’s criminal prosecution was only possible because federal law enforcement officials had obtained warrants to record telephone communications of Gupta’s friend, Rajaratnam – telephone conversations that happened to include Gupta – based on evidence of possible insider trading. Gupta’s criminal conviction was then used to underpin his civil liability. The use of federal wire taps, previously the weapon of choice in organized crime prosecution, to generate the evidence needed to pursue both criminal and civil insider trading cases is a watershed moment in securities enforcement. READ MORE
Some of the SEC’s enforcement targets are no longer in denial, or at least they won’t be if a recent policy shift at the regulator takes hold. In a widely-reported letter on June 17, 2013 and then again in public remarks the next day, SEC Chairperson Mary Jo White indicated that the Commission would step up efforts to secure actual admissions of guilt in some cases rather than relying on the far more typical no-admit/no-deny settlements which have the advantage of avoiding litigation but which have also left some judges, politicians, and the public flat.
The purported change comes at a time when the SEC is facing criticism from a number of circles for settling high-profile cases. Among the loudest critics of the SEC’s settlement policy has been U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who in November 2011 would not approve a $285 million settlement between the SEC and Citigroup in which Citigroup did not admit liability. As Judge Rakoff explained: “Here, the S.E.C.’s long-standing policy—hallowed by history, but not by reason—of allowing defendants to enter into Consent Judgments without admitting or denying the underlying allegations, deprives the Court of even the most minimal assurance that the substantive injunctive relief it is being asked to impose has any basis in fact.”
Apparently, the SEC was listening to Judge Rakoff and others, but the consequences of this policy shift are unclear. For example, in her public remarks, Ms. White explained that “public accountability” cases were “quite important”—“and if you don’t get them, you litigate them.” Ms. White elaborated, adding that, “to some degree it turns on how much harm has been done to investors, [and] how egregious the fraud is.” As to any specific criteria the SEC would apply in seeking admissions of guilt, the regulator explained that such admissions might be appropriate in instances to safeguard against risks posed by the defendant to the investing public or where the defendant obstructed the SEC’s investigative process. In addition, two recent nominees to the SEC, Kara M. Stein and Michael Piwowar, stated during their confirmation hearings that they supported the policy shift. READ MORE
As U.S. Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner steps down, Treasury released a January 18, 2012 update on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”). This most recent update highlights an often misunderstood reality — Geithner’s signature program was a smashing success. As to the bailout of the too-big-to-fail banks and AIG, the truth is that TARP has generated tens of billions of dollars in profit for American taxpayers.
The hallmark of Treasury’s work during Mr. Geithner’s tenure has been its administration of the TARP. Although created in 2008 under the previous Secretary, Henry Paulson, Mr. Geithner has had responsibility for enlarging and steering TARP since January 2009. TARP came under significant criticism for use of taxpayer funds to bail out banks from diverse constituencies, spawning both the “Occupy” movement and contributing to the 2010 Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, Mr. Geithner and the Treasury Department argued that TARP ultimately would produce a profit for the government. Four years later, that forecast has proven correct, at least with respect to funds provided to financial institutions, as many TARP investments have generated tens of billions of dollars in profit for American taxpayers.
The Capital Purchase Program (“CPP”) has been the primary driver of federal profits. The CPP made funds available for the Treasury Department to purchase mortgages, mortgage-backed securities, and preferred stock from financial institutions. Treasury disbursed nearly $205 billion under the CPP and, according to the Treasury’s January 18, 2012 TARP update, already has received over $220 billion in total cash back, a return of over 7%. This profit was mainly the result of dividends and gains received through Treasury’s ownership of bank stock and other assets. READ MORE
In numerous pending lawsuits in New York federal and state courts, monoline insurers are suing Wall Street banks for alleged breaches of representations and warranties about the quality and characteristics of residential loans in RMBS pools. At stake in these suits is the ultimate responsibility for billions of dollars in losses suffered by RMBS certificate holders insured by the monolines. In most of these deals, the applicable MLPA, PSA and insurance contracts provide that the securitization’s sponsor must repurchase a loan if a breach of a representation or warranty “materially and adversely affects” the interests of the insurer in the loan. The fighting issue is whether this provision requires an insurer to prove that the alleged breaches of representations and warranties proximately caused the loan to become delinquent or default. Now, for the first time, a New York federal court has squarely addressed this critical question. READ MORE
A common claim alleged by monoline insurers is that RMBS sponsors fraudulently induced them to provide the insurance by misrepresenting the quality of loans and underwriting. As the story invariably goes, the insurer only discovered that it was defrauded after its vendor reviewed a sample of several hundred loan files, and was shocked to find that most loans, usually alleged to be somewhere between 75% to 95% of the sample, breached representations and warranties. On May 4, a New York court turned these types of post-loss file reviews against the insurer in CIFG Assur. N.A., Inc. v. Goldman Sachs & Co., Index No. 652286/2011 (N.Y. Sup. Ct.). Here, the court found that the very same file sampling and review easily could have been done – and legally should have been done – in the insurers’ due diligence. The insurer’s failure to conduct adequate due diligence when it issued its policy required dismissal of its fraud claim for lack of reasonable reliance. READ MORE