James E. Thompson, a senior associate in the San Francisco office, is a member of the Securities Litigation, Investigations and Enforcement Group. His practice focuses on defending companies and individuals in securities class actions, shareholder derivative suits, and SEC investigations and enforcement actions.
James has extensive experience litigating securities class actions, derivative suits (including M&A related litigation), and other complex commercial disputes in both state and federal courts across the country. He also has represented companies and board committees in numerous internal investigations and regularly advises companies on corporate governance, fiduciary duty and disclosure issues.
James's clients include NVIDIA Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Fisker Automotive, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Aruba Networks, and David Sambol.
James has also dedicated significant time to pro bono representations. Recently, he successfully tried a case before Judge Alsup in the Northern District of California on behalf of an inmate, demonstrating that the inmate had not received adequate due process.
James is a regular contributor to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s Weekly Auditor Liability Bulletin, Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Blog and the Securities Reform Act Litigation Reporter.
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
On April 16, 2013, Judge Victor Marrero conditionally approved a $600 million consent judgment between the SEC and CR Intrinsic Investors LLC (“CR”) where CR “neither admitted nor denied” the allegations brought against it. The settlement was on the heels of a highly publicized investigation and lawsuit regarding CR’s purported insider trading scheme involving S.A.C. Capital Advisors and former S.A.C. trader Mathew Martoma. Despite finding the proposed injunctive and monetary relief “fair, adequate, and reasonable, and in the public interest,” Judge Marrero questioned the appropriateness of the “neither admit nor deny” provisions because of the extraordinary public and private harm caused by CR’s alleged wrongful conduct.
Approval of the CR settlement was conditioned upon the outcome of the pending Second Circuit appeal in S.E.C. v. Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., 11-cv-5227 (2d Cir.). In Citigroup, Judge Rakoff (of the Southern District of New York) denied approval of the SEC’s proposed settlement of fraud charges against Citigroup. Rakoff’s opinion harshly critiqued the agency’s use of “no admission” settlements as imposing “substantial relief on the basis of mere allegations.” He questioned whether “no admission” settlements could be properly judged when the Court did not know the relevant facts and therefore “lack[ed] a framework for determining adequacy.” Both Citigroup and the SEC appealed Rakoff’s decision to the Second Circuit, where the decision remains pending. READ MORE
NERA Economic Consulting Group’s June 27, 2012 report shows a 20% increase in SEC settlements with individual defendants for the first half of fiscal 2012. This spike is consistent with the SEC’s stated intent to hold more individuals accountable for violations of federal securities laws. READ MORE
On May 4, 2012, the Southern District of New York denied in part, and granted in part UBS’s motion to dismiss the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (“FHFA”) federal securities and state law misrepresentation claims stemming from pre-2008 securitizations. This opinion is noteworthy because of its analysis regarding the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008’s impact on the relevant statute of limitations.
In July 2011, FHFA, as Fannie Mae’s (“Fannie”) and Freddie Mac’s (“Freddie) federal conservator, sued UBS regarding $6.4 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities purchased by the two government sponsored entities between September of 2005 and August 2007. FHFA alleged that UBS violated, inter alia, Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (“33 Act”) by preparing and distributing offering documents which contained material misrepresentations regarding the securities underlying mortgage loans. READ MORE