As the beginning of the next US Supreme Court term nears, one case in particular has caught our attention, as the question presented asks whether state courts have jurisdiction over certain securities class actions. The case before the Supreme Court that will hopefully decide the matter is Cyan v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund. The ultimate question is—will the Supreme Court issue an opinion that stays the trend of plaintiffs pursuing 1933 Act cases in state court over federal court? READ MORE
She has extensive experience managing corporate internal investigations involving FCPA, compliance, embezzlement, fraud and securities laws issues. Lily has conducted investigations around the world for multinational corporations as well as targeted investigations for small organizations. She served on the Monitor Team for two SEC and DOJ FCPA Monitorships, involving a banking technology company and a medical device company. She advises clients on anti-corruption compliance programs at all stages, including developing policies and procedures and conducting assessments of well-established programs.
Lily represents individuals and corporations in connection with SEC enforcement actions and investigations, DOJ investigations, FINRA inquiries, securities class actions and shareholder derivative suits. She has represented founders and investors in start-up companies, including matters involving venture capital disputes, unfair competition, breaches of partnership and shareholder agreements, employment and fraud claims, and fiduciary obligations. In addition, she counsels and litigates in insurance areas, in particular regarding directors and officers insurance and corporate indemnification obligations.
Prior to joining Orrick, Ms. Becker was a clerk for the Honorable Loren A. Smith on the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Anti-Corruption Compliance Programs: Design and Assessment
- As part of the Monitor Team for two FCPA Monitorships, assessed existing compliance structure and made recommendations for improvement, reporting to the DOJ and SEC pursuant to deferred prosecution agreements.
- Advised companies on building compliance policies and procedures and addressing specific concerns.
- Conducted numerous investigations into internal accounting/books and records concerns and potential bribery allegations in multiple countries and made recommendations for remedial action.
- Conducted numerous investigations into potential violations of internal policies and corporate governance.
- Conducted investigation into embezzlement by former employee and offered recommendations for internal control adjustments.
Criminal and SEC Investigations
- Represented multiple senior corporate officers of Solyndra, Inc. in connection with investigations by the DOJ and the United States Congress.
- Represented corporate controller relating to interviews in connection with SEC investigation following financial restatement.
Securities Litigation and Shareholder Disputes
- Represented public company board members in connection with shareholder derivative demands and litigation.
- Represented numerous public companies in connection with shareholder class actions alleging violations of securities fraud.
- Arbitration resulting in prevailing award in a dispute between founders of an internet start-up company.
- Represented former general counsel of a public company in connection with stock option litigation.
- Represented a corporation in connection with a D&O policy dispute.
- Represented a corporation in an arbitration dispute regarding real estate, tax and contractual matters.
Posts by: Lily Becker
Last Wednesday, former SAC Capital Advisors manager Mathew Martoma lost a bid to overturn his 2014 insider trading conviction in the Second Circuit. United States v. Martoma, No. 14-3599, 2017 WL 3611518 (2d Cir. Aug. 23, 2017). Martoma, the latest in a string of important insider trading decisions, is significant because the Second Circuit departed from the “relationship test” that had been central to Second Circuit insider trading cases in recent years. See United States v. Newman, 773 F.3d 438 (2d Cir. 2014). The departure was based on a 2016 Supreme Court decision, Salman v. U.S., in which the Court rejected the “relationship test” as set forth in Newman, and reaffirmed the standard set in Dirks v. SEC, 463 U.S. 646, 103 S. Ct. 3255, 77 L. Ed. 2d 911 (1983), holding that where a close relationship exists between the tipper and tippee, the government is not required to show that the insider received a benefit of a “pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.” Martoma had appealed his conviction before Salman was issued, and relied heavily on the Second Circuit’s relationship test outlined in Newman.
In Newman, the Second Circuit overturned the insider trading convictions of two portfolio managers who were “remote tippees,” individuals who traded on inside information but with one or more layers of individuals between them and the insider who originally provided the information. The insiders in Newman were friends with the tippees but did not gain any personal benefit in exchange for the information provided. The government argued in that case that it only needed to show that the tippees traded on “material, nonpublic information they knew insiders had disclosed in breach of a duty of confidentiality.” However, the Second Circuit rejected that argument, explaining that the government was required to show that the insider shared confidential information in exchange for a personal benefit, and that the remote tippees were aware of that fact. The Second Circuit also held that where there is no quid pro quo exchange for confidential information given by a tipper to a tippee, such information only amounts to a “personal benefit” when the tipper has a “meaningfully close personal relationship” with the tippee. To meet the test, that relationship must “generat[e] an exchange that is objective, consequential, and represents at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.” (Emphasis added.) Essentially, if there was no potential for financial gain resulting from the gift of information, no personal benefit existed under Newman. In the immediate aftermath of Newman, many insider trading prosecutions within the Second Circuit became untenable and were dropped.
Martoma’s appeal relied heavily on Newman, which was decided after his original conviction. He claimed that he and the tipper, a doctor, did not have a “meaningfully close personal relationship,” and that the doctor had not received any personal benefit in exchange for the confidential information he provided Martoma. Martoma also argued that even if the evidence was sufficient to uphold his conviction, the district court’s jury instructions were insufficient because they did not instruct the jury regarding the “personal benefit” requirement under Newman. However, while Martoma’s appeal was pending, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Salman v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 420, 196 L. Ed. 2d 351 (2016). Salman explicitly rejected Newman’s requirement that the tipper must receive something of a “pecuniary or similarly valuable nature” in exchange for a gift to family or friends. The Court held that providing information to a relative or friend who later trades on it is sufficient to satisfy the personal benefit requirement, although it did not specify how close the relationship must be. After Salman was decided, Martoma offered supplemental briefing in the Second Circuit, arguing that his conviction still should be reversed because Salman did not overrule Newman’s “meaningfully close personal relationship” requirement.
The Second Circuit rejected Martoma’s argument and held that Salman overruled Newman to the extent Newman required a “meaningfully close personal relationship” between the tipper and tippee. The court further held that there was no clear error in the jury instructions, and that any alleged error would not have changed the outcome of the trial because the government presented “overwhelming evidence that at least one tipper had received a financial benefit from providing confidential information to Martoma.”
While on its face Martoma appears to have opened the door to a broader range of insider trading prosecutions than were possible under preexisting Second Circuit case law, Judge Pooler’s 44-page dissent calls into question what the effect of the decision will be. Her dissent argues that the Second Circuit panel went far beyond the limitation previous Supreme Court precedent set, which she said had not been disturbed by Salman. That limitation was that an insider only receives a personal benefit from gifting information when it is gifted to family or friends—as these people are very unlikely to use the information for valid commercial reasons. Furthermore, in the dissent’s view, the majority opinion “radically alters insider-trading law for the worse.” Judge Pooler’s scathing dissent could indicate that the Second Circuit will convene an en banc panel to review the decision. If en banc review is denied or if the panel affirms the decision, it is expected that Martoma will appeal to the Supreme Court. In any event, the Martoma opinion may not be the final word on this topic.
This is the third in a series of posts where we will explore critical elements of a successful compliance program. In February, the Department of Justice’s Fraud Section offered a new perspective on what the government expects in an anti-corruption compliance program, in the form of a series of questions that companies should be prepared to answer about their program. The guidance offers companies a roadmap for building or assessing their compliance program. In this series, we will explore recent and past guidance on key compliance topics, as well as key takeaways for companies of all sizes.
Policies and Procedures are the cornerstone of a compliance program. While traditional sources of guidance, such as the DOJ and SEC FCPA Resource Guide and DPAs themselves, lay out the government’s fundamental expectations with regard to policies and procedures, the Fraud Section’s new guidance goes deeper, reflecting an approach that will assess not only the existence but also the design and integration of policies and procedures.
The most basic expectation with regard to policies and procedures is that companies will have a code of conduct prohibiting violations of the FCPA and the law’s foreign counterparts. Additionally, companies should have policies and procedures covering, among other things, gifts, travel & entertainment, expenses, political and charitable contributions, and payments to third parties. Finally, traditional sources of guidance make clear that companies should also have a set of finance and accounting internal controls reasonably designed to ensure the maintenance of fair and accurate books and records.
This is the second in a series of posts where we will explore critical elements of a successful compliance program. In February, the Department of Justice’s Fraud Section offered a new perspective on what the government expects in an anti-corruption compliance program, in the form of a series of questions that companies should be prepared to answer about their program. The guidance offers companies a roadmap for building or assessing their compliance program. In this series, we will explore recent and past guidance on key compliance topics, as well as key takeaways for companies of all sizes.
It would be a mistake for companies to dismiss the Fraud Section’s recent guidance, which one high-level DOJ official suggested may be used more broadly by DOJ’s Criminal Division, as business as usual. It is not just more of the same. The guidance does more than merely flesh-out existing direction; it operationalizes compliance. Consider two examples from the guidance’s “Autonomy and Resources” section:
- Empowerment – Have there been specific instances where compliance raised concerns or objections in the area in which the wrongdoing occurred? How has the company responded to such compliance concerns? Have there been specific transactions or deals that were stopped, modified, or more closely examined as a result of compliance concerns?
- Compliance Role – Was compliance involved in training and decisions relevant to the misconduct? Did the compliance or relevant control functions (e.g., Legal, Finance, or Audit) ever raise a concern in the area where the misconduct occurred?
This is the first in a series of posts where we will explore critical elements of a successful compliance program. In February, the Department of Justice’s Fraud Section offered a new perspective on what the government expects in an anti-corruption compliance program, in the form of a series of questions that companies should be prepared to answer about their program. The guidance offers companies a roadmap for building or assessing their compliance program. In this series, we will explore recent and past guidance on key compliance topics, as well as key takeaways for companies of all sizes.
A commitment from high-level management is typically the first compliance component discussed in government guidance and Deferred Prosecution Agreements. Commonly referred to as “Tone at the Top,” this critical concept has previously been described in vague, generic ways. See, for example, this excerpt from Attachment C of DOJ’s recent DPA with Embraer S.A., which is identical to language in many other agreements:
“The Company will ensure that its directors and senior management provide strong, explicit, and visible support and commitment to its corporate policy against violations of the anti-corruption laws and its compliance code.”
Without fanfare or forewarning, the US Department of Justice released new anti-corruption compliance guidance on February 8, 2017. The eight page document provides rare insight into the government’s evaluation of corporate compliance programs. Companies designing compliance programs, conducting internal investigations, or facing a bribery or books and records-related government inquiry can now look to the appropriately titled “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs” for a hint at the types of questions they should be prepared to answer.
As emphasized in the Department of Justice and Security and Exchange Commission’s November 2012 FCPA Resource guide, DOJ’s recent guidance again reinforces that a compliance program should be individualized to a company’s risk profile, and so should the government’s evaluation of the program. The guidance is clearly not a checklist that applies to all. It does, however, provide more detail about the way a company should evaluate its own program. Companies can leverage the information to design more robust compliance programs and better respond to potential violations. READ MORE
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the acting Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission has centralized authority to issue formal orders of investigation – a critical authority that triggers the ability of SEC staff attorneys to issue subpoenas. The move, which was not publicized by the SEC, would curb existing powers of the Commission’s enforcement staff.
Since 2009, the power to issue formal orders of investigation had been “sub-delegated” to about 20 senior attorneys within the SEC’s Enforcement Division. However, according to the Journal report, acting SEC Chairman Michael Piwowar ordered the authority to be centralized exclusively with the Director of Enforcement. READ MORE
On August 2, 2016, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen dismissed a shareholder lawsuit brought against children’s educational toymaker LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. (“LeapFrog”) for failure to adequately plead statements were false or misleading, or made with requisite intent. Plaintiffs’ suit, which was consolidated in 2015, alleged that LeapFrog and its executives hid demand and inventory problems from investors. The judge disagreed, finding that the investors had been sufficiently warned of problems with LeapFrog’s product lines and that the allegedly misleading statements were forward-looking and cautionary, and therefore fell within the PSLRA’s safe harbor. Defendants’ public statements about many of the allegedly misleading topics helped drive home that Plaintiffs’ theory amounted to classic “fraud by hindsight.”
In a move that highlights both the increased focus on holding individuals accountable and the credit that can be earned through cooperation, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced last week that, for the first time, it entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) with an individual allegedly involved in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) case. On February 16, 2016, the SEC announced a DPA with Yu Kai Yuan, a former employee of software company PTC Inc.’s Chinese subsidiaries. The SEC agreed to defer civil FCPA charges against Yu for three years in recognition of his cooperation during the SEC’s investigation. PTC also reached a settlement with the SEC, in which the company agreed to disgorge $11.8 million. Prior to the Yu DPA, the SEC had entered into one DPA with an individual in November 2013, in a matter involving a hedge fund manager allegedly stealing investor assets. However, never before this time was a DPA with the SEC related to an FCPA case.
On January 14, 2016, the SEC entered into two no-admit, no deny settlements regarding an alleged pay-to-play scheme to obtain contracts from the Treasury Office for the State of Ohio. The first was with State Street Bank and Trust Company (“State Street” or “the Bank”) – a custodian bank that provides asset servicing to institutional clients, and the second with Vincent DeBaggis, a former State Street executive. On the same day, the SEC filed suit against attorney Robert Crowe for his role in the scheme which allegedly involved causing concealed campaign contributions to be made to the Ohio Treasury Office to influence the awarding of contracts to State Street. Mr. Crowe is a partner at the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and a former lobbyist for the Bank.