May 23, 2017

Tenth Circuit: Summary Judgment Affirmed Where No Evidence Presented of Conspiracy to Monopolize

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Buccaneer Energy (USA) Inc., v. Gunnison Energy Corporation; SG Interests I, LTD.; SG Interests VII, LTD. on February 3, 2017.

Buccaneer Energy (USA) Inc. (Buccaneer) sued SG Interests I, Ltd.., SG Interests VII, Ltd. (together, SG), and Gunnison Energy Corporation (GEC) (collectively, Defendants) alleging that Defendants had conspired in restraint of trade in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act and that Defendants had conspired to monopolize in violation of § 2 of the Sherman Act. The district court granted summary judgment for the Defendants and the Tenth Circuit affirmed due to Buccaneer’s failure to present sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of fact on one or more elements of each of its claims.

Defendants each granted each other the option to participate equally in the construction and ownership of any pipeline initiated by the other party. GEC exercised this option to participate in the Bull Mountain Pipeline, which traveled from the Ragged Mountain Area (RM Area) located in Delta and Gunnison Counties, Colorado, to the Questar Interstate pipeline. GEC and SG also equally had ultimate control over the Ragged Mountain Gathering System (RM System), which transported natural gas from the RM Area to the Rocky Mountain natural Gas Pipeline (Rocky Mountain Pipeline).

Buccaneer acquired the Riviera Drilling and Exploration Company’s (Riviera) leases in the RM Area. Buccaneer pursued a means for transporting its expected gas production from GEC on the RM System. GEC offered a rate of $1.52 per MMBtu for interruptible service. Buccaneer countered, revising the interruptible service language but keeping the rate the same. GEC responded raising the rate to $3.92 per MMBtu, and reinserting the interruptible service provisions. Buccaneer did not counteroffer again. Buccaneer failed to secure a transportation agreement and Riviera terminated the Lease Agreement.

Buccaneer filed this case on June 21, 2012 and alleged that the “RM System was essential to effective competition for production rights and the sale of natural gas from the Ragged Mountain Area.” It further claimed that because Defendants refused to provide Buccaneer with access to the RM System, Defendants violated §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act by engaging in a conspiracy in restraint of trade and a conspiracy to monopolize.

The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants on both of Buccaneer’s antitrust claims because Buccaneer did not present evidence to show that Defendants caused, or could cause, injury to competition in a defined market. Buccaneer also did not demonstrate its own preparedness to enter the market. The Tenth Court affirmed, concluding that Buccaneer failed to present sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment on either of its claims.

Section 1 of the Sherman Act prohibits “every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States.” 15 U.S.C. § 1. This provision has been construed to forbid only restraints of trade that are unreasonable. The Tenth Circuit analyzed the Defendants’ conduct under the rule of reason because Buccaneer did not allege a per se rule violation.

First, the Tenth Circuit dismissed Buccaneer’s allegation that the Defendants unreasonably denied it access to the RM System, which was Buccaneer claimed was “essential” to Buccaneer’s ability to compete. Buccaneer failed to prove the second element of the “essential facilities doctrine,” a competitor’s inability to duplicate the facility. Here, the relevant facility is the RM System, and while it may be difficult to duplicate, Buccaneer did not present any evidence on the matter. Buccaneer focused on the Bull Mountain Pipeline, which was not at issue in this case.

Next, the Tenth Circuit held that Buccaneer did not adequately establish its claim under the rule of reason. Under the rule of reason, the plaintiff has the initial burden of showing an agreement had a substantially adverse effect on competition. The burden then shifts to the defendant to show pro-competitive virtues of such conduct. Then the plaintiff must show that such conduct was not reasonably necessary to achieve the legitimate objectives.  A court must then weigh the harms and benefits of such conduct to determine if it is reasonable.

A plaintiff must show an adverse effect on competition in general, not just that the conduct adversely affected the plaintiff’s business. Buccaneer failed to meets its burden of showing that the challenged conduct had anticompetitive effects. Buccaneer did not present any evidence of actual anticompetitive effect; such as fewer production rights being acquired in the RM Area or that Defendants’ position allowed them to pay less than competitive prices.

The Tenth Circuit next addressed whether Buccaneer had shown harm to competition by Defendants’ possession of market power in the relevant market. The “relevant market” consists of both the product area and the geographic area. The product market consists of products that are sufficiently substitutable with each other based on the purpose for which they are produced, as well as their price, use, and quantities. The geographic market encompasses the area in which competition occurs. Once the relevant market has been identified, a plaintiff must show market power by demonstrating that the defendants had either the power to control price or the power to exclude competition.

Buccaneer asserted that the first relevant product was “production rights” and the relevant geographic market was the RM Area. The Tenth Circuit held that Buccaneer did not adequately define either market. Buccaneer did not offer its own definition of the product market for “production rights,” for which it bore the burden of defining. Buccaneer also failed to establish the relevant geographic market with any precision; it simply stated the area and did not define its boarders. Therefore, the Tenth Circuit held that Buccaneer failed to meet its burden of establishing either the product or the geographic market. The district court therefore did not err when it dismissed the claim for failure to allege a legally sufficient market.

Further, even if Buccaneer did define a relevant market, it did not establish that Defendants possessed market power. Market share, or size, is not enough to establish market power, and the absence of market share creates a presumption that market power does not exist. Buccaneer did not present evidence to demonstrate Defendants’ market share. It did not allege what percentage of the “production rights” market that Defendants possessed. Additionally, Buccaneer did not present evidence that that Defendants created any barriers of entry into the relevant market for competitors. Therefore, Buccaneer failed to satisfy its burden of showing market power and also failed to establish any anticompetitive effect in the alleged market for production rights.

Buccaneer next alleged that the second relevant product was natural gas, which was undisputed. The Tenth Circuit held that Buccaneer’s defined relevant market, which was “the market for downstream sales of gas,” was insufficient to address that market for considerations relevant under the rule of reason analysis. Buccaneer also failed to show that the Defendants possessed market power in any relevant market. The Tenth Circuit held that Buccaneer did not set forth facts from which a jury could find that the Defendants possessed market power in that market.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit quickly dismissed Buccaneer’s § 2 conspiracy claim because such a claim requires proof of a relevant antitrust market. As with Buccaneer’s § 1 claim, it did not establish a relevant market, so its § 2 claim fails for the same reasons as its § 1 claim.

In conclusion, the Tenth Circuit held that, because Buccaneer failed to present evidence from which a jury could conclude that Defendants’ conduct actually or potentially harmed competition in a relevant antitrust market, both its § 1 and § 2 Sherman Act claims fail. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on that basis.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Innocent Investor May Keep Some Funds Exceeding Principal Investment in Ponzi Scheme

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Lewis v. Taylor on Thursday, February 9, 2017.

Steve Taylor invested $3 million in a hedge fund run by Sean Mueller, a licensed securities broker, and after about a year of investing, he withdrew all his money and received a profit of over $487,000. In 2010, the Colorado Securities Commissioner determined the hedge fund was a Ponzi scheme, and Mueller was convicted of several criminal offenses. C. Randel Lewis was appointed as receiver and tasked with collecting and distributing Mueller’s assets to the creditors and investors he defrauded through the Ponzi scheme. Lewis filed a claim under CUFTA seeking to void the transfer of the over $487,000 in net profits that Taylor received from Mueller’s fund.

In the district court, both Lewis and Taylor moved for summary judgment. Taylor argued that (1) the CUFTA claim was filed outside the statutory time period, and (2) even if the claim was timely, his net profits were not recoverable under CUFTA because he was an innocent investor. Lewis argued that the claim was timely filed and that CUFTA required Taylor to return his net profits. The district court agreed with Lewis on both issues and granted him summary judgment. On appeal, a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals held the district court erred in finding the claim was timely and reversed. The court of appeals did not reach the innocent investor issue. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the claim was timely and remanded to the court of appeals for determination of the innocent investor issue.

On remand from the supreme court, Taylor argued that the district court erred by ruling that even though he was an innocent investor in Mueller’s fund, CUFTA nevertheless required him to return all of the payments from the fund in excess of his principal investment. The court noted that CUFTA provides that “[a] transfer . . . is not voidable under section 38-8-105(1)(a) against a person who took in good faith and for a reasonably equivalent value.” The parties agreed that Taylor was an innocent investor who withdrew his profits in good faith, but disagreed about whether he gave reasonably equivalent value for his $487,000 profits.

The court of appeals evaluated the term “reasonably equivalent value,” noting that two lines of opinions had developed among courts in jurisdictions with versions of the Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act. The court of appeals evaluated the line of cases promoted by Lewis, particularly the leading Ninth Circuit case. The court of appeals found the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning illogical because all transfers “deplete the assets of the scheme operator for the purpose of creating the appearance of a profitable business venture.” The court similarly disagreed with other cases cited by Lewis. The Colorado Court of Appeals instead held that the value an investor gives by investing is not limited to the precise dollar amount of the principal investment, but includes the use of that money for however long it was available for investment or any other use.

The court of appeals evaluated the plain statutory language to determine whether the transfers to Taylor were voidable. The court noted that the General Assembly may wish to revisit the issue and craft a better remedy to more fairly address the circumstances while considering equitable principles embodied in doctrines such as the clean hands doctrine. The court of appeals applied the plain language to determine the district court erred in failing to account for the time value of Taylor’s principal investment in determining whether he gave reasonably equivalent value.

The court of appeals remanded for determination of the fact question of whether Taylor gave “reasonably equivalent value.” The court further directed the district court to determine based on its “reasonably equivalent value” finding whether Lewis’s and Taylor’s summary judgment motions had merit.

Colorado Court of Appeals: “Newsletter Exclusion” Did Not Apply to Unlicensed Securities Advisor

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Mandel v. Rome on Thursday, December 30, 2016.

Colorado Securities Act—Licensure—Summary Judgment—Investment Adviser—First Amendment—Restitution—Permanent Injunction.

Defendants Mandel and Wall Street Radio, Inc. hosted a radio show devoted to security investments, Wall Street Radio (WSR). They also offered through a website a variety of investment related services under two plans. The Master Membership Plan, with a $500 annual fee, provided newsletters, seminars, and the opportunity to email or call defendant Mandel twice a week with questions about specific stocks (crystal ball readings). The Lead Trader Membership Plan, under which subscribers paid between $1000 and $2000 annually, provided the same services as Master Membership and also offered the opportunity to mimic Mandel’s own security trades through an investment vehicle known as auto-trading. In auto-trading, trades are automatically made that mimic the lead trader’s trades without the need for approval. Followers are often not aware of the trades until after they have occurred.

The auto-trading was done through a company called Ditto Trade, in which Mandel owned an interest. Ditto Trade requires its lead traders to attest that they are either registered investment advisers or exempt from registration. Neither Mandel nor WSR were licensed in Colorado as investment advisers or investment adviser representatives. In 2008, Mandel had applied for a license, but his application was denied in an administrative action. A stipulated consent order denying the application precluded him from reapplying for 10 years and barred him from acting as a solicitor or otherwise associating with any Colorado licensed investment adviser or “federally covered” adviser. Mandel attested to operating within an exemption.

This action was commenced by the Securities Commissioner of Colorado, Rome, against Mandel and WSR, alleging they had acted as unlicensed investment advisers or investment adviser representatives under the Colorado Securities Act (CSA). Defendants claimed that pursuant to the CRS § 11-51-201(9.5)(b)(III) “newsletter exclusion” they were exempt from licensure. The trial court granted summary judgment against defendants. It entered a permanent injunction and directed them to pay $80,000 in restitution ($1000 for each auto-trading subscriber).

On appeal, defendants argued that the trial court erroneously entered summary judgment because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether they acted as investment advisers or investment adviser representatives. The Colorado Court of Appeals found that the Commissioner presented undisputed facts sufficient to resolve the case. It therefore turned to whether judgment was appropriate as a matter of law.

There was no dispute to the evidence presented by the Commissioner that defendants met the basic definition of investment adviser or investment adviser representative. To avoid the licensing requirement, defendants had to meet the “newsletter exclusion” from the definition of investment adviser, which required their services to qualify as bona fide publications or newsletters with a regular circulation. The court found that the lead trader services were not “publications” generally disseminated to subscribers. It rejected defendants’ argument that because they disseminated a newsletter, all of their other activities fell within the exclusion. Also, the lead trader service was not bona fide because it did not consist of disinterested commentary or analysis; instead, each follower’s investment decision was directly linked to Mandel’s investment account. Thus Mandel could personally benefit from the trades. Finally, the service was not “regular.” It did not follow a routine schedule but occurred when Mandel decided to make trades. Similarly, the crystal ball readings were not regular and addressed specific investment situations. Because defendants provided both services for compensation without a license they violated the CSA.

Defendants further argued that the summary judgment was inappropriate because the Commissioner failed to controvert their affirmative defense that the First Amendment of the federal constitution and Colorado Constitution art. II, § 10 barred the enforcement action. Because the services provided were sufficiently personal to treat defendants as investment advisors or investment representatives, requiring them to obtain a license as a condition of providing these services is constitutional.

Defendants also argued that the trial court erred in imposing restitution, contending that only damages could be awarded under the CSA. The court did not need to address this argument because it held that the record and the law support the award under a common law restitution theory.

Lastly, defendants challenged both parts of the permanent injunction. Defendants argued that the first part of the injunction improperly enjoins them from engaging in lawful activity. Defendants contended that the court abused its discretion and exceeded its statutory authority by enjoining them from “associating in any capacity” with securities professionals engaged in business in Colorado. The court found that the trial court had statutory authority to enjoin defendants from associating with securities professionals to ensure compliance with the CSA. However, the court found that the first part of the injunction was overly broad and subject to different interpretations.

Defendants argued that the second part of the injunction is simply an edict to obey the law and is thus overly broad and vague. The court agreed.

The summary judgment and restitution orders were affirmed. The injunction was vacated in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Top Ten Programs and Homestudies of 2016: Business Law

The year is drawing to a close, which means that the compliance period is ending for a third of Colorado’s attorneys. Still missing some credits? Don’t worry, CBA-CLE has got you covered.

Today we are featuring the Top Ten Business Law Programs and Homestudies of 2016. These programs represent only a sampling of the wide array of business law programs and homestudies available; visit www.cba-cle.org/Practice-Area/Business to see a great selection of business-related books and programs.

10. M&A World in 15 & 2016: What Did Your CO Investment Bankers See in 15 & What Do They Expect in 2016
Investment bankers from five of Denver’s investment banking firms discussed their thoughts on what they expected to see in the M&A world in 2015, what they actually saw in 2015 and what they expected to see in 2016. The panel will provide their insights on the M&A market, trends in structuring and negotiating M&A transactions, legal issues arising in M&A transactions, particular trends in the Colorado M&A market, and their expectations going forward in 2016. Watch this  Video OnDemand homestudy (or listen to the MP3 audio homestudy) to find out if the investment bankers’ predictions were correct. Available for 2 general credits.

9. How to Understand and Analyze Financial Statements: What Lawyers Need to Know
Complex financial issues are involved in nearly every area of law, and it is your responsibility to master the skills and knowledge necessary to handle those issues effectively. This detailed program provides you with the financial literacy required to protect yourself and your clients by guiding you through an understanding of accounting concepts, terminology, and financial statements. Beginning with an examination of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and continuing with an overview of an actual financial statement, you will gain hands-on-experience from Doug Smith, one of the nation’s leading experts in the field. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, or the MP3 here. Available for 6 general credits.

8. Business Document Drafting Series: Drafting Compensation and Other Employment Agreements
Learn about the various agreements employers enter into with their current and former employees. Learn about the mechanics of these agreements, the legal parameters that apply to these agreements, how employers use these agreements to protect intellectual property and retain key employees, and the challenges posed by M&A activities. Our experienced practitioner will also teach about the important provisions in executive compensation agreements, including change in control provisions, non-competition and other restrictive covenants, and separation agreements. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 2 general credits.

7. Business Document Drafting Series: Drafting LLC and Partnership Agreements
This program provides an overview of the primary drafting considerations in both LLC and partnership agreements. Learn about the key provisions and issues in drafting the LLC operating agreement as well as how to prepare the Articles of Organization. Also, learn about the most important drafting issues for a partnership, such as capital and partnership interests, profit, loss, cash flow, management and dissolution. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 2 general credits.

6. Business Contracts — The Fundamentals
Drafting contracts is the bread and butter of business law attorneys. In this program, twelve Moye White attorneys discussed various aspects of contract drafting, from compliance with state and federal securities laws to sponsorship agreements and sweepstakes events to mergers and acquisitions. As a bonus, the ePDF of CBA-CLE’s book, Business Contracts, is provided with every homestudy. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, or the MP3 here. Available for 6 general credits.

5. Business Document Drafting Series: Boilerplate and Drafting Business Documents
This program provides practical advice on the perils of boilerplate in document drafting. Hear specific examples of drafting issues when you use forms. Learn the importance of keeping provisions current with case law, and knowing the definition of terms you use in your agreements. Better understand the value of silence, ambiguity, and knowing for whom you are drafting provisions. Know when to avoid “overdrafting.” Learn from a practitioner with a wealth of experience in preparing the many, many different documents required of a business lawyer. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 2 general credits.

4. Advising Entrepreneurs
Whether you are new to the business law arena, expanding your practice, or simply need a refresher to get up to date on advising entrepreneurs, this homestudy provides current and expert guidance on the issues, questions, and documents you will most likely encounter when representing the entrepreneur.  Develop and fine tune the lawyering skills needed to better advise entrepreneurs and start-up companies. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, or the MP3 here. Available for 6 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

3. Business Document Drafting Series: Drafting IP Licenses, InfoTechnology Contracts, and Related Documents
Businesses are focusing more and more on their intellectual property assets, and license agreements are used both to protect those assets and to leverage those assets as a source of revenue. You don’t have to be an intellectual property specialist to benefit from a fundamental understanding of how and why licenses for software, trademarks, copyrights, patents and other types of intellectual property are created. In addition, software and information technology services are increasingly a part of every type of business, so it is important to understand the company’s rights with respect to IT services and software that it receives from third parties. Learn the basics of drafting and reviewing these documents in this information-packed program! Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 2 general credits.

2. Limited Liability Companies in Colorado
The limited liability company (LLC) has been a very popular choice of entity for many types of business since the Internal Revenue Service adopted the “check-the-box” regulations in December 1996. Because of the combination of limited liability for all owners of the LLC, pass-through tax treatment, and ease and flexibility in customizing the relationships between the owners, the LLC is seen by many as providing the best of all worlds. Of course, there are specific disadvantages to using an LLC, and the specific facts of each matter must be analyzed before making a decision to move forward with organizing an LLC. Each homestudy order receives a copy of the CBA-CLE book, Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships in Colorado, First Edition as part of the course materials for this program. Please note the book will be provided in PDF. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 8 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

1. Annual Institute on Advising Nonprofit Organizations in Colorado/A Primer on Advising Nonprofits
This annual program provides a comprehensive overview of issues related to advising nonprofit organizations. Although it is not available as a homestudy, the live program is worth attending every year. Visit ColoradoBusinessLawInstitute.org for more information and registration information for the 2017 program.

Tenth Circuit: Overly Optimistic Reporting Not Enough to Prove Scienter

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Anderson v. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc. on Tuesday, July 5, 2016.

Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc., agreed to manufacture parts for two Gulfstream aircraft and a Boeing 787. Spirit managed the production of the parts through three projects, each of which encountered production delays and cost overruns. Nevertheless, Spirit executives expressed optimism to investors about the company’s ability to break even. However, in October 2012, Spirit announced the projected loss of hundreds of millions of dollars on the three projects. The investors brought a class action against Spirit and four of its executives—CEO and president Jeffrey Turner, CFO Philip Anderson, Oklahoma Senior Vice President Alexander Kummant, and Vice President Terry George, who was overseeing the Boeing 787 project—for violating § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and SEC Rule 10b-5. Plaintiffs alleged that Spirit and the executives misrepresented and failed to disclose cost overruns and project delays. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to allege facts showing misrepresentations or omissions that were false or misleading and material, and failed to show scienter. The district court granted defendants’ motion, in part agreeing that plaintiffs had failed to show scienter. Plaintiffs appealed.

The Tenth Circuit compared the evidence set forth by plaintiffs to show scienter with the defendants’ explanations, noting that the inference of scienter would only suffice if it were at least as cogent and compelling as any other inference that could be drawn from the facts. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants knew throughout the class period that the projects were experiencing setbacks and generating so much in additional costs that a loss would be inevitable, yet they failed to warn investors of the forward loss until October 2012. Defendants argued that despite the setbacks, they were optimistic that the projects would meet the original cost forecasts, and expected revenues to exceed total costs. When Spirit realized that a loss was likely, it promptly announced a forward loss on the three projects. The Tenth Circuit found Spirit’s explanation that it was overly optimistic more compelling than an inference that the executives intentionally misrepresented or recklessly ignored economic realities. The Tenth Circuit noted that the plaintiffs presented little evidence to presume malevolence over benign optimism.

The Tenth Circuit approved of the district court’s consideration of a lack of a motive to commit securities fraud as a mitigating factor against scienter. Although the plaintiffs did not need to show a motive, the absence of one was relevant. The plaintiffs also proposed testimony by corroborating witnesses, but the Tenth Circuit determined the witnesses were too far removed from the executives to have been able to testify as to the executives’ state of mind. Plaintiffs also alleged that the defendants had a duty to disclose project overruns and delays, but the Tenth Circuit refused to infer scienter from the defendants’ failure to disclose, finding instead that there was no evidence that the defendants knew they needed to disclose more or were reckless in their failure to disclose. The Tenth Circuit disposed of plaintiffs’ remaining claims, characterizing them as “fraud by hindsight” but not securities fraud. Plaintiffs argued that Spirit’s recovery plan for the 787 project supported an inference of scienter, but the Tenth Circuit again accepted the defendants’ explanations of innocent optimism. The plaintiffs also argued that the sheer magnitude of the loss supported an inference of scienter, but the Tenth Circuit noted that the plaintiffs failed to show that the executives knew that their public reports were too encouraging or had recklessly failed to heed red flags from problem reports.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. Judge McHugh concurred in part and dissented in part; she would have found that Anderson and Turner made materially false statements, therefore satisfying the scienter element.

Tenth Circuit: Default Judgment Non-Dischargeable in Bankruptcy Under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(19)

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Tripodi v. Welch on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.

Nathan Welch was a real estate developer, and beginning in 2006, he worked to procure funding for the Talisman project. Robert Tripodi invested in the Talisman project, ultimately putting $1 million into the development, secured by promissory notes from Welch. When Talisman failed, Welch defaulted on the notes, and Tripodi filed a complaint against Welch in federal district court in 2009, alleging violations of federal and state securities laws. Welch answered the complaint, but a few months later his counsel moved to withdraw. The district court granted counsel’s motion and gave Welch 20 days to find new counsel or appear pro se. Several months later, Tripodi moved for default judgment, and, because Welch did not respond to the motion, the district court entered default judgment against him in April 2010. For the next year, Tripodi presented proof of damages, costs, and attorney fees, and the district court found Tripodi was owed $729,161.65 plus post-judgment interest.

Welch filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 2011. Nearly two years later, Tripodi filed a motion for relief from the automatic stay. The district court granted Tripodi’s motion and directed its clerk to enter final monetary judgment. The clerk entered judgment in his favor for $729,161.65 plus post-judgment interest accruing since May 2011. Welch opposed a determination of damages and filed a cross-motion to set aside entry of default. The district court denied his motion as untimely. Each party then filed post-judgment motions. Tripodi moved for an order determining that the default judgment against Welch was non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(19), while Welch moved for the court to reconsider its order refusing to set aside the default, to set aside the default, and to enter a judgment on the pleadings in his favor. The district court granted Tripodi’s motion and denied Welch’s.

Welch appealed, arguing the district court erred in denying his motion for judgment on the pleadings and granting Tripodi’s motion that default is non-dischargeable under § 523(a)(19). The Tenth Circuit disagreed. The Tenth Circuit characterized Welch’s appeal as a roundabout way to challenge the entry of default against him by challenging the sufficiency of the pleadings. The Tenth Circuit addressed the district court’s grant of default judgment. The Tenth Circuit found that the pleadings were legally sufficient, as they showed (1) Tripodi invested in Talisman because he thought it would be a high-yeilding investment opportunity, (2) the investment was structured for broad distribution to unsophisticated investors such as himself, (3) the investing public would consider the notes to be securities, and (4) the collateral provided little security for investors. These four factors led the Tenth Circuit to conclude that the district court correctly ruled the notes were securities and Welch violated securities laws. The Tenth Circuit found no abuse of discretion.

Welch next contended that the district court erred in finding that the debt was non-dischargeable in bankruptcy under § 523(a)(19). The Tenth Circuit again disagreed. The Tenth Circuit noted that § 523(a)(19) renders debts non-dischargeable when they arise in connection with a violation of state or federal securities laws. Two factors prevent the debt from being discharged: (1) the debt must stem from a violation of federal or state securities law, and (2) the debt must be memorialized in a judicial order or settlement agreement. The Tenth Circuit found that Welch’s debt to Tripodi satisfied both factors.

The judgment of the district court was affirmed.

Bills Implementing “SAFE Act,” Allowing Issuance of Summonses in Lieu of Warrants, and More Signed

On Thursday, April 21, and Friday, April 22, 2016, Governor Hickenlooper signed more bills into law. He signed 19 bills on Thursday and five bills on Friday. To date, the governor has signed 141 bills this legislative session. Some of the bills signed Thursday and Friday include a bill to limit the imposition of conditions by federal entities on Colorado water rights, changing the statutory purpose of parole in order to facilitate integration into society for parolees, limiting laws governing security interests in business entities, and more. The bills signed Thursday and Friday are summarized here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

  • HB 16-1035 – Concerning the Scope of Statutes Making the Issuance of Securities by a Public Utility Conditional on Approval by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and, in Connection Therewith, Clarifying that the Approval Requirement Applies Only to Electric and Gas Utilities, by Rep. Timothy Leonard and Sen. Ray Scott. The bill clarifies that only public electric and gas utilities are required to apply to the Public Utilities Commission for approval to issue or assume securities.
  • HB 16-1060 – Concerning Roadside Memorials for Fallen State Patrol Officers, by Rep. Max Tyler and Sen. Randy Baumgardner. The bill requires CDOT to erect and maintain a permanent roadside memorial for every Colorado State Patrol officer who has perished on the highway in the line of duty.
  • HB 16-1093 – Concerning the Use of the National Change of Address Database to Maintain Voter Registration Records, and, in Connection Therewith, Clarifying Terminology and Consolidating Procedures for County Clerks and Recorders to Follow when it Appears that an Elector has Moved Within the State, by Reps. Kim Ransom & Su Ryden and Sen. Jack Tate. The bill changes the process that must be followed by county clerks to confirm a voter address if the monthly search determines that a voter may have moved.
  • HB 16-1104 – Concerning the Issuance of a Summons in Lieu of a Warrant for Certain Non-Violent Offenders, by Rep. Kit Roupe and Sen. John Cooke. The bill allows law enforcement officers to issue a summons in lieu of a warrant if the officer believes there is a reasonable likelihood the defendant will appear, the local district attorney approves and has developed criteria for the procedure, the defendant has had no felony arrests in the past five years, there is no allegation that the defendant used a deadly weapon, and there are no outstanding warrants for the defendant’s arrest.
  • HB 16-1109 – Concerning that the Basic Tenets of Colorado Water Law Place on the Ability of Certain Federal Agencies to Impose Conditions on a Water Right Owner in Exchange for Permission to use Federal Land, by Reps. KC Becker & Jon Becker and Sens. Jerry Sonnenberg & Kerry Donovan. The bill states that Colorado water is a transferable property right and that the federal government must comply with state law, through the water court process, to acquire water rights.
  • HB 16-1141 – Concerning the Protection of Colorado Residents from the Hazards Associated with Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials in Buildings, and in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. KC Becker & Don Coram and Sens. Cheri Jahn & Ellen Roberts. The bill requires the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to establish a radon education and awareness program to provide information and education statewide to citizens, businesses, and others in need of information, and requires that, by January 1, 2017, the CDPHE stablish a radon mitigation assistance program to provide financial assistance to low-income individuals for radon mitigation services.
  • HB 16-1153 – Concerning the Annual Date by which the General Assembly Receives a Report Regarding Outcomes of Decisions Made by the State Board of Parole, by Rep. Jovan Melton and Sen. John Cooke. The bill extends the deadline by which reports on parole outcomes made by the State Board of Parole and the Division of Criminal Justice are required from November 1 to March 31.
  • HB 16-1173 – Concerning the Continuation of the Regulation of Vessels by the Department of Natural Resources, by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush and Sen. Ray Scott. The bill indefinitely removes the sunset of the Vessel Registration Program conducted by the Department of Regulatory Agencies to continue the registration and regulation of vessels program by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the Department of Natural Resources.
  • HB 16-1198 – Concerning Computer Science Courses Fulfilling Certain Graduation Requirements, by Reps. Dan Pabon & Jim Wilson and Sens. Jack Tate & Andy Kerr. The bill encourages school districts to treat computer science and coding classes as mathematics or science courses and count completion of such computer-related courses toward the fulfillment of any mathematics or science graduation requirements.
  • HB 16-1215 – Concerning Changing the Statutory Purposes of Parole to Successfully Reintegrate Parolees into Society by Providing Enhanced Supportive Services, by Reps. Beth McCann & Daniel Kagan and Sen. Lucia Guzman. The bill redefines the purpose of parole to enhance public safety by reducing recidivism, select and prepare individuals who will be transitioned into the community, set individualized conditions of parole, and achieve a successful discharge from parole.
  • HB 16-1230 – Concerning the Inclusion of a County’s Financial Information in the State’s Financial Information Database, which is known as the Transparency Online Project, by Rep. Timothy Dore and Sen. John Cooke. The bill requires counties to provide the state Chief Information Officer with a copy of the county’s adopted budget no later than 30 days after the fiscal year begins, starting January 1, 2018.
  • HB 16-1255 – Concerning Additional Methods to Manage Forests to Secure Favorable Conditions for Water Supply, by Reps. Don Coram & Ed Vigil and Sen. Randy Baumgardner. The bill directs the Colorado state forest service to conduct demonstration pilot projects to implement forest management treatments that improve forest health and resilience, supply forest products to Colorado businesses, and target a Colorado watershed.
  • HB 16-1258 – Concerning the Posting by Court Clerks of Process When a Respondent is Served by Publication, by Rep. Jovan Melton and Sen. Kevin Lundberg. Current law mandates that clerks of court post the process for notice of a divorce proceeding on a bulletin board in their office when one party cannot be reached. This bill adds the option that clerks can post the process on a bulletin board or the website of the district court in which the case was filed.
  • HB 16-1259 – Concerning Local District Junior Colleges, and, in Connection Therewith, Changing the Term Local District Junior College to Local District College, by Reps. Diane Mitsch Bush & Jim Wilson and Sens. John Cooke & Kerry Donovan. The bill changes all statutory references to “local junior college” or “junior college” to “local district college” and changes requirements regarding number of board members, actions taken without regular meetings, and annexation.
  • HB 16-1270 – Concerning the Limitation of Laws Governing Security Interests to an Owner’s Interest in a Business Entity, by Rep. Pete Lee and Sens. Mark Scheffel & Rollie Heath. The bill allows small businesses to control their ownership under the Colorado Corporation and Associations Act and the Uniform Commercial Code.
  • HB 16-1271 – Concerning the Ability of a Limited Winery that has a Winery Direct Shipper’s Permit to Deliver Vinous Liquors of its Own Manufacture Directly to a Personal Consumer Without the Use of a Common Carrier, by Reps. Jonathan Singer & Dan Nordberg and Sens. Cheri Jahn & Kevin Lundberg. Under current law, a limited winery licensee with a winery direct shipper’s permit may only use a common carrier to deliver the wine it manufactures to personal consumers within Colorado. This bill allows a limited winery licensee to deliver the wine it manufactures directly to personal consumers without the use of a common carrier, as long as the licensee also has a winery direct shipper’s permit and follows the requirements of the permit.
  • HB 16-1306 – Concerning Revision of the State Statutes Governing Mortgage Loan Originators to Conform More Closely to Applicable Federal Law, and, in Connection Therewith, Amending, Relocating, and Repealing Provisions in Accordance with the Federal “Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act Of 2008,” by Rep. Angela Williams and Sen. Chris Holbert. The bill  amends, relocates, and repeals provisions of Colorado’s mortgage loan originator licensing statutes that conflict with or have been rendered unnecessary by recent changes to federal law, or no longer reflect current national industry standards.
  • HB 16-1316 – Concerning Procedures for Changing Venue for Proceedings Relating to a Child Placed in the Legal Custody of a County Department of Social or Human Services, by Rep. Paul Rosenthal and Sen. John Cooke. The bill amends the Colorado Children’s Code to state that a child who is placed in the legal custody of a county department shall be deemed, for the entire period of the placement, to reside in the county in which the child’s legal parent or guardian resides or is located. This applies even if the child physically resides in an out-of-home placement located in another county.
  • HB 16-1327 – Concerning the Colorado Dental Board’s Authority to Promulgate Rules Implementing Financial Responsibility Requirements for Dental Care Providers, by Rep. Joann Ginal and Sen. Kevin Grantham. The bill allows the State Dental Board to establish lesser financial responsibility requirements for professional liability insurance for dental hygienists that meet certain criteria.

Friday, April 22, 2016

  • HB 16-1070 – Concerning a Signature Verification Requirement for Municipal Mail Ballot Elections, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Patrick Neville and Sen. Tim Neville. The bill requires an election judge to compare the signature on each ballot return envelope with the signature of the eligible elector stored in the statewide voter registration system for every municipal mail ballot election.
  • HB 16-1155 – Concerning Authorization for a County to Designate a Four-Lane Controlled-Access Highway that is Located in the County as a Primary Road of the County Highway System, and, in Connection Therewith, Specifying the Jurisdiction, Control, and Duties of the County and of a Municipality Through which the Highway Passes with Respect to Such a Highway, by Reps. Lori Saine & Diane Mitsch Bush and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg. The bill allows a county with a population of 250,000 or more to designate a four-lane, controlled-access county highway in an unincorporated county area that intersects with an interstate highway or a U.S. numbered highway as a primary road of the county if the construction begins in 2016.
  • HB 16-1323 – Concerning Changing the Name of the Division of Labor to the Division of Labor and Statistics, by Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Sen. John Cooke. The bill changes the name of the Division of Labor and Employment within the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) to the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics.
  • HB 16-1350 – Concerning the Department of Higher Education’s Authority to Make Transfers Relating to a Governing Board’s Fee-For-Service Contracts for Specialty Education, by Rep. Dave Young and Sen. Kevin Grantham. Under current law, the Department of Higher Education may transfer up to ten percent of the annual total governing board appropriation for an institution of higher education between that governing board’s appropriation for college opportunity fund (COF) stipends, and that governing board’s fee-for-service (FFS) contracts for higher education services and programs. The bill expands the department’s authority to transfer between the COF and FFS appropriations for specialty education programs.
  • HB 16-1352 – Concerning the Appropriation of Moneys from the State Museum Cash Fund for the Benefit of Facilities Owned and Operated by the State Historical Society, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Millie Hamner and Sen. Kevin Grantham. The bill allows moneys in the fund to also be appropriated for exhibit planning, development, and build-out at other State Historical Society facilities, and, for FY 2016-17, appropriates $2 million from the fund for those purposes. The State Historical Society has four years to spend the appropriation.

For a complete list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2016 legislative decisions, click here.

e-Legislative Report: February 22, 2016

Welcome e-leg report readers to this week’s installment of the world under the Gold Dome. As always, we welcome your feedback, thoughts, comments and questions. This news report is designed to keep you up-to-date on activities at the capitol that are of interest to the bar association and to lawyers across practice areas.

Feel free to drop me a line on how we are doing or raise an issue on a piece of legislation. Contact me at jschupbach@cobar.org.

CBA Legislative Policy Committee

For followers who are new to CBA legislative activity, the Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) is the CBA’s legislative policy making arm during the legislative session. The LPC meets weekly during the legislative session to determine CBA positions from requests from the various sections and committees of the Bar Association. Members are welcome to attend the meetings; please RSVP if you are interested.

LPC Meeting Update

The following bills were discussed by the LPC on 2.19.16. Other bills of interest from that agenda are tracked and updated below.

HB 16-1191 Bill Of Rights For Persons Who Are Homeless
The bill creates the “Colorado Right to Rest Act,” which establishes basic rights for persons experiencing homelessness, including, but not limited to, the right to use and move freely in public spaces without discrimination, to rest in public spaces without discrimination, to eat or accept food in any public space where food is not prohibited, to occupy a legally parked vehicle, and to have a reasonable expectation of privacy of one’s property. The bill does not create an obligation for a provider of services for persons experiencing homelessness to provide shelter or services when none are available.
The LPC considered this bill at the request of the Civil Rights Committee, but took no position on the bill.

HB 16-1110 Parent’s Bill Of Rights
The bill establishes a liberty interest and fundamental right for parents in the care, custody, and control of a parent’s child, restricting governmental entities from infringing on such interests and rights without demonstrating a compelling governmental interest that cannot be accomplished through less restrictive means.
The LPC voted to oppose this bill because it reverses the long-standing policy position of the Colorado Judicial system to act in the best interest of the child.

HB 16-1235 Commissions Evaluating State Judicial Performance
The bill makes revisions to various functions of the state commission on judicial performance (state commission) and the district commissions on judicial performance (district commission), referred to collectively as the “commissions.” The revisions include: changing the makeup of the state commission to include one representative from each judicial district to ensure representation from the entire state; establishing guidelines for when attorneys and nonattorneys are appointed to the state commission by a district commission; not allowing the chief justice to select individuals for the state commission, which reviews the chief justice’s performance; mandating annual public meetings at which the public is invited to attend and confidentially comment on justices and judges; requiring the state commission to obtain and verify required financial disclosures, criminal histories, and driving histories for each justice or judge reviewed by the commissions; requiring judicial evaluations to take place every two years and to be made public at that time; mandating that the commissions make a “do not retain” recommendation when a majority of commissioners determine that it is more probable than not that a justice or judge knowingly committed a dishonest act during the performance of judicial duties, knowingly made inaccurate or insufficient public financial disclosures, or was improperly influenced by a conflict of interest in performing a judicial act; and mandating that the commissions make a “do not retain” recommendation when two-thirds of the attorneys who complete a questionnaire or survey for the commission recommend that the justice or judge not be retained. The bill is funded from any fees and cost recoveries for electronic filings, network access and searches of court databases, electronic searches of court records, and any other information technology services performed pursuant to statute.
The LPC voted to oppose this bill based on the consideration that this is a longstanding and fundamental change that is not in the best interest of the administration of justice in Colorado.

SB 16-085 Uniform Trust Decanting Act
Colorado Commission on Uniform State Laws. “Decanting” is a term used to describe the distribution of assets from one trust into a second trust. The bill enacts the “Colorado Uniform Trust Decanting Act” (Act), which allows a trustee to reform an irrevocable trust document within reasonable limits that ensure the trust will achieve the settlor’s original intent. The Act prevents decanting when it would defeat a charitable or tax-related purpose of the settlor.
The LPC voted to support this Uniform Bill as modified to meet the considerations of Family Law, Trust & Estate and Elder Law sections.

Updates regarding bills the CBA is currently focused on:

SB 16-013 Clean-up Office Of The Child Protection Ombudsman
Senator Newell has pulled the language of concern from the bill.  SB 13 was passed out of committee on Monday.

SB 16-043 Student Loans Consumer Protections
The CBA testified in favor of this bill, at the request of the Colorado Young Lawyers Division. The bill failed to pass out of committee.

SB 16-047 No Detention For Juveniles Who Are Truant
The CBA testified that while detention for truancy is not something the Bar supports as policy, the bill was fundamentally flawed by prohibiting the judicial branch from effecting its own valid orders. Case law from Colorado in the 1990s is directly on point to the Bar’s constitutional concerns.

SB 16-084 Uniform Substitute Health Care Decision-making Documents
The Bar remains neutral on this bill, while the Health Law Section has some concerns and opposition to the language. The bill was heard in committee, but was not voted on. We are waiting for the Senate to take action on the bill.

SB 16-071 Revised Uniform Athlete Agents Act 2015
The CBA has not taken a position on this bill. The Department of Regulatory Affairs has some outstanding concerns that they are addressing with the Uniform Law Commission.

SB 16-088 Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access To Digital Asset
This bill, as amended to accommodate both the Trust & Estate and Business Law Sections, is moving through the legislature as anticipated.

SB 16-115 Electronic Recording Technology Board
The bill, which is supported by the Bar and the Real Estate Section, has passed its first two committee hearings and now heads to Senate Appropriations.

HB 16-1051 Forms To Transfer Vehicle Ownership Upon Death
The CBA is working with the sponsors on some amendments for this bill. The bill is now in its second chamber.

HB 16-1078 Local Government Employee Whistleblower Protection
The CBA is working on this bill, which was amended and is now headed to appropriations in the House.

New Bills of Interest

These are a few new bills recently introduced. They have been sent to CBA sections for review and comment. If you have any questions about these or any other bills, please drop me a line. I’m happy to help you however I can.

HB 16-1270 Security Interest Owner’s Interest In Business Entity
Under current law, the “Uniform Commercial Code” (Code) invalidates contractual limits on the transferability of some assets that can be subject to a security interest. In 2006, the “Colorado Corporations and Associations Act” (Act) was amended to clearly and broadly exempt an owner’s interest in a business entity from these Code provisions to effectuate the “pick your partner” principle that allows small businesses to control their ownership. Section 3 of the bill narrows the exemption in the Act to that necessary for “pick your partner,” and sections 1 and 2 codify this narrowed exemption in the Code.

HB 16-1275 Taxation Of Corporate Income Sheltered In Tax Haven
The bill pertains to an affiliated group of corporations filing a combined report. In a combined report filing, the tax is based on a percentage of the entire taxable income of all of the includable corporations, but the tax is assessed only against the corporation or corporations doing business in Colorado. Including more affiliated corporations in the combined report may result in an increase in income subject to tax. There are jurisdictions located outside of the United States with no tax or very low rates of taxation, strict bank secrecy provisions, a lack of transparency in the operation of their tax system, and a lack of effective exchange of information with other countries. There are several common legal strategies for sheltering corporate income in such jurisdictions, often called “tax havens.” Notwithstanding a current requirement in state law that those corporations with 80% or more of their property and payroll assigned to locations outside of the United States be excluded from a combined report, the bill makes a corporation that is incorporated in a foreign jurisdiction for the purpose of tax avoidance an includable C corporation for purposes of the combined report. The bill defines a corporation incorporated in a foreign jurisdiction for the purpose of tax avoidance to mean any C corporation that is incorporated in a jurisdiction that has no or nominal effective tax on the relevant income and that meets one or more of five factors listed in the bill, unless it is proven to the satisfaction of the executive director of the department of revenue that such corporation is incorporated in that jurisdiction for a legitimate business purpose. The bill requires the state controller to credit a specified amount per fiscal year to the state education fund to be used to help fund public school education. The bill requires the secretary of state to submit a ballot question, to be treated as a proposition, at the statewide election to be held in November 2016 asking the voters to: increase taxes annually by the taxation of a corporation’s state income that is sheltered in a foreign jurisdiction for the purpose of tax avoidance; provide that the resulting tax revenue be used to help fund elementary and secondary public school education; and allow an estimate of the resulting tax revenue to be collected and spent notwithstanding any limitations in section 20 of article X of the state constitution (TABOR).

SB 16-131 Overseeing Fiduciaries’ Management Of Assets
The bill clarifies statutory language concerning the removal of a fiduciary to ensure that a fiduciary’s authority is suspended as soon as a petition to remove the fiduciary is filed. The bill adds a provision to the conservatorship statutes stating that an adult ward or protected person has a right to be represented by a lawyer of their choosing unless the trial court finds that the person lacks sufficient capacity to provide informed consent for representation by a lawyer. The bill states that after a fiduciary receives notice of proceedings for his, her, or its removal, the fiduciary shall not pay compensation or attorney fees and costs from the estate without an order of the court.

SB 16-133 Transfer Of Property Rights At Death
Under current law, a certificate of death, a verification of death document, or a certified copy thereof, of a person who is a joint tenant may be placed of record with the county clerk and recorder of the county in which the real property affected by the joint tenancy is located, together with a supplementary affidavit. The bill removes the requirement that the person who swears to and affirms the supplementary affidavit have no record interest in the real property. The bill includes inherited individual retirement accounts and inherited Roth individual retirement accounts as property exempt from levy and sale under writ of attachment or writ of execution. The bill, which amends provisions concerning determination-of-heirship proceedings, clarifies the definition of “interested person,” so that anyone affected by the ownership of property may commence a proceeding; describes when an unprobated will may be used as part of a proceeding; clarifies notice requirements; and ensures that a judgment and decree will convey legal title as opposed to equitable title. The bill enacts portions of section 5 of the “Uniform Power of Appointment Act,” with amendments.

HB 16-1035: Limiting Public Utility Securities to Electricity or Gas Services

On January 13, 2016, Rep. Jon Keyser introduced HB 16-1035Concerning the Scope of Statutes Making the Issuance of Securities by a Public Utility Conditional on Approval by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and, In Connection Therewith, Clarifying That the Approval Requirement Applies Only to Electric and Gas Utilities. The bill was assigned to the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee.

This bill introduces an amendment to an already existing bill and aims to narrow the statue, requiring advance approval by the public utilities commission for the issuance of securities to fund property acquisitions, facilities, repairs, and other expenditures, to apply only to electric and gas utilities.

The only amendment to C.R.S. § 40-1-104 is the addition of subsection (b) under the rule. Subsection (b) is proposed to read as follows: “The requirements of this section apply only to public utilities providing electricity or gas service.”

Mark Proust is a 2016 J.D. candidate at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Tenth Circuit: Sanctions Against Attorney Affirmed Where He Negligently Disregarded Discovery Obligations

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sun River Energy, Inc. v. Nelson on Wednesday, September 2, 2015.

Attorneys James E. Pennington and Stephen E. Csajaghy were sanctioned for their refusal to disclose insurance coverage during securities litigation involving Sun River. Pennington was in-house counsel for Sun River and Csajaghy was retained to represent the company in the underlying litigation. During the underlying litigation, a magistrate judge set a discovery deadline of April 6, 2011, by which time Sun River was obligated to disclose any insurance coverage. However, no disclosure was made until nearly 18 months later, after repeated requests from opposing counsel, and by the time the policy was disclosed the coverage period had expired. Opposing counsel moved for sanctions against Sun River under Rule 37(b)(2)(A), requesting that Sun River’s claims against defendants be dismissed and entering default judgment for defendants on their counterclaims.

The magistrate judge held an evidentiary hearing, and ultimately recommended that default judgment be entered against Sun River but not approving dismissal. The magistrate judge noted that there was not intentional misrepresentation by Sun River’s attorneys, but neither attorney actually looked at the policy to see if it provided coverage, instead relying on their mistaken beliefs that the policy would not be relevant. Sun River objected to the magistrate judge’s recommendations, and a district judge addressed the contentions at a pretrial hearing. By that time, Csajaghy had withdrawn from the representation and Pennington appeared as counsel of record. The district court decided counsel were culpable for the misrepresentation and should be held personally responsible. The district court ultimately imposed the sanction of opposing counsel’s attorney fees against Pennington and Csajaghy in the amount of $20,435.

Pennington and Csajaghy moved for reconsideration, arguing Rule 37(c) does not allow imposition of sanctions on counsel, counsel acted with substantial justification, any sanction should have been imposed on Sun River, and due process precluded imposition of a sanction against Csajaghy, who had withdrawn before the sanctions were imposed. In response, defendants argued the sanction was not only justified under Rule 37 but under Rule 26(g)(3) and the district court’s inherent power as well, also noting that counsel’s deliberate indifference demonstrated a lack of substantial justification, sanctioning counsel was appropriate, and that both attorneys had been afforded substantial due process in the matter. The district court issued a thorough written decision, granting in part and denying in part the motion for reconsideration. The district court noted that Rule 37(b)(2)(C) authorizes a monetary sanction for failure to obey a discovery order and expressly allowed the attorney advising the party to be sanctioned, finding that since Csajaghy was Sun River’s attorney of record at the time of the discovery violation the sanction against him was appropriate. As to Pennington, since he was not the attorney of record at the time of the discovery violation, the district court held he was not subject to Rule 37(b)(2)(C) sanctions, but became responsible for timely updating discovery responses under Rule 26 when he became attorney of record, and therefore the sanction was justified under Rule 37(c)(1)(A). The attorneys appealed.

The Tenth Circuit began its analysis by examining the sanction against attorney Pennington. The Tenth Circuit noted that the only case law on the subject held that the sanctions were enforceable against parties only, not attorneys. The district court rejected the holding as unpersuasive, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed with the district court’s analysis as overbroad. The Tenth Circuit noted that there was no express textual reference extending the sanction against attorneys, and found that consideration of the relevant text cut against the district court’s analysis. Under the circumstances of this case, the Tenth Circuit found the sanctions against Pennington unwarranted by Rule 37. Turning to defendants’ argument that the sanctions were allowed by the district court’s inherent power, the Tenth Circuit again disagreed, finding that although his failure to disclose was not substantially justified, it was not vexatious, wanton, oppressive, or done in bad faith. The Tenth Circuit reversed the sanction against Pennington.

Turning to attorney Csajaghy, the Tenth Circuit found there was no question that the district court had authority to impose a personal sanction. Csajaghy objected to the sanction, arguing the sanction was not warranted on the facts, sanctioning counsel was inconsistent with the decision not to sanction Sun River, and the procedure through which he was sanctioned violated due process. The Tenth Circuit found no merit to any of his arguments. The Tenth Circuit admonished that, as counsel of record in the litigation, it was irresponsible for Csajaghy to assume that the in-house counsel, Pennington, had reviewed the policy. Even if had known Pennington reviewed the policy, Csajaghy should have conducted an independent review to satisfy his professional obligations. The Tenth Circuit further chastised Csajaghy for assuming the policy would not provide coverage in lieu of exercising critical judgment. The Tenth Circuit also approved of the district court’s decision to sanction Csajaghy while not sanctioning Sun River, because the company reasonably relied on its counsel to provide relevant disclosures and counsel failed to do so. Finally, the Tenth Circuit addressed Csajaghy’s due process arguments, and although it agreed with the district court that the initial order imposing the sanction was procedurally defective, any defect was cured by the subsequent proceedings on the motion for reconsideration.

The Tenth Circuit reversed the sanction against attorney Pennington and affirmed the sanction against attorney Csajaghy.

Top Ten Business Law Programs and Homestudies

The days keep marching forward, and the end of the compliance period looms large for many Colorado attorneys. If you still need some last-minute CLE credits, never fear—we are reviewing the Top Ten Programs and Homestudies in several areas of law. In case you missed it, we previously covered ethics, family law, trust & estate law, real estate law, and litigation. Today’s focus is on business law. Whether advising nonprofits, dealing with securities issues, or representing particular types of businesses, we have programs to fit your needs. Read on for the Top Ten Programs and Homestudies.

10. Banking for Marijuana Businesses. This short program discusses banking issues unique to marijuana businesses, including the Justice Department’s efforts to create guidance for banks that work with marijuana businesses. Learn about potential racketeering issues and potential solutions. One general credit; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

9. Forming and Funding Early Stage Companies. Created for lawyers working with early stage companies, this program covers entity selection, vesting, key agreements, counseling clients on raising money, common securities law exemptions, and more. Two general credits; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

8. Commercial Loan Documents — Important Covenants and Potential Modifications. Loan covenants are an important part of every loan document. This program discusses loan modifications generally sought by lenders and those requested by borrowers. Default is also discussed in this program. One general credit; available as MP3 audio download and Video OnDemand.

7. Boilerplate and Drafting Business Documents — 2014 Business Document Drafting Series. The first in a series of six programs, this program offers practical advice on the perils of using boilerplate in document drafting, including specific examples of drafting issues, the importance of keeping provisions current with the law, the value of silence, and much more. Two general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand. NOTE: This program is Part 1 of a six-part series. Click here for Part 2, click here for Part 3, click here for Part 4, click here for Part 5, and click here for Part 6.

6. Limited Liability Companies in Colorado. Because of the combination of limited liability for all owners of the LLC, pass-through tax treatment, and ease and flexibility in customizing the relationships between the owners, the LLC has been a very popular choice of entity for many types of businesses since the IRS adopted the “check the box” regulations in 1996. This program details advantages and disadvantages of LLCs, litigation issues, estate and tax planning, real estate development, and more. Attendees receive a PDF copy of the CLE book, Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships in ColoradoEight general credits, including one ethics credit; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

5. Buying and Selling a Business. Need to know the ins and outs of buying and selling businesses? This program is for you! It provides practical advice on advising parties in M&A transactions, planning the exit, protecting your client in the sale, professional responsibility and ethics in business transactions, and more. Seven general credits, including one ethics credit; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

4. Closely Held Businesses: Strategies for Tackling Key Issues. Advising closely held businesses requires attorneys to have a wide range of knowledge. This program addresses some of the issues that may arise in advising the closely held business, including family dynamics, the Affordable Care Act and its impact on small businesses, probate of business interests, charitable planning, small business financials and accounting, and securities issues. Seven general credits, including one ethics credit; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand.

3. A Primer on Advising Nonprofit Organizations and 24th Annual Institute on Advising Nonprofit Organizations in Colorado. This annual program provides everything you need to know about advising nonprofits. Topics covered at the primer include formation and governance of nonprofit entities, obtaining and retaining tax-exempt status, operational issues for tax-exempt organizations, and taxation of unrelated business income. The Institute discusses fiduciary duties of for-profit boards, tax-exempt entity types, best practices for employee discipline and termination, volunteers, and more. Primer—four general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand. Institute—seven general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand. NOTE: These programs are repeated annually. Click here for the 2014 programs (Primer/Institute) and click here for the 2013 programs (Primer/Institute).

2. Annual Rocky Mountain Securities Conference. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the CBA Business Law Section, this program is the Rocky Mountain’s premier securities law update presented by the country’s top practitioners. Topics covered in the 2015 Conference included an enforcement update, a view from the defense, a conversation with the Division of Corporate Finance, ethical considerations with the SEC’s whistleblower program, hot topics regarding regulated entities, and much more. Nine general credits; available as CD homestudy, MP3 audio download, and Video OnDemand. NOTE: This program is repeated annually. Click here for the 2014 program and click here for the 2013 program.

1. Annual Business Law Institute. This two-day Institute provides everything you need to know for your business law practice. Get updates on case law and legislation, social responsibility, real world ethical dilemmas, business lawyers’ worst nightmares, forming and funding early stage companies, employment law update, marijuana investments in commercial banking, commercial insurance, and much more. Twenty-seven general credits, including two ethics credits; available as CD homestudy and MP3 audio download. NOTE: This program is repeated annually. Click here for the 2014 program and click here for the 2013 program.

Tenth Circuit: Dismissal Appropriate Where Plaintiffs Failed to Show Scienter

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re ZAGG, Inc. Securities Litigation: Swabb v. ZAGG, Inc. on Tuesday, August 18, 2015.

Robert Pedersen, former CEO and Chair of ZAGG, Inc., pledged nearly half of his shares in ZAGG, Inc., as collateral in a margin account. Pedersen’s pledged shares equaled nearly 9 percent of the company. ZAGG was required by SEC Rule S-K to disclose the amount of shares pledged as security “in a footnote or otherwise” in ZAGG’s Form 10-K, but Pedersen failed to make the required disclosure. In December 2011, ZAGG share prices fell, creating a deficiency in Pedersen’s account, and he was forced to sell 345,200 of his shares to meet the margin call. He mailed a Form 144 to the SEC disclosing the margin call on December 22, 2011, and electronically filed a Form 4 the next day. Pedersen’s account experienced a second margin deficiency in August 2012, and he was forced to sell an additional 515,000 shares. Pedersen filed a Form 4, stating the sale occurred “to meet margin calls.”

On August 17, 2012, ZAGG issued a press release announcing Pedersen was stepping down as Chair and CEO. ZAGG also filed a Form 8-K with the SEC, stating the company had implemented a policy prohibiting officers, directors, and 10 percent shareholders from pledging ZAGG securities on margin. A week later, after Pedersen’s resignation was final, a third margin call resulted in the forced sale of his remaining ZAGG shares. ZAGG held a conference call to reassure investors, and stated that Pedersen’s departure was entirely related to the margin call situation. Pedersen also spoke at the call, telling investors he had taken a step toward building investor confidence by completely deleveraging his ZAGG stock.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint against ZAGG and six individual officers and directors on behalf of a putative class of all people who purchased ZAGG stock during the relevant time period, alleging the company’s filings omitted material information regarding Pedersen’s pledged shares and also that ZAGG failed to disclose a secret succession plan that had been implemented after Pedersen’s first margin call in December 2011. Defendants filed two motions to dismiss, the first by Pedersen and the second by ZAGG and several individual officers and directors. After a hearing on the motions, the court dismissed the complaint with prejudice, finding the § 10(b) and § 14(a) claims failed because they did not allege with particularity facts giving rise to a strong inference Pedersen intended to violate securities laws. Plaintiffs appealed only the dismissal of their §10(b) and Rule 10b-5 claims and only as to Pedersen and ZAGG, and only as to Pedersen’s material omission of his margin account.

The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to meet the heightened pleading requirements applicable to the scienter element in § 10(b) claims. The district court held that plaintiffs proved only one element of scienter—that Pedersen knew of the pledged securities in the margin account. The district court held, and the Tenth Circuit agreed, that the complaint failed to allege any facts showing that Pedersen knew failure to reveal the account would likely mislead investors. Plaintiffs listed five facts they claimed proved scienter: (1) Pedersen made inconsistent statements following the first margin call, (2) Pedersen selectively complied with the Item 403(b) disclosure requirement, (3) Pedersen knew that disclosing his margin account would jeopardize his position at ZAGG, (4) Pedersen was forced to resign because of his margin account, and (5) following Pedersen’s resignation, ZAGG adopted a policy prohibiting holding stock in margin accounts. The Tenth Circuit analyzed each claim.

First, the Tenth Circuit evaluated plaintiffs’ claim that Pedersen’s statements on the Forms 144 and 4 in December 2011 were inconsistent. Pedersen stated on the Form 4 that the sale was made “to meet an immediate financial obligation” and on the Form 144 that the sale was made “to meet margin calls.” The Tenth Circuit found no inconsistency in these two statements, as margin calls could certainly be characterized as immediate financial obligations. Plaintiffs also argued that it was deceptive of Pedersen to mail the Form 144 when he e-filed the Form 4, but the Tenth Circuit noted Pedersen was under no obligation to deliver the forms via the same method.

The Tenth Circuit next addressed plaintiffs’ argument that Pedersen’s failure to disclose his margin account amounted to scienter. Defendants argued that the violation of a rule is not enough to show scienter, and the Tenth Circuit agreed. Without some other facts evidencing Pedersen knowingly omitted the disclosure, the violation alone was not enough. Plaintiffs argued Pedersen failed to disclose the account because he knew it would jeopardize his position at ZAGG, but the Tenth Circuit again found that at most Pedersen’s execution of the certifications supported an inference of negligence.

The Tenth Circuit similarly found that neither Pedersen’s forced resignation nor ZAGG’s implementation of a new policy barring investors from pledging ZAGG shares on margin accounts established an intent to defraud. Rather, the Tenth Circuit found that both the resignation and new policy acknowledged that the company had found a better way to run its business moving forward. The district court found, and the Tenth Circuit agreed, that the complaint failed to allege any facts giving rise to an inference of scienter. Plaintiffs argued that even if the knowing element was not met, the facts showed that Pedersen acted with reckless disregard of a substantial likelihood of misleading investors. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding that plaintiffs failed to overcome the high standard necessary to show recklessness.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.