Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals

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This case arose when plaintiff filed an employment discrimination suit against his employer, Wal-mart. Plaintiff's attorney represented to the court that plaintiff had pled a gender discrimination claim when he had not. The district court subsequently reprimanded the attorney and imposed Rule 11 sanctions on her. The attorney appealed. The court concluded that the district court did not apply the correct legal standard where the district court's analysis indicated that it was applying an objective reasonableness test. Under the proper standard, pursuant to In re Pennie & Edmonds LLP, sua sponte sanctions should issue only upon a finding of subjective bad faith. Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated the district court's judgment. View "Muhammad v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P." on Justia Law

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These appeals arose out of LJL's exercise of its contractual option to purchase Pitcairn's ownership stake in a jointly owned high-rise luxury residential building in New York City, after which the parties pursued an arbitration to determine the value of the property. Both parties subsequently appealed from the district court's judgment. In LJL's appeal, the court agreed with its contention that the arbitrator's exclusion of Pitcairn's hearsay exhibits was within the arbitrator's authorized discretion and, therefore, vacated the district court's order overturning the arbitrator's determination of the Stated Value. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that the arbitrator acted in accordance with the terms of the arbitration agreement in refusing to determine the Purchase Price and, therefore, remanded with instructions to confirm the arbitration award in its entirety. In Pitcairn's appeal, the court found no error in the district court's dismissal of Pitcairn's claims for breach of fiduciary duties and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "LJL 33rd Street Associates, LLC v. Pitcairn Properties Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action seeking to hold ProShares liable for material omissions and misrepresentations in the prospectuses for certain exchange-traded funds (ETFs) under the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. 77k and 77o. Plaintiffs alleged that registration of statements omitted the risk that the ETFs, when held for a period of greater than one day, could lose substantial value in a relatively brief period of time, particularly in periods of high volatility. The district court concluded that the disclosures at issue accurately conveyed the specific risk that plaintiffs asserted materialized. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that the relevant prospectuses adequately warned the reasonable investor of the allegedly omitted risks. View "In Re: ProShares Trust Sec. Litig." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former Lehman employees, filed suit alleging that defendants, members of the Benefits Committee, and the company's Directors, breached their duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. In regards to plaintiffs' claims that the Benefits Committee Defendants breached their duty of prudence in managing the company's employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), the court concluded that plaintiffs have not rebutted the Moench v. Robertson presumption because they failed to allege facts sufficient to show that the Benefits Committee Defendants knew or should have known that Lehman was in a "dire situation" based on information that was publicly available during the class period. In regards to plaintiffs' claims that the Benefits Committee Defendants breached their duty of disclosure, the publicly-known information available to defendants did not give rise to an independent duty to investigate Lehman's SEC filings prior to incorporating their content into a summary plan description issued to plan-participants. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' remaining claims. View "In Re: Lehman Bros. ERISA Litig." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed from the district court's dismissal of his amended complaint, which alleged that FXDD engaged in dishonest and deceptive practices in managing its online foreign exchange trading platform in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), and New York General Business Law 349(h), and 350. Plaintiff also alleged breach of contract and of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court concluded that, at this stage, some part of the underlying transaction occurred in New York State, giving plaintiff statutory standing to sue for deceptive practices and false advertising under sections 349 and 350; because the complaint alleged that FXDD failed to act in good faith and intentionally delayed trades or caused them to fail in order to enrich itself at the expense of its customers, these practices were incompatible with a promise to execute orders on a best-efforts basis and, therefore, the court vacated the dismissal of the breach of contract claim; and the court affirmed the judgment of the district court as to the RICO claim and the claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Cruz v. FXDirectDealer, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed from the district court's judgment dismissing her claims against her ex-husband and his brother for failure to state a claim and untimeliness. Plaintiff alleged that, in representing a certain investment as worthless and concealing the $5.5 million received on its account, defendants conspired in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962(d), committed common law fraud, and breached fiduciary duties, and that her ex-husband was unjustly enriched. The court held that the district court's reasons for dismissing the fraud-based claims were erroneous and that the district court erred in ruling on the existing record that the RICO, common law fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty claims were time-barred. The court sustained the dismissal of the unjust enrichment claim as untimely. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part. View "Cohen v. Cohen" on Justia Law

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Saint Vincent's alleged that Morgan Stanley - the fiduciary manager of the fixed-income portfolio of Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers Retirement Plan - violated its fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Saint Vincent's alleged that Morgan Stanley disproportionately invested the portfolio's assets in mortgaged-backed securities, including the purportedly riskier subcategory of "nonagency" mortgage-backed securities, despite warning signs that these investments were unsound. Although Saint Vincent's, as the fiduciary administrator of an ERISA-governed plan, was in a position to plead its claims with greater factual detail than was typically accessible to plaintiffs prior to discovery, and although it received two opportunities to amend its complaint, the Amended Complaint failed to plead sufficient, nonconclusory factual allegations to show that Morgan Stanley failed to meet its fiduciary responsibilities under ERISA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Amended Complaint. View "Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. Morgan Stanley Inv. Mgmt. Inc." on Justia Law

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Robert G. Smith, an Assistant Federal Defender for the Western District of New York, moved to withdraw from representing defendant in a criminal action pending in the district court. In this interlocutory appeal, Smith challenged the denial of his motion. The court did not reach the merits of Smith's argument based on his professional responsibility as an attorney because the court concluded on other grounds that the denial of the motion exceeded the limits of the district court's discretion. Defendant, having been informed of his right to counsel, stated that he did not wish to have appointed counsel, made no attempt to establish financial eligibility for appointed counsel under the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 (CJA), 18 U.S.C. 3006A, and refused to recognize Smith as his attorney. Under these circumstances, Smith's appointment was improper from the outset, and he could not be required to continue serving as defendant's attorney. View "United States v. Barton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his complaint against the Guthrie Defendants. Plaintiff's principal issue on appeal required the court to consider whether the unauthorized disclosure of confidential medical information by a medical corporation's employee gives a plaintiff a right of action for breach of fiduciary duty under New York law that runs directly against the corporation, even when the corporation's employee acted outside the scope of her employment and is not plaintiff's treating physician. Plaintiff's appeal presented a question that has not been resolved by the New York Court of Appeals. Accordingly, the court deferred decision and certified the question to the New York Court of Appeals. The court disposed of plaintiff's remaining claims on appeal in a separate summary order filed simultaneously with this opinion. View "Doe v. Guthrie Clinic, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a putative class action on behalf of current and former UBS and UBSFS employees, alleging that defendants violated various fiduciary duties imposed on them by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Plaintiffs argued that the district court erred in analyzing their claim for breach of the duty of prudence, as it applied a presumption of prudence to the fiduciaries of both investment plans at issue. The court held that the district court wrongly applied the presumption as to one of the two plans, the Savings and Investment Plan (SIP), as the SIP Plan Document neither required nor strongly encouraged investment in UBS stock or the UBS Stock Fund. The court held, however, that the District Court correctly applied the presumption of prudence as to the second plan, the Plus Plan, which required plan fiduciaries to invest in the UBS Stock Fund. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal order of the district court in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. Plaintiffs' remaining arguments were addressed in a companion Summary Order. View "Taveras v. UBS AG et al." on Justia Law