Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Securities Law
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Doolittle was a registered securities broker/dealer, and a registered investment advisor. He or his corporations held licenses, permits, or certificates to engage in real estate and insurance brokerage and tax preparation. Around 1990 his primary business became “trust deeds investments,” in which he “would arrange groups of investors together to buy those loans or to fund those transactions for different types of individuals and institutional borrowers.” After investors lost money, Doolittle was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison for three counts of theft by false pretenses; six counts of theft from an elder or dependent adult; nine counts of false statements or omissions in the sale of securities; selling unregistered securities; and sale of a security by willful and fraudulent use of a device, scheme, or artifice to defraud The appeals court reversed in part, holding that Doolittle’s challenge that the trial court’s implied finding of timely prosecution was not supported by substantial evidence required remand with respect to two of the charges. A further hearing may be necessary with respect to applicability of a sentence enhancement for aggregate losses over $500,000. Doolittle’s conviction for sale of unregistered securities and sale of securities by means of a fraudulent device did not rest on the same conduct as his convictions for fraud against specific victims; his sentence on the former counts therefore does not offend the proscription against duplicative punishment. View "People v. Doolittle" on Justia Law

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In August 2007, the initial trustee of two family trusts invested millions in the Rockwater American Municipal Fund, LLC (RAM Fund), a hedge fund engaged in municipal arbitrage. The RAM Fund was managed by Rockwater Municipal Advisors, LLC (RMA), its managing member. In November 2007, Charles Fish Investments, Inc. (CFI) transferred its assets to Rockwater CFI, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of RMA, in exchange for a 15 percent interest in RMA. CFI had an option to unwind the transaction, if its interest in RMA did not meet certain benchmark values. The RAM Fund was devastated by the stock market crash and the trust investments were largely wiped out by 2008. CFI exercised its option to unwind the transaction with RMA and Rockwater CFI, LLC, and obtained a return of the assets originally belonging to it. The successor trustee of the trusts sued the RAM Fund, RMA, Bryan Williams (founder of the RAM Fund and the chief executive officer of RMA), John Hapke (the chief financial officer of the RAM Fund), CFI, and Charles Fish (the chairman and chief executive officer of CFI). After it had seen clips from the movie Wall Street 2 (Twentieth Century Fox 2010) and a power point presentation with eight screens captioned "Greed," a jury awarded the successor trustee a $4.6 million judgment against the RAM Fund, RMA, Williams, and Hapke. The successor trustee was unsuccessful in obtaining a judgment against CFI and Fish. The RAM Fund, RMA, Williams, and Hapke, on the other hand, have each filed an appeal claiming the RAM Fund was simply the victim of the market crash. The successor trustee appealed too, seeking to hold liable CFI and Fish, the defendants who "got away." After review, the Supreme Court: reversed the judgment in favor of RAM, RMA and Willians, and affirmed the judgment against CFI and Fish on actual and constructive fraudulent transfer; to the extent the judgment held the Rockwater Defendants and Hapke liable on the causes of action for fraud by intentional misrepresentation, fraud by concealment, and/or negligent misrepresentation, it was reversed. The judgment in favor of CFI and Fish on those causes of action was affirmed. The judgment against the RAM Fund and Hapke for breach of fiduciary duty and professional negligence was reversed. However, the judgment against RMA and Williams on those causes of action was affirmed. The judgment in favor of CFI and Fish on the breach of fiduciary duty cause of action was affirmed. The ruling that CFI was not liable for the debts of RMA was affirmed. The ruling that Fish was not liable for the debts of CFI was moot, and the judgment in favor of CFI on all causes of action is affirmed. View "Hasso v. Hapke" on Justia Law