POPE INVESTMENTS II, LLC v. DEHENG LAW FIRM
United States District Court, S.D. New York.
August 15, 2012.
In Absolute Activist Value Master Fund Ltd. v. Ficeto, 677 F.3d 60, 67-68 (2d Cir. 2012), the Court of Appeals set forth a test for determining where a securities transaction occurs when plaintiffs do not allege that the securities were purchased on a domestic exchange: Our decision in Radiation Dynamics, Inc. v. Goldmuntz, 464 F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1972) also lends support to the notion that a securities transaction occurs when the parties incur irrevocable liability. In that case, we held that in the context of a civil trial brought pursuant to Rule 10b-5, the district court correctly instructed the jury that "the time of a "purchase or sale' of securities within the meaning of Rule 10b-5 is to be determined as the time when the parties to the transaction are committed to one another." Id. at 891. Commitment' is a simple and direct way of designating the point at which, in the classic contractual sense, there was a meeting of the minds of the parties; it marks the point at which the parties obligated themselves to perform what they had agreed to perform even if the formal performance of their agreement is to be after a lapse of time." Id.
Given that the point at which the parties become irrevocably bound is used to determine the timing of a purchase and sale, we similarly hold that the point of irrevocable liability can be used to determine the locus of a securities purchase or sale. Thus, in order to adequately allege the existence of a domestic transaction, it is sufficient for a plaintiff to allege facts leading to the plausible inference that the parties incurred irrevocable liability within the United States: that is, that the purchaser incurred irrevocable liability within the United States to take and pay for a security, or that the seller incurred irrevocable liability within the United States to deliver a security.
The court did "not believe this is the only way to locate a securities transaction," and held that "a sale of securities can be understood to take place at the location in which title is transferred." Absolute Activist, 677 F. 3d at 68. "Accordingly, to sufficiently allege a domestic securities transaction in securities not listed on a domestic exchange, we hold that a plaintiff must allege facts suggesting that irrevocable liability was incurred or title was transferred within the United States." Id.
In this case, plaintiffs allege that the AAXT Investors "collectively invested approximately $12.5 million in AAXT pursuant to a Securities Purchase Agreement dated April 14, 2008 in exchange for 4,008,188 shares of AAXT's Series A Senior Convertible Preferred Stock." Second Am. Compl. ¶ 19.
Plaintiffs do not allege facts creating a plausible inference that the AAXT Investors incurred irrevocable liability to purchase the shares within the United States: they allege that Deheng drafted the Securities Purchase Agreement, presumably in China, and they do not allege where that agreement was negotiated or signed. The Court therefore cannot determine from the allegations where a "commitment" or "meeting of the minds" occurred.
By arguing that section 10(b) applies to their claims because the securities transactions involved domestic purchasers and sellers, plaintiffs ask the Court to look to where the effects of that transaction will be felt rather than to where the transaction occurred. That would require application of the "effects" test, which the Supreme Court has rejected. See Morrison, 130 S. Ct. at 2881. Thus, "a party's residency or citizenship is irrelevant to the location of a given transaction." Absolute Activist, 677 F.3d at 70.