MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
The proxy rules promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 bar the use of proxy statements that are false or misleading with respect to the presentation or omission of material facts. We are called upon to consider the definition of a material fact under those rules, and the appropriateness of resolving the question of materiality by summary judgment in this case.
The dispute in this case centers on the acquisition of petitioner TSC Industries, Inc., by petitioner National Industries, Inc. In February 1969 National acquired 34% of TSC's voting securities by purchase from Charles E. Schmidt and his family. Schmidt, who had been TSC's founder and principal shareholder, promptly resigned along with his son from TSC's board of directors. Thereafter, five National nominees were placed on TSC's board; and Stanley R. Yarmuth, National's president and chief executive officer, became chairman of the TSC board, and Charles F. Simonelli, National's executive vice president, became chairman of the TSC executive committee. On October 16, 1969, the TSC board, with
This is an action brought by respondent Northway, a TSC shareholder, against TSC and National, claiming that their joint proxy statement was incomplete and materially misleading in violation of § 14 (a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 895, 15 U. S. C. § 78n (a),
Northway filed its complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on December 4, 1969, the day before the shareholder meeting on the proposed transaction, but while it requested injunctive relief it never so moved. In 1972 Northway amended its complaint to seek money damages, restitution, and other equitable relief. Shortly thereafter, Northway moved for summary judgment on the issue of TSC's and National's liability. The District Court denied the motion, but granted leave to appeal pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 1292 (b). The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed with the District Court that there existed a genuine issue of fact as to whether National's acquisition of the Schmidt interests in TSC had resulted in a change of control, and that summary judgment was therefore inappropriate on the Rule 14a-3 claim. But the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's denial of summary judgment to Northway on its Rule 14a-9 claims, holding that certain omissions of fact were material as a matter of law. 512 F.2d 324 (1975).
We granted certiorari because the standard applied by the Court of Appeals in resolving the question of materiality appeared to conflict with the standard applied by other Courts of Appeals. 423 U.S. 820 (1975).
As we have noted on more than one occasion, § 14 (a) of the Securities Exchange Act "was intended to promote `the free exercise of the voting rights of stockholders' by ensuring that proxies would be solicited with 'explanation to the stockholder of the real nature of the questions for which authority to cast his vote is sought.' " Mills v. Electric Auto-Lite Co., 396 U.S. 375, 381 (1970), quoting H. R. Rep. No. 1383, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., 14 (1934); S. Rep. No. 792, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., 12 (1934). See also J. I. Case Co. v. Borak, 377 U.S. 426, 431 (1964). In Borak, the Court held that § 14 (a)'s broad remedial purposes required recognition under § 27 of the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U. S. C. § 78aa, of an implied private right of action for violations of the provision. And in Mills, we attempted to clarify to some extent the elements of a private cause of action for violation of § 14 (a). In a suit challenging the sufficiency under § 14 (a) and Rule 14a-9 of a proxy statement soliciting votes in favor of a merger, we held that there was no need to demonstrate that the alleged defect in the proxy statement actually had a decisive effect on the voting. So long as the misstatement or omission was material, the causal relation between violation and injury is sufficiently established, we concluded, if "the proxy solicitation itself . . . was an essential link in the accomplishment of the transaction." 396 U. S., at 385. After Mills, then, the content given to the notion of materiality assumes heightened significance.
The question of materiality, it is universally agreed, is an objective one, involving the significance of an omitted or misrepresented fact to a reasonable investor. Variations in the formulation of a general test of materiality occur in the articulation of just how significant a fact must be or, put another way, how certain it must be that the fact would affect a reasonable investor's judgment.
The Court of Appeals in this case concluded that material facts include "all facts which a reasonable shareholder might consider important." 512 F. 2d, at 330 (emphasis added). This formulation of the test of materiality has been explicitly rejected by at least two courts as setting too low a threshold for the imposition of liability under Rule 14a-9. Gerstle v. Gamble-Skogmo, Inc., 478 F.2d 1281, 1301-1302 (CA2 1973); Smallwood v. Pearl Brewing Co., 489 F.2d 579, 603-604 (CA5 1974). In these cases, panels of the Second and Fifth Circuits opted for the conventional tort test of materiality —whether a reasonable man would attach importance to the fact misrepresented or omitted in determining his course of action. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 538 (2) (a) (Tent. Draft No. 10, Apr. 20, 1964). See also American Law Institute, Federal Securities Code § 256 (a) (Tent. Draft No. 2, 1973).
In arriving at its broad definition of a material fact as one that a reasonable shareholder might consider important, the Court of Appeals in this case relied heavily upon language of this Court in Mills v. Electric Auto-Lite Co., supra. That reliance was misplaced. The Mills Court did characterize a determination of materiality as at least "embod[ying] a conclusion that the
In formulating a standard of materiality under Rule 14a-9, we are guided, of course, by the recognition in Borak and Mills of the Rule's broad remedial purpose. That purpose is not merely to ensure by judicial means that the transaction, when judged by its real terms, is fair and otherwise adequate, but to ensure disclosures by corporate management in order to enable the shareholders to make an informed choice. See Mills, 396 U. S., at 381. As an abstract proposition, the most desirable role for a court in a suit of this sort, coming after the consummation of the proposed transaction, would perhaps be to determine whether in fact the proposal would have been favored by the shareholders and consummated in the absence of any misstatement or omission. But as we recognized in Mills, supra, at 382 n. 5, such matters are not subject to determination with certainty. Doubts as to the critical nature of information misstated or omitted will be commonplace. And particularly in view of the prophylactic purpose of the Rule and the fact that the content of the proxy statement is within management's control, it is appropriate that these doubts be resolved in favor of those the statute is designed to protect. Mills, supra, at 385.
We are aware, however, that the disclosure policy embodied in the proxy regulations is not without limit. See id., at 384. Some information is of such dubious significance that insistence on its disclosure may accomplish more harm than good. The potential liability for a Rule 14a-9 violation can be great indeed, and if the standard of materiality is unnecessarily low, not only may the corporation and its management be subjected to liability for insignificant omissions or misstatements, but also management's fear of exposing itself to substantial liability may cause it simply to bury the shareholders in an avalanche of trivial information—a result that is
The general standard of materiality that we think best comports with the policies of Rule 14a-9 is as follows: An omitted fact is material if there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable shareholder would consider it important in deciding how to vote. This standard is fully consistent with Mills' general description of materiality as a requirement that "the defect have a significant propensity to affect the voting process." It does not require proof of a substantial likelihood that disclosure of the omitted fact would have caused the reasonable investor to change his vote. What the standard does contemplate is a showing of a substantial likelihood that, under all the circumstances, the omitted fact would have assumed actual significance in the deliberations of the reasonable shareholder. Put another way, there must be a substantial likelihood that the disclosure of the omitted fact would have been viewed by the reasonable investor as having significantly altered the "total mix" of information made available.
The issue of materiality may be characterized as a mixed question of law and fact, involving as it does the application of a legal standard to a particular set of facts. In considering whether summary judgment on the issue is appropriate,
The omissions found by the Court of Appeals to have been materially misleading as a matter of law involved two general issues—the degree of National's control over TSC at the time of the proxy solicitation, and the favorability
A. National's Control of TSC
The Court of Appeals concluded that two omitted facts relating to National's potential influence, or control, over the management of TSC were material as a matter of law. First, the proxy statement failed to state that at the time the statement was issued, the chairman of the TSC board of directors was Stanley Yarmuth, National's president and chief executive officer, and the chairman of the TSC executive committee was Charles Simonelli, National's executive vice president. Second, the statement did not disclose that in filing reports required by the SEC, both TSC and National had indicated that National "may be deemed to be a `parent' of TSC as that term is defined in the Rules and Regulations under the Securities Act of 1933." App. 490, 512, 517.
We do not agree that the omission of these facts, when viewed against the disclosures contained in the proxy statement, warrants the entry of summary judgment against TSC and National on this record. Our conclusion is the same whether the omissions are considered separately or together.
The proxy statement prominently displayed the facts that National owned 34% of the outstanding shares in TSC, and that no other person owned more than 10%. App. 262-263, 267. It also prominently revealed that 5 out of 10 TSC directors were National nominees, and it recited the positions of those National nominees with National—indicating, among other things, that Stanley Yarmuth was president and a director of National, and that Charles Simonelli was executive vice president and a director of National. Id., at 267. These disclosures clearly revealed the nature of National's relationship with TSC and alerted the reasonable shareholder to the fact that National exercised a degree of influence over TSC. In view of these disclosures, we certainly cannot
Nor can we say that it was materially misleading as a matter of law for TSC and National to have omitted reference to SEC filings indicating that National "may be deemed to be a parent of TSC." As we have already noted, both the District Court and the Court of Appeals concluded, in denying summary judgment on the Rule 14a-3 claim, that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether National actually controlled TSC at the time of the proxy solicitation. We must assume for present purposes, then, that National did not control TSC. On that assumption, TSC and National obviously had no duty to state without qualification that control did exist. If the proxy statements were to disclose the conclusory statements in the SEC filings that National "may be deemed to be a parent of TSC," then it would have been appropriate, if not necessary, for the statement to have included a disclaimer of National control over TSC or a disclaimer of knowledge as to whether National controlled TSC.
The Court of Appeals also found that the failure to disclose two sets of facts rendered the proxy statement materially deficient in its presentation of the favorability of the terms of the proposed transaction to TSC shareholders. The first omission was of information, described by the Court of Appeals as "bad news" for TSC shareholders, contained in a letter from an investment banking firm whose earlier favorable opinion of the fairness of the proposed transaction was reported in the proxy statement. The second omission related to purchases of National common stock by National and by Madison Fund, Inc., a large mutual fund, during the two years prior to the issuance of the proxy statement.
The proxy statement revealed that the investment banking firm of Hornblower & Weeks-Hemphill, Noyes had rendered a favorable opinion on the fairness to TSC shareholders of the terms for the exchange of TSC shares for National securities. In that opinion, the proxy statement explained, the firm had considered, "among other
The Court of Appeals focused upon the reference to the "substantial premium over current market values represented by the securities being offered to TSC stockholders," and noted that any TSC shareholder could calculate the apparent premium by reference to the table of current market prices that appeared four pages later in the proxy statement. Id., at 271. On the basis of the recited closing prices for November 7, 1969, five days before the issuance of the proxy statement, the apparent premiums were as follows. Each share of TSC Series 1 preferred, which closed at $12, would bring National Series B preferred stock and National warrants worth $15.23—for a premium of $3.23, or 27% of the market value of the TSC Series 1 preferred. Each share of TSC common stock, which closed at $13.25, would bring National Series B preferred stock and National warrants worth $16.19—for a premium of $2.94, or 22% of the market value of TSC common.
It would appear, however, that the subsequent communication from the Hornblower firm, which the Court of Appeals felt contained "bad news," contained nothing new at all. At the TSC board of directors meeting held on October 16, 1969, the date of the initial Hornblower opinion letter, Blancke Noyes, a TSC director and a partner in the Hornblower firm, had pointed out the likelihood of a decline in the market price of National warrants with the issuance of the additional warrants involved in the exchange, and reaffirmed his conclusion that the exchange offer was a fair one nevertheless. The subsequent Hornblower letter, signed by Mr. Noyes, purported merely to explain the basis of the calculations underlying the favorable opinion rendered in the October
The real question, though, is not whether the subsequent Hornblower letter contained anything that altered the Hornblower opinion in any way. It is, rather,
TSC and National insist that the reference to a substantial premium required no clarification or supplementation, for the reason that there was a substantial premium even if the National warrants are assumed to have been worth $3.50. In reaching the contrary conclusion, the Court of Appeals, they contend, ignored the rise in price of TSC securities between early October 1969, when the exchange ratio was set, and November 7, 1969—a rise in price that they suggest was a result of the favorable exchange ratio's becoming public knowledge. When the proxy statement was mailed, TSC and National contend, the market price of TSC securities already reflected a portion of the premium to which Hornblower had referred in rendering its favorable opinion of the terms of exchange. Thus, they note that Hornblower assessed the fairness of the proposed transaction by reference to early October market prices of TSC preferred, TSC common, and National preferred. On the basis of those prices and a $3.50 value for the National warrants involved in the exchange, TSC and National contend that the premium was substantial.
There remains the possibility, however, that although TSC and National may be correct in urging the existence of a substantial premium based upon a $3.50 value for the National warrants and the early October market prices of the other securities involved in the transaction, the proxy statement misled the TSC shareholder to calculate a premium substantially in excess of that premium. The premiums apparent from early October
The final omission that concerns us relates to purchases of National common stock by National and by Madison Fund, Inc., a mutual fund. Northway notes that National's board chairman was a director of Madison, and that Madison's president and chief executive, Edward Merkle, was employed by National pursuant to an agreement obligating him to provide at least one day per month for such duties as National might request.
Before the District Court, Northway attempted to demonstrate that the National and Madison purchases were coordinated. The District Court concluded, however, that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether there was coordination. Finding that a showing of coordination was essential to Northway's theory, the District Court denied summary judgment.
The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that "collusion is not conclusively established." 512 F. 2d, at 336. But observing that "it is certainly suggested," ibid., the court concluded that the failure to disclose the
In short, while the Court of Appeals viewed the purchases as significant only insofar as they suggested manipulation of the price of National securities, and acknowledged the existence of a genuine issue of fact as to whether there was any manipulation, the court nevertheless required disclosure to enable the shareholders to decide whether there was manipulation or not.
The Court of Appeals' approach would sanction the imposition of civil liability on a theory that undisclosed information may suggest the existence of market manipulation, even if the responsible corporate officials knew that there was in fact no market manipulation. We do not agree that Rule 14a-9 requires such a result. Rule 14a-9 is concerned only with whether a proxy statement is misleading with respect to its presentation of material facts. If, as we must assume on a motion for summary judgment, there was no collusion or manipulation whatsoever in the National and Madison purchases—that is, if the purchases were made wholly independently for proper corporate and investment purposes, then by Northway's implicit acknowledgment they had no bearing
That is not to say, of course, that the SEC could not enact a rule specifically requiring the disclosure of purchases such as were involved in this case, without regard to whether the purchases can be shown to have been collusive or manipulative. We simply hold that if liability is to be imposed in this case upon a theory that it was misleading to fail to disclose purchases suggestive of market manipulation, there must be some showing that there was in fact market manipulation.
In summary, none of the omissions claimed to have been in violation of Rule 14a-9 were, so far as the record reveals, materially misleading as a matter of law, and Northway was not entitled to partial summary judgment.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
"It shall be unlawful for any person, by the use of the mails or by any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce or of any facility of a national securities exchange or otherwise, in contravention of such rules and regulations as the Commission may prescribe as necessary or appropriate in the public interest or for the protection of investors, to solicit or to permit the use of his name to solicit any proxy or consent or authorization in respect of any security (other than an exempted security) registered pursuant to section 78l of this title."
"No solicitation subject to this regulation shall be made unless each person solicited is concurrently furnished or has previously been furnished with a written proxy statement containing the information specified in Schedule 14A."
Schedule 14A, Item 5 (e), requires:
"If to the knowledge of the persons on whose behalf the solicitation is made a change in control of the issuer has occurred since the beginning of its last fiscal year, state the name of the person or persons who acquired such control, the basis of such control, the date and a description of the transaction or transactions in which control was acquired and the percentage of voting securities of the issuer now owned by such person or persons." 17 CFR § 240.14a-101, Item 5 (e) (1975).
"No solicitation subject to this regulation shall be made by means of any proxy statement, form of proxy, notice of meeting or other communication, written or oral, containing any statement which, at the time and in the light of the circumstances under which it is made, is false or misleading with respect to any material fact, or which omits to state any material fact necessary in order to make the statements therein not false or misleading or necessary to correct any statement in any earlier communication with respect to the solicitation of a proxy for the same meeting or subject matter which has become false or misleading."
"Unless the context otherwise requires, the following terms, when used in the rules contained in this regulation or in Regulation 13A or 15D or in the forms for statements and reports filed pursuant to sections 12, 13 or 15 (d) of the [Securities Exchange] Act, shall have the respective meanings indicated in this rule:
"(a) Affiliate. An `affiliate' of, or a person `affiliated' with, a specified person, is a person that directly, or indirectly through one or more intermediaries, controls, or is controlled by, or is under common control with, the person specified.
"(f) Control. The term `control' (including the terms `controlling,' `controlled by' and `under common control with') means the possession, directly or indirectly, of the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of a person, whether through the ownership of voting securities, by contract, or otherwise.
"(k) Parent. A `parent' of a specified person is an affiliate controlling such person directly, or indirectly through one or more intermediaries."
The Rules and Regulations under the Securities Act of 1933 contain the identical definitions. 17 CFR §§ 230.405 (a), (f), (n) (1975).
TSC Preferred TSC Common National B pfd. at (16 5/8) ..... $9.98 (.6 sh.) $8.31 (.5 sh.) National warrant (at 5 1/4) ..... 5.25 7.88 (1 1/2 war.) ______ ______ Total .................... $15.23 $16.19 Less TSC market (pfd. 12) com. 13 1/4) .................. 12.00 13.25 ______ ______ Premium ................... 3.23 2.94 Premium expressed as a percentage of TSC market ... 27% 22%
"You have asked for our opinion as to the value of warrants to be issued in connection with your proposed acquisition of TSC Industries. We understand that these warrants have terms identical to the National Industries (NII) warrants listed on the American Stock Exchange which allow the holder to purchase one NII Common at the price of $21.40 until October 31, 1978. We further understand that you desire our determination as of October 9, 1969.
"Our evaluation of these warrants was made from the point of view of the stockholders of TSC Industries, of which I am a director. In advising TSC as to the fairness of the offer from NII it was necessary to determine whether the value of the warrants was reflected by the market price of the outstanding 487,000 warrants on the day in question. We did so in the light of the fact that approximately 2.6 million additional warrants would be issued in connection with the acquisition.
"After studying price relationships of other warrants traded publicly, referring to customary systems of warrant evaluation, and considering the particulars of the proposed acquisition, we concluded that the warrants in question had a value of approximately $3.50.
"If you have any questions concerning our evaluation, please feel free to call." App. 519.
TSC Preferred TSC Common National B pfd. (at 16) ..... $9.60 (.6 sh.) $8.00 (.5 sh.) National warrant (at 3.50). 3.50 5.25 (1 1/2 war.) ______ ______ Total .................. $13.10 $13.25 Less TSC market (pfd. 11) (com. 11 5/8).............. 11.00 11.63 ______ ______ Premium ............... 2.10 1.62 Premium expressed as a percentage of TSC market. 19% 14%