Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Securities Law
Harry v. Total Gas & Power North America, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed suit for damages resulting from defendants' manipulation of natural gas trading at four regional hubs in the western part of the United States. The Second Circuit held that plaintiffs had Article III standing, but they failed to plausibly allege injury under any of their claims. In this case, plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the Commodities Exchange Act (CEA) because it was not plausible on the record that they were injured by the manipulations West Desk perpetrated. For similar reasons, plaintiffs failed to establish antitrust standing. Accordingly, the court modified the order and judgment to remove the dismissal for lack of standing and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "Harry v. Total Gas & Power North America, Inc." on Justia Law
American Petroleum Institute, et al v. SEC
Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376, the SEC promulgated a rule requiring certain companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments relating to the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals. Petitioners challenged the statute and the regulation, raising constitutional and statutory claims. The court dismissed the petition for review for lack of jurisdiction. Because petitioners have simultaneously filed a complaint in the district court, the court need not consider transferring the petition to that court. Additionally, the court's dismissal of the petition was without prejudice to petitioners' suit in the district court. View "American Petroleum Institute, et al v. SEC" on Justia Law
Sec. & Exch. Comm’n v. First Choice Mgmt Servs., Inc.
In 2000 the SEC charged violation of securities law. The court appointed a receiver to distribute assets among victims of the $31 million fraud. The receiver found that assets had been used to acquire oil and gas leases. SonCo claimed an interest in the leases. In 2010, the district court issued an “agreed order,” requiring SonCo to pay $600,000 for quitclaim assignment of the leases and release of claims in Canadian litigation. Alco operated the wells and had posted a $250,000 cash bond with the Texas Railroad Commission. Alco could get its $250,000 back if replaced by new operator that posted an equivalent bond. The $250,000 had come, in part, from defrauded investors. Alco was incurring environmental liabilities, with little prospect of offsetting revenues. SonCo was to replace Alco, but failed to so, after multiple extensions. The district judge held SonCo in civil contempt, ordered it to return the leases, and allowed the receiver to keep the $600,000. The Seventh Circuit upheld the finding of civil contempt. Following remand, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the sanction; considering additional environmental compliance costs and receivership fees, a plausible estimate of the harm would be $2 million. ”SonCo will be courting additional sanctions, of increasing severity, if it does not desist forthwith from its obstructionist tactics.” View "Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. First Choice Mgmt Servs., Inc." on Justia Law
Bennett v. Durham
Plaintiffs invested in oil-and-gas exploration companies and lost money when the companies’ wells produced little oil or gas. They sued the companies and their officers, claiming violations of state and federal law in selling unregistered securities and in making other material misrepresentations and omissions. They also sued Durham, the lawyer who represented the companies. Durham drafted the documents, including joint-venture agreements and private placement memoranda that provided details about the investment opportunity, and told prospective investors he was available to answer questions. Plaintiffs allege that Durham knew the documents contained material misrepresentations and omissions and that the securities were neither registered nor exempt from registration. District courts ruled in favor of Durham. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Kentucky Securities Act imposes liability on anyone who “offers or sells a security” in violation of its terms and any “agent” of the seller who “materially aids” the sale of securities, defined as someone who “effect[s] or attempt[s] to effect” the sale. Ky. Rev. Stat. 292.480(1),(4); 292.310(1). An attorney who performs ordinary legal work, such as drafting documents, giving advice and answering client questions, is not an “agent” under the Act. View "Bennett v. Durham" on Justia Law
SonCo Holdings, LLC v. Bradley
The SEC filed a complaint. The court appointed a receiver to handle defendants' assets for distribution among victims of the $31 million fraud. Assets included oil and gas leases. SonCo filed a claim. The parties came to terms; the court entered an agreed order that required SonCo to pay $580,000 for assignment of the leases. The wells were unproductive, because of freeze orders entered to prevent dissipation of assets; the lease operator, ALCO, had posted a $250,000 bond with the Texas Railroad Commission. The bond was, in part, from defrauded investors. SonCo was ordered to replace ALCO as operator and to obtain a bond. More than a year later, SonCo had not posted the bond or obtained Commission authorization to operate the wells, but had paid for the assignment. The judge held SonCo in contempt and ordered it to return the leases, allowing the receiver to keep $600,000 that SonCo had paid. SonCo returned the leases. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that SonCo willfully violated the order, but vacated the sanction. The judge on remand may: reimpose the sanction, upon demonstrating that it is a compensatory remedy for civil contempt; impose a different, or no sanction; or proceed under rules governing criminal contempt. View "SonCo Holdings, LLC v. Bradley" on Justia Law
Nolfi v. OH KY Oil Corp.
In addition to about $4 million invested through his family corporation, Nonneman personally invested about $15 million in OKO for domestic oil and gas exploration, although he had no experience in such businesses, was showing signs of dementia, and suffered disabilities. In 2003, Nolfi assumed management of Nonneman’s affairs and it was apparent that the OKO investments would yield no returns. Of 128 wells, only 11 produced oil, and did not produce enough to recoup the investment. Nolfi filed suit in Ohio state court and learned facts that gave rise to federal and state securities claims. He filed in federal court, alleging violations of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and 77l(a)(1); violations of the Ohio Blue Sky laws by the sale of unregistered securities; federal securities fraud; misrepresentation; common law fraud; breach of fiduciary duties; and breach of contract. The cases were consolidated and, after complicated rulings concerning limitations periods, the district court entered judgment for Nonneman. Despite having stated rescissory damages as more than $7 million, the jury only listed an award of $1,777,909 on its verdict form. The court held that plaintiffs had waived their right to challenge the verdict. Sixth Circuit affirmed.View "Nolfi v. OH KY Oil Corp." on Justia Law
Fencorp Co. v. OH KY Oil Corp.
Nonneman, acting through Fencorp, a family investment corporation, invested $3,980,345.50 in OKO for domestic oil and gas exploration, although he had no experience in such businesses, was showing signs of dementia, and suffered disabilities. In 2003, Nolfi assumed management of Nonneman’s affairs and it was apparent that the OKO investments would yield no returns. Of 128 wells, only 11 produced oil, and did not produce enough to recoup the investment. Nolfi filed suit in Ohio state court. During discovery plaintiffs learned facts indicating federal and state securities violations and filed in federal court, alleging violations of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. 77l(a)(1); violations of the Ohio Blue Sky laws by the sale of unregistered securities; federal securities fraud; common law fraud; misrepresentation; breach of fiduciary duties; and breach of contract. After a complicated set of rulings, the district court awarded Fencorp $1,012,835.50, the maximum not barred by the statute of repose. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, upholding rulings concerning the statute of repose, but setting aside the verdict on the state common law fraud claim and directing reinstatement of the verdict on the federal securities claim ($847,858). View "Fencorp Co. v. OH KY Oil Corp." on Justia Law
Reese v. BP Exploration Alaska Inc.
This suit followed BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.'s (BPXA) temporary shut-down of its pipelines and oil production in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, upon its discovery of a leak in a pipeline located in its Prudhoe Bay Eastern Operating Area. Plaintiff, on behalf of a class of purchasers of BP p.l.c. shares, subsequently brought a class action suit against BPXA alleging claims arising under Sections 10(b), 18, and 20(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act (SEC), 15 U.S.C. 78b(b), 78r, and 78t(a), and Rule 10b-5. Both parties appealled in part from the judgment of the district court. The court held that BPXA's breach of a contractual promise of specific future conduct, even though the contract was filed in conjunction with SEC reporting requirements, was not a sufficient foundation for a securities fraud action. The court declined plaintiff's invitation to review other issues that were not certified for interlocutory appeal. In light of the court's conclusion that breached contractual obligations did not constitute misrepresentations by BPXA that were actionable under the securities laws, the court did not reach the issue of scienter. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded.
Pacificorp v. State of Montana, Dept. of Revenue
The Montana Department of Revenue ("Department") appealed a judgment reversing the State Tax Appeal Board's ("STAB") conclusion that the Department had applied a "commonly accepted" method to assess the value of PacificCorp's Montana properties. At issue was whether substantial evidence demonstrated common acceptance of the Department's direct capitalization method that derived earnings-to-price ratios from an industry-wide analysis. Also at issue was whether substantial evidence supported STAB's conclusion that additional obsolescence did not exist to warrant consideration of further adjustments to PacifiCorp's taxable value. The court held that substantial evidence supported the Department's use of earnings-to-price ratios in its direct capitalization approach; that additional depreciation deductions were not warranted; and that the Department did not overvalue PacifiCorp's property. The court also held that MCA 15-8-111(2)(b) did not require the Department to conduct a separate, additional obsolescence study when no evidence suggested that obsolescence existed that has not been accounted for in the taxpayer's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") Form 1 filing. The court further held that STAB correctly determined that the actual $9.4 billion sales price of PacifiCorp verified that the Department's $7.1 billion assessment had not overvalued PacifiCorp's properties.