August 09, 2017
On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court decided California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities. Between 2007 and 2008, Lehman Brothers Holdings raised capital through a number of public securities offerings. California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) purchased some of these securities. In 2008, a putative class action alleging federal securities law violations was filed against respondents--various financial firms involved in underwriting the offerings--in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Because the complaint was filed on behalf of all persons who purchased the identified securities, petitioner CalPERS fell within the putative class. In 2011, however, CalPERS filed a separate action, alleging identical violations against respondent firms in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. That suit was then transferred and consolidated with other related litigation in the Southern District of New York. The New York class action then settled, but CalPERS opted out of the settlement. Respondents thereafter moved to dismiss CalPERS’ separate suit based on Securities Act language providing that “[i]n no event shall any such action be brought … more than three years after the security was bona fide offered to the public,” the CalPERS suit having fallen outside the three-year limit. CalPERS argued that the time limit was equitably tolled during the pendency of the class action, but the district court rejected the claim and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed.
By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Second Circuit. In an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court held that CalPERS’ untimely filing of its individual complaint more than three years after the relevant securities offering was grounds for dismissal. The three-year limitation in the Securities Act, the Court indicated, is a “statute of repose” and therefore not subject to equitable tolling. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined.
And now, to discuss the case, we have Mark Chenoweth, who is General Counsel for the Washington Legal Foundation.