445 U.S. 222 (1980), 78-1202, Chiarella v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 78-1202
Citation:445 U.S. 222, 100 S.Ct. 1108, 63 L.Ed.2d 348
Party Name:Chiarella v. United States
Case Date:March 18, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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445 U.S. 222 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 1108, 63 L.Ed.2d 348

Chiarella

v.

United States

No. 78-1202

United States Supreme Court

March 18, 1980

Argued November 5, 1979

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 prohibits the use

in connection with the purchase or sale of any security . . . [of] any manipulative or deceptive device or contrivance in contravention of such rules and regulations as the [Securities and Exchange] Commission may prescribe.

Rule 10b-5 of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), promulgated under § 10(b), makes it unlawful for any person to "employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud," or to

engage in any act, practice, or course of business which operates or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any person, in connection with the purchase or sale of any security.

Petitioner, who was employed by a financial printer that had been engaged by certain corporations to print corporate takeover bids, deduced the names of the target companies from information contained in documents delivered to the printer by the acquiring companies and, without disclosing his knowledge, purchased stock in the target companies and sold the shares immediately after the takeover attempts were made public. After the SEC began an investigation of his trading activities, petitioner entered into a consent decree with [100 S.Ct. 1112] the SEC in which he agreed to return his profits to the sellers of the shares. Thereafter, petitioner was indicted and convicted for violating § 10(b) of the Act and SEC Rule 10b-5. The District Court's charge permitted the jury to convict the petitioner if it found that he willfully failed to inform sellers of target company securities that he knew of a forthcoming takeover bid that would make their shares more valuable. Petitioner's conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

Held: Petitioner's conduct did not constitute a violation of § 10(b), and hence his conviction was improper. Pp. 225-237.

(a) Administrative and judicial interpretations have established that silence in connection with the purchase or sale of securities may operate as a fraud actionable under § 10(b) despite the absence of statutory language or legislative history specifically addressing the legality of nondisclosure. However, such liability is premised upon a duty to disclose (such as that of a corporate insider to shareholders of his corporation)

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arising from a relationship of trust and confidence between parties to a transaction. Pp. 225-230.

(b) Here, petitioner had no affirmative duty to disclose the information as to the plans of the acquiring companies. He was not a corporate insider, and he received no confidential information from the target companies. Nor could any duty arise from petitioner's relationship with the sellers of the target companies' securities, for he had no prior dealings with them, was not their agent, was not a fiduciary, and was not a person in whom the sellers had placed their trust and confidence. A duty to disclose under § 10(b) does not arise from the mere possession of nonpublic market information. Pp. 231-235.

(c) This Court need not decide whether petitioner's conviction can be supported on the alternative theory that he breached a duty to the acquiring corporation, since such theory was not submitted to the jury. The jury instructions demonstrate that petitioner was convicted merely because of his failure to disclose material, nonpublic information to sellers from whom he bought the stock of target corporations. The conviction cannot be affirmed on the basis of a theory not presented to the jury. Pp. 235-237.

588 F.2d 1358, reversed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 237. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 238. BURGER, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 239. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 245.

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POWELL, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case is whether a person who learns from the confidential documents of one corporation that it is planning an attempt to secure control of a second corporation violates § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 if he fails to disclose the impending takeover before trading in the target company's securities.

I

Petitioner is a printer by trade. In 1975 and 1976, he worked as a "markup man" in the New York composing room of Pandick Press, a financial printer. Among documents that petitioner handled were five announcements of corporate takeover bids. When these documents were delivered to the printer, the identities of the acquiring and target corporations were concealed by blank spaces or false names. The true names were sent to the printer on the night of the final printing.

The petitioner, however, was able to deduce the names of the target companies before the final printing from other information contained in the documents. Without disclosing his knowledge, petitioner purchased stock in the target companies and sold the shares immediately after the takeover attempts were made public.1 By this method, petitioner realized a gain of [100 S.Ct. 1113] slightly more than $30,000 in the course of 14 months. Subsequently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission or SEC) began an investigation of his trading activities. In May, 1977, petitioner entered into a consent decree with the Commission in which he agreed to return his profits to the sellers of the shares.2 On the same day, he was discharged by Pandick Press.

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In January, 1978, petitioner was indicted on 17 counts of violating § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (1934 Act) and SEC Rule 10b-5.3 After petitioner unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the indictment,4 he was brought to trial and convicted on all counts.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed petitioner's conviction. 588 F.2d 1358 (1978). We granted certiorari, 441 U.S. 942 (1979), and we now reverse.

II

Section 10(b) of the 134 Act, 48 Stat. 891, 15 U.S.C. § 78j, prohibits the use

in connection with the purchase or sale of any security . . . [of] any manipulative or deceptive device or contrivance in contravention of such rules and regulations as the Commission may prescribe.

Pursuant to this section, the SEC promulgated Rule 10b-5, which provides in pertinent part:5

It shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, by the use of any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce, or of the mails or of any facility of any national securities exchange,

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(a) To employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud, [or]

(c) To engage in any act, practice, or course of business which operates or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any person, in connection with the purchase or sale of any security.

17 CFR § 240.10b-5 (1979).

This case concerns the legal effect of the petitioner's silence. The District Court's charge permitted the jury to convict the petitioner if it found that he willfully failed to inform sellers of target company securities that he knew of a forthcoming takeover bid that would make their shares more valuable.6 In order to decide whether silence in such circumstances violates § 10(b), it is necessary to review the language and legislative history of that statute as well as its interpretation by the Commission and the federal courts.

Although the starting point of our inquiry is the language of the statute, Ernst & Ernst v. Hochfelder, 425 U.S. 185, 197 (1976), § 10(b) does not state whether silence may constitute a manipulative or deceptive device. Section 10(b) was designed as a catchall clause to prevent fraudulent practices. 425 U.S. at 202, 206. But neither the legislative history nor the statute itself affords specific guidance for the resolution of this case. When Rule 10b-5 was promulgated in 1942, the SEC did not discuss the possibility [100 S.Ct. 1114] that failure to provide information might run afoul of § 10(b).7

The SEC took an important step in the development of § 10(b) when it held that a broker-dealer and his firm violated that section by selling securities on the basis of undisclosed information obtained from a director of the issuer corporation who was also a registered representative of the brokerage firm. In Cady, Roberts & Co., 40 S.E.C. 907

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(1961), the Commission decided that a corporate insider must abstain from trading in the shares of his corporation unless he has first disclosed all material inside information known to him. The obligation to disclose or abstain derives from

[a]n affirmative duty to disclose material information[, which] has been traditionally imposed on corporate "insiders," particularly officers, directors, or controlling stockholders. We, and the courts have consistently held that insiders must disclose material facts which are known to them by virtue of their position but which are not known to persons with whom they deal and which, if known, would affect their investment judgment.

Id. at 911. The Commission emphasized that the duty arose from (i) the existence of a relationship affording access to inside information intended to be available only for a corporate purpose, and (ii) the unfairness of allowing a corporate insider to take advantage of that information by trading without disclosure. Id. at 912, and n. 15.8

That the relationship between a corporate insider and the stockholders of his corporation gives rise to a disclosure obligation is not a novel twist of the law. At common law, misrepresentation made for the purpose of inducing reliance

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upon the false statement is fraudulent. But one...

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