552 F.3d 568 (7th Cir. 2009), 08-1327, Stark Trading v. Falconbridge Ltd.

Docket Nº:08-1327.
Citation:552 F.3d 568
Party Name:STARK TRADING and Shepherd Investments International Ltd., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. FALCONBRIDGE LIMITED and Brascan Corporation, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:January 05, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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552 F.3d 568 (7th Cir. 2009)

STARK TRADING and Shepherd Investments International Ltd., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

FALCONBRIDGE LIMITED and Brascan Corporation, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 08-1327.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

January 5, 2009

Argued Sept. 8, 2008.

Page 569

Christopher J. Barber (argued), Peter J. Meyer, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Gregory A. Markel (argued), Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Joseph S. Allerhand (argued), Weil, Gotshal & Manges, New York, N.Y., Christopher J. Barber, Chicago, IL, William J. Mulligan, Davis & Kuelthau, Milwaukee, WI, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before POSNER, KANNE, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

POSNER, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiffs have appealed from the dismissal, for failure to state a claim, of their securities fraud suit. The suit is based primarily on the Securities and Exchange Commission's Rule 10b-5. The claims they make under other provisions of federal securities law-all but section 11 of the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 77k, which we discuss at the end of this opinion-fall with the 10b-5 claim.

The parties have spent too much time in this court, as they did in the district court, arguing over whether the typically Brobdingnagian complaint (289 paragraphs sprawling over 85 pages) adequately alleges scienter, as required by 15 U.S.C. § 78u-4(b)(2). (The suit is more than three years old, yet it has not progressed beyond the motion to dismiss stage.) A claim of fraud fails if there is no proof that the plaintiff relied to his detriment on the defendant's misrepresentations or misleading omissions. Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 341-42, 125 S.Ct. 1627, 161 L.Ed.2d 577 (2005); Central Bank of Denver, N.A. v. First Interstate Bank of Denver, N.A., 511 U.S. 164, 180, 114 S.Ct. 1439, 128 L.Ed.2d 119 (1994); Isquith v. Caremark Int'l, Inc., 136 F.3d 531, 534, 536 (7th Cir.1998). " [W]ithout reliance, fraud is harmless." Dexter Corp. v. Whittaker Corp., 926 F.2d 617, 619 (7th Cir.1991). So implausible is an inference of reliance from the complaint in this case when read in conjunction with documents of which the court can take judicial notice, Deicher v. City of Evansville, 545 F.3d 537, 541-42 (7th Cir.2008); Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1278 (11th Cir.1999), that the dismissal of the 10b-5 claim must be affirmed without regard to

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scienter or the other issues that the parties have spent years jousting over.

The complaint tells the following story. Brascan Asset Management, Inc. (now called Brascan Corporation) owned 41 percent of the common stock of Noranda, Inc., which in turn owned 59 percent of Falconbridge, Inc., both being large Canadian mining companies. Brascan wanted to get out of Noranda. It was able to cause Noranda to offer Noranda's common stockholders, who of course included Brascan, preferred stock in exchange for their common stock. (That is called an issuer bid.) Noranda agreed to redeem the preferred stock for cash, at a price of $25 a share, which exceeded the current market value of the common stock. By redeeming, Brascan would be able to exchange its shares for cash and thus achieve its objective of getting out of Noranda. Why it didn't cause Noranda simply to offer $25 per share to all the common stockholders, thus cutting out the intermediate swap of common for preferred, is not explained, but probably was connected with the next and critical transaction, for which Noranda needed a lot of its common stock.

For on the same day that it announced the issuer bid (March 9, 2005), Noranda also announced that it would offer every minority shareholder in Falconbridge 1.77 shares of Noranda common stock for each share of Falconbridge common stock that the shareholder tendered. The offer was conditioned on being accepted by more than half the minority shareholders (the half being weighted of course by number of shares).

The offer succeeded, and the two hedge funds that are the plaintiffs in this case were among the minority shareholders who tendered their stock by the expiration date, May 5. Three months later, Noranda and Falconbridge merged. The resulting firm was named Falconbridge Limited, and was eventually acquired by a Swiss mining company named Xstrata. But in October 2005, before that acquisition, another mining company, Inco, offered to buy Falconbridge Limited at a price substantially above the tender-offer price (1.77 shares of Noranda common stock for every share of Falconbridge common stock) that the plaintiffs had received for their Falconbridge stock.

The plaintiffs had begun buying that stock on March 17; they do not say when they stopped, except that it had to be before the May 5 deadline for tendering. They had bought into Falconbridge because they thought the company was worth more than its current capitalization by the stock market. At the same time that they had bought Falconbridge shares they had sold some Noranda stock short, apparently as a hedge. According to the complaint, Falconbridge was Noranda's major asset (how major, no one has bothered to tell us), so if its shares fell in value or even just failed to rise Noranda's share price would probably fall and the plaintiffs would obtain some profits from their short sales to offset the lack of profit from being long in Falconbridge. By the same token, if Falconbridge's stock rose in price Noranda's stock price probably would rise too and if it did the plaintiffs would lose money from their short sale. But they thought Falconbridge stock more likely to rise, and so invested much less in selling stock in Noranda short than in buying stock in Falconbridge.

Brascan states in its brief that the plaintiffs hoped to make money both from Falconbridge's stock price rising and Noranda's falling. That's a misunderstanding of hedging. The prices of the two companies were going to move in the same direction, but by going long in one and short in the other the plaintiffs were reducing the variance in the expected return on their investments.

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That is what hedging means. But this is an aside.

In a typical Rule 10b-5 case, the plaintiff buys stock at a price that he claims was inflated by misrepresentations by the corporation's management and sells his stock at a loss when the truth comes out and the price plummets. Our plaintiffs believed they were buying an undervalued stock, and events after their purchase, culminating in Xstrata's purchase of Falconbridge Limited (Falconbridge's successor) at a high price, proved them correct. They do argue that the issuer bid (the offer to swap preferred stock in Noranda for common stock) inflated the apparent value of Noranda stock, and therefore made...

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