United States v. O'Hagan
Annotate this Case
521 U.S. 642 (1997)
OCTOBER TERM, 1996
UNITED STATES v. O'HAGAN
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
No. 96-842. Argued April 16, 1997-Decided June 25,1997
After Grand Metropolitan PLC (Grand Met) retained the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney to represent it regarding a potential tender offer for the Pillsbury Company's common stock, respondent O'Hagan, a Dorsey & Whitney partner who did no work on the representation, began purchasing call options for Pillsbury stock, as well as shares of the stock. Following Dorsey & Whitney's withdrawal from the representation, Grand Met publicly announced its tender offer, the price of Pillsbury stock rose dramatically, and O'Hagan sold his call options and stock at a profit of more than $4.3 million. A Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation culminated in a 57-count indictment alleging, inter alia, that O'Hagan defrauded his law firm and its client, Grand Met, by misappropriating for his own trading purposes material, nonpublic information regarding the tender offer. The indictment charged O'Hagan with securities fraud in violation of § lO(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 10b-5, with fraudulent trading in connection with a tender offer in violation of § 14(e) of the Exchange Act and SEC Rule 14e-3(a), and with violations of the federal mail fraud and money laundering statutes. A jury convicted O'Hagan on all counts, and he was sentenced to prison. The Eighth Circuit reversed all of the convictions, holding that § 10(b) and Rule 10b-5liability may not be grounded on the "misappropriation theory" of securities fraud on which the prosecution relied; that Rule 14e-3(a) exceeds the SEC's § 14(e) rulemaking authority because the Rule contains no breach of fiduciary duty requirement; and that the mail fraud and money laundering convictions rested on violations of the securities laws, so could not stand once the securities fraud convictions were reversed.
1. A person who trades in securities for personal profit, using confidential information misappropriated in breach of a fiduciary duty to the source of the information, may be held liable for violating § 10(b) and Rule 10b-5. Pp. 649-666.
(a) Section lO(b) proscribes (1) using any "deceptive device" (2) "in connection with the purchase or sale of any security," in contravention of SEC rules. The Commission adopted Rule 10b-5 pursuant to its § lO(b) rulemaking authority; liability under Rule lOb-5 does not ex-
tend beyond conduct encompassed by § 10(b)'s prohibition. See, e. g., Ernst & Ernst v. Hochfelder, 425 U. S. 185, 214. Under the "traditional" or "classical theory" of insider trading liability, a violation of § lO(b) and Rule lOb-5 occurs when a corporate insider trades in his corporation's securities on the basis of material, confidential information he has obtained by reason of his position. Such trading qualifies as a "deceptive device" because there is a relationship of trust and confidence between the corporation's shareholders and the insider that gives rise to a duty to disclose or abstain from trading. Chiarella v. United States, 445 U. S. 222, 228-229. Under the complementary "misappropriation theory" urged by the Government here, a corporate "outsider" violates § lO(b) and Rule lOb-5 when he misappropriates confidential information for securities trading purposes, in breach of a fiduciary duty owed to the source of the information, rather than to the persons with whom he trades. Pp. 650-653.
(b) Misappropriation, as just defined, is the proper subject of a § lO(b) charge because it meets the statutory requirement that there be "deceptive" conduct "in connection with" a securities transaction. First, misappropriators deal in deception: A fiduciary who pretends loyalty to the principal while secretly converting the principal's information for personal gain dupes or defrauds the principal. A company's confidential information qualifies as property to which the company has a right of exclusive use; the undisclosed misappropriation of such information constitutes fraud akin to embezzlement. Cf. Carpenter v. United States, 484 U. S. 19, 25-27. Deception through nondisclosure is central to liability under the misappropriation theory. The theory is thus consistent with Santa Fe Industries, Inc. v. Green, 430 U. S. 462, 473-476, a decision underscoring that § lO(b) is not an all-purpose breach of fiduciary duty ban, but trains on conduct that is manipulative or deceptive. Conversely, full disclosure forecloses liability: Because the deception essential to the theory involves feigning fidelity to the information's source, if the fiduciary discloses to the source that he plans to trade on the information, there is no "deceptive device" and thus no § lO(b) violation. Second, § 10(b)'s requirement that the misappropriator's deceptive use of information be "in connection with the purchase or sale of [a] security" is satisfied by the misappropriation theory because the fiduciary's fraud is consummated not when he obtains the confidential information, but when, without disclosure to his principal, he uses the information in purchasing or selling securities. The transaction and the breach of duty coincide, even though the person or entity defrauded is not the other party to the trade, but is, instead, the source of the nonpublic information. Because undisclosed trading on the basis of misappropriated, nonpublic information both deceives the source of
Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.