Shareholders of mutual funds Janus Capital Group may not pursue a class action claim that the company violated federal securities laws by permitting hedge funds to engage in market timing with the shares of mutual funds operated by Janus, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled.
In recent years, the U.S. Congress has been persuaded to limit class actions involving securities only to claims under federal securities laws. Meanwhile, federal securities claims are limited to misrepresentations and omissions in the purchase and sale of securities and do not, for example, include claims for actions which are simply fraudulent or negligent. Furthermore, courts have decided that no one can be held liable for assisting, or “aiding or abetting”, others in violating federal securities law. Such limitations enabled Janus avoid its responsibility and have the class action against it dismissed.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs, purchasers of Janus Group stock, alleged that the Janus Funds misstated in their fund prospectuses their policies regarding market timing and late trading.
Specifically, the prospectuses said the funds were “not intended for market timing or excessive trading” and that measures were in place to stop such practices.
The plaintiffs then claimed that in fact the mutual funds permitted several hedge funds to engage in market timing transactions. The plaintiffs further claimed that the price of Janus Group stock declined significantly after such practices were revealed to the public and investors began to withdraw money from the funds. T
In dismissing the “parent investor class action” filed under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5, the federal judge also that, since the shareholders were unable to sufficiently allege that Janus Capital Management -which manages the Janus Funds– or made a false statement of material fact in connection with the shareholders’ purchase or sale of a security that those claims should also be dismissed.
The judge further decided that, since the Janus Group did not actually make or prepare the prospectuses, or create the statements included in them, it
could not be held liable for fraud. Although the plaintiffs argued that
the fact that the prospectuses included Janus’s logo, name, and Web site should make Janus Group liable for the allegedly misleading statements, the court said that such a proposition is “far from self-evident, and plaintiffs cite no authority in support of it.”
The court also rejected the contention that the funds’ dissemination of the prospectuses was sufficient to hold Janus Group liable for the misstatements, since it could not be held liable for aiding and abetting the fraud, for the reasons stated above, stating that courts have already “simply rejected the proposition that dissemination of a misleading document is tantamount to making a misstatement for securities fraud purposes.”
However, investors who lost in the Janus mutual funds or other investments may be able to seek recovery of losses if their accounts were mishandled. The law firm of Shepherd Smith and Edwards represents investors nationwide in claims against stockbrokers, investment advisors and their firms. To learn whether we can assist you, contact us to arrange a free confidential consultation with an attorney.