Brief Fact Summary. Investors (Plaintiff) were looking to recover the losses they suffered due to Wilkowski’s (Defendant) misappropriation of the assets they had trusted him with.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A broker-dealer may be held liable as a “controlling person” by proxy under § 20(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, whenone of its registered agents violates the federal securities laws.
A moving party is entitled to summary judgment against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Can a broker-dealer be held liable as a “controlling person” by proxy under § 20(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, when one of its registered agents violates the federal securities laws?
Held. (Norris, J.) Yes. A broker-dealer may be held liable as a “controlling person” by proxy under § 20(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, when one of its registered agents violates the federal securities laws. Broker-dealers have a definite duty to oversee the activities of their registered agents. By holding the broker-dealer liable for § 10(b) violations committed by its registered agents via proxy, the legislative objective inspiring the passing of § 20(a) was to promise the broker-dealers would oversee their agents with the necessary diligence and control. To establish liability by proxy, the plaintiff needs to confirm that the broker-dealer is a controlling person by showing that the registered agent was an employee of, or affiliated with, the broker-dealer. In this case, the record adequately confirms that in relation to Wilkowski, that Titan was a “controlling person”. Yet, the broker-dealer defendant can still seek to elude liability if it can carry the onus of proving that it operated with good faith, was unaware of the action and failed to nurture the violations, whether directly or indirectly. This may be achievedvia the display of the existence of a sensible internal system of management. In this case, the evidence demonstrates a significant issue of fact was present with regard to the availability to Titan of the good faith defense. So, the district court was erroneous in granting summary judgment on this issue. Reversed.
Discussion. 20(a) holds a “controlling person” jointly and individually liable in the same way as the “controlled” person for all violations. The plaintiff has no need toprove that the broker-dealer aggressivelycontributed in the misconduct to hold it liable. The broker-dealer will not be excusedfrom liability by merely demonstrating that it had managerialtechniques in place