The Supreme Court issued two rulings on Wednesday: one stating that the Securities and Exchange Commission must bring securities fraud cases within five years of when the fraud occurred, and another making it easier for shareholders to bring class-action lawsuits.
In the first case, Gabelli et al v. the SEC, plaintiffs sought to dismiss the SEC’s 2008 civil case against them for aiding and abetting investment advisor fraud from 1999 to 2002. The plaintiffs invoked the five-year statute of limitations under the Investment Advisers Act and pointed out that the complaint “alleged illegal activity up until August 2002 but was not filed until April 2008.”
The District Court agreed and dismissed the civil penalty claim, but the Second Circuit reversed, accepting the SEC’s argument that because the underlying violations sounded in fraud, the “discovery rule” applied, meaning that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until the SEC discovered or reasonably could have discovered the fraud.
However, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that “the five-year clock … begins to tick when the fraud occurs, not when it is discovered.”