Monday, June 26, 2017

California Public Employees' Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc., Docket 16-373

Repose: Statute of repose: Statute of limitations: Tolling: Equitable tolling: Common law: Dismissal: Class action:

The Securities Act of 1933 “protects investors by ensur­ing that companies issuing securities . . . make a ‘full and fair disclosure of information’ relevant to a public offer­ing.” Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers Dist. Council Constr. Industry Pension Fund, 575 U. S. ___, ___ (2015) (slip op., at 1) (quoting Pinter v. Dahl, 486 U. S. 622, 646 (1988)); see 48 Stat. 74, as amended, 15 U. S. C. §77a et seq. Com­panies may offer securities to the public only after filing a registration statement, which must contain information about the company and the security for sale. Omnicare, 575 U. S., at ___–___ (slip op., at 1–2). Section 11 of the Securities Act “promotes compliance with these disclosure provisions by giving purchasers a right of action against an issuer or designated individuals,” including securities underwriters, for any material misstatements or omis­sions in a registration statement. Id., at ___ (slip op., at 2); see 15 U. S. C. §77k(a).

The Act provides time limits for §11 suits. These time limits are set forth in a two-sentence section of the Act, §13. It provides as follows:

“No action shall be maintained to enforce any liability created under [§11] unless brought within one year af­ter the discovery of the untrue statement or the omis­sion, or after such discovery should have been made by the exercise of reasonable diligence . . . . In no event shall any such action be brought to enforce a li­ability created under [§11] more than three years after the security was bona fide offered to the public . . . .” 15 U. S. C. §77m.

So there are two time bars in the quoted provision; and the second one, the 3-year bar, is central to this case.

The question then is whether §13 permits the filing of an individual complaint more than three years after the relevant securities offering, when a class-action complaint was timely filed, and the plaintiff filing the individual complaint would have been a member of the class but for opting out of it. The answer turns on the nature and purpose of the 3-year bar and of the tolling rule that peti­tioner seeks to invoke.

As the Court explained in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, 573 U. S. ___ (2014), statutory time bars can be divided into two categories: statutes of limitations and statutes of repose. Both “are mechanisms used to limit the temporal extent or duration of liability for tortious acts,” but “each has a distinct purpose.” Id., at ___–___ (slip op., at 5–6).
Statutes of limitations are designed to encourage plain­tiffs “to pursue diligent prosecution of known claims.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 6). In accord with that objective, limitations periods begin to run “when the cause of action accrues”—that is, “when the plaintiff can file suit and obtain relief.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 5). In a personal-injury or property-damage action, for example, more often than not this will be “‘when the injury occurred or was discovered.’” Ibid.

In contrast, statutes of repose are enacted to give more explicit and certain protection to defendants. These stat­utes “effect a legislative judgment that a defendant should be free from liability after the legislatively determined period of time.” Id., at ___–___ (slip op., at 6–7). For this reason, statutes of repose begin to run on “the date of the last culpable act or omission of the defendant.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 6).

The 3-year time bar in §13 reflects the legislative objec­tive to give a defendant a complete defense to any suit after a certain period. From the structure of §13, and the language of its second sentence, it is evident that the 3 ­year bar is a statute of repose. In fact, this Court has already described the provision as establishing “a period of repose,” which “‘imposes an outside limit’” on temporal liability. Lampf, Pleva, Lipkind, Prupis & Petigrow v. Gilbertson, 501 U. S. 350, 363 (1991).

(…) Confirmed by the two-sentence structure of §13. In addition to the 3-year time bar, §13 contains a 1­ year statute of limitations. The limitations statute runs from the time when the plaintiff discovers (or should have discovered) the securities-law violation. The pairing of a shorter statute of limitations and a longer statute of re­pose is a common feature of statutory time limits. See, e.g., Gabelli v. SEC, 568 U. S. 442, 453 (2013) (“Statutes applying a discovery rule . . . often couple that rule with an absolute provision for repose”). The two periods work together: The discovery rule gives leeway to a plaintiff who has not yet learned of a violation, while the rule of repose protects the defendant from an interminable threat of liability. Cf. Merck & Co. v. Reynolds, 559 U. S. 633, 650 (2010) (reasoning that 2-year discovery rule would not “subject defendants to liability for acts taken long ago,” because the statute also included an “unqualified bar on actions instituted ‘5 years after such violation’”).

The determination that the 3-year period is a statute of repose is critical in this case, for the question whether a tolling rule applies to a given statutory time bar is one “of statutory intent.” Lozano v. Montoya Alvarez, 572 U. S. 1, ___ (2014) (slip op., at 8). The purpose of a statute of repose is to create “an absolute bar on a defendant’s tem­poral liability,” CTS, 573 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 6); and that purpose informs the assessment of whether, and when, tolling rules may apply.

In light of the purpose of a statute of repose, the provi­sion is in general not subject to tolling. Tolling is permis­sible only where there is a particular indication that the legislature did not intend the statute to provide complete repose but instead anticipated the extension of the statu­tory period under certain circumstances.

For example, if the statute of repose itself contains an express exception, this demonstrates the requisite intent to alter the operation of the statutory period. See 1 C. Corman, Limitation of Actions §1.1, pp. 4–5 (1991) (Corman); see, e.g., 29 U. S. C. §1113 (establishing a 6-year statute of repose, but stipulating that, in case of fraud, the 6-year period runs from the plaintiff ’s discovery of the violation). In contrast, where the legislature enacts a general tolling rule in a different part of the code—e.g., a rule that suspends time limits until the plaintiff reaches the age of majority—courts must analyze the nature and relation of the legislative purpose of each provision to determine which controls. See 2 Corman §10.2.1, at 108.

Of course, not all tolling rules derive from legislative enactments. Some derive from the traditional power of the courts to “‘apply the principles . . . of equity jurispru­dence.’” Young v. United States, 535 U. S. 43, 50 (2002). The classic example is the doctrine of equitable tolling, which permits a court to pause a statutory time limit “when a litigant has pursued his rights diligently but some extraordinary circumstance prevents him from bringing a timely action.” Lozano, 572 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 7). Tolling rules of that kind often apply to statutes of limitations based on the presumption that Congress “‘legislates against a background of common-law adjudicatory principles.’” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 8).

The purpose and effect of a statute of repose, by con­trast, is to override customary tolling rules arising from the equitable powers of courts. By establishing a fixed limit, a statute of repose implements a “‘legislative deci­sion that as a matter of policy there should be a specific time beyond which a defendant should no longer be sub­jected to protracted liability.’” CTS, 573 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 7). The unqualified nature of that determination supersedes the courts’ residual authority and forecloses the extension of the statutory period based on equitable principles. For this reason, the Court repeatedly has stated in broad terms that statutes of repose are not sub­ject to equitable tolling. See, e.g., id., at ___–___ (slip op., at 7–8); Lampf, Pleva, 501 U. S., at 363.

Petitioner makes an alternative argument that does not depend on tolling. Petitioner submits its individual suit was timely in any event. Section 13 provides that an “action” must be “brought” within three years of the rele­vant securities offering. See 15 U. S. C. §77m. Petitioner argues that requirement is met here because the filing of the class-action complaint “brought” petitioner’s individual “action” within the statutory time period. This argument rests on the premise that an “action” is “brought” when substantive claims are presented to any court, rather than when a particular complaint is filed in a particular court. The term “action,” however, refers to a judicial “proceeding,” or perhaps to a “suit”—not to the general content of claims. See Black’s Law Dictionary 41 (3d ed. 1933) (defining “action” as, inter alia, “an ordinary proceeding in a court of justice”); see also id., at 43 (“The terms ‘action’ and ‘suit’ are . . . nearly, if not entirely, synonymous”). Whether or not petitioner’s individual complaint alleged the same securities law violations as the class-action complaint, it defies ordinary understanding to suggest that its filing—in a separate forum, on a separate date, by a separate named party—was the same “action,” “proceeding,” or “suit.”
The limitless nature of petitioner’s argument, further­more, reveals its implausibility. It appears that, in peti­tioner’s view, the bringing of the class action would make any subsequent action raising the same claims timely. Taken to its logical limit, an individual action would be timely even if it were filed decades after the original secu­rities offering—provided a class-action complaint had been filed at some point within the initial 3-year period. Con­gress would not have intended this result.

Secondary authorities: C. Corman, Limitation of Actions §1.1, pp. 4–5 (1991); Black’s Law Dictionary 41 (3d ed. 1933).

(U.S.S.C., June 26, 2017, California Public Employees' Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc., Docket 16-373, J. Kennedy).

Péremption et prescription, suspension d'un délai :

L'émetteur de papiers-valeurs engage sa responsabilité pour ses déclarations inexactes ou pour ses omissions, au sens de la Section 11 du Securities Act de 1933.

Les délais sont régis par la Section 13 : un délai d'une année pour ouvrir action, à partir de la connaissance de la déclaration inexacte ou de l'omission, ou à partir du jour où dite connaissance aurait dû raisonnablement survenir. En aucun cas l'action ne peut-elle être déposée plus de trois ans après la mise à disposition publique, de bonne foi, des papiers-valeurs.

La question est de savoir si le second de ces deux délais est de péremption, et s'il peut être judiciairement suspendu en équité.

Dans la présente affaire, un demandeur était partie à une action de classe déposée dans le délai d'un an. Par la suite, dit demandeur s'est retiré de la procédure et a ouvert action individuellement, mais hors du délai de trois ans précité.

Les délais de prescription visent à encourager les demandeurs à agir de manière diligente dans un certain délai. De la sorte, le dies a quo par exemple en matière de dommage corporel ou matériel est le plus souvent le jour de la survenance du préjudice, ou le jour de la connaissance par la victime de son préjudice.

Par contraste, les délais de péremption visent la protection des défendeurs. Ils sont le résultat de la réflexion du législateur portant sur la période de temps après laquelle un défendeur échappe à toute responsabilité. De la sorte, le dies a quo de ces délais est le jour du dernier acte ou omission illicite du défendeur.

Le délai de trois ans de la Section 13, de par la structure et le texte de dite loi (cf. sa seconde phrase ci-dessus), reflète l'intention du législateur d'immuniser le défendeur de toute responsabilité après complet écoulement. Il s'agit ici d'un délai de péremption.

La structure de la loi – un délai de prescription plus court suivi d'un délai de péremption plus long – est typique s'agissant de l'ordonnancement des deux types de délai.

Seuls les délais de prescription peuvent être suspendus, notamment par le Juge statuant en équité (cependant, l'intention du législateur est décisive à cet égard, de sorte que le législateur peut prévoir un délai de péremption susceptible d'être suspendu, à des conditions bien définies).

Par exemple, si le délai de péremption tel que stipulé prévoit lui-même une exception expresse, l'intention du législateur est claire.

Toutes les règles régissant la suspension d'un délai ne dérivent pas d'une décision du législateur. Certaines de ces règles proviennent de la compétence traditionnelle des Tribunaux d'appliquer les principes jurisprudentiels de l'"equity". L'exemple classique est la doctrine de la suspension équitable, qui permet à un Tribunal de suspendre un délai quand une partie a procédé avec diligence, mais qu'une circonstance extraordinaire l'a empêchée d'agir judiciairement dans le délai. Ce type de règle est basé sur la présomption que le Congrès légifère en conformité avec la jurisprudence découlant de la Common law.

Par contraste, le but et l'effet d'un délai de péremption est de se substituer aux règles habituelles de suspension des délais établies par la jurisprudence statuant en équité. En établissant un tel délai de péremption, le législateur estime d'intérêt public de fixer une limite au-delà de laquelle la responsabilité du défendeur ne peut plus être engagée.

De manière alternative, le recourant soutient que dans la mesure où sa participation à l'action de classe est intervenue pendant le délai de 3 ans, son action individuelle, déposée après l'échéance de ce délai, ne serait pas tardive. C'est à tort. Les deux actions, déposées auprès de Tribunaux différents, à des dates différentes, par des parties nommées différemment, doivent être considérées comme deux actions différentes. Considérer ces deux actions comme équivalentes reviendrait à juger recevable le dépôt d'une action individuelle des dizaines d'années après le dépôt de l'action de classe, dans l'hypothèse où cette dernière aurait été déposée dans le délai de trois ans. Le Congrès n'a jamais prévu un tel résultat.

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