Refusal to Grant Prevailing Party of Securities Fraud Case Attorneys’ Fees and Costs is Affirmed by Appeals Court

In Kelter v. Associated Financial Group Inc., The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision to refuse to grant attorney fees and costs under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act to the prevailing parties, which in this case are the defendants. In its unpublished ruling, the court determined that the plaintiff did not take part in any “egregious conduct” that would warrant that the district court’s denial be reversed.

The securities fraud case was filed by Richard Kelter and involved his failed APEX Equity Options Fund LP investments. The plaintiff accused Jeffrey Forrest of fraudulent misrepresentation regarding the risks and nature of the equity fund. He claimed that as Forrest’s principals, Associated Securities Corp., Associated Financial Group Inc., and Associated Planners Investment Advisory Inc. should be held liable.

On January 14, The district court granted the Associated defendants’ summary judgment. Two weeks later, the defendants moved for attorneys’ fees and costs under PSLRA. They claimed that Kelter did not have enough legal basis and factual evidence when he named them as defendants in his first amended complaint. The district court denied their motion.

The appeals court says that the district court had found that the Associated Defendants did not timely serve its motion for fees on Respondent before filing and, as a result, did not give the Respondent twenty-one days to withdraw the challenged paper. The lower court also said that it did not see any indication that the plaintiff’s actions were unreasonable, frivolous, filed for improper purpose, or objectively baseless.

The appeals court not only affirmed the district court’s decision, noting that it did not find Kelter’s arguments of the objectively baseless nature that have in past cases resulted in such fee awards, but also it declined to “reach the question of whether the district court improperly applied Rule 11’s safe harbor provision.”

Related Web Resources:
Kelter v. Associated Financial Group Inc., 9th Circuit

Private Securities Litigation Reform Act

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