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Sanders v. Nuveen

decided: June 9, 1972.


Hastings, Senior Circuit Judge, and Kiley and Sprecher, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sprecher

SPRECHER, Circuit Judge.

This appeal raises two principal issues: (1) whether promissory notes with a maturity not exceeding nine months but offered to the public as an investment are "securities" within the definition of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and (2) whether the representative of an antagonistic class can properly intervene and assume representation of the plaintiff class without notice to the members of that class?

Plaintiff, Henry T. Sanders, filed his complaint on March 12, 1970, against John Nuveen & Co., Inc., a broker-dealer in securities, one of its registered representatives, and its directors and controlling persons. The complaint charged defendants with a scheme and artifice to defraud plaintiff and others in his class by selling to them short-term commercial paper issued by Winter & Hirsch, Inc. but owned by Nuveen. Plaintiff's claim was based on the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. § 77a, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. § 78a, Rule 10b-5, 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5, and the Rules of Fair Practice of the National Association of Securities Dealers.

On May 18, 1970, the defendants moved to strike certain allegations of the complaint and expressly attacked the class-action aspects of the complaint. They also challenged the jurisdiction of the court under the 1934 act on the ground that the short-term commercial paper involved was not a "security." The district court denied the motion to strike on October 8, 1970.

On October 19, 1970, the plaintiff served on defendants his motion, to be presented to the court on November 2, requesting that a notice be sent to the class represented by plaintiff as provided in Rule 23(c) (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The class suggested was "all persons who were purchasers of short-term commercial paper which was issued by Winter & Hirsch, Incorporated, and sold by John Nuveen & Co., Inc."

On October 29, the First National Bank of Chicago and the Harris Trust and Savings Bank sought leave to intervene on their own behalf and "on behalf of certain creditors of Winter & Hirsch, Incorporated."

The motion to intervene stated that on March 11, 1970 (one day prior to the filing of plaintiff's suit), the creditors of Winter & Hirsch had met and had elected an informal creditors' committee. The creditors' committee, working with the management of Winter & Hirsch, had negotiated with Mercantile Financial Corp. a purchase agreement relating to substantially all of Winter & Hirsch's loan receivables; the agreement required certain waivers by holders of long-term debt obligations. The motion also stated that the creditors' committee had developed a liquidating trust to become effective upon the execution and delivery of a "Consent and Agreement" by all the lenders of funds to Winter & Hirsch, including plaintiff.

At the same time that they sought to intervene, the two banks also moved that the district court enter an order pursuant to Rule 23(d) directing the plaintiff to execute a "Consent and Agreement" on a stipulation by all parties that its execution would "not constitute a dismissal or compromise under Federal Rule 23(e)."

The banks' motions were not accompanied by any pleadings in the Rule 7(a) sense of complaints or answers, or by documents seeking to adopt pleadings already on file.

Plaintiff's counsel were notified by telephone the night before that the banks were going to appear before the district judge on October 29; counsel were given copies of the motions at 10 a. m. on the 29th as court convened. The court continued the matter to 1:45 p. m., at which time the plaintiff filed written objections to the motions. The court heard argument by the parties but no evidence in the afternoon, at which time the court requested the parties to attempt to agree on an order. The banks delivered a proposed form of order to plaintiff's counsel at 4 p. m. and advised them that they would reappear in court at 4:30. Plaintiff's counsel replied that they would need some time to read the proposed order and confer with their client. They appeared at the courtroom at 4:50 to learn that the judge had entered an order at 4:35 and left the bench. The order permitted the banks to intervene and directed the plaintiff to sign the stipulation and consent by 5 p.m. or the class aspects of the complaint would be stricken. The intervention was allowed on behalf of creditors including all members of the class which plaintiff sought to represent.

The plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the October 29 order, which motion was denied on November 5, 1970. The court's reason was "the plaintiff's expressed opposition to all members of the class by refusing to join in a compromise that all of them have agreed to enter into." On its own motion, the court found that "there may be a class described in the cause without counsel," whereby he ordered that "said cause . . . proceed as an individual complaint."

On November 17, 1970, the district judge certified pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) the questions (1) whether it was error to permit the banks to intervene, (2) whether it was error to find that the plaintiff did not represent the class and (3) whether it was error to strike the class aspects of the complaint. On the motion of defendants, the court on the following day amended its prior order denying defendants' motion to strike, to certify another question under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b): whether the commercial ...

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