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Mosinee Paper Corp. v. Rondeau

decided: July 16, 1974.

MOSINEE PAPER CORPORATION, A WISCONSIN CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FRANCIS A. RONDEAU, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 71 C 335 James E. Doyle, Judge.

Swygert, Chief Judge, Pell, Circuit Judge, and Perry, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Swygert

SWYGERT, Chief Judge.

Plaintiff Mosinee Paper Corporation appeals from the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of defendants Francis A. Rondeau and various persons and entities controlled by him.*fn1 In the district court Mosinee Paper charged that Rondeau had violated section 13(d) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. § 78m(d), known as the Williams Act.*fn2 Rondeau conceded the violation of section 13(d), admitting that he had purchased eight percent of the issued and outstanding common stock of Mosinee Paper during a period of four months without timely filing a Schedule 13D as required by section 13(d).

Mosinee Paper is a Wisconsin corporation, mainly engaged in manufacturing and selling paper products. Its principal place of business is located at Mosinee, Wisconsin. The company's only class of equity security, registered pursuant to section 12 of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. § 78l, is common stock, of which there were 806,177 shares outstanding as of August 31, 1971.

Rondeau made his first purchase of Mosinee Paper stock on April 5, 1971. By May 17, 1971 he had acquired 40,309 shares, some in his own name and some in the names of his controlled corporations and other entities. This number was more than five percent of Mosinee Paper's common stock outstanding.

The Williams Act required him to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission and mail to Mosinee Paper a 13D schedule as of May 27, 1971. Rondeau failed to file the schedule. He continued to acquire Mosinee Paper stock and by August 4, 1971 his acquisitions totaled 66,577 shares, about eight percent of Mosinee Paper's stock outstanding. On August 25, 1971 Rondeau filed a 13D schedule. An amended and supplemental schedule was filed on September 29, 1971.

In the district court, although admitting his violation of section 13(d), Rondeau contended that his failure to timely file a Schedule 13D stemmed from a lack of knowledge as to the existence of the reporting requirements of section 13(d) and not from any intention to avoid the disclosure requirements of the Act and thereby assist him in an effort to covertly gain control of Mosinee Paper. Rondeau argued that his violation of section 13(d) did not warrant the imposition of any remedy or equitable relief in view of the following circumstances: He unknowingly and unintentionally failed to file a Schedule 13D; his purchase of eight percent of the common stock was for investment purposes, not control; he did not formulate an intention to seek control of Mosinee Paper until after he was informed by his attorney in early August of the filing requirement under section 13(d); and he filed a Schedule 13D within a reasonable time after learning of his duty to file. The district court agreed with Rondeau's contention that despite his admitted violation of section 13(d) the grant of equitable relief was inappropriate under the circumstances. We take an opposite view.*fn3

I

Rondeau claims that his failure to timely file Schedule 13D was a mere technical violation of the Act which was cured by the subsequent late filing in August of a Schedule 13D. He contends that the curative effect of the late filing derives from the fact that the overriding purpose of the Williams Act is to provide adequate notice and information to management and shareholders regarding an individual or group seeking control of a corporation prior to a tender offer or a proxy contest. Rondeau urges that the purpose of the Williams Act has not been violated by this allegedly "technical violation" in view of the circumstances that: (1) demonstrate that his purchase of eight percent of Mosinee Paper common stock was for investment purposes, not control, and subsequent to these purchases he was informed by his attorney of the Williams Act filing requirements whereupon he filed a Schedule 13D within a reasonable period of time; and (2) at no time prior or subsequent to filing the Schedule 13D had Rondeau engaged in a tender offer or proxy contest to attain control of Mosinee Paper. It is Rondeau's contention that, absent a showing of an intentional and knowing failure to file or an intent to secure control of the corporation, the failure to timely file a Schedule 13D, of itself, does not transgress the purpose of the Williams Act.

We do not agree with Rondeau's interpretation of the Williams Act for it tends to narrow and limit the Act well short of its intended reach. The legislative history of the Act indicates that it was "designed to require full and fair disclosure" to investors with respect to any "techniques for accumulating large blocks of equity securities of publicly held companies." 1968 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News, pp. 2813, 2814. Speaking directly to its intendment with regard to section 13(d) of the Act, Congress stated:

The purpose of section 13(d) is to require disclosure of information by persons who have acquired a substantial interest, or increased their interest in the equity securities of a company by a substantial amount, within a relatively short period of time. 1968 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News, p. 2818.

We agree with the Second Circuit's analysis of the Act in GAF Corp. v. Milstein, 453 F.2d 709 (2d Cir. 1971), that "the purpose of section 13(d) is to alert the marketplace to every large, rapid aggregation or accumulation of securities, regardless of technique employed, which might represent a potential shift in corporate control. . . ." 453 F.2d at 717. To this observation we add what is self-evident from the language and legislative history of the Williams Act, the reporting requirements of section 13(d) apply regardless of the purchaser's purpose in acquiring the shares. The sweep of section 13(d) goes beyond the circumstances where the purchaser has formulated an intent to control, but also reaches that point when because of the size of the purchaser's holdings (having attained five percent beneficial ownership of a class of stock) and the fact that he acquired such holdings in a short amount of time, the purchaser portends the potential to effectuate a change in control. Under such conditions Congress has deemed it appropriate that investors and management be fully advised of this potential to effect control so that investors may evaluate and adequately assess the corporation's worth in view of the potential, while at the same time allowing management the opportunity to appropriately respond to any potential for a shift in control.*fn4

Congress desired that investors and management be notified at the earliest possible moment of the potential for a shift in corporate control. To that end, acquisition of five percent of a class of stock was designated as a trigger to bring about full and fair disclosure. By failing to timely file, Rondeau effectively failed to disclose to investors and management the circumstances surrounding his potential to effect the control of Mosinee Paper while at the same time he continued to purchase securities in a market that had not been adequately apprised of such potential. Under the circumstances, Rondeau's failure to timely file was more than a mere technical violation of the Williams Act.

II

Rondeau contends that it would be improper to grant plaintiff's claim for equitable remedies in view that Mosinee Paper has suffered no harm, let alone irreparable harm by reason of his violation of section 13(d). In addition, Rondeau urges that granting the relief claimed by Mosinee Paper would run contrary to the design of the Williams Act to avoid "tipping the balance of regulation either in favor of management or in favor of the person making the takeover bid." 1968 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News, p. 2813.

Addressing ourselves to Rondeau's first assertion, we are of the view that having transgressed the Williams Act, Rondeau has indeed harmed Mosinee Paper; that is, pursuant to section 13(d) (1) Mosinee Paper as issuer was entitled to receive a timely filed Schedule 13D. To the extent that the schedule was filed late, Mosinee Paper was harmed for it did not timely receive the relevant information surrounding Rondeau's potential to effect control and was delayed in its efforts to make any necessary response to that potential. Moreover, Mosinee Paper need not show irreparable harm as a prerequisite to obtaining permanent injunctive relief in view of the fact that as issuer of the securities it is in the ...


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