Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 91 C 7280 Brian Barnett Duff, Judge.
Before BAUER, ESCHBACH, and FLAUM, Circuit Judges.
Moise Katz filed this securities fraud class action against Household International, Inc. ("Household") and its two chief officers after Household's stock price declined at the end of October 1991. See Securities Exchange Act of 1934, secs. 10(b) & 20, 15 U.S.C. secs. 78j(b) & 78t(a). This appeal involves the district court's assessment of sanctions against Katz and his attorney, Robert Harwood, for filing original and amended complaints that were not well grounded in either fact or law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, amended April 28, 1987, eff. August 1, 1983. *fn1 We affirm.
Katz based his securities fraud claim on two theories. His primary theory was that Household had represented publicly in July, August, and September 1991 that it would have favorable earnings during the remainder of that year even if the economic recession continued, but in fact Household based its earnings projections on the undisclosed assumption that the economy would recover. Katz' second theory alleged that Household's September 1991 forecast of favorable earnings was fraudulent because at that time Household knew or should have known, based on non-public information in its possession, that it was not doing as well as previously anticipated and that its optimistic forecasts were unreasonable.
After the district court dismissed Katz' original and amended complaints for failure to state a claim, the defendants moved for sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The district court granted the motion and ordered Katz and Harwood to pay the defendants' costs and expenses, to the tune of $54,111.99. Katz appealed, and we vacated the sanction award because the district court had addressed only the first of the two theories upon which Katz had based his claim, and therefore we could not determine whether the district court had abused its discretion in imposing Rule 11 sanctions. Katz v. Household International, Inc., 36 F.3d 670 (7th Cir. 1994). We directed the district court: (1) to clarify its award of sanctions as to Katz' primary theory; (2) to address Katz' second theory of securities fraud; and (3) to assess a sanction only in the amount of fees reasonably incurred in responding to sanctionable filings. On remand, the district court concluded that both theories were sanctionable because neither was reasonably grounded in fact or law. The court imposed sanctions in the same amount as previously awarded. Katz and his attorney again appeal the district court's assessment of Rule 11 sanctions, as well as the amount of the sanctions. *fn2
The relevant version of Rule 11 requires a plaintiff to conduct a reasonable inquiry before filing a complaint to ensure it is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification or reversal of existing law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11. We review the district court's Rule 11 determination for abuse of discretion. Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 405 (1990). As in our earlier opinion, we note that even if we may not have reached the same result as the district court, that does not mean that the district court abused its discretion. See Katz, 36 F.3d at 673.
We directed the district court to explain clearly its reasons for imposing Rule 11 sanctions as to Katz' primary theory of liability--that Household publicly represented that it would have favorable earnings even if the economic recession continued, when in fact it knew that its forecasts depended on an economic rebound. Although on remand the district court focused more on Katz' second theory, it nevertheless provided sufficient explanation for us to conclude that it did not abuse its discretion in finding the first theory sanctionable.
The district court explained that neither Katz' original nor his amended complaint had provided particular facts to support his primary theory. The court noted that "[a] reasonable pre-filing inquiry would have prevented Katz from inadequately pleading his primary theory of Household's alleged misrepresentations about firm performance in a recessionary economy," and that "neither the complaint nor the amended complaint alleged the circumstances of any purported misrepresentation with the particularity required under Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules [of Civil Procedure]." Later in the order, when discussing Katz' failure to plead with particularity his second theory of fraud, the court noted that this failure was "the same defect which foretold the demise of [Katz' primary theory]." The court pointed out that "[n]either the original nor the amended complaint identified any specific facts which suggested that Household had made a false statement of its economic outlook in the recession," and thus both complaints were "ungrounded in fact or in law." The court further concluded that "[t]he failure to plead securities fraud with the particularity required under Federal Rule 9(b) strongly suggests Katz' failure to make a reasonable pre-filing inquiry as required by Federal Rule 11."
In affirming the district court's Rule 11 determination as to Katz' primary theory, we reiterate that "[e]ven the most superficial review of our case law would have made clear that Katz' complaint did not fulfill" Rule 9(b)'s requirement that a plaintiff plead fraud with particularity, because he failed to support his primary theory with any specific factual allegations. See Katz, 36 F.3d at 674-75. Although Katz pleaded that Household publicly represented that it would have favorable earnings even if the economic recession continued, he failed to point to any such statement in his complaints, in clear contravention of Rule 9(b)'s requirement that he specifically identify Household's allegedly fraudulent statements. For example, Katz pointed to a July 22, 1991 Barron's article that discussed a conversation with defendant Donald Clark, Household's Chairman. But nothing in the article supports Katz' contention that Household represented that its earnings forecasts assumed a continuing recession. In fact, the article stated that "Clark is encouraged by recent numbers that tell him ...