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ESG Capital Partners, LP v. Stratos

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
828 F.3d 1023 (2016)


Facts

ESG Capital Partners (ESG) (plaintiff) was a group of investors formed to purchase pre-IPO Facebook shares. Troy Stratos (defendant) was a con artist who presented himself to ESG using the alias “Ken Dennis.” Stratos claimed to be the head of a securities company capable of selling such stock. Stratos hired the law firm Venable LLP to represent him in this fraudulent Facebook securities deal, and David Meyer was his primary attorney. Meyer assisted Stratos in creating Soumaya Securities, a company purported to be authorized for the sale that listed Stratos as its sole member and “Kenneth Dennis” as its CEO. Both Stratos as “Dennis” and Meyer represented to ESG that Stratos had an affiliation with a billionaire connected to Facebook. Stratos as “Dennis” negotiated the purported sale of stock to ESG. Meyer was copied on every email ESG sent to “Dennis,” all of which went to the same email address that Meyer used to communicate with Stratos. During a phone call with ESG’s managing agent, Meyer asserted that “Dennis” was a legitimate businessman, that the sale was valid, and that Meyer would provide deal documentation. Upon Meyer’s assurances, ESG wired almost $3 million as a deposit into a Venable trust account as payment to Soumaya Securities, but the funds were then transferred by Venable into Stratos’s personal client trust on the same day. ESG eventually transferred more than $11 million to Stratos through Venable for these nonexistent shares. Upon discovery of the fraud, ESG filed suit against Stratos, Venable, and Meyer, alleging federal securities fraud, state law fraud, and other causes of action. The district court dismissed the claims against Venable and Meyer for failing to sufficiently plead their claims. ESG appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Pregerson, J.)

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