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Pope Investments Ii, LLC v. Deheng Law Firm

United States District Court, Second Circuit

July 31, 2013

POPE INVESTMENTS II, LLC, JAYHAWK PRIVATE EQUITY FUND, L.P., GUERILLA PARTNERS, L.P., ALDER OFFSHORE MASTER FUND, L.P., PARAGON CAPITAL, L.P., DAYBREAK SPECIAL SOLUTIONS MASTER FUND, LTD., AAMAXEN TRANSPORT GROUP, INC., ASIA BUSINESS MANAGEMENT GROUP, LTD., and SHANGHAI ANHANTE (BEIJING) MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD., Plaintiffs,
v.
DEHENG LAW FIRM and HELEN LV, Defendants,

OPINION AND ORDER

LOUIS L. STANTON, District Judge.

Plaintiffs' first amended complaint in this securities fraud action did not allege with particularity that se and other defendants acted with scienter in committing alleged securities fraud.[1] I dismissed that claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 9 (b) and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act ("PSLRA") of 1995, 15 U.S.C. § 78u-4 (b) (3) (A), declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state law claims, and granted plaintiffs leave to replead. See Pope Invs. II LLC v. Deheng Law Firm, 10 C 6608 (LLS), 2011 WL 5837818 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 21, 2011).

Plaintiffs' second amended complaint not sufficiently allege a domestic ties transaction, as required by Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd. , 130 S.Ct. 2869 (2010). I dismissed plaintiffs' securities fraud claim under Morrison, again declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state law claims, and granted plaintiffs leave to replead. See Pope Invs. II LLC v. Deheng Law Firm, 10 Civ. 6608 (LLS), 2012 WL 3526621 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 15, 2012).

Plaintiffs have filed a third amended complaint, which Deheng moves to dismiss, arguing that its additional allegations do not sufficiently allege Deheng's scienter and do not sufficiently allege a domestic securities transaction, and thus do not cure the defects of the first and second amended complaints. Deheng incorporates by reference its arguments asserted in its motions to dismiss the first and second amended complaints - that Deheng is not subject to personal jurisdiction in New York, that Deheng was never served with process in this action, that the parties should be compelled to arbitrate in China, and that plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted - which were unnecessary to reach in prior opinions.

Background

The SMT Transactions

The alleged fraud arises out of a series of transactions designed to acquire a Chinese company. Plaintiffs Pope Investments II LLC, Jayhawk Private Equity Fund, L.P., Guerilla Partners, L.P., Alder Capital Partners I, L.P., Alder Offshore Master Fund, L.P., Paragon Capital, L.P., and Daybreak Special Situations Master Fund, Ltd. (collectively, the "Investors" or the "AAXT Investors"), who are entities organized or operating in the United States, sought to acquire Shanghai Atrip Medical Technology Co., Ltd. ("SMT"), a Chinese medical distribution company.

For the purpose of acquiring SMT, the Investors paid $12.5 million in a private placement for shares of plaintiff Aamaxen Transport Group, Inc. ("AAXT"), a Delaware corporation with principal place of business in Memphis, Tennessee. AAXT simultaneously bought from Kamick Assets Limited, [2] and now wholly owns, plaintiff Asia Business Management Group, Ltd. ("ABM"), a British Virgin Islands company with principal place of business in British Virgin Islands. In turn, ABM wholly owns Shanghai Anhante (Beijing) Medical Technology Co., Ltd. ("Anhante"), which simultaneously purchased the "economic benefits and liabilities", Third Am. Compl. ¶ 34, of its business from SMT.

Although AAXT's stock is sold on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board ("OTCBB"), Third Am. Compl. ¶ 18, the AAXT Investors purchased their shares in AAXT through a private placement transaction, see AAXT Form S.C. 14F1, Apr. 11, 2008, Rubenstein Decl. Ex. I. Plaintiffs do not allege that any of the stock transferred in the SMT Transactions was sold on a securities or over-the-counter exchange.

Deheng and Lv

Deheng "is a global partnership headquartered in Beijing, PRC [i.e., People's Republic of China], with branches in locations around the world including New York, New York." Third Am. Compl. ¶ 11.

"Deheng represented the Group and SMT as legal counsel in connection with the SMT Transactions." Id . ¶ 51. "Lv was one of the lead Deheng attorneys assigned by Deheng to represent the Group in connection with the SMT Transactions." Id . ¶ 52.

"Deheng took a primary role in structuring the SMT Transactions. Deheng drafted the Securities Purchase Agreement, the China Control Agreement and other transaction documents used in the SMT Transactions (the Transaction Documents')." Id . ¶ 54 Deheng further "advised the Group and SMT on the form and substance of contractual agreements necessary" to consummate the transaction and "regarding the legality and validity of the Investment Structure." Id . ¶ 55.

57. Deheng drafted a confidential legal opinion addressed to the Group and SMT ("Deheng Legal Opinion"), including each AAXT Investor and other investors listed on the Securities Purchase Agreement for AAXT concerning: (1) the legal ownership structure of the companies; (2) the legality and validity of the restructuring agreements; (3) and the transaction structure by which the AAXT Investors were to invest money in AAXT to receive and investment interest in SMT through... Anhante....
58. The Deheng Legal Opinion was intended to be used and was in fact used to induce the AAXT Investors to invest in the Group and SMT.

"Deheng earned an uncertain amount of fees in connection with the SMT Transactions." Id . ¶ 62.

The Alleged Fraud

"At some time during 2007, Shao consulted with Lv at Deheng regarding his intention to embezzle the money invested by the AAXT Investors in AAXT away from the Group." Id . ¶ 42. Although Shao and Lv were close and perhaps were married to each other, they never disclosed that fact to the AAXT Investors or the Group.

"Shao and Kamick were supposed to be the nominees of but not have any control over ABM. Chen was supposed to have control over ABM as CEO of AAXT." Id . ¶ 38. However, "Shao and/or Kamick in fact retained control over ABM and its bank account, " id. ¶ 39, and eventually stole the proceeds of the AAXT Investment, which had been deposited in ABM's bank accounts:

48. Shao, Kamick, Lv and/or Deheng misappropriated most or all of the AAXT Investment without the consent of the AAXT Investors and in blatant violation of the Transaction Documents between the parties, based on Deheng's advice. On information and belief, on the advice of Deheng, Shao and/or Kamick diverted that money into Shao's own personal bank accounts in his name, other entity accounts controlled by Shao, and also into at least one account controlled by Lv.
49. The funds which Shao embezzled have since been dissipated through hundreds of ATM withdrawals in the PRC and Hong Kong, wire transfer to other entities, and other purchases. A portion of the embezzled funds were transferred directly to Jerga Management Limited, a company in which Lv of Deheng acts as a director and has an express financial ...

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