Overstock.com, Inc. v. Goldman Sachs Grp., Inc.Annotate this Case
Overstock.Com alleged that defendants intentionally depressed the price of Overstock stock by effecting “naked” short sales: sales of shares the brokerage houses and their clients never actually owned or borrowed to artificially increase the supply and short sales of the stock. The trial court dismissed claims under New Jersey Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act without leave to amend and rejected California market manipulation claims on summary judgment. The appeals court affirmed dismissal of the belatedly raised New Jersey RICO claim and summary judgment on the California claim as to three defendants, but reversed as to Merrill Lynch. The evidence, although slight, raised a triable issue this firm effected a series of transactions in California and did so for the purpose of inducing others to trade in the manipulated stock. The court concluded that Corporations Code section 25400, subdivision (b), reaches not only beneficial sellers and buyers of stock, but also can reach firms that execute, clear and settle trades; such firms face liability in a private action for damages only if they engage in conduct beyond aiding and abetting securities fraud, such that they are a primary actor in the manipulative trading.