James Boykin v. K12, Inc., No. 21-2351 (4th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
This securities fraud lawsuit arises from a series of statements made by K12, Inc., and two of its executives over the spring and summer of 2020. Plaintiffs, a class of K12 shareholders who acquired stock during that time, allege that the statements fraudulently misrepresented the state of K12’s business, thereby artificially inflating the cost of their shares. To survive dismissal under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA), however, they must plead a “strong inference” of scienter, which requires establishing an inference of fraud to be “cogent and at least as compelling as any opposing inference.”
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs claims because Plaintiffs do not satisfy the “heightened pleading instruction”. The court explained by including the language of “we believe,” the statement reflected not an incontestable fact but an individual perspective. The statement was couched as opinion, not as fact. While it is true that the prefatory clause contains an embedded assertion—that K12 is “an innovator in K-12 online education”— plaintiffs do not seriously contest this point. Nor do Plaintiffs deny, in more than conclusory fashion, that K12 “actually holds” its stated belief. Finally, Plaintiffs fail to show that K12’s opinion omitted necessary context. The company’s opinion was not simply emitted into the ether. It was made within the framework of a 10-K filing, where investors could have parsed the ample disclosures at their fingertips before succumbing to K12’s stated view.