Volume 109
Issue 2
December '20

Private Company Lies

Written By: Elizabeth Pollman

Abstract

Rule 10b–5’s antifraud catchall has been called one of the most consequential pieces of American administrative law and one of the most highly developed areas of judicially created federal law. Although the Rule broadly prohibits securities fraud in both public and private company stock, the vast majority of jurisprudence, and the voluminous academic literature that accompanies it, has developed through a public company lens.

This Article illuminates how the explosive growth of private markets has left huge portions of U.S. capital markets with relatively light securities fraud scrutiny and enforcement. Some of the largest private companies by valuation grow in an environment of extreme information asymmetry and with the pressure, opportunity, and rationalizing culture that can foster misconduct and deception. Many investors in the private markets are sophisticated and can bear high levels of risk and significant losses from securities fraud. It is increasingly evident, however, that private company lies can harm a broader range of shareholders and stake-holders as well as the efficiency of allocating billions of dollars for innovation and new business. In response to this underappreciated problem, this Article explores a range of mechanisms to improve accountability in the private markets and ultimately argues for greater public oversight and enforcement.

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