Was Smartt’s lie about having a college degree material?The press posted negative comments such as “another CEO that lied about his resume” and speculated about “what else might Smartt be hiding.”
Case Study 1 – Securities
In 2013, after working at First State Bank for 5 years and Third State Bank for 3 years, Ted Smartt helped found Smartt Capital Corporation (SCC), a venture capital firm that invested in the ecommerce, Internet and similarly situated technology sectors. SCC went public in 2015, and Smartt served as its CEO and chairman of the board. Various documents filed with the SEC stated that Smartt “earned a B.B.A. in accounting from Stanford University.” In fact, Smartt only attended Stanford for three years and did not graduate. After being pressured by a journalist, Smartt disclosed the misrepresentation to the SCC board. The same day, the company issued a press release correcting the statement.
The press posted negative comments such as “another CEO that lied about his resume” and speculated about “what else might Smartt be hiding.” On the day the press release was issued, SCC’s stock price dropped from $42.55 per share to $32.40, but it fully recovered within 90 days.
Shareholders sued, alleging that the misrepresentation violated section 11 of the 1933 Act, section 10(b) of the 1934 Act, and Rule 10b–5.
Was Smartt’s lie about having a college degree material?
Would your answer be the same if a CEO lied about having helped to take a company through an initial public offering and subsequent acquisition by another company and having led a medical instruments company from incorporation through launch of a new technological breakthrough in surgical instruments?
If you were a member of the SCC board, would you be comfortable keeping Smartt as CEO once you learned that he had lied about having a college degree?
Case Study 2 – Liability of Corporations, Shareholders and Officers
In 2008, Mr. and Mrs. Smith formed “Working Dogs, Inc.” an Ohio corporation, for the purpose of breeding, raising and training German Shepherds for sale to various law enforcement agencies and similar businesses. They chose to incorporate so that their personal assets would be shielded from any liability arising out of the operation of the business. The Smith’s purchased the vacant land next to the family home and constructed a concrete kennel with fenced dog runs for 25 dogs. Title to the lot and the kennel was in the name of the corporation. The Smith’s son, John, helped raise and train the dogs until he went to college. After John went off to college, the Smiths decided that running the kennel was too much work and were considering selling the business. When John found out, he asked his parents to let him take over the family business, using the dog lot and kennel. The Smiths agreed and appointed John as the corporation’s President, replacing Mr. Smith. John was offered 60% ownership of the shares in the corporation but he declined stating he didn’t need want the hassle of stocks.
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