The impact of a Rule 10b5-1 trading plan on a court's scienter analysis depends largely on the overall facts and circumstances surrounding the trading. In Koplyay v. Cirrus Logic, Inc., 2013 WL 6233908, (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 2, 2013), the court considered allegations that during the class period the individual defendants sold 14%, 11%, 46% and 10% of their stock holdings (for profits ranging from less than $1m to $4m). In surveying the case law, the court found that this trading was not "suspicious" for the following reasons:
(1) The timing of the sales, which allegedly took place at the "height" of the class period, "actually weighs against a finding of scienter, as the majority of the sales were neither at the beginning of the Class Period, soon after the misleading statements, nor clustered at its end, when insiders theoretically would have rushed to cash out before the fraud was revealed and stock prices plummeted."
(2) The court declined to adopt a rule that an insider's sale of more than 10% of his holdings is suspicious. Instead, the court noted that "courts have found scienter based on sales similar to these only where the volume of sales and total profit is overwhelming or where some other factor, such as the timing of the sales, further tips the balance."
(3) The court found that all but one of the sales were made pursuant to Rule 10b5-1 trading plans that "were entered into months before the class period." Although the plaintiffs argued that the defendants could have "timed the release of good and bad news to maximize insider trading profits based on triggers in the plan," the court found that "this argument effectively reduced to a claim that Defendants had scienter because they were motivated to raise the price of Cirrus stock."
Holding: Motion to dismiss granted.