Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Supreme Court of the United States
November 4, 2003, Argued ; January 13, 2004, Decided
[*391] [**895] Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court.
"Opportunity doesn't always knock . . . sometimes it rings." App. 113 (ETS Payphones promotional brochure). And sometimes it hangs up. So it did for the 10,000 people who invested a total of $300 million in the payphone sale-and-leaseback arrangements touted by respondent under that slogan. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) argues that the arrangements were investment contracts, and thus were subject to regulation under the federal securities laws. In this case, we must decide whether a moneymaking scheme is excluded from the term "investment contract" simply because the scheme offered a contractual entitlement to a fixed, rather than a variable, return.
Respondent Charles Edwards was the chairman, chief executive officer, and sole shareholder of ETS Payphones, Inc. [****6] (ETS). 1 ETS, acting partly through a subsidiary also controlled by respondent, sold payphones to the public via independent distributors. The payphones were offered packaged with a site lease, a 5-year leaseback and management agreement, and a buyback agreement. All but a tiny fraction of purchasers chose this package, although other management options were offered. The purchase price for the payphone packages was approximately $7,000. Under the leaseback and management agreement, purchasers received $82 per month, a 14% annual return. Purchasers were not involved in the day-to-day operation of the payphones they owned. ETS selected the site for the phone, installed the [*392] equipment, arranged for connection and long-distance service, collected coin revenues, and maintained and repaired the phones. Under the buyback agreement, ETS promised to refund the full purchase price of the package at the end of the lease or within 180 days of a purchaser's request.
[****7] In its marketing materials and on its Web site, ETS trumpeted the "incomparable pay phone" as "an exciting business opportunity," in which recent deregulation had "open[ed] the door for profits for individual pay [***819] phone owners and operators." According to ETS, "[v]ery few business opportunities can offer the potential for ongoing revenue generation that is available in today's pay telephone industry." App. 114-115 (ETS brochure); id., at 227 [**896] (ETS Web site); see id., at 13 (Complaint PP 37-38).
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
540 U.S. 389 *; 124 S. Ct. 892 **; 157 L. Ed. 2d 813 ***; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 659 ****; 72 U.S.L.W. 4111; Fed. Sec. L. Rep. (CCH) P92,656; 17 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 98
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, Petitioner v. CHARLES E. EDWARDS
Subsequent History: On remand at SEC v. ETS Payphones, Inc., 408 F.3d 727, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 7786 (11th Cir. Ga., May 5, 2005)
Prior History: [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT.
SEC v. ETS Payphones, Inc., 300 F.3d 1281, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 15766 (11th Cir. Ga., 2002)
Disposition: Reversed and remanded.
investment contract, investors, profits, promise, payphones, purchasers, securities law, leaseback, variable, package
Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Types of Contracts, Investment Contracts, Criminal Law & Procedure, Fraud, Securities Fraud, Elements, Securities Law, Securities Act Actions, Civil Liability, General Overview, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Actions, Investment Schemes