In re Omnicare, Inc. Sec. Litig., 13-5597, 2014 WL 5066826 (6th Cir. Oct. 10, 2014):
The purpose of “the materiality requirement is not to ‘attribute to investors a child-like simplicity, an inability to grasp the probabilistic significance of [opinion statements],’ but to filter out essentially useless information that a reasonable investor would not consider significant, even as part of a larger ‘mix’ of factors to consider in making his investment decision.” Basic, Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224, 234 (1988) (quoting Flamm v. Eberstadt, 814 F.2d 1169, 1175 (7th Cir.1987)). To this end, we have said before that “[m]isrepresented or omitted facts are material only if a reasonable investor would have viewed the misrepresentation or omission as ‘having significantly altered the total mix of information made available.’ “ Sofamor Danek, 123 F.3d 394, 400 (6th Cir.1997) (quoting Basic, Inc., 485 U.S. at 232). Put another way, a “ ‘fact is material if there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable shareholder would consider it important in deciding how to vote.’ “ Basic, Inc., 485 U.S. at 231 (quoting TSC Indus., Inc. v. Northway, Inc., 426 U.S. 438, 449 (1976)). “ ‘Immaterial statements include vague, soft, puffing statements or obvious hyperbole’ upon which a reasonable investor would not rely.” Public Sch. Teachers' Pension & Ret. Fund of Chi. v. Ford Motor Co. (In re Ford Motor Co. Sec. Litig.), 381 F.3d 563, 570 (6th Cir.2004) (quoting In re K-tel Int'l, Inc. Sec. Litig., 300 F.3d 881, 897 (8th Cir.2002)).
This standard and these examples, however, are vague and provide little guidance in close cases. At first glance, this doctrine might appear “both clever and intuitively sensible,” but it has the potential to “look more like a heuristic rather than an entirely legitimate doctrine” when used too often “at the motion to dismiss stage (where materiality, being a fact question, typically should not be decided)....” Stephen M. Bainbridge & G. Mitu Gulati, How Do Judges Maximize? (The Same Way Everybody Else Does—Boundedly): Rules of Thumb in Securities Fraud Opinions, 51 Emory L.J. 83, 115 (2002). In general, the federal judiciary has a limited understanding of investor behavior and the actual economic consequences of certain statements. Thus, we must tread lightly at the motion-to-dismiss stage, engaging carefully with the facts of a given case and considering them in their full context. See Jennifer O'Hare, The Resurrection of the Dodo: The Unfortunate Re-emergence of the Puffery Defense in Private Securities Fraud Actions, 59 Ohio St. L.J. 1697, 1727–1731 (1998) (illuminating the importance of context to materiality determinations). Otherwise, we risk prematurely dismissing suits on the basis of our intuition.