In a rare case in which a securities suit is actually going to trial, on Monday a jury was empanelled in the Vivendi securities class action lawsuit pending in the Southern District of New York. An October 5, 2009 New York Times article summarizing the background of the case can be found here. A more detailed description of the case can be found here.
The Vivendi trial is unusual in another respect – it involves the claims of so-called "f-cubed" claimants, as detailed in an October 5, 2009 AmLaw Litigation Daily article by Andrew Longstreth (here). That is, the case involves claims by foreign shareholders of a foreign domiciled company who bought their shares on foreign exchanges.
However, because of March 22, 2007 class certification rulings by Southern District of New York Judge Richard Holwell, the class on whose behalf the claims are asserted does not include all potential f-cubed claimants. That is, though the class includes claimants from France, England and the Netherlands, it does not include investors from Austria and Germany.
As the AmLaw Litigation Daily article notes, plaintiffs’ lawyers, who are keenly interested in bringing claims in U.S. courts on behalf of foreign investors, will be watching this case closely.
As noted in a prior post (here), the question of the extraterritorial application of the U.S. securities laws is a current hot topic that could well wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court this term. In addition, as noted here, subject matter jurisdiction over the claims of f-cubed claimants is one of the issues addressed in financial reform legislation recently introduced in Congress.
The Vivendi case is actually the second securities class action lawsuit to go to trial this year. As detailed here, on May 7, 2009, a jury in the Northern District of Illinois entered a mixed verdict in the plaintiffs’ favor in the Household International securities suit.
As reported on the Securities Litigation Watch blog (here), only 21 cases (prior to Vivendi) have gone trial since the 1995 enactment of the PSLRA. Only seven of the 21 cases (including the Household International case) that have gone to a verdict involved conduct that occurred after the PSLRA was enacted. Accounting for post trial motions and appeals (and post-appeal trials), with respect to the seven cases, the current scoreboard standings show three wins for the plaintiffs and four for the defendants.
Credit Suisse Subprime Suit DIsmissed on Jurisdictional Grounds: In a topically related development that also took place in the Southern District of New York yesterday, on October 5, 2009, Judge Victor Marrero released his opinion (here) explaining his prior September 28, 2009 dismissal, on the grounds of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of the subpime securities class action lawsuit that had been filed against Credit Suisse and certain of its directors and officers.
As described in greater detail here, the plaintiffs had alleged that the defendants misrepresented the company’s financial condition by failing to disclose schemes to overstate assets, underestimate risk, hide subprime exposure, and ignore weaknesses in risk management and internal controls. The risk management and internal control allegations referred to the criminal prosecution of two former U.S.-based Credit Suisse employees, Julian Tzolov and Eric Butler, in connection with their sale of securities to customers of the bank, about which refer here.
In considering the sufficiency of the court’s subject matter jurisdiction over the case, Judge Marrero divided the question between the claims of foreign-domiciled claimants who bought their shares in the foreign-domiciled claimants on a foreign exchange (the "f-cubed" claimants) and the claims of claimants who had bought ADRs on the NYSE. Approximately 4.1% of investors had bought their investment through ADRs on the NYSE.
Judge Marrero concluded that the court did not have jurisdiction over the f-cubed claimants, observing that the plaintiffs "have not adequately alleged or otherwise demonstrated that hte fraudulent schemes…were concocted or masterminded in the United States." He found further that the allegedly misleading statements had originated abroad, and the wrongful acts alleged in the United States (even the alleged criminal misconduct of the two former Credit Suisse employees) fail to satisfy the conduct test for the exercise of jurisdiction over the claims of foreign claimants.
Judge Marrero also held that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims of investors who bought ADRs on the NYSE, holding that he could not conclude that the plaintiffs "have demonstrated the required effects on United States investors." This latter result appears largely to be due to "lack of information" and "lack of briefing" on the plaintiffs’ part. (Among other things, the amended complaint neglects to specify the domicile of the proposed lead plaintiffs who had bought ADRs on the NYSE.)
Judge Marrero allowed the plaintiffs 20 days to file a motion in which to attempt to show why allowing the plaintiffs to amend their complaint would not be futile.
The contrast between the events yesterday in the Southern District of New York courthouse involving these two cases could not be more stark. On the one hand, a jury is being empanelled with respect to the claims of the f-cubed claimants in the Vivendi case, which appears likely to head to a verdict. Yet in the same courthouse, Judge Marrero issued an opinion in whch he concluded that the court lacked subject matter over the claims of the f-cubed claimants. To be sure, this stark difference between the way the two cases have fared in the courthouse may simply be a reflection of underlying differences between the cases. Nevertheless, the contrast is stark.
Special thanks to a loyal reader for providing a copy of the October 5 opinion.