Securities class action filings in Canada were down in 2012 compared to 2011’s record number of filings and compared to recent annual averages, according to a February 13, 2013 report from NERA Economic Consulting. The report, which is entitled “Trends in Canadian Securities Class Actions: 2012 Update,” can be found here. NERA’s press release summarizing the report’s findings can be found here.
According to the report, there were nine securities class actions filed in Canada in 2012, down from the “all time high” of 15 new cases filed in 2011, and below the annual average of 12 new cases filed per year since 2008. Eight of the nine 2012 cases were filed under the secondary market civil liability provisions of the provincial securities actions (so-called “Bill 198” cases).
The downturn in the number of new securities class action lawsuit filings in Canadian securities class action may be due in part to the abatement of a couple of filing trends that drove filings prior to 2012. In recent years, filing levels had been increased due to credit crisis related filings and due to the surge in cases against Chinese domiciled companies. There were no new case filings in Canada in 2012 related to either of these trends.
Eight of the nine cases involved companies with shares traded on the Toronto stock exchange. The ninth case involves Facebook, which does not have shares listed on a Canadian exchange. (As discussed here, there is recent Canadian authority allowing cases against companies whose shares traded exclusively on foreign exchanges to go forward in Canadian courts.) Six of the nine new Canadian securities class action cases had parallel U.S. filings
In addition to these new filings in Canadian courts, there were six U.S. class action filings in 2012 involving Canadian-domiciled companies. Two of these six also involved parallel Canadian securities class actions, but four of the six involved companies for which there is no parallel Canadian class action.
Two-thirds of the 2012 securities class action filings in Canada were brought against companies in the mining or oil and gas sectors.
The most significant securities class action settlement in Canada is E&Y’s $117 million settlement in the Sino-Forest case, which, the report notes, if approved would represent “the largest settlement of a Bill 198 case to date.” There have only been two prior audit firm defendant settlements of Bill 198 cases, both of which involved the auditors’ agreement to pay $500,000 to settle the claims.
The report notes with respect to the twelve Bill 198 cases that have settled to date (excluding partial settlements, which would remove the E&Y/Sino Forest settlement from the calculation) that the average settlement amount is $10.5 million and the median settlement is $9.3 million. The average settlement as a percentage of compensatory damages claimed is 12.6% and the median is 8.9%. The average settlement of the four Bill 198 cases that had parallel U.S. claims is $16.9 million and the median is $17.2 million. The average of the settlements in the eight domestic-only cases is $7.4 million and the median is $5.4 million.
With new filings, settlements and dismissals during 2012, there are now a total of 51 active Canadian securities class actions, four more than at the end of 2011 and nearly double the number of active cases four years ago. All but nine of the cases still active as of the end of 2012 were filed after 2007. The combined impact of the growing number of open claims and case law developments suggest that “we may see more settlements during 2013 than we saw in 2012.”
For discussion of a recent law firm memo asking whether class action lawsuits in Canada had “reached maturity,” refer here.
2012 was “another brisk year of class action activity” in Canada, according to a recent memorandum from the Osler Hoskin & Harcourt law firm entitled “Class Actions in Canada 2012” (here). There were a number of significant class action developments in Canada in 2012, including the “landmark” $117 million E&Y settlement in the Sino-Forest case (about which refer here). The developments during the past year “suggest that 2013 may be a tipping point for the maturing class action jurisprudence in Canada.”
The law firm memo covers class action developments across a broad range of areas of the law, including securities law, competition law, product liability law and employment law, among others. Among other things, the memo also discusses the increasing role of third party funding in class action litigation in Canada. The memo reviews several recent Canadian court decisions where third party funding arrangements have been allowed, and notes that more recently cases have set out a “road map” for approval of future third-party funding arrangements.
The memo notes that these developments involving third party funding arrangements “will undoubtedly encourage plaintiffs to seek approval of similar agreements in other class actions.” The memo’s authors add a note of concern about these kinds of funding arrangements. They note that under the “loser pays” model that applies to class action litigation in most of the Canadian provinces, “the risk of an adverse cost award has traditionally served an important function in discouraging plaintiffs from pursuing questionable cases.” The authors note that “if these risks are outsourced to third parties, there is a concern that plaintiffs may be relieved of some of the adverse consequences of poor case selection, resulting in more strategic class action litigation.”
With respect to securities class action litigation, the memo notes that there was “significant activity” in Canada in 2012. The key developments included the March 2012 ruling in the Canadian Solar case (about which refer here), in which the Ontario Court of Appeal held that the liability regime under the Ontario Securities Act applies to a company whose shares trade only on NASDAQ and that do not trade on any Canadian exchange, and that has its principal place of business in China. (The company has its head office and business operations in Ontario and some of the allegedly misleading documents originated in Ontario).
The memo also notes that, notwithstanding the low threshold plaintiffs must meet in order to obtain leave to proceed under the Ontario Securities Act in a secondary market securities class action formulated in the Imax case (about which refer here), class plaintiff nonetheless face “ a meaningful evidentiary burden.” In particular, the denial of leave in the Western Coal Corporation case -- in whichJustice George Strathy found "no reasonable possibility" that a trial judge would accept the plaintiffs' expert evidence -- provides a "welcome reminder" that "courts will exercise an important gatekeeping function at teh leave stage and the certification stage, and this gatekeeping function may include a rigorous assessment of the expert evidence and a threshold evaluation of the merits." (For more aboute the Western Coal decision and its possible implications, refer here.)
In connection with employment class actions, the memo notes that there was a trio of cases in 2012 released by the Ontario Court of Appeal concerning certification in three overtime class action cases. Among other things, these rulings resulted in one certification in a misclassification case and two certifications in an “off-the-clock” case. Because parties to at least two of these cases have sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, “we may see further judicial guidance on the certification of employment class actions in 2013.”
The memo concludes by noting that in light of the numerous significant class action developments in 2013, “there are signals that 2013 may be a watershed year for class action practice in Canada.” The memo notes that according to one of the leading Canadian class action judges, Canada’s “class action bar and jurisprudence” has now “reached maturity” – a development that has significant implications for both the class action bar and for businesses in Canada.
More on the New Wave of Say-on-Pay Litigation: In an earlier post, I noted the “new wave” of say-on-pay litigation, in which the plaintiffs’ firms have filed class action lawsuits seeking to enjoin an upcoming a shareholder vote, challenging the adequacy of proxy disclosures on executive compensation and equity plans. A January 31, 2013 memorandum from the Latham & Watkins law firm entitled “Defending the Latest Wave of Proxy Litigation: Say-on-Pay and Equity Plan Shareholder Class Action Injunction Litigation” (here) takes a look at the early results from these cases and notes that the results “provide guidance for companies that want to plan ahead to position themselves for a strong defense and minimize business disruption if a suit is filed.” The memo provides an outline for reviewing and drafting proxy disclosure in anticipation of these kinds of suits as well as the steps to take to prepare for the defense in the event a case is filed.
More About Rule 10b5-1: As a result of a series of recent Wall Street Journal articles, Rule 10b5-1 trading plans are under scrutiny once again, as I discussed here. The suspicion of the trading plans is ironic, since the Rule allowing the plans was designed to allow company insiders to trade their shares without incurring liability. When set up properly and used correctly, Rule 10b5-1 plans can be an effective securities litigation loss management tool. But that begs the question – how are they set up properly and used correctly?
A January 19, 2013 memo from the Davis Polk law firm entitled “Rule 10b5-1 Plans: What you Need to Know” (here), takes a look at the recent issues surrounding Rule 10b5-1 plans and lays out a set of practical guidelines to be used in establishing the plans in order to avoid the kinds of problems that have recently arisen. The guidelines also provide a useful basis to use to try to figure out if a particular plan is likely to cause problems. The guidelines answer a number of the recurring questions surrounding the plans.
In what is by far the largest settlement in the current wave of securities litigation involving Chinese companies, Ernst &Young, which served as the outside auditor for Sino-Forest, has agreed to pay C$117 million to settle the securities suit that Sino-Forest investors filed in Ontario against the accounting firm. (At current exchange rates, the Canadian dollar and the U.S. dollar are valued roughly equally.) According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ December 3, 2012 press release (here), E&Y’s settlement of the Sino-Forest suit “is the largest settlement by an auditor in Canadian history, by a large margin, and is one of the largest-ever auditor settlements worldwide.”
As discussed here, the plaintiffs’ lawyers first filed their suit in Ontario Superior Court of Justice on behalf of Sino-Forest shareholders in June 2011, following press reports and online reports that the company had substantially overstated the size and value of its forestry holdings in China's Yunnan province. The allegations first emerged in a June 2, 2011 report by online-research firm Muddy Waters, which accused Sino-Forest of outright fraud. Floyd Norris’s June 9, 2011 New York Times article about E&Y’s involvement in the Sino-Forest scandal can be found here. Earlier this year, Sino-Forest filed for bankruptcy protection.
As detailed in the claimants’ amended statement of claim, the lawsuit named as defendants Sino-Forest, its senior officers and directors, its auditors, its underwriters and a consulting company. The plaintiffs previously settled with the consulting company in an agreement that did not involve any monetary payments (refer here). An overview of the Ontario litigation, including links to key documents, can be found here. The plaintiffs’ lawyers’ December 3 press release emphasizes that the plaintiffs’ claims against the remaining defendants (including in particular the individual directors and officers and the offering underwriters, as well as another auditor) remain pending.
Perhaps coincidentally (or perhaps not), on December 3, 2012, the Ontario Securities Commission filed charges against Ernst & Young that the firm had failed to conduct their audits of Sino-Forest “in accordance with relevant industry standards.” The OSC’s Statement of Allegations against E&Y can be found here. A December 3, 2012 Financial Post article discussing both the OSC allegations and the separate civil suit settlement can be found here.
And in yet another apparent coincidence, on December 3, 2012, the SEC initiated administrative proceedings against the China affiliates of each of the Big Four accounting firms (including E&Y’s Chinese affiliate) and another large U.S. accounting firm for refusing to produce audit work papers and other documents related to China-based companies under investigation by the SEC for potential accounting fraud against U.S. investors. The SEC’s December 3 press release about the administrative action can be found here.
E&Y’s settlement of the Sino-Forest suit is noteworthy in several respects, and not just because it is the largest auditor settlement in Canadian history. It is also noteworthy because it is the largest settlement so far of any kind in connection with the wave of securities suits that were filed in the U.S. and in Canada against Chinese companies in recent years. As I noted in a prior post (here), in general the securities suits involving U.S.-listed Chinese companies that have reached the settlement stage have only resulted in modest settlements, well below the range of median settlements for U.S. securities class action lawsuits generally. However, those modest settlements have involved only the corporate entity defendant and its directors and officers, and the settlements typically involved only the remaining amounts of D&O insurance.
From the earliest stages of the wave of securities suits involving Chinese companies, I had been told that owing to the logistical challenges and other shortcomings in the lawsuits against the Chinese companies, the true targets were really not the companies themselves, but rather their outside advisors. Up to this point, I have been skeptical that the plaintiffs might succeed in getting traction in their claims against the outside advisors. Clearly, the massive E&Y settlement in the Sino-Forest case demonstrates that the claims against these companies outside advisors canhave significant value, at least in some cases. In any event, these cases have suddenly become much more interesting to watch.
Dismissal Granted in U.S.-Listed Chinese Company Securities Suit: The securities suits involving Chinese companies are only valuable to the plaintiffs if they are able to get to the case to the settlement stage. Many of these cases have been dismissed at the preliminary motions stage, and on December 3, 2012, the defendants’ motions to dismiss were grated in the securities suit pending in the Western District of Washington against L&L Energy, a U.S. company owning Chinese mining operations, and certain of its directors and officers. The motion was granted with leave to amend. A copy of the December 3 opinion can be found here.
As detailed here, the plaintiffs had raised a number of allegations against L&L, asserting among other things that the company had misrepresented its revenues in its filings with the SEC. In making these allegations the plaintiffs relied on discrepancies between the financial figures the company reported in its SEC filings and the figures the company’s subsidiaries reported in China with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC).
In rejecting the plaintiffs’ allegations based on this discrepancy, Western District of Washington Robert Lasnik noted that the two kinds of financial reports involved a number of different reporting requirements and protocols. Based on these differences in the reporting requirements, Judge Lasnik concluded that while “one might draw the inference that the amounts reported to the SAIC and the SEC are inconsistent … because the inputs and consolidation methods varied in material respects, the inference is not particularly strong.” He concluded that “the bare allegations supporting the plaintiffs’ assertions that the SEC numbers, rather than the SAIC numbers, are fabrications fail to raise the necessary strong inference of falsity.”
This decision is just the latest to consider securities fraud allegation based on allegations that the financial figures a Chinese company reported to the SEC were different than those reported to the SAIC. As I noted here, in August 2012, the court denied the motion to dismiss in the securities suit involving Duoyuan Global Water, a case that also involved the same kinds of alleged reporting discrepancies. However, as noted here, in November 2011, the court in the China Century Dragon Media case, like Judge Lasnik in this case, granted the defendants motion to dismiss in another lawsuit involving alleged reporting discrepancies.
Clearly, the track record is mixed; the one thing that is for sure is that the mere fact of the reporting discrepancies alone may not be sufficient for plaintiffs’ to survive the initial pleadings stage.
Special thanks to a Doug Greene of the Lane Powell law firm for forwarding a copy of the L&L Energy opinion. Lane Powell represents the defendants in the L&L Energy case.
Rescue Stairs for Stranded Bears: Feel like smiling? Good. Watch this video.
On March 30, 2012, in a decision that may highlight the extent to which Canadian courts are increasingly willing to enforce securities laws in ways that may have extraterritorial effects, the Ontario Court of Appeals held that the liability regime under the Ontario Securities Act applies to Canadian Solar, a company whose shares trade only on NASDAQ and that do not trade on any Canadian exchange, and that has its principal place of business in China. A copy of the Court of Appeal decision can be found here.
An Ontario resident initiated a putative class action lawsuit against Canadian Solar under the Ontario Securities laws, alleging that the company overstated its financial results. Section 138.3 of the Ontario Securities Act creates a cause of action in the event of a misrepresentation by a “responsible issuer.” The statute defines “responsible issuer” as a reporting issuer or “any issuer with a real and substantial connection to Ontario, any securities of which are publicly traded.”
Canadian Solar is not a “reporting issuer.” Its shares are listed only on NASDAQ. Its shares do not trade on any Canadian exchange. Canadian Solar’s principal place of business is in China. However, it is registered as a Canadian federal corporation with its registered office and executive offices in Ontario.
A motions judge held that Canadian Solar is “responsible issuer” within the meaning of the statute. Among other things, the motions judge held that Canadian Solar’s shares did not have to be publicly traded in Canada for it to come within the definition of “responsible issuer.” Canadian Solar appealed this aspect of the motions judge’s ruling, arguing that only a company whose shares were publicly traded in Canada came within the definition of a “responsible issuer.”
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
In a March 30, 2012 opinion, written by Justice Alexandra Hoy for a three-judge panel, the Ontario Court of Appeal s held that “the general principles with respect to extraterritorial regulation do not require that the definition of ‘responsible issuer’ be interpreted as confined to issuers any of whose securities are publicly traded in Canada.” Justice Hoy added that “there is a sufficient connection between Ontario and Canadian Solar to support the application of Ontario’s regulatory regime to Canadian Solar.”
Among other things, in connection with the sufficiency of the connection to Ontario, the court also noted that the plaintiff , “an Ontario resident who placed his order in Ontario for shares of a corporation based in Ontario, would reasonably expect that his claim for misrepresentations in documents released or presented in Ontario would be determined by an Ontario court.”
The Ontario Court of Appeals decision in the Canadian Solar case is interesting and potentially significant because of its holding that the secondary market misrepresentation damages class action under the Ontario securities laws could be asserted against a company even though the company’s securities were not publicly traded in Canada. Because all of the Canadian provinces have enacted legislation simalar to Ontario's (similar at least in this respect), the decision could have implications across all of the Canadian provinces. There obviously are factors that made this situation somewhat distinct, if not perhaps unique; Canadian Solar is a Canadian registered corporation with both its registered office and its executive offices in Ontario. In addition, the plaintiff, an Ontario resident, purchased his Canadian Solar shares in Ontario.
Nevertheless, as noted in an April 4, 2012 memo from the Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt law firm (here), the Court’s decision “makes it clear that non-reporting issuers whose shares do not trade anywhere in Canada may nevertheless find themselves subject to Ontario’s liability regime for misrepresentations made in the secondary market, provided however that the issuer has a ‘real and substantial connection’ to Ontario.”
At a minimum, as discussed in a May 2012 memo from the Blake, Cassels & Graydon law firm (here), the Canadian Solar opinion provides “possible guidance that may be instructive to determining when a real and substantial connection exists for purposes of the statute.” In particular, the memo also notes, it appears that “there is no one factor that will insulate companies from Canadian securities law.”
The Blake law firm’s memo goes on to suggest that “it is feasible that the current state of the law may result in Ontario and other Canadian jurisdictions becoming the forum of choice for shareholders attempting to seek remedies even where the connection to Canada is tenuous.” What remain to be determined in future cases, as the Osler, Hoskin law firm’s memo notes, “is the extent of the connections that other foreign issuers will be required to have with the province before they will be considered ‘responsible issuers’ for purposes of” the statute.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank, one of the questions that has been asked is whether another jurisdiction will emerge as an alternative forum in which aggrieved investors precluded from U.S courts can pursue their remedies. The Canadian Solar case provides an interesting point of view on the consideration of these issues, given that because the company’s shares trade on NASDAQ, an action against the company and its directors and officers under the U.S. securities laws is not precluded under Morrison. (Indeed, a separate action against the company has been filed in the United States, about which refer here.)
Nevertheless, the case does provide interesting additional insight into the possible availability of Canada as an alternative forum. This possibility was already the subject of a great deal of focus since Canadian courts have certified a global plaintiff class in the Imax case (about which refer here), and in the Arctic Glacier case (about which refer here).
The possibility that the Canadian courts might emerge as an alternative forum of choice seems to be advanced by the Court’s holding that it is not preclusive of an action under the relevant laws that the defendant company’s share were not traded on a Canadian exchange. Of course there were many other factors involved in this case that supported the application of the Ontario laws here that are not going to be present in many other cases. Nevertheless, the case does reflect a willingness by Canadian courts to apply its laws to cases with significant foreign aspects as well.
Securities class action lawsuit filings in Canada hit record levels in 2011 according to a new report from NERA Economic Consulting. The January 31, 2012 report, entitled “Trends in Canadian Securities Class Actions: 2011 Update” (here) concludes that the persistent growth in Canadian securities class action lawsuit filings “is not a transient phenomenon.”
According to the report, in 2011, there were 15 new securities class action lawsuit filing in 2011, more than in any previous year. The 2011 filings bring the total number of pending and unresolved Canadian securities class action lawsuit filings to 45.
The growth in securities lawsuit filings in Canada is largely a result of the growth in new filings under Bill 198, the Ontario legislation that amended the Ontario securities laws with regard to issuer’s continuous disclosure obligations. The report notes that there have been a total 35 Bill 198 cases since the Act became effective at the end of 2005, including nine in 2011. The Bill 198 cases account for more than two-thirds of all of the suits filed between 2008 and 2011. The other claims filed in 2011 include, among other things, one prospectus claim; one related to a takeover bid; two related to investment fund management; and two related to Ponzi schemes.
Just as was the case with 2011 securities lawsuit filing in the U.S, a significant driver in the 2011 Canadian filings was the rise in filings against Chinese companies whose shares trade on North American exchanges. Among the highest profile case in Canada was the lawsuit involving Sino-Forest, whose shares trade on the Toronto stock exchange. (As noted here, U.S. investors recently have attempted to bring a class action in U.S. federal court against Sino Forest alleging violations of NY state law.) At least three of the other new 2011 filings involve Chinese companies.
Interestingly, the report notes that one Chinese company involved in a 2010 Canadian securities lawsuit filing did not have shares listed on a Canadian exchange, but did have shares listed on Nasdaq. So far, the case, involving Canadian Solar, has been permitted to proceed.
Canadian companies with listings on U.S. exchanges also face a securities class action litigation risk. The report notes that in 2011, five Canadian domiciled companies were named as defendants in six securities class action lawsuits in the U.S. At least one of these companies was also named in a securities class action lawsuit in Ontario. Since 1987, Canadian-domiciled companies have been named in 74 securities lawsuits in the U.S. Of these, 21 had parallel actions in the U.S., although most of these parallel actions were filed after the enactment of Bill 198.
Historically, class action lawsuit filings in Canada have been concentrated in the financial sector, as well as the energy and minerals sectors. In 2011, five of the Canadian filings involved companies in the minerals sector and four involved companies in the finance sector.
Only two cases settled in 2011, involving total payments of $58.6 million. Of the ten settlements so far of Bill 198 cases, the average settlement amount is $10 million and the median settlement is $6.2 million. The report notes that given the small number of settlements to date, “it is unclear whether these are indicative of the size of settlements that should be expected in the future.”
The report concludes that the upward filing trend is likely to continue in 2012 and beyond. The report’s authors cite a number of factors in support of their conclusion that “we are likely to continue to see an increasing number of new cases filed,” including the growth in the Canadian securities class action bar; the track record that has been established with the certification of global classes (in the IMAX and Arctic Glacier cases) and with plaintiffs being given leave to proceed in Bill 198 cases; the success of counsel in achieving large settlements (and obtaining large fees); and the barriers in the U.S. under the Morrison decision to investors who purchased shares outside the U.S. proceeding in U.S. courts.
Although the number of securities class action lawsuit filings in Canadian courts remains well below the number of filings in the U.S., both the growth in the filings and the indicated trends suggest that Canadian securities class action litigation could be increasingly important.
The report’s comment about the growth in the size of the Canadian plaintiffs’ securities bar may be the most telling point. Clearly, the plaintiffs’ attorneys sense that there is an opportunity. As non-U.S. investors search for alternative ways to pursue claims in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Morrison, Canada may be emerging as one of the most attractive alternatives. The Canadian courts’ willingness to certify global classes in the IMAX and Arctic Glacier cases suggests the opportunity for investors to pursue their claims in Canadian courts.
Among the many very interesting comments in the NERA study of Canadian securities litigation was the comment about the action that is pending in Canada against Canadian Solar, Inc. The case has been allowed to proceed so far, even though the company’s shares did not trade on a Canadian securities exchange but did trade on Nasdaq. Although there undoubtedly is more to the story, it is interesting to note that the investors chose to file their action in Canada. The company has also been sued in a separate action in the U.S. (refer here), but the circumstances do suggest the possibility of an emerging jurisdictional competition.
The sense of a jurisdictional competition is reinforced with the filing of the state law class action filed by Sino-Forest in the U.S. The same circumstances were also the subject of a separate action in Canadian court.
The emergence and growth of significant securities class action litigation outside the U.S. is one of the most interesting developments in recent years, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in the Morrison case has added increased importance to the issue. It could be increasingly important to watch developments in Canada and elsewhere.
Special thanks to NERA for providing me with a copy of their report.
For the second time, a court has given investors leave to proceed and also certified a plaintiff class in a secondary market misrepresentations claim under the revised Ontario Securities Act. In an order dated March 1, 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Wolfram Tausendfreund granted leave to investors to proceed against Arctic Glacier Income Fund, its trustees and related entities and executives. A copy of Justice Tausendfreund’s order can be found here.
As discussed at length here, effective in 2005, Ontario revised its securities laws (in legislative provisions now generally referred to as Bill 198) potentially making it easier for disappointed investors to bring actions for civil liability against directors and officers of public companies for alleged secondary market misrepresentations.
Section 138.8 (1) of the revised Ontario Securities Act specifies, however, that a liability action cannot be commenced "without leave of court granted upon motion with notice to each defendant." The court is to grant leave only "where it is satisfied" that the action "is being brought in good faith" and there is a "reasonable possibility" the plaintiff will prevail at trial.
In a "landmark" December 2009 ruling, discussed here, Ontario Superior Court Justice Katherine van Rensberg granted plaintiffs in the Imax securities class action lawsuit leave to proceed with their claims. Justice van Rensberg also granted the plaintiffs’ motion to certify a global class in that case. In a February 2011 order (discussed here), another Superior Court Justice denied the defendants’ motion for leave to appeal Justice van Rensberg’s rulings.
The March 1 ruling involved an action brought by investors who had purchased shares of the Arctic Glacier Income Fund. The Income Fund is an unincorporated mutual fund trust that is a reporting issuer in ten Canadian provinces. Interests in the Income Fund trade on the Toronto stock exchange. The Income Fund’s sole assets are shares of Arctic Glacier Inc., a corporation organized under Alberta law. The company and its wholly owned subsidiary, Arctic Glacier International, provide packaged ice to consumers in Canada and the United States.
In March 2008, the Income Fund announced that it had become aware of an U.S. Department of Justice antitrust investigation involving the packaged ice industry. In 2009, Arctic International pleaded guilty to a criminal, anticompetitive conspiracy in the U.S. In the plea agreement, Arctic International agreed to pay a US$9 million fine and admitted that it had participated in a conspiracy to suppress competition in the packaged ice business in Michigan between 2001 and 2007. Following the announcement of the investigation, Income Fund’s unit price declined. The plaintiffs initiated an action alleging that they had been misled in connection with the company’s alleged legal and regulatory compliance programs.
As required under the revised Ontario Securities Laws, the plaintiffs moved for leave to proceed. In order to determine whether or not the plaintiffs had met the statutory requirement in order to obtain leave – that is, that "there is a reasonable possibility that the action will be resolved at trial in favor of the plaintiff" – Justice Tausendfreund followed the analysis of Justice van Rensberg in the Imax case with respect to the requirements to meet this standard. After noting that he saw no reason to depart from her analysis, Justice Tausendfreund said that "the applicable standard is more than a mere possibility of success, but is a lower standard than a probability."
Justice Tausendfreund concluded that the plaintiffs had met this "leave test" under Section 138.8 and granted them leave to pursue statutory claims for misrepresentation in the secondary market. He also granted the plaintiffs’ motion to certify a class of all investors who had purchased the Income Fund units during the class period, declining the defendants’ request to narrow the class.
The significance of Justice Tausendfreund’s ruling is that now a second set of plaintiffs has been granted leave to proceed with a claim for secondary market misrepresentations under the revised Ontario Securities Laws. In addition, Justice Tausendfreund, like Justice van Rensberg in the Imax case, found that the showing required to satisfy the "leave test" is relatively low.
It would is possible to overgeneralize from just these two cases, but at least so far that the plaintiffs have been relatively successful in overcoming the initial procedural hurdles in pursing secondary market misrepresentation claims under the revised Ontario Securities Act.
In addition, the plaintiffs have also succeeded in having a broad class certified as well. The certification of a global class in the Imax case may be of greater significance, given that Imax shared traded on both the Toronto and New York stock exchanges, whereas the Arctic Glacial Income Fund shares traded only on the Toronto exchange. But nevertheless, the relatively low initial threshold for leave and the courts’ willingness to certify broad classes are positive developments for the plaintiffs in these cases, and may make the remedies available under the revised Ontario Securities Act more attractive to other claimants.
An interesting and detailed March 8, 2011 analysis of the Arctic Glacier decision by the Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt law firm can be found here. The law firm memo raises a number of interesting questions about the decision, particularly with respect to the class certificaiton ruling. A March 4, 2011 Globe and Mail article about the recent ruling can be found here.
We Are All One: In her fascinating article in the March 7, 2011 issue of The New Yorker entitled "The View from the Stands" (here) about soccer in Turkey, Elif Batuman reported the following comments of one fan of the Beşiktaş team about the team and its followers (who are known as Çarşi):
He characterized Beşiktaş as the team of the unexpected, the team of underdogs, and talked about Çarşi’s slogans, which are unveiled on giant banners during matches. “We are all Black,” proclaimed one banner, after rival fans had made references to the race of the French-Senegalese Beşiktaş star Pascal Nouma. When [competitior] Fenerbahçe disparaged a Beşiktaş manager whose father had been a janitor, there were banners saying “We Are All Janitors.” And when an international committee of astronomers removed Pluto from the list of planets Çarşi took up the cause: “We Are All Pluto.”
In a February 14, 2011 order (here), an Ontario Superior Court Justice has denied the motion of the defendants in the IMAX securities lawsuit pending in Ontario for leave to appeal the December 2009 rulings of Ontario Superior Court Justice Katherine van Rensberg granting the plaintiffs leave to pursue securities claims in a class proceeding.
At its most basic the order is essentially just a ruling that the defendants have not satisfied the relevant standard to justify an appeal at this stage in the proceedings. However, the court’s explanation of its decision implicitly endorses Judge Van Rensberg’s prior decisions – including in particular her decision to certify a global class of all Imax investors. Overall, as detailed below, the February 14 ruling is quite favorable to the plaintiffs.
As detailed here, in December 2009, in "groundbreaking" rulings representing the first application of Ontario’s newly revised securities laws, Judge van Rensberg entered two orders granting the plaintiffs leave to bring their case, as required under to proceed under the laws, and certifying the suit as a class action. These rulings allowed the plaintiffs leave to proceed with their case against several IMAX directors and officers over disclosures in the company’s 2005 financial statements.
Justice van Rensberg’s decisions were the first to test recent revisions to the Ontario Securities Act that potentially made it easier for disappointed investors to bring actions for civil liability against directors and officers of public companies for misrepresentations in public disclosure documents.
These statutory provisions, which became effective in December 2005, were first passed by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in legislation now referred to simply as Bill 198, which is codified as Section XXIII.1 of the Ontario Securities Act. The provisions provide for the liability of certain specified individuals for misrepresentations in companies’ public disclosure documents.
Section 138.8 (1) of the statute specifies, however, that a liability action cannot be commenced "without leave of court granted upon motion with notice to each defendant." The court is to grant leave only "where it is satisfied" that the action "is being brought in good faith" and there is a "reasonable possibility" the plaintiff will prevail at trial.
In granting the plaintiffs' motion for leave to proceed, Justice van Rensberg held that she "is satisfied that the action is brought in good faith and that the plaintiffs have a reasonable possibility of success at trial in pursuing the statuory claims against all... parties" other than with respect to two individual outside director defendants.
Justice van Rensberg also specifically held that the plaintiffs had satisfied the requirement for the certification of a global class to assert both the statutory claims and certain common law claims that the plaintiffs had raised. The approved class included both plaintiffs who had bought there IMAX shares on the TSX as well as those who had bought their shares on the NASDAQ exchange.
The defendants sought leave to appeal Judge van Rensberg’s rulings to the Divisional court.
The February 14 Ruling
Under applicable statutory provisions, leave to appeal may be granted at this stage in the proceedings, inter alia, when there is "good reason to doubt the correctness of the order." In his February 14 order, Superior Court Justice D.L. Corbett held that this standard had not been met and he denied the defendants’ motion for leave to appeal.
At its most basic, the order essentially just holds that the statutory standard has not been met. Indeed, throughout the February 14 order, Justice Corbett reiterates with respect to the various substantive issues presented that "appellate courts will be in a better position to address them on a full factual record, after trial."
However, in order to substantiate the ruling, Justice Corbett specifies the bases for the determination that "there is no good reason to doubt the correctness of the decision" – which is, as Justice Corbett specifically puts it, that "this is the sort of claim that ought to be permitted to proceed," adding, with respect to the plaintiffs’ substantive misrepresentation claims that "it seems that the plaintiffs have a good arguable case, one that is worthy of moving forward." As detailed in the Discussion section below, Justice Corbett's analysis in this regard is quite favorable to the plaintiffs, and to plaintiffs generally.
Justice Corbett’s determination is most interesting with respect to Justice van Rensberg’s certification of a global class. In holding that there is "no reason to doubt the correctness" of Justice van Rensberg’s decision on these issues, Justice Corbett noted:
It would be wrong, of course, to compel foreign investors to be bound by Canadian proceedings, if they prefer to have their claims adjudicated elsewhere. But similarly, it would be wrong to preclude the from participating in Canadian proceedings if they wish their claims to be pursued in Ontario
Justice Corbett specifically found there is no prohibition of overlapping class proceedings in different jurisdictions, holding that the separate proceedings should not be viewed as "competing." Rather the proceedings should be "complementary" so as to "achieve a proper vindication of the rights of plaintiffs, fair process for the defendants and the plaintiffs, respect for the autonomous jurisdictions involved and an integrated and efficient resolution of claims." This process does not "required balkanization of class proceedings, but rather sensitive integration of them"
For the parties, Judge Corbett’s ruling essentially means that the case will now go forward in Ontario. The larger significance may be that another court has corroborated Justice van Rensbert’s approach and conclusions with respect to the application of the new statutory provisions to the IMAX case.
But the most interesting aspect of Justice Corbett’s ruling is the determination that the certification of a global class was not clearly in error. The practical effect is a global class action might now go forward in Ontario courts under Ontario law under circumstances in which a global class might not be certified in U.S. courts under U.S. law.
As it happens, on December 22, 2010, Southern District of New York Naomi Reice Buchwald denied the motion for class certification in the parallel U.S. IMAX securities suit, holding that various circumstances prevented the lead plaintiff from serving as class representative.
But in any event, the plaintiffs in the U.S. case had not sought to include in the class the investors who had purchased their shares in IMAX on the Toronto stock exchange, having amended their motion for class certification in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank, to limit their proposed class to those investors who purchased their shares on NASDAQ. That is, the plaintiffs essentially conceded that under Morrison the class in the U.S. class action could not include investors who purchased their shares outside the U.S.
In other words, the class certified by the Ontario court is more encompassing than the one that could be certified by a U.S. court. And Judge Corbett’s recent decision found no reason to doubt the correctness of Justice van Rensberg’s determination of these issues.
One of the questions commentators have asked in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Morrison case is whether plaintiffs’ counsel may seek to pursued securities claims outside of the U.S. The recent action filed in the Netherlands on behalf of Fortis investors provides some evidence that the plaintiffs’ attorneys are indeed pursuing alternatives to litigating cases outside of the U.S.
The recent affirmation that Ontario’s courts are authorized to certify a global class in a securities liability suit, in circumstances where a U.S. court cannot, highlights the question whether plaintiffs’ attorneys may look to Ontario’s courts as an alternative securities litigation forum, particularly in light of Justice van Rensberg’s earlier ruling that the threshold for establishing the right to pursue a securities claim under Ontario’s new legal provisions is a low one. Ontario’s courts certainly could be an attractive form at least with respect to Canadian companies.
I should add that even beyond the class certification issues, the February 14 opinion is favorable to plaintiffs. Among other things, Justice Corbett stated (in paragraph 29) that fraud alleged do "not require the plaintiffs to adduce direct evidence of the state of mind of the defendants" which "may be 'inferred from all of the circumstances," which is "a common way of determining knowledge and intention."
Justice Corbett also evinced his support (in paragraph 32) for the view that "a different standard of proof" applies to defendants affirmative defenses than is to be applied to plaintiffs to determine whether they should be permitted to proceed. The plaintiffs standard is "relatively low" while the defendants must establish their affirmative defenses "to a standard sufficient to grand summary judgment dismissing a claim." Indeed, Justice Corbett went on (in paragraph 37), the "constellation of facts" alleged "may well preclude the defendants' affirmative defenses."
Finally, Justice Corbett also supported the view that reliance be established by showing reliance on the market (in a manner similar to a fraud on ther market theory) rather than by individual reliance, if supported by the facts.
Special thanks to Daniel Bach of the Siskinds law firm for providing me with a copy of the February 14 decision. The Siskinds law firm and the Sutts, Strosberg law firm represent the plaintiffs in the IMAX case in Ontario.
The Sports Highlight of the Decade?: In a February 14, 2011 article, The Wall Street Journal asked the rhetorical questoin whether Wayne Rooney's game-winning goal in the 78th minute of Saturday's game between Manchester United (Rooney's team) and Manchester City is the "sports highlight of the decade." All I know is that when Rooney executed his amazing, backwards bicycle kick, I shouted so loud that my wife came downstairs to make sure I was alright. Best of the decade or not, it is simplty amazing. So here is the video footage -- be sure to watch the slow motion replay to really appreciate how amazing the goal is.
The number of outstanding securities class action lawsuits in Canada reached an all-time high during 2010 according to a January 31, 2011 report by NERA Economic Consulting entitled "Trends in Canadian Securities Class Actions: 2010 Update." The report can be found here. The report includes an appendix in which securities lawsuit trends in several other countries are summarized, including Australia, Japan, and Italy, as well as the United States.
According to the report, there were eight new securities class action lawsuits filed in Canada during 2010. The number of 2010 filings is one fewer than the nine new cases filed in 2009, and two fewer than the record ten filings in 2008. Allowing for the settlements in six cases during the year in which defendants agreed to pay a total of CAN$80 mm, there are now 28 active Canadian securities class action lawsuits.
A total of 25 lawsuits have now been filed under Bill 198, the relatively new secondary liability provisions of the Ontario securities laws. Of the nine Bill 198 cases that have settled, the average settlement is CAN$10.7 mm, with four cases settling for more than $10 million and three settling for less than CAN$3 million.
Interestingly, one of the 2010 filings involved a company – Canadian Solar – whose shares do not trade on a Canadian exchange (its shared trade on NASDAQ. This is the second Canadian securities suit involving a company whose share do not trade on a Canadian exchange (the first being the 2008 lawsuit involving AIG).
The report notes that it has become relatively common in recent years for Canadian companies to be subject to securities lawsuit in the United States. Between 1996 and 2010, Canadian-domiciled companies have been named as defendants in securities class action lawsuits in the U.S. Of these, 17 cases also had parallel class action lawsuits in Canada.
The report notes that the number of future filings in the US against Canadian companies may decline in future years owing to the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Morrison v. National Australia Bank. Indeed, Morrison could have an impact on at least some of the cases pending in the U.S. against Canadian companies. The report notes that the Morrison case comes at a time when Canada and even other countries may be expanding the reach of their collective action mechanisms. It is entirely possible that there may be an increase of lawsuits in Canada involving companies whose shares do not trade in Canada, particularly in light of the fact that at least one Canadian court has been willing to certify a global class of claimants.
The average settlement amount of the 37 U.S. cases involving Canadian companies that have settled is US$71.5 mm, but this average is skewed by two large settlements involving Nortel. The median of these settlements is US$6 mm. For the 14 US cases against Canadian companies that have settled since 2007 (i.e., after the Nortel settlements), the average settlement is U.S $20.5 mm and the median settlement is uS$6.2 mm.
This Week at the PLUS D&O Symposium: Weather permitting, this week I will be attending the 2011 PLUS D&O Symposium in New York City. I know that many readers of this blog will also be there. I hope that if you see me at the Symposium that you will take a minute to say hello, particularly if we have not previously met. I look forward to seeing everyone there, or at least everyone who can make it through the storm. Safe travels to all, good luck to all of us with the weather.
On January 27, 2010, NERA Economic Consulting released its updated annual review of Canadian securities class litigation entitled "Trends in Canadian Securities Class Actions: 2009 Update" (here). The report presents an interesting study of the evolution of class action litigation in a jurisdiction outside the U.S.
According to the report, there were eight new securities class action lawsuits filed in 2009, which is fewer that the ten filed in 2008 "but still greater than filings in previous years." With the addition of the eight new cases, there are now 23 pending securities class actions, representing more than $14.7 billion in claims. Most of these cases were filed in the last three years although some of the pending cases were filed almost 10 years ago.
Though the number of new filings is noteworthy, the more significant developments may be the class certifications in three cases and the ruling allowing the IMAX securities class action plaintiffs leave to proceed under the new Ontario securities laws. (My prior detailed discussion of the rulings in the IMAX case can be found here.). The NERA report comments that these rulings "may ultimately prove to be an inflection point" for securities class action litigation in Canada.
Though there were significant new filings in 2009, one noteworthy feature of the cases that were filed is the "absence in Canada of class actions filings relating to the credit crisis." This absence may be due in part to the relatively smaller impact of the credit crisis in Canada compared to the U.S. and the negotiated $32 billion restructuring of the Canadian Asset Backed Commercial Paper market, which may have preempted further litigation.
Six cases settled in 2009 for a total of approximately $51 million, for an average of approximately $8.5 million and a median of approximately $9 million (which is roughly comparable to the median settlement of U.S. securities class action lawsuits). 2009 settlements averaged 13.7% of the amount of claimed damages. Cases with cross-border litigation counterparts in the U.S. tended to settle for larger amounts both in terms of absolute dollars and as a percentage of claimed damages.
According to a January 27, 2010 article in the Vancouver Sun (here), the number of filings and the procedural developments (including the rulings in the IMAX case) are "a wake up call for publicly traded companies." Law firms are "advising their clients to revisit their compliance and corporate-governance procedures to protect against similar suits."
One lawyer quoted in the article says that he is also advising his clients to review their corporate insurance, as well. He goes on to state that "We’ve seen over the years there are a lot of problems in terms of clients don’t really have the type of coverage they need."
Yet, as for the question of whether there may be a flood of litigation, one plaintiffs’ attorney quoted in the article sounds a note of caution. The attorney, Dimitri Lascaris, who is one of the lead attorneys in the IMAX case, notes that that the Canadian system still provides for adverse costs, and even the liberalized standard under the new Ontario law are time consuming and expensive. So, he says, "we’re never going to achieve the level of activity in securities class actions that we see in the United States."
In light of these developments and their potential significance regarding insurance coverage, the session planned for the upcoming PLUS D&O Symposium (scheduled next Wednesday and Thursday in New York) on the topic of Canadian Securities Class Action Litigation is quite timely. The panel will be moderated by my friend Dave Williams from Chubb (Canada) and planned speakers include a number of prominent players in the area in Canada, including Dimitri Lascaris. Information about the Symposium can be found here.
The Securities Litigation Watch blog has a post about the NERA study here.
Excess Side A Carrier Contributes to Options Backdating Settlement: On January 25, 2010, a judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania preliminarily approved the settlement of the options backdating lawsuit that had been filed against Black Box, as nominal defendant and certain of its directors and officers. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to pay plaintiffs’ counsel $1.6 million and the company agreed to adopt certain corporate governance measures.
As reflected in the parties’ stipulation of settlement (here), as part of the settlement, the company is to receive a payment of $1.5 million from its Excess Side A carrier as well as another $500,000 from its EPL carrier.
According to a January 25, 2010 article about the settlement in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (here), the company also separately settled a claim against the company by its former CEO, who left the company in connection with the options backdating related matters. At the time he left, the CEO claimed, the company took away over $19.6 million in options related compensation. The company settled these claims for its agreement to pay $4 million.
The Black Box settlement marks the second instance of which I am aware in which an Excess Side A carrier contributed toward an options backdating related derivative lawsuit settlement. (The first instance is the Broadcom settlement, about which refer here.) This is yet another instance where Excess Side A insurance is being called on to provide protection outside of the insolvency context. As I have previously noted, the Excess Side A carrier’s contribution to these settlements may be a significant development for the carriers, who have offered the product in a largely low loss environment, at least outside the insolvency context.
The settlement with the CEO is an odd component of this settlement. There aren’t many of these cases where the former CEO who left as a result of backdating related issues walked away with a cash payment.
I have in any event added the Black Box settlement to my table of options backdating related lawsuit settlements and dismissal motion rulings, which can be accessed here.
SEC Will Issue Guidance on Climate Change Disclosure: On January 27, 2010, the SEC voted 3-2 to provide interpretive guidance on existing dislosure requirements to require climate change related disclosure under certain circumstances. The SEC's January 27 release can be found here. The SEC's release states that the interpretive release will be posted on the SEC web site as soon as possible. The news release identifies several examples of situations that might trigger disclosure requirements, including: impact of legislation and regulation; impact of international accords; indirect consequences of regulation or business trends; and physical impacts of climate change.
Suit Against Rating Agencies Dismissed, But Without Reaching First Amendment Issues: According to a January 27, 2010 Am Law Litigation Daily article by Andrew Longstreth (here), Judge Lewis Kaplan has granted the motions of Moody's and S&P to be dismissed from a securities lawsuit filed by certain investors who had invested in certain mortgage-backed securities underrwitten by Lehman Brothers. Judge Kaplan has not yet issued a written opinion but according to the article his opinion was based solely on the fact that the rating agencies didn't have anything to do with the offering documents at issue in the case. HIs ruling reportedly did not reach the rating agencies first amendment defenses (about which refer here.)
In a landmark development for private securities litigation in Canada, a Justice of the Ontario Superior Court has ruled that a proposed securities suit against IMAX under Ontario’s new statutory provisions allowing private securities litigation may proceed. The court separately certified a global class of IMAX investors on whose behalf the case will now proceed.
According to a December 14, 2009 National Post article (here), Ontario Superior Court Justice Katherine van Rensberg, in two separate orders, granted the plaintiffs leave to bring the case and certified the action as a class suit, allowing plaintiffs to proceed with their case against several IMAX directors and officers over disclosures in the company’s 2005 financial statements. Justice van Rensberg's December 14, 2009 opinion granting the plaintiffs' motion for leave can be found here. Her December 14, 2009 opinion granting the plaintiff's motion for class certification can be found here.
Justice van Rensberg’s decisions are, according to the Post article “groundbreaking” because the case is the first to test recent revisions to the Ontario Securities Act that potentially made it easier for disappointed investors to bring actions for civil liability against directors and officers of public companies for misrepresentations in public disclosure documents.
These statutory provisions, which became effective in December 2005, were first passed by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in legislation now referred to simply as Bill 198, which is codified as Section XXIII.1 of the Ontario Securities Act. The provisions provide for the liability of certain specified individuals for misrepresentations in companies’ public disclosure documents.
Section 138.8 (1) of the statute specifies, however, that a liability action cannot be commenced "without leave of court granted upon motion with notice to each defendant." The court is to grant leave only "where it is satisfied" that the action "is being brought in good faith" and there is a "reasonable possibility" the plaintiff will prevail at trial.
The significance of Justice van Rensberg’s decision in the IMAX case is that, according to Justice van Rensberg, the IMAX case represents "the first .case in Ontario in which the court has been asked to grant leave in such an action." She also observed that the statutory provision "has never been interpreted previously" adding that there is no other statutory similar statutory provision in force in any other Canadian jurisdiction.
In granting the plaintiffs' motion for leave to proceed, Justice van Rensberg held that "she is satisfied that the action is brought in good faith and that the plaintiffs have a reasonable possibility of success at trial in pursuing the statuory claims against all ... parties" other than with respect to two individual outside director defendants.
Of particular significance is Justice van Rensberg's conclusion that the standard to be used in determining whether a case should proceed is relatively low. With respect to the first part of the test, she said that "there is no reason to read in a 'high' or 'substantial' onus requirement for good faith in this type of proceeding." She also ruled against a more onerous threshold for the "reasonable possibility of sucess" part of the test, stating that "a threshold that is too difficult may have little deterrent value" and that an onerous threshold "may unduly lengthen and complicate the leave procedure."
In a portion of the ruling that is of particular significance for outside directors serving on the boards of Canadian corporations, Justice van Rensberg specifically held that the statutory thresholds had been met with respect to several outside director defendants who served on the audit committee to the board or who otherwise had oversight responsibilties for the company's disclosure documents.
Justice van Rensberg also separately held that the plaintiffs had satisfied the requirement for the certification of a global class to assert both the statutory claims and certain common law claims that the plaintiffs had raised. The approved class included both plaintiffs who had bought there IMAX shares on the TSX as well as those who had bought their shares on the NASDAQ exchange.
In certifying the class, van Rensberg specifically rejected the defendants' arguments that the court could not include within the class the 80 to 85% of IMAX shareholders who resided in the U.S. or were otherwise non-Canadian. The defendants argued that it would be "extraordinary" for the court to recognize a class where most of the class members resided outside the jurisdiction. The defendants also argued that given the pendancy of the separate securities lawsuit pending in the U.S., it would be "premature" for the court to certify a worldwide class.
In rejecting the defendants' arguments against certification of a worldwide class, Justice van Rensberg took particular note of the arguments that the defendants had raised in opposing class certification in the U.S. securities lawsuit, in which they had also argued against the certification of a global class in that case as well. The defendants in particular had urged the superiority of the Canadian action, leading van Rensberg to conclude that the defendants were trying to have it both ways.
Justice van Rensberg went on to conclude that the court had authority to certify an international class, noting that the case had a real and substantial connection between the claims asserted on behalf of the foreign class members and the jurisdiction. She also specifically rejected the argument that that the existence of the parallel U.S. proceeding represented a reason not to certify a global class in Canada.
The Post article quotes two leading Canadian plaintiffs’ class action securities attorneys, who predictably find much to like with the court rulings. Dimitri Lascarias, of the Siskinds law firm, who is co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, is quoted as saying the decisions represented a “huge undertaking” for the court because there are “no parallels.” He is also quoted as saying that “it’s a very good day for the investing public in Canada. For a long time it’s been difficult for them to advance their claims in a class action setting. Finally, there’s relief on the class-action horizon.” (The other co-lead counsel on the case was Jay Strosberg of the Sutts Strosberg firm.)
UPDATE: Dimitri Lascaris emailed me the following additional comment on the IMAX case: "We are obviously pleased with the decision, and are particularly gratified that the court certified a global class. Insofar as canadian issuers are concerned, the proper place for the rights of their shareholders, whether foreign or domestic, to be adjudicated is this country. "
I previously wrote about the IMAX case here in a post in which I raised the question about whether an action in Ontario might be used as a way to obtain discovery that could be used to support a parallel securities action pending in the United States. While that concern may remain, it may be likelier in light of these rulings that litigants may seek to pursue claims in Ontario not to support litigation elsewhere, but for its own sake and purposes, without reference to litigation in the U.S. or elsewhere. That said, the principles reflected in these rulings will be most compelling with respect to Canadian based corporations, suggesting that it is unlikely that the Ontario courts will be flooded with securities litigation involving companies from outside Canada.
With respect to Canadian companies, these rulings in the IMAX case unquestionably represent significant developments, and they suggest that there potentially could be significant additional litigation to come in the Ontario courts. Both Justice van Rensberg's ruling that a low threshold should apply on a motion to leave and that an Ontario court may certify a worldwide class, if followed by other courts, could make Ontario an attractive jursidiction in which to pursue securities litigation, at least with respect to Canadian companies if not with respect to companies domiciled or based elsewhere.
Julie Triedman has a December 15, 2009 article on the Am Law Litigation Daily (here) about the IMAX decisions that among other things quotes Lascaris as saying that the court certified of global class "and the door is now open for foreign investors to benefit from that protection."
UPDATE: Loyal reader and blog friend, Dave Williams of Chubb, sent me an email reminder that he will be chairing a panel on Securities Litigation developments in Canada at the PLUS D&O Symposium in New York on February 3-4, 2010. Background infromation regarding the Symposium can be found here. Speakers at the panel will include Justice Colin Campbell and Dimitri Lascaris, among others.
Very special thanks to Dimistri Lascaris for providing me with copies of Justice van Rensberg's opinions in the IMAX case.
I welcome comments on this blog from readers on these developments, particularly from my many friends north of the border that I know regularly read this blog.
Fischer convincingly argues that the success of French attempts to explore and colonize North America were largely the result of Champlain's persistent and courageous efforts. The portrait that emerges is one of a man of uncommon bravery and intelligence, who mastered not only the arts required for voyages of discovery but also the tact and finesse required to maintain necessary relations at court during the reigns of several French monarchs.
Fischer also argues that Champlain was a noble and perhaps even heroic figure, in part because of his insistence that the Native Americans the French settlers encountered should be treated with dignity and respect. As a result, the French were able to establish far more amicable relations with the locals than were the English, Dutch and Spanish colonists.
A particularly good review of Fischer's book from the October 31, 2008 New York Times can be found here.
What Passes for Humor These Days: My 16-year old son: “What’s brown and sticky?” Me: “I don’t know, what’s brown and sticky?” My son (after a pause): “A stick.”
He told me that one right after he asked me, “What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?” Me: “I don’t know, what do you call cheese that isn’t yours?” My son: “Nacho Cheese.” (You might have to repeat that last one out loud a couple of times.)
Timminco had been sued in two separate proposed class actions under Part XXIII.1 of the Ontario Securities Act. The first filed action (about which refer here) was brought by Toronto-based Kim Orr Barristers P.C. The second was brought later (refer here) by the London (Ont.)-based Siskinds law firm. Each of the respective law firms filed cross-motions to stay the other action. (The motions were presented as "carriage motions," the purpose of which is "to stay all other present and future class proceedings relating to the subject matter.")
The Kim Orr law firm argued that because of its association with Milberg, which it described in its motion papers as "a pre-eminent American class action firm," it is "in the best position to prosecute the action." In a response that the Ontario court characterized as "unkindly," the Siskinds law firm drew attention to the "serious stain on the reputation of Milberg LLP," and also raised concerns about the American law firm’s involvement in an Ontario class action.
Calling it a "very difficult decision and a very close call," the Ontario court ruled in favor of the Kim Orr firm and stayed the Siskinds action.
The court did observe that the Siskinds firm is "one of the pre-eminent class action firms in Canada." The Kim Orr firm, founded in January 2008 was formed by attorneys from other firms that the court described as "pre-eminent."
The Ontario court did note the criminal misconduct in which certain Milberg partners had been involved, but also noted that all of the criminally charged attorneys had left the firm. He further noted that the two Milberg attorneys proposed to be involved in the Timminco case were "untainted" by the wrongdoing.
The two Milberg attorneys are Michael C. Spencer (currently involved in the trial of the Vivendi securities class action lawsuit in New York) and Arthur Miller (who among other things is an NYU law professor and previously a law professor at Harvard Law School). In support of its motion to lead the Timminco case, a Kim Orr partner submitted an affidavit stating that Milberg’s "experience and resources will greatly enhance our ability to prosecute the case."
In reaching its decision to allow the Kim Orr firm action to proceed, the court said it found the involvement of the Milberg firm to be a "neutral factor." The court observed that Milberg "does not bear the mark of Cain," and the two Milberg attorneys "have fine reputations and excellent credentials."
The court also noted that while "one can posit examples where the involvement of an American law firm would be grounds for disqualifying an Ontario firm," this is not one of those cases. The court found that Milberg’s proposed role of providing "investigative services, document management services, and strategic advice" not to be disqualifying.
After a detailed review of the two law firms’ respective class action claims, the court decided to favor the application of the Kim Orr firm and granted its motion to stay the Siskinds action.
An October 30, 2009 Am Law Litigation Daily article about the ruling can be found here.
Over the past several years, many of the leading U.S. plaintiffs’ securities class action law firms have launched various initiatives to expand their practice internationally. (Refer, for example, here.) As the Timminco case appears to demonstrate, one consequence seems to be the export to other countries of U.S.-based securities class action experience and expertise.
These developments not only seem to be producing an expanded universe of opportunities for the U.S. law firms, but also, given that what the U.S. firms are contributing is their "experience," seem to threaten the possible overseas extension of many attributes of U.S.-style securities class action litigation.
The decision in the Timminco case discussed above underscores that there are limitations for U.S. attorneys’ involvement. Indeed, the Am Law Litigation Daily article linked above describes a prior case in which the purely financial involvement of the U.S.-based Motley Rice law firm in a prior Ontario class action lawsuit was disallowed. But the fact that Milberg firm will be participating in the Timminco case does suggest that U.S. plaintiffs’ securities class action attorneys may and sometimes will play a role in the prosecution of securities actions outside the U.S., a development that undoubtedly will be unwelcome for the potential litigation targets in other countries.
These developments will also be unwelcome to the potential targets’ D&O insurers as well. Along those lines, it is worth noting that in the October 29 opinion in the Timminco case, Judge Perell expressly noted that "the Timminco directors carry insurance policies that may be available to partially compensate class members if the litigation is resolved in their favor."
Timminco’s D&O insurance limits would potentially exposed whether or not the Milberg firm was involved in the case. But the prospect of U.S.-based securities class action plaintiffs’ attorneys aiding securities class action litigation outside the U.S. does seem to present some unwelcome additional possibilities, both in this case as well as other cases yet to come, in Ontario or elsewhere.
To be sure, the local attorneys appear highly motivated to develop their own securities class action practices, and it could be, as Judge Perell observed in the Timminco case, that the U.S. plaintiffs’ attorneys presence or involvement really is just a "neutral factor." From my perspective, though, the U.S. securities plaintiffs’ attorneys’ involvement could represent an additional force advancing the development of securities class action litigation outside the U.S.
As a result of recent legislative changes, Canadian securities litigation filings increased substantially in 2008, according to a January 26, 2009 Report by NERA Economic Consulting entitled "Trends in Canadian Securities Class Actions: 1997-2008" (here). A January 26, 2009 press release describing the report can be found here.
According to the Report, plaintiffs filed a record nine new securities class action lawsuits in Canada during 2008, which represented an 80% increase over the previous annual maximum and a 125% increase over the prior year.
This level of filing activity is still "miniscule" compare to the securities litigation filings in the U.S., even allowing for the fact that the Canadian securities markets are in the aggregate much smaller than those in the U.S.
However, in recent years, four Canadian provinces have introduced "continuous disclosure" regimes and have enacted civil liability provisions as well. These provisions include certain "gate keeping" mechanisms (including, for example the requirement that the plaintiffs seek leave of court to pursue a class action), but plaintiffs nevertheless seem interested in pursuing relief under these new statutory regimes.
For example there have now been a total of twelve new securities lawsuits filed in Ontario since the 2006 revisions to the relevant laws. (The Ontario Securities Act, as amended, can be found here.)
One of these Ontario cases involves IMAX Corporation, which is also the subject of a U.S. securities lawsuit. As I discussed in a prior post (here), the prospect for Canadian securities actions may have, as the NERA Report puts it, "received a boost" with a ruling in the IMAX case, which permitted the plaintiffs in that case to conduct a certain amount of discovery at the pre-approval state.
As NERA Report observes, "for parallel US-Canada actions, the IMAX ruling may enable plaintiffs to do an end-run around the discovery stay provisions of the PSLRA by brining an action north of the border."
The NERA report also observes that the recent filing in Ontario of a class action against AIG may be an example of this tactic. My prior post discussing the Ontario securities action against AIG and its possible tactical purposes can be found here.
The NERA Reports that among the Canadian filings are cases demonstrating the impact of several trends that have also driven U.S. securities litigation. That is, the 2008 cases include lawsuit filings related to the credit crisis (against CIBC and AIG), as well as cases based on allegations of options backdating.
Nearly one-quarter of the Canadian class actions involve companies in the financial sector, and nearly one fifth involve resources companies.
The Report states that there have been twenty securities class action settlements, but only one (the Southwestern Resources case, which settled for CAN$15.5 million) involved a case brought pursuant to new securities legislation. The Report shows that cross-border cases tend to result in larger settlements than Canadian-only cases.
Overall the Report notes that while the plaintiffs’ bar is "more active than ever" and filed a record number of new lawsuits in 2008, "it remains to be seen whether the gate-keeping aspects of the new amendments to the legislation, as interpreted by the courts, will meaningfully hinder the ability of plaintiffs to prosecute class actions in Canada."
In a recent post (here), I raised concerns about the possibility of U.S.-domiciled companies becoming subject to securities litigation under the Ontario Securities Act. Now, a recent decision by an Ontario Superior Court judge interpreting the Act’s provisions suggests the possibility of litigants using a parallel Ontario proceeding to circumvent the PSLRA’s discovery stay.
The decision arose in connection with the prospective securities action that claimants seek to pursue in Ontario court against IMAX and certain of its directors and officers. Under the provisions of Bill 198, enacted in 2005 and codified in Section XXIII.1 of the Ontario Securities Act (which can be found here), a preliminary procedure is required to determine whether a liability action under the Act can proceed.
Section 138.8 (1) of the statute, a liability action cannot be commenced "without leave of court granted upon motion with notice to each defendant." The court is to grant leave only "where it is satisfied" that the action "is being brought in good faith" and there is a "possibility" the plaintiff will prevail at trial.
The procedure specified for this determination is that the plaintiff and each defendant are to serve affidavits "setting forth the material facts upon which each intends to rely." The affiant may be "examined" on the affidavit "in accordance with the rules of the court."
The issue addressed in the recent decision in the IMAX case is the breadth of the examination that is to take place in connection with this authorization proceeding. In addressing this question, Madame Justice Katherine van Rensberg issued a ruling that potentially could compel defendants to answer questions under oath about a broad range of issues, even issues the claimants have not initially raised. A November 18, 2008 Globe and Mail article regarding the decision can be found here.
Justice van Rensberg wrote that the Act itself "provides no guidance as to the interpretation of the threshold test and what type, quality and quantity of evidence the court is to consider." IMAX had urged her to restrict examination to publicly available information. However, she found that shareholders seeking leave to proceed under the Act have "special powers" generally not available otherwise and she held that anyone being examined must answer questions that have a "semblance of relevance" even if it "might also reveal some other potential issues or wrongdoing not currently contemplated by the statutory claim."
The "semblance of relevance" test Judge Van Rensberg used is the threshold used in connection with discovery, the procedures with respect to which ordinarily apply once a case is underway. In effect, the Judge’s ruling permits discovery in the precertification stage, before the case has even been authorized to proceed. As comments quoted in the article note, defense advocates had militated in favor of inclusion of the precertification procedure in the Act as a way to bar frivolous claims, but now it appears that procedure can be used to compel defendants "to disclose evidence relevant to the merits."
This development, if it stands, not only seems to authorize plaintiffs to use the procedure to conduct a fishing expedition, it also could be used as a way to aid a parallel proceeding filed in U.S. courts, by allowing shareholders to examine company officials, even as to matters not raised either case.
As Adam Savett points out on his Securities Litigation Watch blog (here), this procedure, pursued in parallel with a U.S. filed lawsuit, could permit claimants to use the Ontario procedure to circumvent the PSLRA’s stay of discovery. Savett points out that IMAX itself is not only subject to the Ontario action but also to a separate action under the U.S. securities laws in the Southern District of New York, in which a motion to dismiss is pending. Savett observes that the Ontario court’s IMAX ruling "raises the specter of cases being filed cooperatively in Canadian and U.S. courts, with discovery in the Canadian action possibly being allowed to be used in the U.S. action."
This possible PSLRA discovery stay end-around takes on even greater potential significance in combination with the possibility of U.S.-domiciled companies and their directors and officers getting hauled into securities litigation in the Ontario courts. As I noted in my prior post (here), discussing the Ontario securities lawsuit recently filed against AIG, the prospect for U.S. companies of securities litigation outside the U.S. is unattractive. But perhaps even more unwelcome is the possibility of litigants using a parallel Ontario case against a U.S. company as a way to try to get material to be used to support a separate U.S. proceeding against the company.
If the recent IMAX ruling stands, U.S. securities litigators might have to become a great deal more familiar with Ontario’s securities laws and procedures.
Special thanks to Mark Renzel for providing me a link to the Globe and Mail article.
More about the AIG Lawsuit: A couple of interesting items about the AIG lawsuit appeared after I wrote my recent post about the case.
First, in a Guest Column on the Securities Docket (here), Dimitri Lascaris of the Siskinds law firm provides interesting additional detail about the "substantive and procedural advantages" offered to aggrieved claimants under the Ontario Act, as well as the potential damages available. The Siskinds firm is lead counsel in the Ontario proceedings filed against both AIG and against IMAX.
Lascaris also wrote in his column that "for a long time, America has largely dictated the standards by which issuers are obliged to conduct themselves in a globalized capital market. Like much else that is coming to an end in today’s capital markets, that era may be over. "
Second, Law.com has a November 19, 2008 article (here) about the case against AIG filed in Ontario. Among other things the article quotes Lascaris as saying that the AIG action is the first use of the use of the liability provisions of the Ontario Securities Act against a non-Canadian company.
And Finally: I would like to thank all of the many Canadian readers who commented to me about the AIG case. Numerous readers provided me with helpful additional information about the Ontario Act and about securities litigation in Canada. In that respect, several readers added helpful and interesting comments to the blog post about the AIG case, and I commend those comments to everyone's attention.
Questions surrounding the susceptibility of foreign domiciled companies to U.S. securities laws and to the jurisdiction of U.S. court are frequently recurring issues, as I noted most recently here. However, a new case filed in Ontario under Ontario’s securities laws presents an interesting variation on these questions.
The Ontario Action Against AIG
According to its November 13, 2008 press release (here), the Siskinds law firm has filed a class action application and accompanying statement of claim in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice under the Ontario Securities Act against American International Group, American International Group Financial Products, and ten current or former AIG directors and officers. According to the press release, the claim is brought on behalf of Canadian investors who bought AIG securities between November 10, 2006 and September 16, 2008.
A copy of the application and statement of claim can be found here. According to the press release, the statement of claim alleges as follows:
The AIG class action arises out of AIGFP's credit default swaps and the crippling decline in AIG's stock price when the true effect of those credit default swaps became known to the investing public. The AIG disclosures out of which the class action arises are currently the subject of investigation by law enforcement authorities, and are alleged in the class action to have caused massive losses to Canadian investors.
The Ontario Securities Act
The action is brought under the investor protection provisions in Part XXIII.1 of the Ontario Securities Act. (Refer here for the provision of the Act.) The statutory provision specifies the liability standards in connection with "secondary market disclosure."
Section 138.3 of the statute provides a cause of action for damages on behalf of persons who trade in a company’s security -- "without regard to whether the person or company relied on the misrepresentation" -- where "a responsible issuer or a person or company with actual, implied or apparent authority to act on behalf of a responsible issuer releases a document that contains a misrepresentation."
The persons against whom the action may be brought are specified to include, among others, the issuer, "responsible" directors and officers, as well as persons who "knowingly influenced" the issuer or responsible persons.
The plaintiff’s statement of claim takes great pains to emphasize that the action has "a real and substantial connection with Ontario." Indeed, in paragraph 155, the statement of claim alleges that the financial disclosures that are the basis of the action were "disseminated in Ontario"; that "a substantial proportion of the Class Members reside in Ontario"; that AIG "carries on business in Ontario"; that AIG considers its Canadian revenue as "domestic" for accounting purposes"; that "key AIG personnel charged with oversight of the above conduct were domiciled in Ontario and undertook part of that effort from Ontario."
The pains taken in the statement of claim to specify the claim’s connection to Ontario suggests an anticipation of a question whether the case properly belongs in Ontario courts. AIG is, after all, domiciled outside of Canada, and its shares do not trade on Canadian securities exchanges (or at least the plaintiff does not so allege). The alleged misstatements were prepared and issued outside of Canada.
On the other hand, the statement of claim does allege misconduct, harm and damages within Ontario. Without presuming the outcome, allegations of this type are of the kind that at least some U.S. courts have found a sufficient basis for the exercise of jurisdiction and the application of U.S. securities laws on companies domiciled outside the U.S.
Setting aside these subject matter jurisdiction issues, and disregarding potential personal jurisdiction issues, there are some larger questions about this case. AIG faces extensive litigation in the U.S. on similar or related issues. Should any particular jurisdiction’s court have priority? Should courts defer to another jurisdiction’s courts?
These kinds of questions have come up before, for example, in connection with the Royal Dutch Shell cases, where there were also parallel proceedings in different countries (refer here). The way that these proceedings should coordinate is very much an evolving issue. But the noteworthy difference between that prior example and this instance is that here the target company is a U.S.-based company. It will be interesting to see whether that distinction makes a difference and how the respective cases unfold.
I also have these vague, unformed questions whether or not it makes a difference that AIG is now effectively owned by U.S. taxpayers. The taxpayers’ highest priority right now is getting repaid for the astonishing obligations to the U.S. treasury that AIG has recently undertaken. I haven’t worked it all out yet, but there does seem to be something inconsistent with the U.S. taxpayers’ interest in having the company’s limited resources siphoned off to defend and possibly to pay damages in a foreign jurisdiction. Canadian investors probably don’t care much about that, I suppose.
Of course, it might be argued that U.S. courts have been doing similar things to other countries’ companies (including Canadian companies) for some time now. Indeed, the plaintiff’s lawyers’ press release quotes one of the plaintiff’s attorneys as saying:
for many years, Canadian corporations have had to confront the long arm of America's justice system. But with the enactment of Part XXIII.1 of the Ontario Securities Act, Canadian investors can finally pursue remedies in our own Courts against American corporations that fail to respect Canada's securities laws. Canadian investors are entitled to have Canadian Courts hear their claims.
The one thing that is clear is that a class action under the Ontario securities laws is a serious matter. As I noted in a prior post (here), a prior class under the Ontario securities laws against FMF Capital recently settled for over CAN$28 million. This settlement apparently represents the largest securities class action settlement in Canada, and while the amount may seem small compared to some of the massive U.S. settlements, the amount did represent a very significant percentage of the investors’ claimed investment loss.
At a minimum, the FMF Capital settlement suggests that a claim under the Ontario securities laws represents a serious potential liability exposure. Along those lines, it should be noted that the press release states that the plaintiff class seeks damages of $550 million. (The press release does not state whether or not those are U.S. or Canadian dollars.)
UPDATE: Dimitri Lascaris of the Siskinds law firm has written a guest column on the Securities Docket blog (here), in which he explains the basis of jurisdiction in Ontario for the AIG lawsuit, as well as the operation and effects of the Ontario securities laws.
Two Final Observations
First, this new lawsuit represents yet another demonstration that the threat of securities litigation outside the United States continues to grow.
Second, this new lawsuit presents an interesting and potential dangerous expansion of this growing threat, which is the possibility that U.S. domiciled companies could find themselves the target of securities litigation in other jurisdiction’s courts under other jurisdiction’s laws.
To the extent it proves to be successful, the Ontario plaintiff’s new lawsuit against AIG could represent a very unwelcome and potentially complicated expansion of the liability exposures of U.S companies and their directors and officers.
Special thanks to Adam Savett of the Securities Litigation Watch blog (here) for providing a copy of the Ontario court application and statement of claim.
Now This: In this time of financial turmoil, it pays to be resourceful. And so, The D&O Diary is giving serious consideration to converting itself into a bank holding company, in order to be able to join other leading American business enterprises and participate in the bailout process.
While there might be those who would contend that we are not "too big to fail," we certainly are feeling the effects of the economic downturn, and recent 401(k) statements suggest that radical measures may be required. Capital infusions would be particularly welcome here.
The 2007 settlement of an Ontario securities class action may suggest the eventual direction of many of the lawsuits in the current subprime and credit crisis-related litigation wave. Even though the lawsuit was filed in a Canadian court and involved a company (FMF Capital Group Ltd.) whose shares traded only on a Canadian exchange, the lawsuit did arise from the early stages of the subprime mortgage meltdown in the U.S. And although the lawsuit preceded the current litigation wave, many of the allegations raised in the lawsuit have also arisen in the more recent U.S. subprime lawsuits.
Through an affiliate, FMF offered residential mortgages to subprime borrowers. According to the company (here), FMF originated mortgage loans throughout in 39 of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia. FMF resold packages of these mortgages to institutional buyers.
As summarized in a recent memorandum (here) written by NERA Economic Consulting, which served as the Ontario court’s damages expert and settlement consultant, in March 2005, FMF conducted a $197.5 million IPO. Following the offering, the securities issued in the IPO traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. According to later news reports (here and here), the company apparently sought the Canadian listing as a way to obtain favorable treatment as a Canadian income trust.
In November 2005, just eight months after its IPO, FMF announced that it was suspending the monthly distributions due to investors in connection with its publicly traded securities. Within two trading days of the announcement, the company’s securities had declined 76.8% from their preannouncement price.
In January 2006, plaintiffs initiated a securities class action in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against FMF and certain of its directors and officers, the offering underwriters, and FMF’s auditors. Background regarding the lawsuit can be found here.
As described in NERA’s memorandum, the plaintiffs alleged that the company "dismantled" its underwriting standards in order to maintain growth in its loan originations, and that the defendants concealed the company’s degraded underwriting standards and poor loan quality. FMF contended that its woes were due to industry-wide factors including interest rates and increased defaults, which undermined its ability to conduct securitizations and finance distributions.
According to co-counsel for the class (here), the class action ultimately was settled for over CAN$28 million. US$21 million of the settlement was funded by FMF’s insurers and by FMF’s privately-held affiliate. The remaining CAN$4.55 million of the settlement was to be paid by the IPO offering underwriters and FMF’s auditors.
According to NERA, the settlement, which the Court approved on April 11, 2007, is "the largest settlement in a class action securities case in Canadian history."
In addition to its status as the largest Canadian securities settlement ever, the settlement may be significant in a number of other respects as well, due to the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit.
That is, even though the lawsuit was filed in a Canadian court and involved a Canadian listed company, the lawsuit arose out of the meltdown in the U.S. subprime mortgage market. The claimants’ allegations about the lender’s deteriorating loan underwriting standards and poor loan quality, and the alleged failure to disclose these factors, are substantially similar to the allegations raised in class actions now pending in U.S courts against numerous other mortgage lenders. The company’s attempt to blame macroeconomic factors for its demise also mirrors the response of many defendants in the U.S subprime lawsuits.
Indeed, given these similarities, NERA described the FMF case as "the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’ for the current credit crisis." The similarities between the FMF case and many of the cases in the current subprime litigation wave suggest that the outcome of the FMF case could be a harbinger of things to come in the current subprime cases.
None of the securities lawsuits that have been filed in the current litigation wave have yet been settled, which makes the FMF lawsuit and its settlement at least potentially significant, for what it might indicate about the outcomes of the lawsuits in the current wave.
By my analysis at least, the FMF litigation settled for a fairly significant percentage of the company’s market capitalization loss. The company’s IPO raised $197.5 million at $10/share. The company’s share price declined by $5.21/share in the two days following the company’s announcement that it was terminating the income distributions. There undoubtedly are a number of ways the investors’ losses might be quantified, but by any measure, the eventual settlement of more than CAN$28 million appears to represent a significant percentage of alleged investor loss.
Because of the FMF lawsuit’s Canadian connection, litigants in the current U.S.-based subprime related litigation wave may or may not consider the case a relevant reference point. But to the extent it is relevant, the magnitude of the settlement as an apparent percentage of investor loss may point toward some very large settlements in the current U.S. subprime lawsuits, where the dollars involved are in many instances significantly greater than in the FMF case. Whether or not the FMF case does have significance for the eventual outcome of the current U.S cases, it is nonetheless interesting because the case has settled and been concluded while most of the recent U.S. cases are only in their earliest stages.
A prior post in which I discussed subprime related securities litigation in Canada, including a brief mention of the FMF lawsuit, can be found here.
More About Defense Expense and Limits Adequacy: In a prior post (here), I discussed the limits adequacy and program structure implications arising from the threatened depletion -- solely as a result of accumulating defense expense -- of the Collins & Aikman D&O Insurance program. As noted on the Race to the Bottom blog (here), counsel for one of the individual defendants has now advised the court that the remaining limits in the company’s $50 million D&O insurance program have been completely exhausted.
In his blog post, Professor Jay Brown of the University of Denver Law School, spells out what the depletion of the policy’s limits means for one of the minor defendants. The individual, Paul Barnaba, has now petitioned the court for the appointment of a legal aid attorney. Fortunately for Barnaba, it appears that his own counsel, whose fees previously had been paid by the now depleted insurance, is willing to accept the derisory legal aid fee rate. The other defendants may not be so fortunate.
The complete exhaustion of $50 million of D&O insurance solely through the accumulation of defense expense is a nightmare scenario for any director or officer. The individual defendants in the Collins & Aikman case, or at least those that are not independently wealthy, must now face serious criminal charges in a complex financial with only legal aid counsel to protect them. In addition, they continue to face significant civil litigation as well, again without any insurance remaining to fund a settlement.
As I noted in my prior post about the Collins & Aikman case, these developments may have important implications for traditional notions of limits adequacy. In addition, it is also clear that in order to make sure that individuals are not left to face serious litigation or even criminal charges without insurance, the consideration of alternative insurance structures should be an important part of every D&O insurance transaction.
They Stab it With Their Steely Knives, But They Just Can’t Kill the Beast: The D.C. Circuit rejected an attack on the constitutionality of SOX (here). OK, now everybody get back to work.
Kevin M. LaCroix is an attorney and Executive Vice President, RT ProExec, a division of R-T Specialty, LLC. RT ProExec is an insurance intermediary focused exclusively on management liability issues. KevinMore...
The D & O Diary
Kevin M. LaCroix
2000 Auburn Drive, Suite 200, Beachwood, OH 44122, Phone: (216) 378-7817
Directors and Officers Liability and Insurance commentary, The D & O Diary, Kevin LaCroix of Oakbridge Insurance Services, offering services relating to securities laws, class action lawsuits, subprime litigation, options backdating, corporate fraud, D&O litigation, indemnity, Sarbanes-Oxley, white collar crime.
The views expressed on this site are exclusively those of the author, and all of the content on this site has been created solely in the author's individual capacity. This site is not affiliated with his company, his colleagues, his clients, his relatives or any other institution or person living, dead, or yet to exist. Quotations from this site should credit The D & O Diary. However, this site may not be quoted in any legal brief or any other document to be filed with any Court unless the author has given his written consent in advance. This blog does not intend to provide legal advice. You should consult your own attorney in connection with matters affecting your own legal interests.