Last year, investors filed numerous lawsuits against the investment banks and broker dealers who sold the investors auction rate securities. However, in a recent lawsuit, the targeted company was not an auction rate securities seller; rather, it was an auction rate securities buyer, which is alleged to have misrepresented to its own shareholders its exposure to auction rate securities in which it had invested.
According to their March 11, 2009 press release (here), the plaintiffs’ attorneys have initiated a securities class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Perrigo Company, a Michigan-based pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor, and certain of its directors and officers. The complaint (which can be found here) alleges that Perrigo had invested in $18 million in auction rate securities and that until September 15, 2008, the company had a reasonable expectation of redeeming its auction rate securities.
However, the complaint alleges that on September 15, Lehman Brothers, which had underwritten and sold Perrigo’s auction rate securities, went bankrupt. The complaint alleges that
On November 6, 2008, the beginning of the Class Period, defendants reported the "fair value" of Perrigo’s ARS as $14,500,000, but concealed the impact of Lehman’s bankruptcy on Perrigo’s ARS. Then just three months later, on February 3, 2009, defendants disclosed, for the first time, that Lehman had underwritten and sold the ARS to Perrigo. They also announced that the Company was writing off the entire value of its ARS, wiping out over a third of Perrigo’s earnings in the quarter. As a result of this disclosure, the stock price plunged 18% that day, causing massive losses to investors.
Although the allegations brought against Perrigo as an auction rate securities investor may seem unusual, the Perrigo complaint is actually not the first to assert securities fraud in connection with a company’s disclosures concerning its investment in auction rate securities. Indeed, as noted here, shareholders raised allegations against NextWave Wireless in connection with that company’s auction rate securities investment.
Nor is Perrigo the first company to be exposed to securities litigation as a consequence of Lehman’s bankruptcy. As I noted in prior posts, Constellation Energy (about which refer here), Reserve Fund (here), JA Solar (here), and Farmer Mac (here) have all found themselves hit with securities lawsuits in part due to the impact on them from the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.
All of these cases represent what I previously called (here) the new wave of subprime and credit crisis-related securities litigation, in which the thrust of the allegations is not that the target companies themselves are exposed to subprime-related risks, but rather that the companies were exposed to other companies or assets that were themselves exposed to the subprime or credit risk.
The fact that this lawsuit is filed against Perrigo, a pharmaceutical company, underscores a point I have previously noted about the new wave of subprime and credit crisis related litigation, which is the potential for this new wave to bring the credit crisis litigation wave, which up until now has been largely restricted to the financial sector, to companies throughout the larger economy.
In any event, despite the much ballyhooed auction rate securities settlements, lawsuits related to the frozen auction rate investments continue to flow in. Indeed, on March 10, 2009 Careerbuilder LLC filed an action (here) in Illinois (Cook County) Circuit Court against Bank of America, alleging that even though BofA has reached at least two prior regulatory settlements regarding the auction rate securities, Careerbuilder remains stuck with the $32 million in auction rate securities that BofA sold them.
Yet Another Form of Credit Drawn in the Litigation Wave: As I have previously noted (most recently here), the current litigation wave long ago ceased to be just about subprime debt and has expanded to encompass a wide variety of different kinds of lending. The most recent example of this spread to other kinds of lending is the lawsuit filed on March 11, 2008 against Corus Bankshares.
According to their press release (here), plaintiffs’ counsel filed the suit against Corus and certain of its Chief Executive Officer in the Northern District of Illinois. The complaint (which can be found here) alleges that the company’s disclosures were misleading because they failed to disclose
(i) that Corus was failing to recognize losses on its condominium loans in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"); (ii) that Corus and/or its affiliates was purchasing condominiums in developments Corus had financed in an attempt to: (a) inflate the appraised values of condominiums to delay having to recognize losses on financing for such condominiums; (b) inflate developers’ sales figures to increase the likelihood of successful future sales; and (c) create the illusion of successful sales histories in order to inflate appraisal values for the condominiums to ensure inflated future prices for the condominiums; and (iii) that Corus was involved in detailed and in-depth negotiations with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency regarding its deteriorating pool of condominium loans.
The complaint alleges that when on the company released its financial results on January 29, 2009 and disclosed that "Corus is suffering from the extraordinary effects of what may ultimately be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression," the company’s shares fell nearly 47% to close at $.59 per share on February 2, 2009.
So add condominium loans to the kinds of lending that has become involved in the subprime and credit crisis related litigation. I have added the Perrigo and Corus lawsuits to my running tally of the subprime and credit crisis related securities class action lawsuits, which can be accessed here. A spreadsheet with the 2009 subprime and credit crisis-related securities class action lawsuits can be found here.