Various blogs and news articles expressed surprise and astonishment at the $2.876 billion judgment entered against Richard Scrushy in the HealthSouth state court derivative lawsuit, but a review of the June 18, 2009 memorandum opinion (here) that accompanied the final judgment shows that Jefferson County (Alabama) Circuit Court Judge Alwin E. Horn III actually ruled that the total amount of the damages to be the even more eye-popping amount of $3.115 billion. It was only the application of $239 million credit for judgments entered against other defendants that brought the number down to the $2.876 billion figure ultimately entered against Scrushy and other individual defendants.
It may well be wondered how on earth the court could have come up with these astronomical figures, whether before or after the application of the judgment credit. Part of the answer is the fraud itself, with Judge Horn described as “remarkable and perhaps unique in its duration, size and scope.”
Judge Horn’s opinion details what he describes as HealthSouth’s fraudulently reported net income during the period 1996 through 2002. The annual figures stated in the opinion, when added up, suggest that HealthSouth’s fraudulently reported net income exceeded its actual net income by over $3.138 billion.
However, Judge Horn’s damage calculation was not directly related to the massive scale of the fraud. Rather, it was calculated based on a variety of separate categories of damages including: excess bonuses paid to Scrushy ($10.4 million); amounts Scrushy gained on inside trades ($147.4 million); amounts the company spent on remediation, reconstruction and restatement of its financial records ($457.6 million); amounts the company spent during the period 2004 to 2006 on excess debt, consent fees, bond and credit payments as a result of the fraud ($1.147 billion);salaries and bonuses paid to fraud participants ($26.5 million); excess payments and loans to Scrushy-related enterprises ($260 million) and HealthSouth’s overpayment of taxes ($169.6 million).
These amounts, as staggering as they are, add up “only” to $2.2 billion. The total damages Judge Horn calculated reached $3.115 billion by the application of nearly one billion dollars in prejudgment interest. In determining the amount of interest, Judge Horn calculated the applicable interest rate in varying amounts over time, applying Delaware law and using the standard of five percentage points above the Federal Discount Rate, resulting in interest rates applied in some cases of as much as 10%.
Judge Horn’s opinion does not state whether post-judgment interest will also accrue, but presumably there are provisions for this interest under applicable law.
Whether or not further proceedings or appeals ultimately will substantiate all of these damage amounts and interest assessments, Judge Horn’s analysis represents a fascinating catalog of the harm caused to the company as a result of the fraud, as well as the ways that Scrushy himself profited. It should probably be noted that the possibility of an appeal may be complicated by the rather interesting question of how Scrushy could post an acceptable and adequate appeal bond.
Judge Horn’s opinion makes for interesting reading in other respects as well, particularly the ways that Judge Horn went about reaching factual conclusions despite having to deal with competing and conflicting testimony from witnesses he described as “six testifying felons.”
Among other things, Judge Horn relied on Scrushy’s own testimony in a prior case (the MedPartners case), in which Scrushy testified about what financial information a CEO must receive. Judge Horn described Scrushy’s testimony as an “unwitting confession,” because it showed that “for a fraud of even a billion dollars to occur over a period of years, the CEO had to know of the fraud.”
Assuming for the sake of argument that the massive judgment against Scrushy withstands further review, if any, the question will then become what if anything can be recovered on the company’s behalf. Though at one time he was a wealthy man, years of litigation and the panoply of claims against him undoubtedly have greatly reduced his former wealth. He may have a multibillion dollar judgment against him, but that does not make him a multibillion dollar man. Nor does it seem likely that the company’s recovery will ever remotely approach the amount of the judgment.
A June 19, 2009 Law.com article by Ben Hallman providing the backstory on the state court derivative lawsuit can be found here.
From Those Incredibly Large Amounts to Some Incredibly Small Numbers: After working with figures in the billions, it is hard focus on a dispute involving only very small fractions of a dollar, but that is what is involved in the securities class action lawsuit filed on June 18, 2009 in the Eastern District of Arkansas against Shearson Financial Network and certain of its directors and officers.
caused a press release to be issued on May 7, 2009, that stated the Company had emerged from bankruptcy. In the press release, the Company used the ticker symbol, SHSNQ to identify itself, which was the ticker symbol belonging to the Company’s old stock which would ultimately be cancelled. However, at the time the Company issued the press release the stock listed under the ticker symbol SHSNQ was still trading and had not been cancelled. As a result of defendants’ false and misleading statements, Shearson’s securities traded at artificially inflated prices during the Class Period, reaching a high of $.039 on May 8, 2009.
On May 11, 2009, the Company issued a press release stating among other things that the stock trading under the ticker symbol SHSNQ would be cancelled and that Shearson’s new stock would trade under a different ticker symbol.
The complaint alleges that following the issuance of the May 11 press release the share price fell to $.0097 on trading volume of over 27.6 million shares. (That is, the share price decline three cents per share). Later, all shares traded under the symbol SHSNQ were canceled, meaning holders of those shares “were left with nothing but losses.”
The plaintiff, who bought his shares at $.039 per share on May 8, 2009, purports to represent a class of purchasers who bought the SHSNQ shares during the five-day period between May 7, 2009 and May 12, 2009.
I know that there have been class periods shorter than five days. But I suspect there have been very few classes brought on behalf of share price declines as small as three cents a share. I was unable to determine how many of the SHSNQ shares actually traded on the open market, but even assuming a three cent per share loss on all of the 27.6 million SHSNQ shares that traded on May 11, the market cap decline was $810,000. Obviously, not everyone selling bought their shares at the peak and some sold before the entire three cent share decline accumulated, so the actual losses on those trades is almost certainly quite a bit below that amount.
The relatively small amount in dispute is of course no reason to forebear from filing the lawsuit; however, the absence of any allegations of scienter of any kind, in combination with the small amount in dispute, would have been enough to discourage most self-interested plaintiffs’ attorneys from enlisting in this case.
More Bank Closures: After the close of business on June 19, 2009, the FDIC announced the closure of three more banks, bringing the year to date total number of bank closures to 40. The FDIC’s complete list of failed banks, including the latest three to be added, can be found here. The three banks all had assets under $1 billion dollars, continuing the trend of closures in the community banking sectors.
One of the three banks was located in Georgia, bringing the total number of Georgia banks to fail during 2009 to seven, and the total since January 1, 2008 to 12.
My recent overview of the growing number of bank closures and the implications for the D&O insurance marketplace can be accessed here.