One interesting thing about the most recently filed securities class action lawsuits is what they have in common – that is, that while the companies sued are drawn from a surprising diversity of industries, none of them are in the financial services sector. The absence of new securities suits against financially related companies is quite a contrast to the lawsuits that were being filed a year ago, and for that matter that were being filed in the first few months of 2009. There is an increasingly strong suggestion that after more than two and a half years, the subprime and credit crisis-related litigation wave may have finally just about played itself out.
The latest securities lawsuit is representative. That is, on November 17, 2009, plaintiffs’ lawyers announced (here) that they had filed a lawsuit in the District of Rhode Island against CVS Caremark and certain of its directors and offices. The complaint, which can be found here, alleges that the defendants failed to disclose operating problems the company was having in its pharmacy benefits management (PBM) business, which the company acquired in 2007. On November 5, 2009, the company disclosed (here) the PBM problems and also disclosed that the company was the subject of an FTC investigation into the company’s drug benefits practices.
Whatever else might be said about the new CVS lawsuit, the suit clearly was not filed against a financial services company and the allegations appear unrelated to the financial crisis.
The several new securities cases filed over the last two weeks share both these traits. That is, the defendant companies are outside the financial sector and the allegations generally do not appear to specifically relate to the global financial crisis.
A case in point is the lawsuit filed last week against The Boeing Corporation and certain of its directors and officers. The plaintiffs’ lawyers’ November 13, 2009 press release (here) describes the securities suit that was filed in the Northern District of Illinois. According to the press release, the complaint (which can be found here) alleges that the company misrepresented the production timeline and anticipated delivery dates of the company’s Dreamliner 787 commercial aircraft.
Similarly, on November 6, 2009, plaintiffs’ lawyer initiated a securities class action lawsuit against jewelry retailer Zale Corp. (about which refer here) alleging that the company had improperly recorded certain prepaid advertising expenses and intercompany accounts receivable.
Other examples include the November 10, 2009 action against Hemispherix Biopharma, (refer here) alleging misrepresentations in connection with the new drug application of one of the company’s clincal stage products; the action filed on November 6, 2009 against STEC, Inc.(refer here), the memory drive manufacturer, which is alleged to have overstated demand for one of its products; and the November 6, 2009 action filed against specialty women’s clothing retailer Limited Brands (refer here), which is alleged to have made misrepresentations regarding the company’s direct-to-consumer ecommerce initiative.
Again, none of these cases involve financial companies and none are directly related to the financial crisis.
To be sure, all along as the subprime and credit crisis litigation wave unfolded over the last two and a half (actually nearly three) years, there have been cases that didn’t involve financial companies and that were unrelated to the credit crisis. However, this recent collection of cases, particularly the absence of any financial related suits, seems to represent a categorically different filing pattern.
At the same time, there are still some cases being filed that unquestionably reflect back to the credit crisis. Indeed, late last week I noted (here) that a credit crisis-related lawsuit had been filed against VeraSun Energy. Even though the company itself is not financially related, the claims in the complaint relate to the company’s alleged problems arising from the company’s wrong way bets on certain financial derivative hedging contracts.
There undoubtedly are other cases yet to come like that filed against VeraSun, where the allegations reflect back on the events of the financial crisis – particularly, as was the case with the VeraSun filing, if the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ continue to file suits where the proposed class period cutoff date is well in the past, and accordingly the lawsuits involved long past events. As I noted in my post about VeraSun, those kinds of cases could continue to arrive for some time to come.
But while there could and likely will be further additional cases relating to or arising from the financial crisis, it seems increasingly likely that the mix of cases will be much more diverse that has been the case for almost three years now. This may entail some adjustment for D&O insurance underwriters, who have been very defensive against financial company risks, but much more agreeable to accepting other kinds of risks. The pattern over the last few weeks suggest that securities litigation risk may once again be dispersed across a wide variety of sectors and industries, and a more generalized underwriting approach to risk selection may be required going forward.
So What About Bernard Madoff’s Insurance?: If you are like me, you have probably wondered since the very beginning of the Madoff scandal what kind of insurance his firm carried. It turns out that, other than a bond, his firm didn’t carry professional liability insurance.
As reflected in Susan Sclafane’s November 17, 2009 National Underwriter article (here), Madoff apparently had for years refused to buy D&O insurance, and instead carried only a $25 million financial institutions bond because he was required to do so by participants in his legitimate clearing trade business. (The bond carrier, which reportedly was on the risk for 15 years, apparently has filed a rescission action.)
Not that the D&O insurance would have gone very far, even if there had been D&O insurance in place, in view of the massive scale of the losses. For that matter, given Madoff’s guilty plea, coverage for claims against Madoff or his firm would have been excluded under most D&O policies anyway.
Perhaps it was Madoff’s awareness that of the unlikelihood of coverage that convinced him not to squander his ill-gotten gains on insurance designed to protect his victims.
Special thanks to a loyal reader for providing the link to the National Undewriter article.
Today’s Grammar Question: Observant readers may have noticed that in discussing the recent securities filings I used the plural form of the verb "to be" in connection with my use of the noun, "none" – as in, "none of them are," rather than "none of them is."
While I have no particularly strong feelings on the question of the proper verb form to be used with the noun "none," a little bit of Internet research convinced me there are quite a number of people who feel quite strongly on the subject.
I also am persuaded that the plural verb form is generally proper (as discussed here), and that even for those who feel that either usage is proper, the plural form is in any event most appropriate when the word "none" is used in the sense in which I used it – that is, to mean "not any, " in reference to plural entities (about which refer here).
If there are any readers out there who have a strong reaction to my resolution of this grammatical issue, I suggest that the best response is either a long walk or a short drink. (Or if you prefer, a short walk and a long drink. Better yet, skip the walk.)
Further Apologies: I apologize to everyone for continuing service problems with this site, particularly with respect to the delivery of email notifications. LexBlog, my blog hosting service, is continuing to suffer ill effects from a sustained spambot attack a few days ago. Along with everyone else, I sure hope things return to normal soon, if for no other reason than for the sake of my sanity.