As a result of a November 2, 2009 ruling (here) by Northern District of California Judge Susan Illston, the PMI Group securities class action lawsuit is the latest subprime-related securities suit to survive a renewed motion to dismiss following plaintiffs’ filing of an amended complaint after the motion to dismiss their initial complaint had been granted. As was the case with respect to the recent ruling in the Washington Mutual subprime-related securities class action lawsuit (about which refer here), the PMI Group lawsuit plaintiffs overcame the shortcomings of their initial pleading with an amended complaint reliant upon added confidential witness allegations.
The PMI Group, a residential mortgage insurer that also owns a controlling interest in bond insurer Financial Guaranty Insurance Corporation, as well as certain of PMI’s directors and officers, were first sued in a securities class action lawsuit in March 2008 (about which refer here). As discussed here, on July 1, 2009, Judge Illston granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ consolidated complaint.
In her July 1 order, Judge Illston held that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged material misrepresentation and loss causation, but she granted the motion with leave to amend on the grounds that the consolidated complaint did not adequately allege scienter. Among other things, Judge Illston observed that the complaint "falls short of showing that the defendants were aware that the statements were false and misleading when made."
On July 24, 2009, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint and the defendants renewed their dismissal motions.
November 2 Ruling
In her November 2 decision, Judge Illston denied the renewed dismissal motion. She noted that the plaintiffs’ amended complaint "differs from the original complaint in a number of ways." Among other things, she noted that the plaintiffs had "supplemented their allegations regarding previous confidential witnesses and added three new confidential witnesses." The plaintiffs also added additional allegations regarding admissions the defendants had allegedly made, as well as allegations PMI itself had made in a lawsuit against a third party, among other things.
Based on these amended allegations, Judge Illston found that the plaintiffs had "cured the deficiencies" in the prior complaint and that the amended complaint "sufficiently alleges a strong inference of scienter." Among other things, Judge Illston referenced the amended complaints’ allegation, through the confidential witnesses, of the defendants’ awareness of the alleged problems in PMI’s credit risk assessments, as well as rising defaults.
Judge Illston’s denial of the renewed motion to dismiss in the PMI Group case follows the October 27, 2009 ruling in the Washington Mutual subprime-related securities suit in which the renewed motion to dismiss following an initial dismissal similarly was granted. In both cases, the plaintiffs’ amended complaint overcame the pleading shortcoming found in their initial complaint.
If nothing else, these cases demonstrate that it is possible for plaintiffs to overcome an initial dismissal. Though not all plaintiffs will be able to muster sufficient confidential witness testimony and other allegations to cure the initial pleading shortcomings, these rulings at least show that plaintiffs who are able to muster enough can overcome the initial pleading hurdles and survive the motion to dismiss, even if the initial motions were granted.
And though two case decisions alone may represent far too little data from which to generalize, the success of these plaintiffs on renewed dismissal motions following pleading amendments does suggest that it might have been mature for some commentators (including me perhaps) to suggest that plaintiffs are not faring well in the subprime-related securities class action lawsuits.
Even though a number of dismissal motions have been granted in these cases, many of the motions were granted without prejudice. The recent rulings in the PMI Group and WaMu subprime-related securities suits suggest that a certain number of these initially dismissed cases may well survive renewed motions, and so the scoreboard could look different, perhaps quite a bit different, when all the initial pleading processes in these cases have fully played out.
I have in any event added the November 2 ruling to my register of dismissal motion rulings in the subprime-related lawsuits. The register can be accessed here.
It is probably worth noting that another significant corporate investor in the Financial Guaranty Insurance Corporation, The Blackstone Group, has also been sued in a subprime-related class action lawsuit in connection with the company’s write-down of its investment in bond insurer, about which refer here.
Another Subprime Lawsuit Settlement: It appears that I may have missed an earlier settlement of a subprime-related securities class action lawsuit. As reflected here, on September 2, 2009, the parties to the Hovnanian Enterprises subprime-related securities suit entered an agreement to settle the case for $4 million. I have added this settlement to my list of subprime-related lawsuit case resolutions, here.