For those of us who spend a lot of time looking at securities class action lawsuits, the cases often have a familiar pattern. Unfortunately, the familiarity may dull sensitivity to the allegations or even to the process itself. So it was interesting to read a layman’s reaction to a recently filed lawsuit, if for no other reason than it provided a look at the lawsuit and the process with a fresh set of eyes.
The lawsuit in question was filed in the Northern District of California on March 9, 2010 against Medivation and certain of its directors and offices. As is so often is the case in these kinds of lawsuits, Medivation is a life sciences company whose developmental stage product failed to meet certain clinical trial goals. Specifically, and as reflected in the plaintiffs’ lawyers March 9 press release (here), its product did not meet primary and secondary goals in a Phase 3 clinical trial for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. When the company announced this news, its stock price declined and the lawsuit followed. A copy of the complaint can be found here.
This lawsuit will work its way through the system. The lawyers involved, all of whom undoubtedly are (or when they are retained to defend will be) well versed in these things, and will raise familiar arguments that may or may not succeed. All very familiar to those of us who spend all of our time immersed in these kinds of things.
An interesting perspective about this lawsuit appeared on the Blogging Stocks site (here). The author, Gary E. Sattler, has a number of reactions to the plaintiffs’ complaint, summarizing his comments with the observation that "even when given my usually cynical nature, and my usual dislike for big pharmaceutical interests, I still take issue with this potential class action lawsuit."
After summarizing the plaintiffs’ allegations, the author notes that
The plaintiff class has to cross a significant threshold of proof in order to prevail in this case. Based on my reading of the original complaint, plaintiffs fail to establish intent, fail to reveal purposeful omission of fact, and fail to establish that the actions of the defendants were the true overt cause of any artificial inflation of Medivation’s stock value. Furthermore, the plaintiff’s complaint seems to disregard that Medivation has had broad yet cautious support from within the Alzheimer’s treatment community. Was it all wishful thinking? Perhaps it was, but that support came from many well-educated minds experienced in the field.
Sattler goes on to note that "to me, this potential class action smacks of sour grapes." He then reiterates his support for the company and for the company’s Alzheimer’s product.
Sattler seems to be reasonably objective (he states that he has no investment interest in the company). Of course, his rough and ready assessments have no direct relationship to how the lawsuit and its allegations might fare in court. But I have often found that the court of public opinion is an accurate sounding board. True, it might be argued that because of Sattler’s preexisting interest in the company and in its product he might be biased in its favor. But just the same it is interesting to look at the allegations through his eyes and see his reaction to the allegations.
When the U.S. Supreme Court first issued its opinion in Tellabs, I thought it would make little fundamental difference, because I thought that in the end and regardless of the formal standard, courts would give the green light to cases that raised a stink and would cut short the rest. Regardless of whether I am right about the Tellabs standard, I think trial courts fundamentally assess cases on a smell test, which is basically what Sattler has done in his post, albeit without specific reference to legal standards. Viewed in that light, his rough and ready assessment is interesting. And perhaps significant, at least with respect to the case’s prospects.
More About the FCPA: Regular readers know that I have a certain fixation about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. (Indeed, one reader has gone so far as to accuse me of being "obsessive" about it.) I continue to believe that the FCPA will be an increasingly important corporate exposure in the years ahead, if for no other reason than the relentless globalization of commerce.
For those who remain skeptical on the topic, I suggest a quick review of the March 10, 2010 post by Bruce Carton on his Securities Docket blog (here). In his post, Carton painstakingly compiles all of the recent comments by regulators corroborating that the FCPA is a top priority. He also reviews the significance of the recent Africa Sting enforcement action, as well as the implications of the Bribery Bill which may soon become law in the U.K. As Bruce’s emphasizes, there are a number of very significant implications to the Bribery Bill.
As Carton puts it, top FCPA lawyers agree that the anti-bribery activity has reached "a fever pitch." Whether or not I am obsessive, it is indisputably clear that FCPA related enforcement activity will be a significant area of corporate exposure in the months and years ahead.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Want to know what the financial crisis is all about? Check out this graphic depicting the escalating mortgage default rate during the current crisis. No interpretation required. As for myself, I am considering investing in gold. And stocking my basement with water, canned goods, matches, stout rope and a knife. You never know.
This Too Shall Pass: You are probably familiar with the OK Go video performed on an array of treadmills. If not, you should get out more. I’ve seen it and I have serious social issues. (See prior item). However, and in any event, everyone should watch the new video from OK Go for its new song, "This Too Shall Pass." Rube Goldberg would be impressed. Smashing pianos, crashing trash cans, smashing TV sets (showing the treadmill video, no less), the whole enchilada.
Though I have embedded the Rube Goldberg version below, there is an alternative spoof marching band version here that is also funny in a completely different way. (Don’t you love the Internet?) Please also see the Author’s Note below.
Authors’ Note: This blog post was written in its entirety on a laptop computer while the author was sitting in Cladgagh Irish Pub in Lyndhurst, Ohio and watching Real Madrid play Lyon in a UEFA Champions League game on the television. (In an excellent game, the teams played to a 1-1 tie.) I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. Gradus ad Parnassum.