In yet another significant #MeToo-related development, the parties to the Signet Jewelers securities class action lawsuit have agreed to settle the case for $240 million. There are a number of interesting features to the settlement, as discussed below; among other things, over $200 million of the settlement amount is to be funded by insurance. The settlement is subject to court approval. The plaintiff’s March 26, 2020 letter to the court regarding the settlement can be found here. The parties’ stipulation of settlement can be found here.
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Priya Cherian Huskins

As I have noted in prior posts (most recently here), there have already been at least two coronavirus-related securities class action lawsuits filed. In the following guest post, Priya Cherian Huskins, takes a look at these first pandemic-related cases and compares and contrasts them with general securities litigation filings patters. She also takes a look at the implications of the cases for coronavirus-related company disclosures.  Priya is a Senior Vice President and Partner at Woodruff Sawyer. A version of this article previously appeared in the D&O Notebook. I would like to thank Priya for allowing me to publish her article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is Priya’s article.
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Among the more significant securities class action filing trends in recent years has been the rise in event-driven litigation – that is, lawsuits based on adverse developments in the defendant company’s business operations, as opposed to allegations based on alleged financial or accounting misrepresentation. But while event-driven suits arguably have garnered the most attention, the reality is that the number of federal court securities class action lawsuits involving accounting allegations was at “record levels” in 2019, at least when merger-related accounting suits are taken into account. According to a new report from Cornerstone Research, the number of securities suit filings in 2019 involving accounting allegations was nearly double the historical average. The March 25, 2020 report, entitled “Accounting Class Action Filings and Settlements: 2019 Review and Analysis” can be found here. Cornerstone Research’s press release describing the report can be found here.
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With the news about the coronavirus outbreak dominating the headlines, other important stories have faded into the background — though they definitely have not gone away. Among these important continuing stories is the U.S. trade war with China. The frontlines of this trade war are on the battlefield of economic competition, which these days includes, among other things, export and import controls and other coercive measures. As one commentator has put it, the “highest-profile example of the United States’ use of targeted coercive measures against China is its yearlong campaign against Huawei, China’s national-champion telecommunications company.” And as a recently filed lawsuit demonstrates, among the implications of the two countries’ competition – and specifically, the U.S. measures targeting Huawei – is a risk that affected companies can be exposed to government investigations and also to D&O claims.
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Among the numerous companies hit with #MeToo-related management liability lawsuits in the late 2017 to early 2019 time frame was the national pizza restaurant company Papa John’s International Inc. The plaintiffs in the securities class action lawsuit alleged that company founder and former CEO John Schnatter and other executives sexually harassed company employees and cultivated a hostile workplace culture while the company misleadingly touted the Company’s culture and failed to divulge the true conditions to investors. The defendants’ moved to dismiss. In a March 16, 2020 order, Southern District of New York Judge Kimba Wood granted motion to dismiss, with leave to amend. Judge Wood’s order can be found here.
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The Delaware Supreme Court unanimously held that corporate charter provisions requiring claims under the Securities Act of 1933 to be litigated in federal court are facially valid. These kinds of provisions were proposed after the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2018 decision in Cyan affirming that state court’s retain concurrent jurisdiction for ’33 Act liability actions. However, in December 2018, the Delaware Chancery Court ruled that federal forum provisions are invalid and unenforceable. In its March 18, 2020 decision (here), the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Chancery Court, holding that federal forum provisions are a valid form of “private ordering.” The ruling has important implications, which are discussed below. And as also discussed below, there is a very interesting backstory – involving key D&O insurance industry players – to this successful appeal.
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In the following guest post, Dan Gold, Thad Behrens, Kit Addleman, Emily Westridge Black, Carrie L. Huff, Timothy Newman, Matt McGee, and Odean L. Volker of the Haynes and Boone, LLP law firm review the key developments during 2019 in securities litigation and enforcement, including significant securities related decisions by the Supreme Court and federal appellate courts, key developments in SEC enforcement, and significant rulings in state law fiduciary litigation against directors and officers of public companies. A version of this article previously was published as a Haynes and Boone client alert. I would like to thank the authors for their willingness to allow me to publish their article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is the authors’ article.
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In a post late last week I noted the filing of the first coronavirus-related securities class action lawsuit, commenting at the time that though the lawsuit was the first, it was unlikely to be the last. I did not suspect that the next coronavirus-related securities suit would come quite so quickly – in fact, it appears that the second coronavirus-related suit might actually already been filed then. On March 12, 2020, an Inovio Pharmaceuticals shareholder filed a securities class action lawsuit against the company and its CEO based upon the CEO’s statements about the company’s development of a COVID-19 vaccine. A copy of the Inovio Pharmaceuticals complaint can be found here.
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After I published a post last week suggesting that there could be D&O claims arising out of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, several people suggested to me that I was being alarmist and expressed deep skepticism about the possibility of coronavirus-related claims. After all, they said, there were no D&O claims filed in connection with the SARS, MERS or Ebola outbreaks. Well, there may well have been no D&O claims related to those prior outbreaks. However, it looks like in this context as in many others, the COVID-19 outbreak is going to be different. On March 12, 2020, a plaintiff shareholder filed a securities class action lawsuit against Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. alleging that the company was employing misleading sales tactics related to the outbreak. A copy of the plaintiff shareholder’s complaint can be found here.
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As I have detailed in prior posts, U.S. securities class action lawsuit filings remained at historically high levels in 2019. Among the 2019 securities suit filings were significant number of lawsuits filed against non-U.S. companies with U.S. listings. As detailed in a new report from the Dechert law firm, there was an uptick in 2019 the number of U.S. securities lawsuits filed against non-U.S. companies compared with the year prior. The Dechert report also details a number of trends with respect to filings against non-U.S. companies, as well as the trends with respects to dispositive motions in these cases. The March 11, 2020 report can be found here.
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