On September 28, 2023, the SEC announced that it had filed charges against and entered into a settlement agreement with the Illinois electric utility Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and its corporate parent Exelon Corporation in connection with an alleged scheme to influence the then-speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Michael Madigan. The SEC separately filed a complaint against ComEd’s former CEO in connection with the same allegations. In an October 12, 2023 post on the Cooley law firm’s PubCo blog (here) Cydney Posner wrote about the SEC enforcement actions and raised the interesting question of whether Political Corruption is Securities Fraud? It is a question well worth asking. However, as I discuss below, there is a long-standing connection between corruption and bribery allegations and securities class action lawsuits and other types of claims.Continue Reading Can Corrupt Political Activities Support Securities Fraud Allegations?
As a result of a host of recent developments – including the War in Ukraine, trade tensions with China, and growing issues involving digital assets – several long-standing regulatory regimes have become increasingly important for companies and their executives. These regulatory regimes include U.S. sanctions, export controls, anti-money laundering (AML) and anti-bribery and corruption laws. According to a recent memo from the Skadden law firm entitled “Why Directors and Executives Need to Pay Attention to Sanctions, Money Laundering, and Export Rules” (here), boards and senior management need to be especially vigilant with respect to these laws as the company officials can become targets of enforcement actions – indeed, directors and officer have been named personally in both civil and criminal enforcement actions involving these laws and regulations.
Continue Reading D&O Risks Relating to Trade Sanctions, Money Laundering, and Export Rules
As I have previously noted on this site, bribery-related allegations often lead to follow-on securities lawsuits, some of which have resulted in significant settlements. In the following guest post, Jeff Lubitz, Managing Director, ISS Securities Class Action Services, and Jarett Sena, Director of Litigation Analysis, ISS Securities Class Action Services, take a detailed look at a recent significant settlement in a bribery-related securities suit involving Groupo Televisa S.A.B. The authors’ article also reviews other recent significant settlements in bribery-related securities suits. A version of this article previously was published as an ISS Securities Class Action Services client alert. I would like to thank Jeff and Jarett for allowing 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.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Allegations of Bribery to FIFA Officials Results in $95 Million Settlement
Among the topics of principal focus on this site are U.S. securities class action lawsuits, although from time to time I do write about collective investor actions outside the U.S (here, for example). The fact is that in recent years there have been a number of important and interesting developments in collective investor actions outside of the U.S. In a recent paper, “Five Current Class Actions Outside of North American Investors Should Be Aware Of,” Jeff Lubitz, Managing Director, ISS Securities Class Action Services, takes a look at some key cases outside of the U.S. to watch in coming months. A copy of the paper can be found here.
Continue Reading Key Collective Investor Actions Outside the U.S. to Watch
Last month, when I noted in a post that the parties to the FirstEnergy bribery-related derivative litigation had agreed to settle the suits for a payment of $180 million and the company’s agreement to adopt certain governance reforms, I added what I thought at the time was the pro forma observation that the settlement was subject to court approval. The court processes that have followed have been anything but pro forma. As it has turned out, Northern District of Ohio Judge John R. Adams has thrown a huge money-wrench into the works, refusing even to stay the case pending in his court, demanding that plaintiffs’ counsel reveal the names of the individuals that actually paid the supposed bribes, and directing the parties to conduct depositions in the case – a case that the parties have already agreed to settle. The story of the unfolding of these events is well told in two recent posts on Alison Frankel’s On the Case blog, here and here.
Continue Reading The Parties Agreed to a Settlement. Then Things Got Weird.
In what is one of the largest shareholder derivative lawsuit settlements ever, the parties to the various FirstEnergy bribery-related derivative lawsuits have reached an agreement to settle the actions for a payment of $180 million and the company’s agreement to adopt a number of corporate governance reforms. The settlement amount is to be funded by D&O insurance. The settlement agreement is subject to court approval. First Energy’s February 10, 2022 announcement of the settlement can be found here. The parties’ February 10, 2022 settlement term sheet can be found here.
Continue Reading FirstEnergy Bribery-Related Derivate Lawsuit Settled for $180 Million
A court in the Netherlands has ruled that a collective investor action against Petrobras and related entities pending in the court can go forward, notwithstanding the arbitration clause in Petrobras’s articles of association. The defendants had sought to argue that because of the arbitration clause the foundation that was pursuing the Dutch action on behalf of investors had no standing to pursue the claims. The Dutch court’s May 26, 2021 ruling rejecting the defendants’ argument will now permit the action to go forward. A copy of Petrobras’s May 27, 2021 press release about the court’s ruling can be found here. A June 3, 2021 Law360 article about the Dutch court’s ruling can be found here.
Continue Reading Dutch Court Rules Petrobras Collective Investor Action May Proceed
A federal district judge has denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss in a securities class action lawsuit arising out of an electric utility’s eight-year involvement in a domestic bribery scheme. The court’s ruling has several interesting features relating to the securities litigation exposures from domestic corruption. Northern District of Illinois Judge Virginia M. Kendall’s April 21, 2021 opinion in the Exelon Corporation securities suit can be found here. An April 28, 2021 memo about the ruling from the Shearman & Sterling law firm can be found here.
Continue Reading Dismissal Denied in Domestic Corruption-Related Securities Suit
As I have noted in prior posts (most recently here), allegations of bribery and improper payments often lead to follow-on securities class action lawsuits. Although historically claimants in these kinds of securities suits have had mixed results, some of these lawsuits have resulted in significant settlements (including most notably the $3 billion settlement in the Petrobras case). In the latest of these bribery follow-on lawsuits to result in a significant settlement, on December 11, 2020, the parties to the securities lawsuit pending against the Chilean company Chemical and Mining Company of Chile Inc. (a/k/a Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A., or “SQM’) filed with the court their agreement to settle the lawsuit based on SQM’s agreement to pay $62.5 million. The parties’ December 11, 2020 stipulation of settlement can be found here. The lead plaintiff’s motion for preliminary approval of the settlement can be found here.
Continue Reading Chilean Company Pays $62.5 Million to Settle Bribery-Related Securities Suit
As I have frequently noted on this site (most recently here), plaintiffs’ lawyers often attempt to fashion a securities lawsuit out of on revelations of corporate activities involving alleged violations of anti-bribery laws. A securities class action lawsuit filed this week represents the latest example of this phenomenon. In this instance, the allegedly improper conduct involved activities of an acquired company that reportedly took place prior to the merger. As discussed below, this latest example of the bribery-related securities lawsuits involves several interesting variations on the pattern of these kinds of follow-on securities suits.
Continue Reading Bribery-Related Securities Suit Based on Acquired Company’s Pre-Merger Activities