follow-on civil litigation

As I noted in a prior post, last week the SEC filed an enforcement action against Stable Road Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), and its intended merger target, Momentus, relating to Momentus’s alleged misrepresentations, as well as Stable Road’s alleged lack of due diligence. Perhaps inevitably, a plaintiff shareholder has filed a securities class action lawsuit against Stable Road; Momentus; and other defendants, adding to the growing number of SPAC-related securities suits that have been filed this year. A copy of the July 15, 2021 complaint in the new securities lawsuit can be found here.
Continue Reading SPAC Subject to SEC Enforcement Action Hit with Follow-On Securities Suit

Long-time readers know that I have a particular interest in the SEC whistleblower program. I have been interested in it since it was first put into effect now almost ten years ago. One reason I was interested in it from the very outset is that I thought that a pattern might emerge in which whistleblowers submitted their reports to the SEC, the SEC launched an investigation or enforcement action, and then company shareholders filed related securities class action lawsuits based on the circumstances revealed in the whistleblower’s report.

By and large, the third step in this anticipated pattern has not emerged. As far as I am aware, there have not been private securities suits filed after SEC whistleblower reports triggered SEC investigation or enforcement actions – until now, that is. On January 28, 2021, a plaintiff shareholder filed a securities class action against Exxon Mobil relating to news reports that the SEC has launched an investigation of the company based on whistleblower reports questioning the company’s asset valuations of its Permian basin oil fields. A copy of the plaintiff’s complaint can be found here.
Continue Reading Securities Suit Filed Against Exxon Mobil Based on SEC Whistleblower Allegations

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

As I have previously noted, even though the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) does not contain a private right of action, plaintiffs’ attorneys have fashioned an FCPA-based claim of sorts in the form of a follow-on shareholder claim alleging either mismanagement or misrepresentation with respect to the alleged bribery or corrupt activity. A  July 10, 2019 memo by attorneys from the DLA Piper law firm (here) takes a look at securities class action lawsuits filed based on FCPA allegations. As the authors note, the underlying FCPA allegations “do not necessarily make for a successful securities class action,” as most FCPA-related securities fraud claims “are dismissed.” As discussed below, a July 12, 2019 dismissal ruling in the FCPA-related Cemex securities class action illustrates both the kind of securities claims that can arise in the wake of FCPA-related allegations and also the hurdles that these kinds of claims face.
Continue Reading A Closer Look at FCPA-Related Securities Suits

There is no private right of action under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. However, regulatory enforcement actions under the FCPA by U.S. government authorities can and often does result in massive fines and penalties. When companies subject to FCPA enforcement are compelled to pay these penalties they often then hit with follow-on civil lawsuits arising out of or based on the anti-corruption enforcement action. In the most recent example of this anti-corruption enforcement and follow-on civil litigation sequence, earlier this week a plaintiff shareholder filed a securities class action lawsuit filed against a U.S.-listed Russian telecom company that was the subject of both criminal and civil FCPA enforcement actions that recently resulted in the company’s agreement to pay substantial fines and penalties.
Continue Reading Russian Telecom Company Hit with FCPA-Related Securities Suit

One of the things that has happened in the wake of revelations of high-profile sexual misconduct as part of the #MeToo movement has been the rise of D&O litigation following after the revelations. However, this type of sexual misconduct follow-on litigation didn’t start with the rise of the #MeToo movement. Even before the #MeToo movement there were D&O lawsuits arising from sexual misconduct allegations. One of these earlier cases involved the retail jewelry chain Signet Jewelers. On November 26, 2018, Southern District of New York Judge Colleen McMahaon denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss in the case, in a ruling that may provide an interesting perspective on the many subsequent #MeToo follow on lawsuits. The November 26, 2018 opinion in the case can be found here.
Continue Reading Dismissal Motion Denied in Sexual Misconduct-Related Securities Suit

As I have often noted (for example, here), a company’s announcement that it is the subject of an FCPA-related investigation frequently leads to the filing of a follow-on civil lawsuit in which investor claimants allege either that the company’s senior officials have violated their oversight duties or that the company’s public disclosure statements were insufficient in some way relating to the alleged misconduct. As I have also noted, these kinds of follow-on lawsuits, while frequently filed, often are unsuccessful.

Both of these aspects of the follow-on civil lawsuit track record are relevant in connection with the wave of litigation that has followed in the wake of the massive anti-bribery investigation in Brazil. Many of the companies caught up in the continuing anti-corruption investigation in Brazil have been hit with follow-on securities suits in the U.S. While there have been noteworthy exceptions, many of these cases have been unsuccessful. Most recently, the defendants’ motion to dismiss was granted in the anti-bribery investigation-related securities class action lawsuit that had been filed against the Brazilian airplane manufacturer Embraer. Southern District of New York Richard M. Berman’s March 30, 2018 opinion granting the motion to dismiss can be found here. The decision is interesting and it highlights many of the challenges claimants face in pursuing these kinds of claims.
Continue Reading Frequently-Filed FCPA Follow-On Securities Suits Face Formidable Obstacles

In numerous prior posts, I have noted the phenomenon of securities suits following on in the wake of governmental regulatory or enforcement action. This phenomenon is well-established in the U.S.  Now it apparently is catching on outside the U.S. as well. Earlier this week, an Australia plaintiffs’ law firm filed a securities suit in an Australian court against Crown Resorts, Ltd. relating to the decline in the company’s share price that followed after Chinese authorities arrested several company employees on gambling- related charges.
Continue Reading Resort Company Hit with Follow-On Securities Suit in Australia

Uzbekistan (highlighted)

There is no private right of action under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), but plaintiff shareholders nevertheless frequently file follow-on civil actions in the wake of FCPA allegations against a company. Are these follow-on civil actions just an end run around the FCPA’s lack of a private right of action? That is the question a district court addressed in ruling on a motion to dismiss in a securities class action lawsuit filed against VEON (formerly known as Vimpelcom). In a September 19, 2017 order (here), Southern District of New York Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr. held that the alleged misrepresentations on which the plaintiff sought to rely were “sufficiently distinct to avoid any potential concern that Plaintiffs are seeking to enforce the FCPA by [their] securities fraud action.” A November 8, 2017 memo from the Shearman & Sterling law firm about the ruling can be found here.
Continue Reading Is a Follow-On Lawsuit an End-Run Around the Absence of an FCPA Private Right of Action?