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?
Long-time readers know that a litigation phenomenon on which I have frequently commented is the filing of securities class action lawsuits in the wake of antitrust enforcement actions. These follow-on civil actions represent something of a translation of an antitrust matter into a securities lawsuit. In the latest example of this phenomenon, a plaintiff shareholder has filed a securities suit against the concert company Live Nation following news reports of an imminent U.S. Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit against the company and its ticketing service Ticketmaster relating to allegations that the concert company pressures clients to use the ticketing service. The new lawsuit raises a number of interesting issues, as discussed below. A copy of the August 4, 2023 complaint can be found here.Continue Reading Antitrust Enforcement Leads to Follow-On Securities Suit Against Live Nation
One trend I have noted on this site in recent years is the proclivity of plaintiffs’ lawyers to file securities class action lawsuits or shareholder derivative lawsuits in the wake of antitrust regulatory or enforcement actions. These kinds of lawsuits tend to cluster in specific industries as antitrust enforcement authorities concentrate on alleged anticompetitive behavior in those sectors. One industry that recently was the focus of both regulatory action and securities litigation is the poultry production industry.
As discussed here, beginning in 2016 companies in this industry that found themselves the subject of antitrust enforcement actions were hit with follow on securities litigation. In connection with one of those suits involving poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride the court recently granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Both the lawsuit and the court’s ruling are significant given the current Presidential administration’s ramped-up antitrust enforcement approach and the possibility for resulting follow-on D&O claims. The Court’s March 8, 2022 order in the Pilgrim’s Pride case can be found here.
Continue Reading Antitrust Enforcement Follow-On Securities Suit Against Pilgrim’s Pride Dismissed
As reflected in their January 18, 2022 stipulation of settlement, the parties to the consolidated Teva Pharmaceutical Industries securities class action litigation have reached an agreement to settle the case for a payment of $420 million. The settled claims relate to underlying allegations concerning price-fixing in connection with the company’s generic drug products. According to the statements of a company spokesperson, the “vast majority” of the settlement amount will be funded by the company’s D&O insurers. The settlement is subject to court approval. A copy of the parties’ January 18, 2022 stipulation of settlement can be found here.
Continue Reading Teva Settles Price-Fixing-Related Securities Class Action Litigation for $420 Million
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