Saturday, March 03, 2007

Institutional Investors, Lead Plaintiffs, and Opt-Outs

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting A frequently repeated – but demonstrably false – statement about securities class action lawsuits is that, while public pension funds have served as lead plaintiffs in securities fraud lawsuits, private institutional investors, such as banks, mutual funds, and insurance companies, have not. However, as Adam Savett points out (here) on the Securities Litigation Watch blog, private institutional investors do indeed seek to serve as lead plaintiffs, and his blog post cites several specific instances where mutual funds, insurance companies and banks have done just that.

Savett’s observations are relevant to the discussions I have been having in response to the recent wave of institutional investor opt-out settlements. (See my most recent post on opt-out settlements here.) The usual line of analysis goes that because the recent opt-out settlements have involved public pension fund opt-outs, the threat of future opt-out exposure is limited to companies that have significant public pension fund investor ownership. But this assumption could prove to be very misleading.

As Savett’s blog post substantiates, private institutional investors will choose to take an active litigation role when they see it in their interests to do so, and there is no reason why they might not elect to opt-out of a class settlement, just as they might elect to see to serve as a lead plaintiff. However, unlike Savett, I am unable to support my assertion with concrete examples. Watch this space – if I learn of an example of a private institutional investor entering into a significant securities opt-out settlement, I will post it to this blog.

Readers who might think that the Amalgamated Bank’s recent opt-out settlement with Time Warner (refer here) is an example of a private institutional investor opt-out settlement may want to take a closer look at Amalgamated. According to its website (here), Amalgamated Bank was founded in 1923 by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and serves working class consumers and trade unions. In addition to normal banking functions, the bank also administers union-related trust funds and multi-employee benefit plans. The bank is owned by UNITE HERE, a trade union of textile and hospitality trade workers. Readers can reach their own conclusions, but I am not prepared to describe Amalgamated Bank as a private institutional investor.

Readers who are aware of any private institutional investor opt-out securities settlements are encouraged to let me know.

UPDATE: Adam Savett points out that the Lerach Coughlin law firm's web site's list of the opt out plaintiffs the firm represents in the AOL Time Warner lawsuit (here) include a number of private institutional investors, including mutual funds and insurance companies. To my knowledge, none of these plaintiffs have yet settled with the defendants, but their involvement suggests it is only a matter of time before we start seeing private institutional investor opt out settlements.

SUPPLEMENTAL UPDATE: At least one of the institutional investors that has settled with Time Warner appears to be a private institutional investor. According to Time Warner's 2006 10-K (here, refer to page 53), Time Warner has reached a settlement of the opt out action filed by DEKA Investment GmbH, which from its website (here) appears to be an investment fund company for institutional investors. The amount of DEKA's settlement is not disclosed. Hat tip to Adam Savett for the link.

A Fraudster’s Take on Fraud: Readers who may have missed it over the weekend will definitely want to go back and read Herb Greenberg’s March 3, 2007 column in the Wall Street Journal entitled “My Lunch With 2 Fraudsters” (here, subscription required). The column reports on Greenberg’s lunch interview with Sam E. Antar of Crazy Eddie’s infamy and Barry Minkow of ZZZZ Best infamy. It comes as no surprise to me that Sam did most of the talking. Readers may recall my prior post (here) about Sam’s views on preventing fraud. Sam also maintains the White Collar Fraud blog (here). Sam has quite a lot to say, a small portion of which comes through in Greenberg’s column. Sam makes no bones about the fact that as the architect of the Crazy Eddie’s securities fraud, he is a criminal. Among other interesting observations, Sam told Greenberg:



As criminals, we built false walls of integrity around us. We walked old ladies across the street. We built wings to hospitals…We wanted you to trust us. Simply said …if you want to be an investor, you cannot accept information at face value. "Unexamined acceptance” is the greatest cause of investor losses.
Professor Larry Ribstein has an interesting commentary (here) on his Ideoblog about Sam’s remarks.

Welcome to the Drug and Device Law Blog: The D & O Diary would like to welcome, and to encourage readers to read, the Drug and Device Law Blog, which may be found here. This new blog is written by Jim Beck of the Dechert law firm and Mark Herrmann of the Jones Day law firm. (Full disclosure: Mark and I were at Michigan Law School together, and Mark’s wife is my dentist. Small world.) The blog take a very lawyerly approach to legal issues affecting the drug and medical devices industries, although it should be noted that many of the blog’s posts are of more general interest. A particularly noteworthy recent post (here) discussed the recent Supreme Court punitive damages case and explored its implications for punitive damages awards in future class action cases.

Mark is also the author of the Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law, a humorous and irreverant guide to surviving the practice of law (big firm style). According to the WSJ.com Law Blog (here), the Guide is "a well-written and clear guide on how to be an effective law-firm associate. It’s also funny."

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