- Securities Fraud Litigation
- Shareholder Derivative Actions
- Mergers & Acquisitions Litigation
- Consumer Protection and ERISA Litigation
- Antitrust Litigation
Securities Fraud Litigation
In re Bank of America Corp. Securities, Derivative, and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Litigation, Master File No. 09 MDL 2058:
Kessler Topaz, as Co-Lead Counsel, asserted claims for violations of the federal securities laws against Bank of America Corp. (“BoA”) and certain of BoA’s officers and board members relating to BoA’s merger with Merrill Lynch & Co. (“Merrill”) and its failure to inform its shareholders of billions of dollars of losses which Merrill had suffered before the pivotal shareholder vote, as well as an undisclosed agreement allowing Merrill to pay up to $5.8 billion in bonuses before the acquisition closed, despite these losses. On September 28, 2012, the Parties announced a $2.425 billion case settlement with BoA to settle all claims asserted against all defendants in the action. BoA also agreed to implement significant corporate governance improvements. The settlement, reached after almost four years of litigation with a trial set to begin on October 22, 2012, amounts to 1) the sixth largest securities class action lawsuit settlement ever; 2) the fourth largest securities class action settlement ever funded by a single corporate defendant; 3) the single largest settlement of a securities class action in which there was neither a financial restatement involved nor a criminal conviction related to the alleged misconduct; 4) the single largest securities class action settlement ever resolving a Section 14(a) claim (the federal securities provision designed to protect investors against misstatements in connection with a proxy solicitation); and 5) by far the largest securities class action settlement to come out of the subprime meltdown and credit crisis to date.
In re Tyco International, Ltd. Sec. Litig., No. 02-1335-B (D.N.H. 2002):
Kessler Topaz, which served as Co-Lead Counsel in this highly publicized securities fraud class action on behalf of a group of institutional investors, achieved a record $3.2 billion settlement with Tyco International, Ltd. ("Tyco") and their auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers (“PwC”). The $2.975 billion settlement with Tyco represents the single-largest securities class action recovery from a single corporate defendant in history. In addition, the $225 million settlement with PwC represents the largest payment PwC has ever paid to resolve a securities class action and is the second-largest auditor settlement in securities class action history.
The action asserted federal securities claims on behalf of all purchasers of Tyco securities between December 13, 1999 and June 7, 2002 ("Class Period") against Tyco, certain former officers and directors of Tyco and PwC. Tyco is alleged to have overstated its income during the Class Period by $5.8 billion through a multitude of accounting manipulations and shenanigans. The case also involved allegations of looting and self-dealing by the officers and directors of the Company. In that regard, Defendants L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former CEO and Mark H. Swartz, the former CFO have been sentenced to up to 25 years in prison after being convicted of grand larceny, falsification of business records and conspiracy for their roles in the alleged scheme to defraud investors.
As presiding Judge Paul Barbadoro aptly stated in his Order approving the final settlement, “[i]t is difficult to overstate the complexity of [the litigation].” Judge Barbadoro noted the extraordinary effort required to pursue the litigation towards its successful conclusion, which included the review of more than 82.5 million pages of documents, more than 220 depositions and over 700 hundred discovery requests and responses. In addition to the complexity of the litigation, Judge Barbadoro also highlighted the great risk undertaken by Co-Lead Counsel in pursuit of the litigation, which he indicated was greater than in other multi-billion dollar securities cases and “put [Plaintiffs] at the cutting edge of a rapidly changing area of law.”
In sum, the Tyco settlement is of historic proportions for the investors who suffered significant financial losses and it has sent a strong message to those who would try to engage in this type of misconduct in the future.
In re Tenet Healthcare Corp. Sec. Litig., No. CV-02-8462-RSWL (Rx) (C.D. Cal. 2002):
Kessler Topaz served as Co-Lead Counsel in this action. A partial settlement, approved on May 26, 2006, was comprised of three distinct elements: (i) a substantial monetary commitment of $215 million by the company; (ii) personal contributions totaling $1.5 million by two of the individual defendants; and (iii) the enactment and/or continuation of numerous changes to the company’s corporate governance practices, which have led various institutional rating entities to rank Tenet among the best in the U.S. in regards to corporate governance. The significance of the partial settlement was heightened by Tenet’s precarious financial condition. Faced with many financial pressures — including several pending civil actions and federal investigations, with total contingent liabilities in the hundreds of millions of dollars — there was real concern that Tenet would be unable to fund a settlement or satisfy a judgment of any greater amount in the near future. By reaching the partial settlement, we were able to avoid the risks associated with a long and costly litigation battle and provide a significant and immediate benefit to the class. Notably, this resolution represented a unique result in securities class action litigation — personal financial contributions from individual defendants. After taking the case through the summary judgment stage, we were able to secure an additional $65 million recovery from KPMG – Tenet’s outside auditor during the relevant period – for the class, bringing the total recovery to $281.5 million.
In re Wachovia Preferred Securities and Bond/Notes Litigation, Master File No. 09 Civ. 6351 (RJS) (S.D.N.Y.):
Kessler Topaz, as court-appointed Co-Lead Counsel, asserted class action claims for violations of the Securities Act of 1933 on behalf of all persons who purchased Wachovia Corporation (“Wachovia”) preferred securities issued in thirty separate offerings (the “Offerings”) between July 31, 2006 and Mary 29, 2008 (the “Offering Period”). Defendants in the action included Wachovia, various Wachovia related trusts, Wells Fargo as successor-in-interest to Wachovia, certain of Wachovia’s officer and board members, numerous underwriters that underwrote the Offerings, and KPMG LLP (“KPMG”), Wachovia’s former outside auditor. Plaintiffs alleged that the registration statements and prospectuses and prospectus supplements used to market the Offerings to Plaintiffs and other members of the class during the Offerings Period contained materially false and misleading statements and omitted material information. Specifically, the Complaint alleged that in connection with the Offerings, Wachovia: (i) failed to reveal the full extent to which its mortgage portfolio was increasingly impaired due to dangerously lax underwriting practices; (ii) materially misstated the true value of its mortgage-related assets; (iii) failed to disclose that its loan loss reserves were grossly inadequate; and (iv) failed to record write-downs and impairments to those assets as required by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”). Even as Wachovia faced insolvency, the Offering Materials assured investors that Wachovia’s capital and liquidity positions were “strong,” and that it was so “well capitalized” that it was actually a “provider of liquidity” to the market. On August 5, 2011, the Parties announced a $590 million cash settlement with Wells Fargo (as successor-in-interest to Wachovia) and a $37 million cash settlement with KPMG, to settle all claims asserted against all defendants in the action. This settlement was approved by the Hon. Judge Richard J. Sullivan by order issued on January 3, 2012.
Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association Local 262 Annuity Fund v. Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., No. 1:08-cv-05523-LAK (S.D.N.Y.):
Kessler Topaz has asserted claims against certain individual defendants and underwriters of Lehman securities arising from misstatements and omissions regarding Lehman's financial condition, and its exposure to the residential and commercial real estate markets in the period leading to Lehman’s unprecedented bankruptcy filing on September 14, 2008. In July 2011, the Court sustained the majority of the amended Complaint finding that Lehman’s use of Repo 105, while technically complying with GAAP, still rendered numerous statements relating to Lehman’s purported Net Leverage Ration materially false and misleading. The Court also found that Defendants’ statements related to Lehman’s risk management policies were sufficient to state a claim. With respect to loss causation, the Court also failed to accept Defendants’ contention that the financial condition of the economy led to the losses suffered by the Class. Prior to trial, a $616 million settlement was reached on behalf of shareholders --- $426 million of which came from various underwriters of the Offerings, representing a significant recovery for investors in this now bankrupt entity. In addition, $90 million came from Lehman’s former directors and officers (which is significant considering the diminishing assets available to pay any future judgment) as well as $99 million from Lehman’s auditor, Ernst & Young, LLP.
Luther, et al. v. Countrywide Financial Corp., et al., No. BC380698 (Cal. Super. Ct.):
This tentative settlement in the amount of $500 million on behalf of investors who purchased mortgage-backed securities issued by Countrywide Financial Corporation (“Countrywide”) will, if approved, represent the largest MBS class action recovery under the Securities Act in history. Plaintiffs alleged that Countrywide and various of its subsidiaries, officers and U.S. investment banks violated Sections 11, 12(a) (2) and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 by making materially false and misleading statements in over 450 prospectus supplements relating to the issuance of more than $300 billion in Subprime and Alt-A MBS and the quality of the loans underlying the MBS. The matter further alleged that when information pertaining to the loans materialized, the value of the MBS declined, damaging investors. The settlement was achieved through prolonged mediation after more than five years of hard fought litigation.
In re Initial Public Offering Sec. Litig., Master File No. 21 MC 92(SAS):
This action settled for $586 million on January 1, 2010, after years of litigation overseen by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin. Kessler Topaz served on the plaintiffs’ executive committee for the case, which was based upon the artificial inflation of stock prices during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s that led to the collapse of the technology stock market in 2000 that was related to allegations of laddering and excess commissions being paid for IPO allocations.
Minneapolis Firefighters' Relief Association v. Medtronic, Inc. et al. Case No. 0:08-cv-06324-PAM-AJB (D. Minn.):
Plaintiffs alleged that the company failed to disclose its reliance on illegal “off-label” marketing techniques to drive the sales of its INFUSE Bone Graft (“INFUSE”) medical device. While physicians are allowed to prescribe a drug or medical device for any use they see fit, federal law prohibits medical device manufacturers from marketing devices for any uses not specifically approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The company’s off-label marketing practices have resulted in the company becoming the target of a probe by the federal government which was revealed on November 18, 2008, when the company’s CEO reported that Medtronic received a subpoena from the United States Department of Justice which is “looking into off-label use of INFUSE.” After hearing oral argument on Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss, on February 3, 2010, the Court issued an order granting in part and denying in part Defendants’ motions, allowing a large portion of the action to move forward. The Court held that Plaintiff successfully stated a claim against each Defendant for a majority of the misstatements alleged in the Complaint and that each of the Defendants knew or recklessly disregarded the falsity of these statements and that Defendants’ fraud caused the losses experienced by members of the Class when the market learned the truth behind Defendants’ INFUSE marketing efforts. While the case was in discovery, on April 2, 2012, Medtronic agreed to pay shareholders an $85 million settlement. The settlement was approved by the Court by order issued on November 8, 2012.
In re Brocade Sec. Litig., Case No. 3:05-CV-02042 (N.D. Cal. 2005) (CRB):
The complaint in this action alleges that Defendants engaged in repeated violations of federal securities laws by backdating options grants to top executives and falsified the date of stock option grants and other information regarding options grants to numerous employees from 2000 through 2004, which ultimately caused Brocade to restate all of its financial statements from 2000 through 2005. In addition, concurrent SEC civil and Department of Justice criminal actions against certain individual defendants were commenced. In August, 2007 the Court denied Defendant’s motions to dismiss and in October, 2007 certified a class of Brocade investors who were damaged by the alleged fraud. Discovery is currently proceeding and the case is being prepared for trial. Furthermore, while litigating the securities class action Kessler Topaz and its co-counsel objected to a proposed settlement in the Brocade derivative action. On March 21, 2007, the parties in In Re Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. Derivative Litigation, No. C05-02233 (N.D. Cal. 2005) (CRB) gave notice that they had obtained preliminary approval of their settlement. According to the notice, which was buried on the back pages of the Wall Street Journal, Brocade shareholders were given less than three weeks to evaluate the settlement and file any objection with the Court. Kessler Topaz client Puerto Rico Government Employees’ Retirement System (“PRGERS”) had a large investment in Brocade and, because the settlement was woefully inadequate, filed an objection. PRGERS, joined by fellow institutional investor Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System, challenged the settlement on two fundamental grounds. First, PRGERS criticized the derivative plaintiffs for failing to conduct any discovery before settling their claims. PRGERS also argued that derivative plaintiff’s abject failure to investigate its own claims before providing the defendants with broad releases from liability made it impossible to weigh the merits of the settlement. The Court agreed, and strongly admonished derivative plaintiffs for their failure to perform this most basic act of service to their fellow Brocade shareholders. The settlement was rejected and later withdrawn. Second, and more significantly, PRGERS claimed that the presence of the well-respected law firm Wilson, Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, in this case, created an incurable conflict of interest that corrupted the entire settlement process. The conflict stemmed from WSGR’s dual role as counsel to Brocade and the Individual Settling Defendants, including WSGR Chairman and former Brocade Board Member Larry Sonsini. On this point, the Court also agreed and advised WSGR to remove itself from the case entirely. On May 25, 2007, WSGR complied and withdrew as counsel to Brocade. The case settled for $160 million and was approved by the Court.
In re Satyam Computer Services, Ltd. Sec. Litig., No. 09 MD 02027 (BSJ) (S.D.N.Y.):
Kessler Topaz served as Co-Lead Counsel in this securities fraud class action in the Southern District of New York. The action asserts claims for violations of the federal securities laws against Satyam Computer Services Limited (“Satyam” or the “Company”) and certain of Satyam’s former officers and directors and its former auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd. (“PwC”) relating to the Company’s January 7, 2009, disclosure admitting that B. Ramalinga Raju (“B. Raju”), the Company’s former chairman, falsified Satyam’s financial reports by, among other things, inflating its reported cash balances by more than $1 billion. The news caused the price of Satyam’s common stock (traded on the National Stock Exchange of India and the Bombay Stock Exchange) and American Depository Shares (“ADSs”) (traded on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”)) to collapse. From a closing price of $3.67 per share on January 6, 2009, Satyam’s common stock closed at $0.82 per share on January 7, 2009. With respect to the ADSs, the news of B. Raju’s letter was revealed overnight in the United States and, as a result, trading in Satyam ADSs was halted on the NYSE before the markets opened on January 7, 2009. When trading in Satyam ADSs resumed on January 12, 2009, Satyam ADSs opened at $1.14 per ADS, down steeply from a closing price of $9.35 on January 6, 2009. Lead Plaintiffs filed a consolidated complaint on July 17, 2009, on behalf of all persons or entities, who (a) purchased or otherwise acquired Satyam’s ADSs in the United States; and (b) residents of the United States who purchased or otherwise acquired Satyam shares on the National Stock Exchange of India or the Bombay Stock Exchange between January 6, 2004 and January 6, 2009. Co-Lead Counsel secured a settlement for $125 million from Satyam on February 16, 2011. Additionally, Co-Lead Counsel was able to secure a $25.5 million settlement from PwC on April 29, 2011, who was alleged to have signed off on the misleading audit reports. Claims against certain former executive officers at Satyam remain pending.
In re BankAtlantic Bancorp, Inc. Securities Litigation No. 07-cv-61542 (S.D. Fla.)
On November 18, 2010, following a four-week jury trial, a panel of nine Miami, Florida jurors returned the first securities fraud verdict to arise out of the financial crisis against BankAtlantic Bancorp. Inc., its chief executive officer and chief financial officer. This case is just the tenth securities class action to be tried to a verdict following the passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which governs such suits. Following extensive post-trial motion practice, the District Court upheld all of the Jury’s findings of fraud but vacated the damages award on a narrow legal issue and granted Defendant’s motion for a judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. On July 23, 2012, a three-judge panel for the Appeals Court found the District Court erred in granting the Defendant’s motion for a judgment as a matter of law based in part on the Jury’s findings (perceived inconsistency of two of the Jury’s answers to the special interrogatories) instead of focusing solely on the sufficiency of the evidence. However, upon its review of the record, the Appeals Court affirmed the District Court’s decision as it determined the Plaintiffs did not introduce evidence sufficient to support a finding in its favor on the element of loss causation. The Appeals Court’s decision in this case does not diminish the five years of hard work which Kessler Topaz expended to bring the matter to trial and secure an initial jury verdict in the Plaintiffs’ favor. This case is an excellent example of the Firm’s dedication to our clients and the lengths it will go to try to achieve the best possible results for institutional investors in shareholder litigation.
In re AremisSoft Corp. Sec. Litig., C.A. No. 01-CV-2486 (D.N.J. 2002):
Kessler Topaz is particularly proud of the results achieved in this case before the Honorable Joel A. Pisano. This case was exceedingly complicated, as it involved the embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars by former officers of the Company, one of whom remains a fugitive. In settling the action, Kessler Topaz, as sole Lead Counsel, assisted in reorganizing AremisSoft as a new company to allow for it to continue operations, while successfully separating out the securities fraud claims and the bankrupt Company’s claims into a litigation trust. The approved Settlement enabled the class to receive the majority of the equity in the new Company, as well as their pro rata share of any amounts recovered by the litigation trust. During this litigation, actions have been initiated in the Isle of Man, Cyprus, as well as in the United States as we continue our efforts to recover assets stolen by corporate insiders and related entities.
In re CVS Corporation Sec. Litig., C.A. No. 01-11464 JLT (D.Mass. 2001):
Kessler Topaz, serving as Co-Lead Counsel on behalf of a group of institutional investors, secured a cash recovery of $110 million for the class, a figure which represents the third-largest payout for a securities action in Boston federal court. Kessler Topaz successfully litigated the case through summary judgment before ultimately achieving this outstanding result for the class following several mediation sessions, and just prior to the commencement of trial.
In re Marvell Technology, Group, Ltd. Sec. Lit., Master File No. 06-06286 RWM:
Kessler Topaz served as Co-Lead Counsel in this securities class action brought against Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (“Marvell”) and three of Marvell’s executive officers. This case centered around an alleged options backdating scheme carried out by Defendants from June 2000 through June 2006, which enabled Marvell’s executives and employees to receive options with favorable option exercise prices chosen with the benefit of hindsight, in direct violation of Marvell’s stock option plan, as well as to avoid recording hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation expenses on the Marvell’s books. In total, the restatement conceded that Marvell had understated the cumulative effect of its compensation expense by $327.3 million, and overstated net income by $309.4 million, for the period covered by the restatement. Following nearly three years of investigation and prosecution of the Class’ claims as well as a protracted and contentious mediation process, Co-Lead Counsel secured a settlement for $72 million from defendants on June 9, 2009. This Settlement represents a substantial portion of the Class’ maximum provable damages, and is among the largest settlements, in total dollar amount, reached in an option backdating securities class action.
In re Delphi Corp. Sec. Litig., Master File No. 1:05-MD-1725 (E.D. Mich. 2005):
In early 2005, various securities class actions were filed against auto-parts manufacturer Delphi Corporation in the Southern District of New York. Kessler Topaz its client, Austria-based mutual fund manager Raiffeisen Kapitalanlage-Gesellschaft m.b.H. (“Raiffeisen”), were appointed as Co-Lead Counsel and Co-Lead Plaintiff, respectively. The Lead Plaintiffs alleged that (i) Delphi improperly treated financing transactions involving inventory as sales and disposition of inventory; (ii) improperly treated financing transactions involving “indirect materials” as sales of these materials; and (iii) improperly accounted for payments made to and credits received from General Motors as warranty settlements and obligations. As a result, Delphi’s reported revenue, net income and financial results were materially overstated, prompting Delphi to restate its earnings for the five previous years. Complex litigation involving difficult bankruptcy issues has potentially resulted in an excellent recovery for the class. In addition, Co-Lead Plaintiffs also reached a settlement of claims against Delphi’s outside auditor, Deloitte & Touche, LLP, for $38.25 million on behalf of Delphi investors.
In re Royal Dutch Shell European Shareholder Litigation, No. 106.010.887, Gerechtshof Te Amsterdam (Amsterdam Court of Appeal):
Kessler Topaz was instrumental in achieving a landmark $352 million settlement on behalf non-US investors with Royal Dutch Shell plc relating to Shell's 2004 restatement of oil reserves. This settlement of securities fraud claims on a class-wide basis under Dutch law was the first of its kind, and sought to resolve claims exclusively on behalf of European and other non-United States investors. Uncertainty over whether jurisdiction for non-United States investors existed in a 2004 class action filed in federal court in New Jersey prompted a significant number of prominent European institutional investors from nine countries, representing more than one billion shares of Shell, to actively pursue a potential resolution of their claims outside the United States. Among the European investors which actively sought and supported this settlement were Alecta pensionsförsäkring, ömsesidigt, PKA Pension Funds Administration Ltd., Swedbank Robur Fonder AB, AP7 and AFA Insurance, all of which were represented by Kessler Topaz.
In re Computer Associates Sec. Litig., No. 02-CV-1226 (E.D.N.Y. 2002):
Kessler Topaz served as Co-Lead Counsel on behalf of plaintiffs, alleging that Computer Associates and certain of its officers misrepresented the health of the company’s business, materially overstated the company’s revenues, and engaged in illegal insider selling. After nearly two years of litigation, Kessler Topaz helped obtain a settlement of $150 million in cash and stock from the company.
In re The Interpublic Group of Companies Sec. Litig., No. 02 Civ. 6527 (S.D.N.Y. 2002):
Kessler Topaz served as sole Lead Counsel in this action on behalf of an institutional investor and received final approval of a settlement consisting of $20 million in cash and 6,551,725 shares of IPG common stock. As of the final hearing in the case, the stock had an approximate value of $87 million, resulting in a total settlement value of approximately $107 million. In granting its approval, the Court praised Kessler Topaz for acting responsibly and noted the Firm’s professionalism, competence and contribution to achieving such a favorable result.
In re Digital Lightwave, Inc. Sec. Litig., Consolidated Case No. 98-152-CIV-T-24E (M.D. Fla. 1999):
The Firm served as Co-Lead Counsel in one of the nation’s most successful securities class actions in history measured by the percentage of damages recovered. After extensive litigation and negotiations, a settlement consisting primarily of stock was worth over $170 million at the time when it was distributed to the Class. Kessler Topaz took on the primary role in negotiating the terms of the equity component, insisting that the class have the right to share in any upward appreciation in the value of the stock after the settlement was reached. This recovery represented an astounding approximately two hundred percent (200%) of class members’ losses.
In re Transkaryotic Therapies, Inc. Sec. Litig., Civil Action No.: 03-10165-RWZ (D. Mass. 2003):
After five years of hard-fought, contentious litigation, Kessler Topaz as Lead Counsel on behalf of the Class, entered into one of largest settlements ever against a biotech company with regard to non-approval of one of its drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”). Specifically, the Plaintiffs alleged that Transkaryotic Therapies, Inc. (“TKT”) and its CEO, Richard Selden, engaged in a fraudulent scheme to artificially inflate the price of TKT common stock and to deceive Class Members by making misrepresentations and nondisclosures of material facts concerning TKT’s prospects for FDA approval of Replagal, TKT’s experimental enzyme replacement therapy for Fabry disease. With the assistance of the Honorable Daniel Weinstein, a retired state court judge from California, Kessler Topaz secured a $50 million settlement from the Defendants during a complex and arduous mediation.
In re PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Sec. Litig., Case No. 02-CV-271 (W.D. Pa. 2002):
Kessler Topaz served as Co-Lead Counsel in a securities class action case brought against PNC bank, certain of its officers and directors, and its outside auditor, Ernst & Young, LLP (“E&Y”), relating to the conduct of Defendants in establishing, accounting for and making disclosures concerning three special purpose entities (“SPEs”) in the second, third and fourth quarters of PNC’s 2001 fiscal year. Plaintiffs alleged that these entities were created by Defendants for the sole purpose of allowing PNC to secretly transfer hundreds of millions of dollars worth of non-performing assets from its own books to the books of the SPEs without disclosing the transfers or consolidating the results and then making positive announcements to the public concerning the bank’s performance with respect to its non-performing assets. Complex issues were presented with respect to all defendants, but particularly E&Y. Throughout the litigation E&Y contended that because it did not make any false and misleading statements itself, the Supreme Court’s opinion in Central Bank of Denver, N.A. v. First Interstate Bank of Denver, N.A., 511 U.S. 164 (1993) foreclosed securities liability for “aiding or abetting” securities fraud for purposes of Section 10(b) liability. Plaintiffs, in addition to contending that E&Y did make false statements, argued that Rule 10b-5’s deceptive conduct prong stood on its own as an independent means of committing fraud and that so long as E&Y itself committed a deceptive act, it could be found liable under the securities laws for fraud. After several years of litigation and negotiations, PNC paid $30 million to settle the action, while also assigning any claims it may have had against E&Y and certain other entities that were involved in establishing and/or reporting on the SPEs. Armed with these claims, class counsel was able to secure an additional $6.6 million in settlement funds for the class from two law firms and a third party insurance company and $9.075 million from E&Y. Class counsel was also able to negotiate with the U.S. government, which had previously obtained a disgorgement fund of $90 million from PNC and $46 million from the third party insurance carrier, to combine all funds into a single settlement fund that exceeded $180 million and is currently in the process of being distributed to the entire class, with PNC paying all costs of notifying the Class of the settlement.
In re SemGroup Energy Partners, L.P., Sec. Litig., No. 08-md-1989 (DC) (N.D. Okla.):
Kessler Topaz, which was appointed by the Court as sole Lead Counsel, litigated this matter, which ultimately settled for $28 million. The defense was led by 17 of the largest and best capitalized defense law firms in the world. On April 20, 2010, in a fifty-page published opinion, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma largely denied defendants’ ten separate motions to dismiss Lead Plaintiff’s Consolidated Amended Complaint. The Complaint alleged that: (i) defendants concealed SemGroup’s risky trading operations that eventually caused SemGroup to declare bankruptcy; and (ii) defendants made numerous false statements concerning SemGroup’s ability to provide its publicly-traded Master Limited Partnership stable cash-flows. The case was aggressively litigated out of the Firm’s San Francisco and Radnor offices and the significant recovery was obtained, not only from the Company’s principals, but also from its underwriters and outside directors.
Shareholder Derivative Actions
In re Southern Peru Copper Corp. Derivative Litigation, Consol. CA No. 961-CS (Del. Ch.):
On October 14, 2011, Kessler Topaz and its Delaware co-counsel secured the largest damage award in Delaware Chancery Court history, a $1.3 billion derivative judgment against copper mining company Southern Peru’s majority shareholder Grupo Mexico. The litigation stemmed from Southern Peru’s 2005 acquisition of Minera Mexico, a private mining company owned by Grupo Mexico, for more than $3 billion in Southern Peru stock. Plaintiff alleged that the private company was worth more than a billion dollars less, but that Southern Peru’s board had approved this conflicted transaction in deference to its majority shareholder’s interests. In his trial opinion, Chancellor Leo Strine agreed, writing that Grupo Mexico “extracted a deal that was far better than market, and got real, market-tested value of over $3 billion for something that no member of the special committee, none of its advisors, and no trial expert was willing to say was worth that amount of actual cash.” He concluded that Southern Peru’s “non-adroit act of commercial charity toward the controller resulted in a manifestly unfair transaction.” Discovery in the case spanned years and continents, with depositions in Peru and Mexico. Defendants appealed the historic verdict to the Delaware Supreme Court, which affirmed the Court of Chancery’s judgment on August 27, 2012. The final judgment, with interest, amounted to $2.1 billion.
In re Comverse Technology, Inc. Derivative Litigation, 601272/2006 (Supreme Court, NY 2006):
Kessler Topaz attorneys negotiated a settlement that required the Company’s founder/Chairman/CEO and other executives to disgorge more than $62 million in ill-gotten gains from backdated stock options back to the Company and overhauled the Company’s corporate governance and internal controls, including replacing a number of members on the board of directors and corporate executives, splitting the Chairman and CEO positions, and instituting majority voting for directors.
In re Viacom, Inc. Shareholder Derivative Litig., Index No. 602527/05 (New York County, NY 2005):
Kessler Topaz represented the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi and served as Lead Counsel in a derivative action alleging that the members of the Board of Directors of Viacom, Inc. paid excessive and unwarranted compensation to Viacom’s Executive Chairman and CEO, Sumner M. Redstone, and co-COOs Thomas E. Freston and Leslie Moonves, in breach of their fiduciary duties. Specifically, we alleged that in fiscal year 2004, when Viacom reported a record net loss of $17.46 billion, the board improperly approved compensation payments to Redstone, Freston, and Moonves of approximately $56 million, $52 million, and $52 million, respectively. Judge Ramos of the New York Supreme Court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss the action as we overcame several complex arguments related to the failure to make a demand on Viacom’s Board; Defendants then appealed that decision to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York. Prior to a decision by the appellate court, a settlement was reached in early 2007. Pursuant to the settlement, Sumner Redstone, the company's Executive Chairman and controlling shareholder, agreed to a new compensation package that, among other things, substantially reduces his annual salary and cash bonus, and ties the majority of his incentive compensation directly to shareholder returns.
In re Family Dollar Stores, Inc. Derivative Litig., Master File No. 06-CVS-16796 (Mecklenburg County, NC 2006):
Kessler Topaz served as Lead Counsel, derivatively on behalf of Family Dollar Stores, Inc., and against certain of Family Dollar’s current and former officers and directors. The actions were pending in Mecklenburg County Superior Court, Charlotte, North Carolina, and alleged that certain of the company’s officers and directors had improperly backdated stock options to achieve favorable exercise prices in violation of shareholder-approved stock option plans. As a result of these shareholder derivative actions, Kessler Topaz was able to achieve substantial relief for Family Dollar and its shareholders. Through Kessler Topaz’s litigation of this action, Family Dollar agreed to cancel hundreds of thousands of stock options granted to certain current and former officers, resulting in a seven-figure net financial benefit for the company. In addition, Family Dollar has agreed to, among other things: implement internal controls and granting procedures that are designed to ensure that all stock options are properly dated and accounted for; appoint two new independent directors to the board of directors; maintain a board composition of at least 75 percent independent directors; and adopt stringent officer stock-ownership policies to further align the interests of officers with those of Family Dollar shareholders. The settlement was approved by Order of the Court on August 13, 2007.
In re Barnes & Noble, Inc. Derivative Litig., Index No. 06602389 (New York County, NY 2006):
Kessler Topaz served as Lead Counsel, derivatively on behalf of Barnes & Noble, Inc., and against certain of Barnes & Noble’s current and former officers and directors. This action was pending in the Supreme Court of New York, and alleged that certain of the company’s officers and directors had improperly backdated stock options to achieve favorable exercise prices in violation of shareholder-approved stock option plans. As a result of this shareholder derivative action, Kessler Topaz was able to achieve substantial relief for Barnes & Noble and its shareholders. Through Kessler Topaz’s litigation of this action, Barnes & Noble agreed to re-price approximately $2.64 million unexercised stock options that were alleged improperly granted, and certain defendants agreed to voluntarily repay approximately $1.98 million to the Company for the proceeds they received through exercise of alleged improperly priced stock options. Furthermore, Barnes & Noble has agreed to, among other things: adopt internal controls and granting procedures that are designed to ensure that all stock options are properly dated and accounted for; at least once per calendar year, preset a schedule of dates on which stock options will be granted to new employees or to groups of twenty (20) or more employees; make final determinations regarding stock options at duly-convened committee meetings; and designate one or more specific officer(s) within the Company who will be responsible for, among other things, compliance with the Company’s stock option plans. The settlement was approved by Order of the Court on November 14, 2007.
In re Sepracor, Inc. Derivative Litig., C.A. NO.: SUCV2006-04057-BLS:
Kessler Topaz served as Lead Counsel, derivatively on behalf of Sepracor Inc., and against certain of Sepracor’s current and former officers and directors. This action was pending in the Superior Court of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, and alleged that certain of the company’s officers and directors had improperly backdated stock options to achieve favorable exercise prices in violation of shareholder-approved stock option plans. As a result of this shareholder derivative action, Kessler Topaz was able to achieve substantial relief for Sepracor and its shareholders. Through Kessler Topaz’s litigation of this action, Sepracor agreed to cancel or reprice more than 2.7 million unexercised stock options that were alleged to have been improperly granted. Furthermore, Sepracor has agreed to, among other things: adopt internal controls and granting procedures that are designed to ensure that all stock options are properly dated and accounted for; not alter the exercise prices of stock options without shareholder approval; hire an employee responsible for ensuring that the Company’s complies with its stock option plans; and appoint a director of internal auditing. The settlement was approved by Order of the Court on January 4, 2008.
In re Monster Worldwide, Inc. Stock Option Derivative Litigation, Index No. 1:06-CV-04622 (New York Supreme Court, New York County):
Kessler Topaz represented Allegheny County in this shareholder derivative action brought on behalf of Monster Worldwide, Inc. (“Monster”) against certain of its officers and directors. The action alleged that insiders had breached their fiduciary duties to the company and its shareholders by “backdating” stock options, that is, by granting stock options at artificially low prices by pretending that the options had been granted on earlier, fictitious dates. Kessler Topaz attorneys negotiated a settlement which required the recipients of backdated stock options to disgorge more than $32 million in unlawful gains back to the company, plus agreeing to significant corporate governance measures. These measures included (a) requiring Monster’s founder Andrew McKelvey to reduce his voting control over Monster from 31% to 7%, by exchanging super-voting stock for common stock; and (b) implementing new equity granting practices that require greater accountability and transparency in the granting of stock options moving forward. In approving the settlement, the court noted “the good results, mainly the amount of money for the shareholders and also the change in governance of the company itself, and really the hard work that had to go into that to achieve the results….”
Denbury Resources, Inc. Shareholder Litigation, 2008-CP-23-8395 (Greenville County, SC 2008):
This derivative litigation challenged the Board’s decision to award excessive compensation to the Company’s outgoing President and CEO, Gareth Roberts. Kessler Topaz negotiated a settlement that included both the disgorgement of ill-gotten compensation by Mr. Roberts as well as numerous corporate governance improvements. In approving the settlement, the Court acknowledged that the litigation was a “hard-fought battle all the way through,” and commented, “I know you guys have very vigorous and able counsel on the other side, and you had to basically try to knock your way through the wall at every stage.”
Carbon County Employees Retirement System, et al., Derivatively on Behalf of Nominal Defendant Southwest Airlines Co. v. Gary C. Kelly, et al. Cause No. 08-08692 (District Court of Dallas County, Texas)
Kessler Topaz served as Lead Counsel against certain officers and directors of Southwest Airlines Co. alleging breaches of fiduciary duties in connection with Southwest’s violations of Federal Aviation Administration safety and maintenance regulations. Plaintiffs alleged that from June 2006 to March 2007, Southwest flew 46 Boeing 737 airplanes on nearly 60,000 flights without complying with a 2004 FAA Airworthiness Directive that required the Company to inspect the planes for fuselage fatigue cracks. As a result, Southwest was forced to temporarily ground 44 planes, and the FAA levied on the Company a record $7.5 million civil penalty. Plaintiffs successfully negotiated numerous reforms targeted not only at ensuring that Southwest’s Board is adequately apprised of any issues concerning Southwest’s safety and operations, but also at implementing significant measures to strengthen Southwest’s safety and maintenance processes and procedures, which will yield positive changes in many areas of Southwest’s operations and will have long-lasting effects on Southwest that go far beyond its Board-level practices.
The South Financial Group, Inc. Shareholder Litigation, 09-09061 (Dallas County, TX 2009):
This derivative litigation challenged the Board’s decision to accelerate “golden parachute” payments to the Company’s CEO Mack Whittle as the Company applied for emergency assistance in 2008 under the Troubled Asset Recovery Plan (“TARP”). Kessler Topaz attorneys sought injunctive relief to block the payments and protect the Company’s ability to receive the TARP funds. The litigation was settled, with Whittle giving up a portion of his severance package and agreeing to leave the board, as well as the implementation of important corporate governance changes which were described by one commentator as “unprecedented.”
Mergers & Acquisitions Litigation
In re Genentech, Inc. Shareholders Lit., Cons. Civ. Action No. 3991-VCS (Del. Chancery Court):
Kessler Topaz served as Co-Lead Counsel in this shareholder class action brought against the directors of Genentech and Genentech’s former majority owner, Roche Holdings, Inc., in response to Roche’s July 21, 2008 attempt to acquire Genentech for $89 per share. We sought to enforce provisions of an Affiliation Agreement between Roche and Genentech and to ensure that Roche fulfilled its fiduciary obligations to Genentech’s shareholders through any buyout effort by Roche. After moving to enjoin the tender offer, Kessler Topaz negotiated with Roche and Genentech to amend the Affiliation Agreement to allow a negotiated transaction between Roche and Genentech, which enabled Roche to acquire Genentech for $95 per share, approximately $3.9 billion more than Roche offered in its hostile tender offer. In approving the settlement, Vice Chancellor Leo Strine complimented plaintiffs’ counsel, noting that this benefit was only achieved through “real hard-fought litigation in a complicated setting.”
In re GSI Commerce, Inc. Shareholder Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 6346-VCN (Del. Ch. Ct.):
Kessler Topaz represented Lead Plaintiff Erie County Employees Retirement System (“Erie County”) in this consolidated class action matter involving the acquisition of GSI Commerce, Inc. (“GSI”) by eBay, Inc., litigated in the Delaware Court of Chancery. Erie County’s complaint alleged, among other things, that GSI’s founder, chairman of the board and chief executive officer Michael Rubin breached his fiduciary duties to GSI and its stockholders by secretly negotiating with eBay to acquire several of GSI’s businesses as a part of a merger with eBay, before the GSI board considered a possible merger with eBay, thereby reducing the price that eBay would pay to GSI’s stockholders in the merger. The complaint also alleged that GSI’s board breached its fiduciary duties to stockholders by allowing Rubin to acquire the GSI-owned businesses and by failing to make full material disclosure to stockholders in advance of a stockholder vote on the merger. Following expedited discovery and GSI’s release of additional factual disclosures less than a week before a scheduled hearing on Erie County’s motion to enjoin the transaction, Erie County agreed to settle the action in exchange for a payment of approximately $23.7 million to GSI stockholders, as well as an agreement to pay attorneys’ fees and expenses on top of that sum, without reducing the payment to stockholders. GSI stockholders received the settlement payment in June 2011, upon the closing of the eBay merger.
In re Amicas, Inc. Shareholder Litigation, 10-0174-BLS2 (Suffolk County, MA 2010):
Kessler Topaz served as lead counsel in class action litigation challenging a proposed private equity buy out of Amicas that would have paid Amicas shareholders $5.35 per share in cash while certain Amicas executives retained an equity stake in the surviving entity moving forward. Kessler Topaz prevailed in securing a preliminary injunction against the deal, which then allowed a superior bidder to purchase the Company for an additional $0.70 per share. The court complimented Kessler Topaz attorneys for causing an “exceptionally favorable result for Amicas’ shareholders” after “expend[ing] substantial resources.”
In re American Italian Pasta Company Shareholder Litigation, CA 5610-VCN (Del. Ch 2010):
This expedited merger litigation challenged certain provisions of a merger agreement, whereby the board had granted the acquiring company a “Top-Up Option” to purchase additional shares in the event that less than 90% of the shares were tendered. Kessler Topaz attorneys asserted that the Top-Up Option was granted in violation of Delaware law and threatened the rights of shareholders to seek appraisal post-closing. In settling the litigation, the parties agreed to substantially rewrite provisions of the merger agreement and issue substantial additional disclosures prior to the closing of the transaction. The Delaware Chancery Court approved the settlement, noting that “the issues were novel and difficult,” and that the “litigation was brought under severe time constraints.”
Consumer Protection and ERISA Litigation
CompSource Oklahoma v. BNY Mellon Bank, N.A., No. CIV 08-469-KEW (E.D. Okla. October 25, 2012):
Kessler Topaz served as Interim Class Counsel in this matter alleging that BNY Mellon Bank, N.A. and the Bank of New York Mellon (collectively, “BNYM”) breached their statutory, common law and contractual duties in connection with the administration of their securities lending program. The Second Amended Complaint alleged, among other things, that BNYM imprudently invested cash collateral obtained under its securities lending program in medium term notes issued by Sigma Finance, Inc. -- a foreign structured investment vehicle (“SIV”) that is now in receivership -- and that such conduct constituted a breach of BNYM’s fiduciary obligations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a breach of its fiduciary duties under common law, and a breach of its contractual obligations under the securities lending agreements. The Complaint also asserted claims for negligence, gross negligence and willful misconduct. The case recently settled for $280 million.
Transatlantic Holdings, Inc., et al. v. American International Group, Inc., et al., American Arbitration Association Case No. 50 148 T 00376 10:
Kessler Topaz served as counsel for Transatlantic Holdings, Inc., and its subsidiaries (“TRH”), alleging that American International Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries (“AIG”) breached their fiduciary duties, contractual duties, and committed fraud in connection with the administration of its securities lending program. Until June 2009, AIG was TRH’s majority shareholder and, at the same time, administered TRH’s securities lending program. TRH’s Statement of Claim alleged that, among other things, AIG breached its fiduciary obligations as investment advisor and majority shareholder by imprudently investing the majority of the cash collateral obtained under its securities lending program in mortgage backed securities, including Alt-A and subprime investments. The Statement of Claim further alleged that AIG concealed the extent of TRH’s subprime exposure and that when the collateral pools began experiencing liquidity problems in 2007, AIG unilaterally carved TRH out of the pools so that it could provide funding to its wholly owned subsidiaries to the exclusion of TRH. The matter was litigated through a binding arbitration and TRH was awarded $75 million.
Board of Trustees of the AFTRA Retirement Fund v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. – Consolidated Action No. 09-cv-00686 (SAS) (S.D.N.Y.):
On January 23, 2009, the Firm filed a class action complaint on behalf of all entities that were participants in JPMorgan’s securities lending program and that incurred losses on investments that JPMorgan, acting in its capacity as a discretionary investment manager, made in medium-term notes issue by Sigma Finance, Inc. – a now defunct structured investment vehicle. The losses of the Class exceeded $500 million. The complaint asserted claims for breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), as well as common law breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and negligence. Over the course of discovery, the parties produced and reviewed over 500,000 pages of documents, took 40 depositions (domestic and foreign) and exchanged 21 expert reports. The case settled for $150 million. Trial was scheduled to commence on February 6, 2012.
In re Global Crossing, Ltd. ERISA Litigation, No. 02 Civ. 7453 (S.D.N.Y. 2004):
Kessler Topaz served as Co-Lead Counsel in this novel, complex and high-profile action which alleged that certain directors and officers of Global Crossing, a former high-flier of the late 1990’s tech stock boom, breached their fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) to certain company-provided 401(k) plans and their participants. These breaches arose from the plans’ alleged imprudent investment in Global Crossing stock during a time when defendants knew, or should have known, that the company was facing imminent bankruptcy. A settlement of plaintiffs’ claims restoring $79 million to the plans and their participants was approved in November 2004. At the time, this represented the largest recovery received in a company stock ERISA class action.
In re AOL Time Warner ERISA Litigation, No. 02-CV-8853 (S.D.N.Y. 2006):
Kessler Topaz, which served as Co-Lead Counsel in this highly-publicized ERISA fiduciary breach class action brought on behalf of the Company’s 401(k) plans and their participants, achieved a record $100 million settlement with defendants. The $100 million restorative cash payment to the plans (and, concomitantly, their participants) represents the largest recovery from a single defendant in a breach of fiduciary action relating to mismanagement of plan assets held in the form of employer securities. The action asserted claims for breach of fiduciary duties pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) on behalf of the participants in the AOL Time Warner Savings Plan, the AOL Time Warner Thrift Plan, and the Time Warner Cable Savings Plan (collectively, the “Plans”) whose accounts purchased and/or held interests in the AOLTW Stock Fund at any time between January 27, 1999 and July 3, 2003. Named as defendants in the case were Time Warner (and its corporate predecessor, AOL Time Warner), several of the Plans’ committees, as well as certain current and former officers and directors of the company. In March 2005, the Court largely denied defendants’ motion to dismiss and the parties began the discovery phase of the case. In January 2006, Plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification, while at the same time defendants moved for partial summary judgment. These motions were pending before the Court when the settlement in principle was reached. Notably, an Independent Fiduciary retained by the Plans to review the settlement in accordance with Department of Labor regulations approved the settlement and filed a report with Court noting that the settlement, in addition to being “more than a reasonable recovery” for the Plans, is “one of the largest ERISA employer stock action settlements in history.”
In re Flonase Antitrust Litigation:
Kessler Topaz served as co-lead counsel in an antitrust lawsuit on behalf of a class of drug wholesalers and other direct purchasers against pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (“GSK”). The suit alleged that GSK unlawfully delayed the entry into the United States market of a generic version of GSK’s nasal allergy drug Flonase by filing a series of sham citizen petitions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Specifically, the direct purchasers alleged that GSK filed a series of sham citizen petitions with the FDA solely to prevent the approval and market entry of lower cost generic forms of GSK’s blockbuster drug Flonase, which had annual sales in excess of $1 billion. The initial citizen petition was filed on the eve of the FDA’s approval of a generic form of Flonase, and for every month that a generic product was delayed, the case alleges GSK reaped tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten profits from direct purchasers. This case settled for $150 million and won final approval in June 2013 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
In re Remeron Antitrust Litigation, No. 02-CV-2007 (D.N.J. 2004):
Kessler Topaz was Co-Lead Counsel in an action which challenged Organon, Inc.’s filing of certain patents and patent infringement lawsuits as an abuse of the Hatch-Waxman Act, and an effort to unlawfully extend their monopoly in the market for Remeron. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that defendants violated state and federal antitrust laws in their efforts to keep competing products from entering the market, and sought damages sustained by consumers and third-party payors. After lengthy litigation, including numerous motions and over 50 depositions, the matter settled for $36 million.