Barred from taking discovery until after a motion to dismiss has been decided, plaintiffs frequently attempt to meet the PSLRA’s heightened pleading standards for securities fraud by citing statements from confidential sources (often former or current employees of the defendant corporation). In its seminal decision in Novak v. Kasaks, the Second Circuit found that it was not necessary to name these confidential sources “provided that they are described in the complaint with sufficient particularity to support the probability that a person in the position occupied by the source would possess the information alleged.”
The Third Circuit has now weighed in on the issue. In California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. The Chubb Corp., 2004 WL 3015578 (3rd Cir. Dec. 30, 2004), the court adopted the Novak standard, but also stated that this standard requires “an examination of the detail provided by the confidential sources, the sources’ basis of knowledge, the reliability of the sources, the corrobative nature of other facts alleged, including from other sources, the coherence and plausibility of the allegations, and similar indicia.” After engaging in this rigorous examination, the court rejected most of the allegations based on confidential sources contained in the complaint. The opinion is notable for its in-depth discussion of different types of confidential sources, including former employees at various levels within Chubb’s corporate organization, and what knowledge reasonably can be imputed to them.
Holding: Dismissal affirmed.
Quote of note: “Citing to a large number of varied sources may in some instance help provide particularity, as when the accounts supplied by the sources corroborate and reinforce one another. In this case, however, the underlying prerequisite – that each source is described sufficiently to support the probability that the source possesses the information alleged – is not met with respect to the overwhelming majority of Plaintiffs’ sources. Cobbling together a litany of inadequate allegations does not render those allegations particularized in accordance with Rule 9(b) or the PSLRA.”