Parmalat’s Auditors

In an interesting opinion released yesterday in the Parmalat securities class action, Judge Kaplan (S.D.N.Y.) addresses some important topics.

(1) Parmalat’s primary auditors were the Italian affiliates of two multinational accounting firms – Grant Thornton and Deloitte & Touche. The court found that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged an agency relationship between the global umbrella organizations, Grant Thornton International (“GTI”) and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (“DTT”), and their Italian member firms so as to allow the claims against the global entities to go forward.

(2) GTI and DTT argued that the plaintiffs had failed to adequately plead loss causation “because they do not allege that any misrepresentation by them was the proximate cause of the decline in the value of the price of Parmalat securities or that a corrective disclosure about their prior misrepresentations caused the company’s collapse.” The court disagreed, holding that under Second Circuit precedent the plaintiffs’ allegations that the risks concealed by Parmalat and its auditors caused the decline in investor value were sufficient.

(3) Section 20(a) of the ’34 Act creates a cause of action against defendants alleged to have been “control persons” of those who engaged in securities fraud. There is a split within the Second Circuit over whether a plaintiff must allege culpable participation to state a legally sufficient claim under this provision. The court found that allegations of culpable participation are not necessary.

(4) The defendants evidently also moved to dismiss the 368-page complaint as failing to comply with F.R.C.P. 8 (“short and plain statement” of the claim). The court noted that it was in “substantial sympathy” with this position: “The requirement of pleading fraud with particularity does not justify a complaint longer than some of the greatest works of literature.” Nevertheless, the court declined to dismiss the complaint on this basis.

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