The Limits Of The Fraud-On-The-Market Theory

Under the fraud-on-the-market theory, reliance by investors on an alleged misrepresentation is presumed if the company’s shares were traded on an efficient market. Investors are not entitled to the presumption, however, if they are unable to show that the misrepresentation actually affected the market price of the stock. Class certification continues to be an intense battleground on the application of the fraud-on-the-market theory, as evidenced by two recent decisions.

(1) In In re Fannie Mae Sec. Litig., 247 F.R.D. 32 (D.D.C. 2008), the court considered whether it was appropriate to apply the fraud-on-the-market presumption to investors who purchased Fannie Mae stock after the company’s Dec. 2004 announcement that it would engage in a large financial restatement. The plaintiffs argued that additional information about the alleged fraud was released over the next ten months and the class period should extend to Sep. 2005. The court disagreed and held that the Dec. 2004 announcement “severed the link between the alleged misrepresentations and the stock price” and later investors could not “claim a reasonable reliance on Fannie Mae’s financial statements.” Accordingly, the court found that the class period ended in Dec. 2004.

(2) In In re Credit Suisse First Boston Corp. (Lantronix Inc.) Analyst Sec. Litig., 2008 WL 512779 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 26, 2008), the court considered whether a series of allegedly false analyst statements about Lantronix affected the market price of the company’s stock. The court declined to decide whether the fraud-on-the-market presumption could ever apply to research analyst statements, noting that the issue is currently before the Second Circuit in the In re Salomon Analyst Metromedia Litig. case (see this post for more background). Nevertheless, the court decertified the class based on the plaintiffs’ failure to adequately demonstrate that the analyst statements had: (a) increased Lantronix’s stock price when issued; (b) had an effect throughout the class period; or (c) negatively impacted Lantronix’s stock price when their falsity was revealed to the market.

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