Fatally Flawed

While it may be relatively easy to plead loss causation in the Fifth Circuit, things become a lot more difficult for plaintiffs when it comes time to offer proof. This week, in Fener v. Belo Corp., 2009 WL 2450674 (5th Cir. Aug. 12, 2009), the court considered a case where the corrective disclosure made by the company attributed a decline in newspaper circulation to three separate sources. Only one of the sources, however, was related to the alleged fraudulent conduct.

On appeal from the lower court’s denial of class certification, the Fifth Circuit found that the plaintiff’s expert report was inadequate. Notably, the plaintiff’s expert failed to distinguish between the three different disclosures in conducting his event study, thereby making it impossible to conclude that the alleged fraud caused a significant amount of the post-disclosure stock price decline.

Holding: Denial of class certification affirmed.

Quote of note: “As the district court correctly held, [plaintiff’s expert] testimony was fatally flawed; he wedded himself to the idea that the press release was only one piece of news and conducted his event study based on that belief. We reject any event study that shows only how a ‘stock reacted to the entire bundle of negative information,’ rather than examining the ‘evidence linking the culpable disclosure to the stock-price movement.’ Because [plaintiffs’ expert] based his study on that incorrect assumption, it cannot be used to support a finding of loss causation.”

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