Category Archives: IPO Allocation Cases

Discovery Of Wells Submissions, Loss Causation, And The IPO Allocation Cases

The WorldCom and Initial Public Offering securities litigations in the S.D.N.Y. are generating judicial opinions on a wide variety of topics, with the plaintiffs frequently getting the better of the argument. Two more opinions have come down from Judge Scheindlin in the IPO allocation cases over the holidays.

Discovery of Wells Submissions

On December 24, the court issued an opinion and order addressing whether “Wells submissions” to the SEC are discoverable in subsequent litigations. The target of a SEC investigation is permitted to file a written submission, known as a Wells submission, with the agency to respond to contemplated charges. The plaintiffs were seeking discovery of Wells submissions made by the underwriter defendants in connection with the SEC’s investigation of the same IPO allocation practices at issue in the current litigation. Although the Wells submissions contained offers of settlement, the court found that they are not “settlement material” and, in any event, they are relevant to the current litigation and therefore discoverable.

Quote of note: “Offers of settlement, however, are not intrinsically part of Wells submissions, which were intended to be ‘memoranda to the SEC presenting arguments why an enforcement proceeding should not be brought.’ To the extent that a respondent may make a settlement offer, that offer is typically clearly identified and thus easily severable from the remainder of the submission.”

Holding: The underwriter defendants are ordered to produce their Wells submissions to plaintiffs on or before January 20, 2004.

The New York Law Journal has an article (via – free regist. req’d) on the decision and the Securities Litigation Watch has a post.

Loss Causation

On December 31, the court issued an order and opinion addressing a motion for judgment on the pleadings by the underwriter defendants. The underwriter defendants argued that the Rule 10b-5 claims against them should be dismissed in light of the Second Circuit’s recent decision on the pleading of loss causation in securities fraud cases. In Emergent Capital, the Second Circuit held that allegations of artificial price inflation, without more, do not suffice to plead loss causation. (The 10b-5 Daily has posted about the decision and the current circuit split on this issue.)

In the IPO allocation cases, the underwriter defendants “allegedly required or induced their customers to buy shares of stock in the aftermarket as a condition of receiving initial public offerings stock allocations.” This conduct allegedly caused the plaintiffs to purchase the stock at an artificially inflated price. The plaintiffs have brought claims, based on different provisions of Rule 10b-5, for (1) market manipulation and (2) material misstatements and omissions.

Although the Emergent Capital decision requires more than price inflation to adequately plead loss causation (e.g., a corrective disclosure revealing the fraud and causing a stock price decline), the court noted that it is a material misstatements and omissions case. Market manipulation, the court argued, is simply different.

“A market manipulation is a discrete act that influences stock price. Once the manipulation ceases, however, the information available to the market is the same as before, and the stock price gradually returns to its true value. . . In market manipulation cases, therefore, it may be permissible to infer that the artificial inflation will inevitably dissipate. That being so, plaintiffs’ allegations of artificial inflation are sufficient to plead loss causation because it is fair to infer that the inflationary effect must inevitably diminish over time. It is that dissipation — and not the inflation itself — that caused plaintiffs’ loss.”

The court offers no citations for this analysis and it certainly reaches some broad (and potentially controversial) conclusions. As for the remaining misstatements and omission claims, the court concedes that Emergent Capital is directly on point, but simply bootstraps the claims into its earlier loss causation analysis: “The content of Underwriters’ misstatements was, in essence: ‘this is a fair, efficient market, unaffected by manipulation.’ In fact (according to plaintiffs), the market was manipulated. For the reasons discussed [] above, that market manipulation was a cause of plaintiffs’ loss. Therefore, the misstatements that concealed that manipulation also were a cause of plaintiffs’ loss.” But if the plaintiffs have brought separate fraud claims based on alleged misstatements, don’t they need to establish that the alleged misstatements, separate and apart from the market manipulation, caused a loss? Apparently not.

Holding: Motion for judgment on the pleadings denied.

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IPO Suits Alleging Price-Fixing Dismissed

The Associated Press reports that District Judge Pauley of the S.D.N.Y. has dismissed two class actions alleging price-fixing in connection with high-tech initial public offerings. The anti-trust cases, brought in 2001 against ten investment banks, addressed the same claims of stock price manipulation and commission kickbacks as in the related IPOallocation cases. The article states “Pauley ruled Monday that the charges made by investors in the suits are immune from antitrust law and fall to federal securities regulators to decide.”

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Twenty Percent of $1 Billion Is Still A Lot

Securities Litigation Watch has a post on a decision by Judge Scheindlin of the S.D.N.Y. to reduce the proposed attorneys’ fees in the Independent Energy Holdings case from 25% to 20% of the recovery. The court evidently “suggested that the contingency risk asserted by plaintiffs’ counsel as part of the justification for fees is ‘often inflated.'”

It is difficult to figure out the best methodology for measuring contingency risk. Judge Scheindlin appears to have cited overall settlement rates for securities class actions, but that statistic does not provide much information about the contingency risk faced by a plaintiffs’ firm in the particular case before the court. (Securities Litigation Watch also notes that the overall settlement rates used in the decision appear to be out-of-date.)

In any event, Judge Scheindlin’s willingness to reduce the requested attorneys’ fees in a securities class action settlement may be a source of concern for the plaintiffs’ bar. The judge presides over the IPO allocation cases, where the investors are already guaranteed a recovery of at least $1 billion.

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Plaintiffs’ Perspective

The Associated Press has a lengthy interview with Mel Weiss of Milberg Weiss, the leading plaintiffs’ securities class action firm.

Quote of note:

Interviewer – “How big was the $1 billion settlement for ordinary investors in the IPO fraud case in your view? How much do you hope to get from the brokerages?”

Weiss – “The billion dollars is an expression of concern that these allegations are real and could give rise to staggering liability. It simplifies the litigation in that we can focus our attention on the conduct of the investment banks. The interesting part here is how much broader our inquiries will be than the government’s has been because we’re covering 55 banks, not 10. It’s going to be far more fascinating to demonstrate that the conduct we allege to be serious violations of the law was widespread throughout the entire industry. … I would be very disappointed if we don’t achieve multiple billions (in recovery).”

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IPO Settlement Examined

The San Jose Mercury News ran a story yesterday on the proposed settlement by the issuer defendants in the IPO allocation cases. The author states that investors should not expect a quick or large recovery. The 10b-5 Daily has an earlier post on the settlement terms.

Quote of note: “Like many average IPO investors, Gallagher is hazy on exactly what iBeam or its investment bank was alleged to have done wrong. But he feels he deserves a cut of the settlement anyway. ‘I feel I deserve it because, well, I’m not certain why,’ Gallagher said sheepishly. ‘Nobody talked me into it, that’s for sure. The opportunity was there, and I decided to go for it.'”

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Issuers To Settle IPO Allocation Cases

The big news today is the proposed settlement for $1 billion of the more than 300 cases against companies who made initial public offerings of their shares in the high-tech boom years. The cases, known as the “IPO Allocation” cases, were previously consolidated in the S.D.N.Y. Plaintiffs have alleged, as summarized by Reuters, that the issuers and/or their underwriters “manipulated the market with optimistic research; ramped up trading commissions in exchange for access to IPO shares; and that investors allocated IPO shares were required to buy shares in the after-market to help push up the share price.”

The key to the settlement, however, is that the companies and their insurers may never have to pay a dime. Indeed, they may even get to recoup their costs for defending against the litigation to date. A Bloomberg article on the proposed settlement explains that the companies are only liable for the difference between $1 billion and what the plaintiffs are able to collect from the underwriter defendants. In other words, if the plaintiffs recover more than $1 billion from the underwriter defendants, the companies will not have to make any payment. If the plaintiffs recover more than $5 billion from the underwriter defendants, the companies will actually be able to recover various expenses associated with the litigation. In return, the companies appear to have assigned any related claims they may have against the underwriters to the plaintiffs.

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Who Pays for E-Mail Discovery?

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required), reports that Judge Scheindlin (S.D.N.Y.) has ordered UBS Warburg, despite the brokerage firm’s concern about excessive cost, to pay for the retrieval of certain e-mails relating to an employment discrimination case. The authors speculate that the ruling will be cited in future investor class action suits to justify requiring Wall Street firms to pay for extensive e-mail discovery. Although the article specifically mentions the IPO allocation cases, it inexplicably fails to note that these cases are, in fact, before Judge Scheindlin.

Quote of note: “The judge set out a new standard for determining when a defendant must produce e-mails that includes such factors as ‘the importance of the issue at stake in the litigation’ and how much the retrieval will cost ‘compared to the amount in controversy.'”

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