Amgen v. Conn. Retirement Plans

The securities class action industry was launched a quarter-century ago when the Supreme Court recognized the so-called “fraud-on-the-market” presumption of reliance in most putative securities class actions.  The result has been that—despite Congressional efforts at securities litigation reform—most securities class actions that survive the pleadings stage are likely to achieve class certification, forcing defendants to settle.  In the meantime, as explained in prior blog posts, the best economic thinking has shifted, calling the empirical assumptions underlying the fraud-on-the-market presumption into question.

In Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc. (pdf), decided today, the Supreme Court declined to abandon that presumption, instead largely maintaining the status quo.  The Court did clarify one key aspect of how class certification works in the securities context, holding that defendants are now entitled to attempt to rebut the presumption by introducing evidence at the class certification stage that there was no “price impact”—i.e., that misrepresentation alleged in a particular lawsuit did not affect the stock’s price.  This adjustment will make it possible for defendants to challenge class certification in a number of securities class actions, but is unlikely to alter the landscape of securities litigation significantly—a result that is troubling from a policy perspective because (for reasons we have previously stated) securities class actions generally benefit the lawyers who bring and defend them rather than the investors.

We provide more details about the decision below.
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In Section 10(b) securities-fraud cases based on affirmative misrepresentations, a class action cannot be certified unless investor reliance is presumed under the fraud-on-the-market theory of Basic, Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988). In Erica P. John Fund, Inc. v. Halliburton Co., 131 S. Ct. 2179 (2011), the Supreme Court ruled that a

With all of the attention on last week’s Amgen decision, another interesting decision addressing the fraud-on-the-market presumption of reliance in securities fraud actions may have escaped notice. In GAMCO Investors, Inc. v. Vivendi, S.A. (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2013), Judge Scheindlin found that the defendant had rebutted the presumption of reliance as to a group of related investment advisers and mutual funds by showing that the plaintiffs’ investment decisions did not rely on the prices of the defendant’s securities as an accurate assessment of the value of those securities. As one of the few decisions to address this issue following a bench trial, GAMCO provides a valuable example of how the presumption of reliance can be rebutted. The decision also illustrates why individualized questions as to reliance should make class certification impossible in some fraud-on-the-market class actions.
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Today, in Amgen Inc. v. Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, No. 11-1085, the Supreme Court held that proof of materiality is not a prerequisite for class certification in a securities fraud class action under Section 10(b), even though materiality is a predicate of the fraud-on-the-market presumption of reliance.  The opinion for the majority

Today, Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal and Daniel Fisher of Forbes each published previews of the just-commenced Supreme Court term that mention the three cases scheduled for argument that involve issues near and dear to the hearts of class-action practitioners: Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles, Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, and