Securities Fraud

Since its inception Susman Godfrey has handled complex securities litigation. The cases include, but by no means are limited to, dozens of shareholder class actions and derivative suits. The firm’s decade-and-a-half of managing and trying complex securities cases clearly places it among the country’s preeminent firms in this arena.

Susman Godfrey has handled several securities cases that resulted in substantial judgments for the plaintiff. For example:

  • Susman Godfrey served as co-lead counsel for a class of derivative securities investors who alleged that Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. provided non-public information to Pershing Square Capital Management about its impending hostile takeover of Allergan, Inc. so that Pershing Square could secretly buy Allergan stock and commit that stake in support of Valeant’s bid. Plaintiffs claimed that Pershing Square then secretly acquired a massive 10 percent stake in Allergan and gleaned millions of dollars in profits by selling on the news of the takeover bid.  In 2018, a California federal judge granted final approval of two settlements totaling $290 million to resolve these insider-trading claims shortly before trial was set to commence in the first of the two actions.  The class represented by Susman Godfrey recovered $40 million (before fees and expenses), which is believed to be the largest recovery ever obtained on behalf of derivative securities investors in an insider trading case.
  • In a consolidated securities fraud class action against the Dendreon Corporation, Susman Godfrey was appointed to serve as lead counsel, and in 2011, won a $16.5 million cash settlement for the plaintiffs.
  • Steve Susman, Marc Seltzer, and Rachel Black represent a nationwide class against Google for breach of contract, unfair competition, and false advertising relating to Google’s AdWords billing practices and related disclosures. The Firm obtained a $20 million settlement in September 2009, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. An appeal is currently pending before the Ninth Circuit.
  • In August 2007, Susman Godfrey successfully represented a certified class of shareholders in a securities fraud action against Genzyme Corporation challenging the propriety under the federal securities laws of its elimination of the “tracking stock” of one of its divisions. The case settled in August 2007 with Genzyme agreeing to pay $64 million to the class. Susman Godfrey served as co-counsel for the class along with Boies, Schiller & Flexner and Kaplan Fox. Susman Godfrey partner, Vineet Bhatia, was lead trial counsel for the class.
  • On November 29, 2005, Hon. T. John Ward entered an order and final judgment finally approving settlements in the Fleming Securities Class Action Litigation. Kenneth S. Marks of Susman Godfrey L.L.P. is Co-Lead Counsel in that litigation, along with Sherrie R. Savett of Berger & Montague, P.C. Johnny W. Carter of Susman Godfrey L.L.P. has also worked extensively on this litigation. The settlements total $94 million, or $73 million net of attorneys’ fees. In late 2002, 15 securities class action lawsuits were filed against Fleming Companies, Inc., which at the time was one of the largest food wholesalers in the United States. In December 2002, Judge Ward appointed Mr. Marks and Ms. Savett to be Co-Lead Counsel, and the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) subsequently transferred all cases to the Eastern District of Texas. In April 2003, Fleming Companies, Inc. declared bankruptcy and thereafter was liquidated. Plaintiffs pursued claims against former directors and officers of Fleming, Fleming’s auditor, and underwriters of one of Fleming’s public offerings. In June 2004, the Court largely denied motions to dismiss brought by several defendants, and the case subsequently was set for trial in March 2006. Over the course of 2005, Counsel for Plaintiffs negotiated separate settlements with each of the defendants.
  • With trial set for November 5, 2001, a settlement was reached in October 2001. Alcatel agreed to pay $75 million to the class. The Court approved the settlement and entered final judgment on December 18, 2001. The Court awarded attorneys’ fees of $14,280,314.40 to counsel for the plaintiffs. Pursuant to an agreement with co-counsel, Susman Godfrey recovered $5,407,503.39 in fees. The settlement became final on January 18, 2002 because there were no appeals from the final judgment. Attorneys from Susman Godfrey representing the Alcatel class included Stephen D. Susman, Kenneth S. Marks, Barry Barnett, and Johnny Carter.
  • In February 2005, settled a securities fraud case against Waste Management, Inc. on behalf of shareholders who opted out of a federal class action settlement. We filed suit in Texas state court and developed theories of liability and evidence that had evaded the federal class plaintiffs and every other group of opt out plaintiffs in the country. A few weeks before trial, we settled the case for more than 40 times what our clients would have received in the class action settlement. At Waste Management’s insistence, the actual amount of the settlement is confidential.
  • In 2002 and 2003, Susman Godfrey obtained settlements in federal court in Chicago involving now-bankrupt wire distributor Anicom, Inc. Susman Godfrey was lead counsel for a joint prosecution group — the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (on behalf of a shareholder class), the Anicom bankruptcy estate, and Anicom secured lenders. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP agreed to pay $21.5 million to resolve lawsuits accusing the accounting firm of acting recklessly by certifying Anicom’s financial statements during the years leading up to its January 2001 bankruptcy-court filing. According to the October 29, 2002, Wall Street Journal, the “payment is among the larger settlements to date over an alleged audit failure by PricewaterhouseCoopers.” Certain officers and directors agreed to settle the case against them with over half of the amount paid by individual defendants — not merely from D&O insurance.
  • In October 2002, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP agreed to pay $21.5 million to resolve lawsuits by Anicom Inc. shareholders and creditors who accused the accounting firm of acting recklessly by certifying the company’s financial statements during the years leading up to its January 2001 bankruptcy-court filing. According to the October 29, 2002, Wall Street Journal, the “payment is among the larger settlements to date over an alleged audit failure by PricewaterhouseCoopers.”
  • In January 2001, a federal court in Las Vegas, Nevada, granted final approval to settle a securities class action. The case involved allegations that Equinox International Corporation and its affiliates functioned as an illegal pyramid scheme. It settled after three weeks of trial. The settlement also imposes on defendants a permanent ban on operating any multi-level marketing company, rescission of all distributorship agreements with past and current Equinox distributors, and pro rata restitution to the class members of the funds they paid to Equinox.
  • In 1992, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed a $38 million award for 20,000 former shareholders of Shell Oil Company in a class action. As lead counsel, we tried the case in Delaware Chancery Court, which found that Shell’s parent company breached a fiduciary duty in connection with the disclosure materials sent to the class as part of a cash-out merger.
  • In 1992, the Delaware Supreme Court also upheld a $122 million award for former owners of Shell stock in an action seeking the fair appraisal value of their shares.
  • In 1989, after a jury trial, a federal judge awarded $37.7 million in damages against the accounting firm Laventhol & Horwath. The National Law Journal called this one of the 25 most significant verdicts of the year.

The firm has also obtained many substantial pretrial settlements, including:

  • In 1996, Susman Godfrey served as one of lead counsel who negotiated a settlement in the Medical Care America, Inc. securities litigation.
  • In the Houston Oil Trust litigation, the firm served as co-lead counsel for a class that received a substantial settlement.
  • The firm served as co-lead counsel helped negotiate a settlement for the class in the First Republic securities litigation.
  • Susman Godfrey represented the class that received a settlement in the Tenneco securities litigation.

The firm has also successfully defended securities cases, too. For example, in In re Worlds of Wonder Securities Litigation, 814 F. Supp. 850 (N.D. Cal. 1993), aff’d, 35 F.3d 1407 (9th Cir. 1994), the firm obtained a summary judgment on behalf of a former director and others. Similarly, the firm obtained the dismissal of securities fraud allegations involving hundreds of millions of dollars against a major oil company.