Wall Street Collapse = ERISA Stock Drop Litigation

Graphup Not a surprising development at all. From BNA Daily Labor Report (subscription required):

As several heavy hitters in the financial world have come under pressure or have gone bankrupt in the past couple of months because of the subprime mortgage and lending crisis that has battered investment firms and banks, the employer “stock drop” cases that proliferated in the post-Enron Corp. and post-WorldCom Inc. age are on the rise.

Although the Employee Retirement Income Security Act claims raised in these stock drop cases have not been identical, there are two central claims that arise in these cases. The first claim typically raised is that the plan fiduciaries breached their duties by offering company stock as a plan investment option when the stock was an imprudent or unwise investment. The second claim focuses on the disclosure obligations of the plan fiduciaries and often alleges that the fiduciaries breached their duties by not telling plan participants of financial matters of the plan sponsor that made the sponsor’s stock an imprudent investment.

Among firms that recently have been hit with stock drop lawsuits are Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., American International Group Inc. (AIG), Bear Stearns, Wachovia Corp., UBS, IndyMac Bank, and Fifth Third Bancorp.

I have written abut this type of stock drop litigation before. The issues at the forefront are how ERISA is overtaking securities law as the litigation vehicle of choice by plaintiffs who suffer stock losses and how these cases almost never make it to trial because the firms being sued are forced to settle if certification of the class is granted by the court.

Given the financial pain being felt by everyone these days, and with little hope of an end being in sight, I would suspect courts to cut down on certification of these classes or for a movement by the corporate lobby to amend ERISA to cut down on these types of suits.

Cross posted on Workplace Prof Blog.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sean M. Sweeney

    I, too, am intrigued to see what the courts’ reactions to these cases are. Whenever investments, which are inherently risky to some extent, go bad, everyone wants to find someone to blame. I would think one of the key issues will be how transparent the brokers were in the perceived risk, and whether they should have foreseen this result or not. (Obviously most of them did not foresee it.)

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