A recent Yale Law Journal article describes a “striking trend in the administration of civil justice in the United States”—“the virtual abandonment of the centuries-old institution of trial.” In recent times, only approximately 1% of federal civil cases end in jury trials. Deep-pocketed companies often settle before trial because they fear that jurors will sympathize with individual plaintiffs and that jurors may lack the patience and ability to weigh complicated evidence. This is especially true for financial institutions in the current public-relations climate. But our recent experience co-defending Goldman Sachs in a five-week jury trial demonstrates that corporate defendants need not avoid juries at all costs, especially where important principles are at stake and there is a strong belief that the claims are baseless.
Posts Tagged ‘John Lynch’
In companion decisions issued recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that retirement-plan fiduciaries should have the benefit of a “presumption of prudence” when faced with claims by employees concerning losses on their employer’s stock. The cases are In re Citigroup ERISA Litigation, No. 09-3804-CV (2d Cir. Oct. 19, 2011), and Gearren v. McGraw-Hill Cos., No. 10-792-CV (2d Cir. Oct. 19, 2011).
The two cases involved the same basic facts. The retirement plans at issue mandated that employees have as one of their investment options a fund consisting mainly of their employer’s stock — Citigroup in one case, McGraw-Hill in the other. After each company suffered a stock-price decline, plan participants complained that the fiduciaries should have seen the decline coming and either should have eliminated the employer stock fund as an option under the plan, or else sold the company’s stock out of the fund. The plaintiffs claimed that the fiduciaries, by failing to do so, violated their duties of prudence and loyalty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
In a historic decision of immense consequence to foreign securities issuers, the Supreme Court of the United States this morning swept away four decades of lower-court case law and categorically rejected a highly vexatious species of class-action litigation that has plagued such issuers in recent years—“foreign-cubed” or “f-cubed” securities lawsuits, which involve claims of foreign investors against foreign issuers to recover losses from purchases on foreign securities exchanges. Addressing the territorial scope of the federal securities laws for the first time, the Court in Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd., No. 08-1191 (U.S. June 24, 2010), held that Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and SEC Rule 10b-5 do not apply to transactions on foreign exchanges. The “focus” of the statute, the Court ruled, is “upon purchases and sales of securities in the United States”; as a result, the statute “reaches … only … the purchase or sale of a security listed on an American stock exchange, and the purchase or sale of any other security in the United States.” Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz successfully briefed and argued the case for National Australia Bank and the other defendants in the Supreme Court.
When the Bankruptcy Code was enacted in 1978, it embodied a bias in favor of reorganization of going concerns wherever possible. This has been the singular distinction between the “American style” of restructurings and the approach used in most other commercial countries. The very concept of “debtor-in-possession” suggests a belief in the chance of renewal which is absent from the “receivership style” of insolvency prevalent outside the United States. This policy predisposition toward recovery has been a powerful stimulus for the involvement of financial investors in the bankruptcy process, which in turn has attracted liquidity that has itself fostered the reorganization of troubled businesses. The very possibility of a corporate turnaround has encouraged investors to take risk in buying discounted equity and debt in restructurings, where there would be far less interest in asset trading in liquidations. On the other hand, the bankruptcy process is not about aspirations and dreams. It is a hard-nosed business and legal environment that is dependent on sophisticated financial parties having confidence in the logic of outcomes. The purpose of this article is to explore whether certain recent trends could undermine that confidence.