$2.43 Billion BofA/ Merrill Lynch Merger Results In Largest Credit-Crisis Class Action Settlement

In what is by far the largest settlement of a credit crisis-related securities class action lawsuit, Bank of America has agreed to pay $2.43 billion to settle the suit filed against the company and certain of its directors and officers in connection with the bank's financial crisis-driven acquisition of Merrill Lynch. The settlement is subject to court approval. Bank of America's September 28, 2012 press release announcing the settlement can be found here.

The settlement is not only the eighth largest securities class action lawsuit settlement ever (refer here for the Stanford Law School Class Action Clearinghouse's list of the top ten largest securities suit settlements), but according a September 28, 2012 press release from the Ohio Attorney General (whose office represented several Ohio pension funds that were among the lead plaintiffs in the case) it is the fourth largest settlement funded by a single defendant for violations of the federal securities laws, and it is largest securities class settlement ever resolving a Section 14(a) case (alleging misrepresentations in connection with the a proxy solicitation). According to the Ohio AG, the settlement is also the largest securities class action settlement where there were no criminal charges against company executives.

The three largest single-defendant securities class action settlements are Tyco's $2.975 billion settlement in 2007; Cendant's 1998 settlement ($2.83 billion); and Citigroup's $2.65 billion contribution to the WorldCom case settlement. The total amount paid in settlement in each of these cases was larger than these amounts due to the contribution s of other defendants.

As discussed here, the BofA Merrill Lynch merger case had survived two rounds of dismissal motions, and according to press reports was scheduled to go to trial on October 22, 2012. In her On the Case blog (here), Alison Frankel has an interesting account of how the settlement came about and the various factors (including the looming trail date) that "forced" BofA to settle the case. Susan Beck has an interesting September 28, 20912 article on the Am Law Litigation Daily(here) in which she questions BofA's decision to rely on the Wachtel Lipton firm (which had advised the bank in connection with the Merrill Lynch acquisition) for its defense in the securities suit.

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Read other items of interest from the world of directors & officers liability, with occasional commentary, at the D&O Diary, a blog by Kevin LaCroix.

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