California Federal Judge Denies Class Certification In Securities Lawsuit Against China Agritech

During 2010 and 2011, a number of securities class action lawsuits were filed against U.S.-listed Chinese companies. Plaintiffs' lawyers seemed eager to pursue these cases despite likely procedural and practical challenges such as likely difficulties in obtaining discovery, as well as language and cultural barriers. And if a recent decision in one of these cases is any indication, you can add to the list of potential difficulties the risk that it may not be possible to obtain class certification, at least where the plaintiffs are unable to establish that the defendant company's shares trade on an efficient market.

China Agritech, a Delaware holding company with its principal place of business in Beijing, China, obtained its U.S. listing through a reverse merger. In February 2011, online analyst reports raised allegations that the company's factories were either not in operation or were producing far less than reported. In addition, the online reports claimed that the company's SEC filings reported far higher levels of net revenue than the company reported to the Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce. The company's share price fell on these reports and, as discussed at greater length here, litigation ensured. The plaintiffs moved to have a class of aggrieved investors certified as a plaintiff class.

In May 3, 2012 order (here), Central District of California Judge R. Gary Klausner denied the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The court found that the plaintiffs' allegations satisfied the class certification requirements of numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy. However, the court found that the plaintiffs' allegations did not satisfy the requirement that the questions of law or fact common to the class members predominate over questions affecting individual members.

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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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