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New York Federal Judge Dismisses Securities Suit Against U.S.-Listed Chinese Company

In a January 22, 2013 opinion (here), Southern District of New York Judge J. Paul Oetken has dismissed one of the many securities class action lawsuits that were filed against U.S.-listed Chinese companies in 2011. Though the primary interest in the case may be that it involves U.S. securities suit against a Chinese company, Jinkosolar Holdings, the case is also interesting with respect to the alleged misrepresentations on which the suit is based, which relate to the environmental problems in one of the company's manufacturing facilities.

Jinkosolar is a manufacturer of solar technology products with operations based in China. In May 2010, the company conducted an Initial Public Offering of American Depositary Shares on the New York Stock Exchange. In November 2010, the company completed a secondary offering.

In April and May 2011, the company had a series of communications with the Chinese environmental authorities regarding hazardous waste disposal issues at its Zhenjian plant. The company did not disclose these communications to its shareholders. However, as the Court later put it, a "kerfuffle" at the company's plant "forced Jinkosolar's hand." In August and September 2011, Residents living near the plant became concerned about a large scale fish-kill near the plant. In mid-September, the media began reporting on locals' demonstrations outside the company's plants. In two press releases in late September, the company announced that it had suspended operations at the plant and also revealed the earlier communications with the environmental authorities. As the news came out, the price of the company's ADSs declined 41%

In October 2011, holders of the company's ADSs filed a securities class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against the company, eight directors and officers of the company; and the company's offering underwriters. The plaintiffs' complain asserted claims under both the '33 Act and the '33 Act. In support of their allegations, the plaintiffs relied on three statements in the company's offering prospectus in which the company explained its environmental compliance efforts and the consequences to the company if it were found to be in violation of the applicable environmental requirements. The defendants moved to dismiss.

In his January 21, 2013 order, Judge Oetken granted the defendants' motions to dismiss. Judge Oetken found with respect to two of the three statements from the prospectus on which the plaintiffs sought to rely that he could "easily dispense" with the allegations. He noted with respect to these two statements that:

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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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