Litigation

Shareholders Launch Follow-On Securities Lawsuit Against Goldman Sachs

The SEC's high-profile enforcement action against Goldman Sachs and one of its investment bankers may or may not revitalize the waning subprime and credit crisis-related litigation wave, but it has at least sparked an outbreak of follow on civil litigation against Goldman Sachs.

According to their April 26, 2010 press release (here), plaintiffs' lawyers have filed a securities class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Goldman and certain of its directors and officers. According to the press release, the complaint (which can be found here) alleges that the defendants failed to disclose that:

(i) the Company had, in violation of applicable law, not fully disclosed the facts and circumstances concerning the formation and sale of the ABACUS 2007-AC1 deal to investors such that it had engaged in misleading conduct; (ii) the Company had, in fact, bet against its clients and constructed collateralized debt obligations that were likely, if not designed, to fail; and (ii) the Company had received a Wells Notice from the SEC about the ABACUS transaction but failed to inform shareholders of this fact.

The complaint further alleges that April 16, 2010, Goldman was sued by the SEC "for making materially misleading statements and omissions in connection" with ABACUS 2007-AC1. Following this announcement, Goldman's stock price fell $24.05, declining from $184.27 per share on April 15, 2010 to close at $160.70 per share on April 16, 2010.

 A key issue in this new lawsuit will be Goldman's alleged failure to disclosure the existence of the Wells Notice. Which of course begs the question of whether or not Goldman had any obligation to disclosure the existence of the Wells Notice. There is no bright line rule on this issue, it is a question of materiality. But as Michelle Leder points out on the Footnoted blog (here), lost of other companies do routinely disclose Wells Notices. A post on the Westlaw Business Currents blog (here) is very much to the same effect, that is, that whether or not Wells Notice disclosure is requrired, many companies do disclose Wells Notices.

The securities class action lawsuit filing follows close on the heels of the filing late last week of two separate New York state court shareholders' derivative lawsuits against Goldman, as nominal defendant, and certain of its directors and officers. According to April 23, 2010 press reports (refer here), the complaints allege that:

The individual defendants engaged in a systematic failure to exercise oversight of the company's 23 Abacus transactions, which were completed over a three and half year period. As a direct and legal result of the individual defendants' wrongful conduct, Goldman Sachs has been significantly and materially damaged, faces billions of dollars of liability, has incurred and will continue to incur millions of dollars of expense in defending claims against the SEC and investors, and has suffered serious damage to its reputation and image.

The same press reports also quote a leading plaintiffs' securities class action attorney as saying that "I suspect every major pension fund in America" is considering suing Goldman Sachs "over the conduct that occurred."

I have added the new Goldman lawsuit to my running list of subprime and credit crisis-related securities class action lawsuits, which can be accessed here. SInce I first began compiling the list almost exactly four years ago, there have been a total of 210 subprime and credit crisis-related securities suits filed, of which eight have been filed so far this year.

A WSJ.com Law Blog post about the Goldman securities class action lawsuit can be found here. Bloomberg's article about the lawsuit can be found here.

For more on this topic, Read Cornerstone Releases Study of 2009 Securities Lawsuit Settlements in its entirety at D&O Diary, a blog by Kevin LaCroix.