Archive for October, 2008

Collective redress, four events (well, five)

Monday, October 20th, 2008

In the next few weeks four events will take place, so there’s three dates for your diary. The fifth one has already taken place on the 8th of October, a programme in King & Spalding LLP’s University e-Learn Series, entitled The Globalization of U.S. Securities Class Actions and U.S. Securities Law Enforcement (details). The handout (62 slides) is still available online.

Looking forward then, the 14th annual Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP sponsored Forum for Institutional Investors is on next week in New York, 23-24 October. This year’s theme is Protecting Shareholder Value, The Credit Crisis and Beyond. (programme)

Next up is the ERA’s Collective Redress, Towards a system of class actions in Europe? (ERA is short for Europäische Rechtsakademie, Academy of European Law based in Trier and Brussels.) This event takes place in Florence, 30-31 October, under the patronage of the Ordine degli Avvocati di Firenze and the University of Florence. ERA itself is supported by the European Union. (programme, register) The programme takes a very European approach, first setting the scene by way of comparative analysis between the US and Europe,
then discussing several national systems - England, the Netherlands, Germany among them - before
concluding with ‘Expectations for a collective redress mechanism at EU-level’, the latter being presented by
representatives of the European Commission (Dirk Staudenmayer) and European Parliament (Diana Wallis MEP).

Next month the American Bar Association hosts two events of note on the same day, 7 November, with thanks to ClassActionBlawg.com for the notice. And not only the same day, the most interesting discussions are even held the same time at 4pm and on the same topic!

That topic is Class Actions Sans Frontières as one panel is called, or about ‘actions brought in the US and Europe on behalf of purported worldwide classes’ according to the details of the other. Panelists in New York include Lynda J. Grant of Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll PLLC (based in New York) and in Miami Gerard J. Meijer of NautaDutilh NV (Rotterdam) and Peter J. Rees of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (London). Also note Miami’s 2pm litigation funding panel which will ‘examine… new techniques for funding major litigation and debate their practical as well as ethical impact.’

Fulbright’s Fifth

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Fulbright & Jaworski LLP today published its latest Annual Litigation Trends Survey Findings, its fifth such report, alongside the data used for the report. (Also see the UK and US press releases.) The survey covers mostly US (251) and UK (100) respondents.

One of the findings is that “more U.K. companies are facing a U.S. class action: 11% this year, compared with 5% in 2007.” (Report, p.47) But “[g]roup actions in the U.K. against companies are… down this year.” (p.47) Litigation partner Melanie E. Ryan in the UK press release: “The low absolute number of U.K. businesses facing class/group actions is reflected in the Civil Justice Council’s recent proposal to reform the class actions system in England and Wales. If the proposals of the Civil Justice Council are accepted in their entirety, there will be a fundamental change in the class action landscape.” (More specifically on the CJC and its recommendations in a forthcoming post.)

Concerning “legal areas where subprime matters are anticipated”, the report concludes that “[t]he main area of concern for all those who answered the question is securities litigation, securities class actions and other government actions.” (p.41) ‘Securities class actions’ ranks second with 40% of the response. The number of ‘all those who answered the question’ is just 15 though, out of the 358 respondents in all. (Data, table 65)
Of the 40% of those 15 participants in the question, 5 are in the US and 1 is in the UK. WV&Z would like to know who that is, so answers on a postcard please!

If the report, data and press releases aren’t enough for you, register here for Fulbright’s webcast (Tuesday 28 October, 5.30pm - 6.30pm GMT) on its findings or browse here for the first four reports.

What’s more: In the post above the links to the report and the data lead directly to these documents. When going to Fulbright’s website however, there is no direct route. One has to register first, before moving on to a page that links to these documents. Post-publication the firm has therefore requested to provide you with this registration page, www.fulbright.com/litigationtrends37.  With your registration data Fulbright “will be better able to target our audience for next year’s report. We also survey the individuals who have participated the previous year in next year’s campaign.” So there’s your chance to make it to the Sixth.

Fortis SA/NV group litigation forthcoming

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

On the 9th of October last year it was announced that a consortium of three banks had won control over ABN Amro Holding NV of the Netherlands. (FT) Just shy of a year later, one of those three banks, Fortis SA/NV (Euronext: FORA/FORB), has been displaced by the Ministry of Finance of the Netherlands.
(press release) (The other two consortium banks are The Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (LSE: RBS) and Banco Santander SA (Bolsa de Madrid: SAN).)

After too many developments to mention here during that year, on the 3rd of october the Dutch State took control of all Fortis assets in the Netherlands, including the Dutch units of ABN Amro that Fortis had acquired. Total consideration: €16.8 billion. Price Fortis paid for its share of ABN Amro: €24 billion. On the 6th, BNP Paribas (Euronext: BNP) paid €14.5 billion in cash and shares for almost everything else outside of the Netherlands, a sale orchestrated by the government of Belgium. (press release) And on the 8th, two websites popped up: FortisAction.com and Beduveld.nl (in Dutch).

Both websites aim to unite ‘hoodwinked’ - or ‘beduveld’ in Dutch - Fortis shareholders and organise legal action. FortisAction.com is an initiative by Euroshareholders, a confederation of 32 European non-profit shareholders associations. Beduveld.nl is an initiative by Beursduivel.be and Belegger.nl, two shareholders websites ultimately owned by Sanoma Oyj (NASDAQ OMX: SAA1V). Any shareholder can sign up via these websites to be kept informed of their respective developments. Beduveld.nl has retained the firm Modrikamen on behalf of its group, which has made the first legal move. Modrikamen put out this statement (in Dutch) and filed a case to enjoin Belgium from proceeding with the asset sale to BNP Paribas.

Euroshareholders has indicated at a press conference today (Monday 13) it will launch its own action in a Dutch court within a fortnight seeking a judgment in particular on whether shareholder approval should have been sought for the BNP Paribas transaction. (Reuters, DJN, AFP/Yahoo!) To be continued…

More class action resources

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

One of the resources WV&Z has actually already used deserves more credit and a separate mention. In addition to its long-established Stanford Securities Class Action Clearinghouse, Stanford has created the Stanford Global Class Actions Exchange. Whereas the former only provides information on US federal class action securities litigation, the latter sets its sights on any form of collective litigation outside the US. GCAX includes several country reports, statutes, commentary and the contact details of mostly academics who specialise in research in the class action area of law.

Bruce Carton has also branched out. When at Garden City Group he maintained the GCG blog Best in Class. This blog unfortunately ceased to exist (and has been removed from the GCG website entirely) since he left the company. Over summer he maintained his own blog, Unusual Activity, which is now inactive and will be folded into his latest venture Securities Docket. Securities Docket, the Global Securities Litigation and Enforcement Report, aggregates securities litigation data from various sources and provides its own editorial content, updated throughout the day. (GCAX and Securities Docket are in the newly created Resources links section too, on the right.)

And finally a newcomer, ClassActionBlawg.com run by Baker & Hostetler LLP partner Paul G. Karlsgodt. This blog covers all types of class actions, including securities and derivative actions. WV&Z pays special attention to the posts tagged ‘International Class Action Law’.

Welcome (back) to all of you!