Class Action Alleging Securities Fraud Properly Dismissed because Class Action Complaint Failed to Meet Heightened Pleading Requirements Established by Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) Sixth Circuit Holds
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Omnicare and individual officers and directors of Omnicare alleging violations of federal securities laws; in the words of the Sixth Circuit, “Seizing on a few vague statements from management, the plaintiffs try to turn bad corporate news into a securities class action.” Indiana State Dist. Counsel of Laborers, etc. v. Omnicare, Inc., 583 F.3d 935 (6th Cir. 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1, 2]. We do not here summarize the “sprawling and repetitive” allegations underlying the class action complaint, id., at 3; interested readers may find the Circuit Court’s summary at pages 3 through 7 of the opinion. Defense attorneys moved to dismiss the class action, which the district court granted. See id., at 7-8. Reviewing the district court’s decision de novo, id., at 8, the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Court summarized its holding at page 2 as follows, “Because the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (‘PSLRA’) forbids such alchemy, we generally affirm the district court’s dismissal, although we reverse its disposition regarding the claims brought under the Securities Act of 1933.”
The Sixth Circuit began its analysis by explaining that § 10(b) securities fraud claims must be pleaded with the same specificity as fraud claims under FRCP Rule 9(b). Omnicare, at 9. The Court further explained, “Bolstering this rule of specificity, the PSLRA imposes further pleading requirements…. First, the complaint must ‘specify each statement alleged to have been misleading’ along with ‘the reason or reasons why the statement is misleading.’… Second, plaintiffs must ‘state with particularity facts giving rise to a strong inference that the defendant acted with the required state of mind.’” Id. (citations omitted). Under this standard, the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Circuit Court concluded that the statements challenged by the class action complaint were not material, see id., at 9-11, or failed to adequately allege loss causation, see id., at 11-12, or failed to establish that defendants knew Omnicare’s claims of “legal compliance” were false when made, see id., at 13-16.
The Circuit Court did reverse the dismissal of the class action’s alleged violation of Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, which the district court dismissed based on a finding of loss causation, because “[l]oss causation, however, is not an element of a § 11 claim, but an affirmative defense to it.” Omnicare, at 16 (citation omitted). Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal as to all claims except the § 11 claim, which it remanded to the district court for further proceedings. Id., at 17.