The United States Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling within the next two weeks in a case that could make it more difficult for shareholders to group together against public companies in class actions involving securities fraud, according to Reuters.
If the Supreme Court issues a ruling in favor of Halliburton, the oilfield company and other major industries will benefit. Those other industries include pharmacy, banking and gambling. Right now, there are pending lawsuits with class action status involving HSBC Holdings Plc, Merck & Co Inc, Pfizer Inc, Las Vegas Sands Corp and Regions Financial Corp.
A decision in favor of Halliburton would set a higher bar for class action lawsuits, but it would not end them. It would permit the defendants to file briefs that demand shareholders acquire court approval for class action status under tougher standards. If the shareholders are unable to gain approval, the cases would end immediately.
Cornerstone Research has data from 2013, in which 67 cases ended in settlements totaling $4.8 billion. The Halliburton case is Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund.
Each year there are some 200 shareholder class action lawsuits filed that allege misleading statements and material omissions committed by companies and executives that caused a drop in stock share prices. The Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse has data that shows there are 400 shareholder securities class actions pending in different stages of litigation.
One of the companies that could benefit from the ruling by the Supreme Court in the coming weeks is that of HSBC. The bank is appealing a judgment against one of its units for $2.46 billion. The unit is formerly known as Household International Inc. The judgment was made last year by a federal judge in Chicago. It was the largest judgment in history for a securities fraud class action trial.
In regards to the Pfizer case, the company agreed to delay their trial until after the ruling is issued in the Halliburton case.