Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Court Wields SLUSA in Tossing Mutual Fund Action

In October 2003, an investor filed a putative class action in Madison County, Illinois against the Templeton Funds, alleging that the Fund “breached a duty of care owed to investors by using stale pricing information to value securities in their open end mutual funds” (to be more specific, during the interval that elapses between when the Fund sets its share Net Asset Value (or “NAV”) and releases it to the NASD for communication to the public, securities markets in countries such as Japan, Russia, Germany, and Australia have traded for an entire session, thus making the prices stale).

Anyway, a month after the case was filed, Templeton promptly removed the action to the Southern District of Illinois. However, Judge Michael J. Reagan sent the case back to the state court, finding that his federal forum had no subject matter jurisdiction. Over a year later, Defendants again removed the case, “claiming that the Seventh Circuit's April 5, 2005 opinion in an unrelated case, Kircher v. Putnam Funds Trust, 403 F.3d 478 (7th Cir. 2005), rendered” the action “freshly removable.” Judge Reagan noted that the Seventh Circuit’s opinion held that “SLUSA's removal and preemption provisions are triggered when four conditions are met: (1) the underlying suit is a "covered class action," (2) the action is based on state or local law, (3) the action concerns a "covered security," and (4) the defendant misrepresented or omitted a material fact for employed a manipulative or deceptive device or contrivance "in connection with the purchase or sale" of that security.” Since the judge found that the four conditions had been satisfied, he held removal proper, and further found that “Kircher mandates that this Court dismiss all of Plaintiffs' state law claims as barred by SLUSA,” as SLUSA “effectively blocks state court litigation of such claims.”

You can read the decision, issued July 12, 2005, at 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14500.

Nugget: “Plaintiffs -- whose briefs focused on removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b) -- have not addressed the removability of the case under the above-cited SLUSA provision. Nor have Plaintiffs disputed Defendants’ argument that the allegations in this action are ‘identical’ to those examined by the Seventh Circuit in Kircher.”

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