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Court of Chancery Reviews Class Representative Qualifications

Posted In Class Actions

In re SS&C Technologies, Inc. Shareholders Litigation, C.A. No. 1525-VCL (March 6, 2008)

For a long time it has been evident that some plaintiffs show up frequently as class representatives. The recent scandal involving perhaps the major securities class action law firm has only reminded everyone of the odd "coincidence" that one person could have so many class actions to bring. Now the Court of Chancery has done something about it and a warning has been issued as a result. This decision awarded attorney fees to the defendants in a man-bites-dog twist to the ending of a class action.

Of course, the facts in this case are highly unusual. When the named plaintiff tried unsuccessfully to have the court approve a settlement basically for attorney fees alone, he then tried to just dismiss the case, conditioned upon defendants' agreement to keep certain information confidential. Instead, the defendants fought back and discovered the named class representative had a string of investment entities that in turn owned very small stakes in many publicly owned corporations. No rational financial purpose justified these investments, except as a way to pursue law suits. When the plaintiff conditioned settlement on secrecy, the court held that was bad faith and awarded attorney fees to the defendants for resisting such a dismissal.

It is now likely that we will see much more aggressive pursuit of oppositions to class certifications. Discovery of the named plaintiff and his connections to the class counsel will be the new trend. As this decision illustrates, the ability to do data searches to find all the actions filed by a plaintiff and any law firm will also aid in that effort.



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