On March 8, 2022, Weil secured a decisive victory in a securities class action brought on behalf of its shareholders against Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation (PPC) and certain current and former senior executives when a Colorado federal court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss all claims with prejudice and entered final judgment for the defendants.
In its complaint, the plaintiff challenged scores of alleged misstatements concerning PPC’s operations and financial results over a three-year period due to PPC’s non-disclosure of its participation in an antitrust conspiracy based on factual allegations from the indictments of senior executives.
In its order granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the court agreed with Weil’s argument that the plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead that PPC made any false or misleading statements. The court noted that the plaintiff had failed to explain why PPC’s involvement in a bid-rigging scheme rendered its statements about PPC’s business and financial results false or misleading, including because the plaintiff – who credited the scheme as the “true reason” for PPC’s success – failed to adequately plead with particularity a factual basis for its allegation that the alleged antitrust conspiracy was a material source of PPC’s success. The court also held that several of the statements were non-actionable puffery or generic statements of optimism.
This win follows on the heels of another series of victories that Weil secured for PPC in April 2021. In that putative securities class action (also in Colorado federal court), a plaintiff had also asserted ’34 Act claims based on allegations that the defendants failed to disclose PPC’s participation in an alleged antitrust conspiracy during a two-year period between 2014 and 2016. After Weil secured a dismissal of all claims in March 2018, and successfully defended against a motion for amended judgment under Rule 59(e) in November 2018, the plaintiff filed a second amended complaint in June 2020, incorporating allegations based on the indictment of PPC’s then-CEO for alleged violations of the Sherman Act. Weil moved to dismiss on multiple grounds, including that the plaintiffs’ claims were time-barred because they had waited approximately 18 months to file an amended complaint, placing those claims outside the applicable five-year statute of repose. The court agreed with Weil, noting that, while the plaintiff’s original complaint was timely when brought, “[a] timely initial filing [did] not excuse his nearly two-year delay in refiling this case.” The court also adopted Weil’s argument that, because the named plaintiff had not purchased any stock during the time period that fell within the statute of repose, he lacked standing to pursue his Section 10(b) claim.
The Weil team was led by Securities Litigation practice Co-Head Caroline Hickey Zalka, and included counsel Seth Goodchild and associates Aaron Curtis, Tania Matsuoka, Brian Kitchen, Mathews de Carvalho and Milana Bretgoltz.