According to the Company’s FORM 10-Q for the quarterly period ended September 30, 2007, subsequently, the Second Circuit reversed the District Court’s granting of class certification in certain of the related class actions. As a result, the parties entered into a stipulation and order dated June 25, 2007 which terminated the Settlement Agreement. The Company intends to vigorously defend against the claims in all these proceedings.
As summarized by the Company’s FORM 10-Q for the quarterly period ended March 31, 2006, on March 16, March 26, April 27, and June 5, 2001, respectively, four putative class action complaints were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. By Orders of Judge Mukasey and Judge Scheindlin dated August 8, 2001, these cases were consolidated for pre-trial purposes with hundreds of other cases, which contain allegations concerning the allocation of shares in the initial public offerings of companies other than priceline.com, Inc. By Order of Judge Scheindlin dated August 14, 2001, the following cases were consolidated for all purposes: 01 Civ. 2261; 01 Civ. 2576; and 01 Civ. 3590. On April 19, 2002, plaintiffs filed a Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint in these cases. This Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint makes similar allegations but with respect to both the Company’s March 1999 initial public offering and the Company’s August 1999 second public offering of common stock. The named defendants, together with other issuer defendants in the consolidated litigation, filed a joint motion to dismiss on July 15, 2002. On November 18, 2002, the cases against the individual defendants were dismissed without prejudice and without costs. In addition, counsel for plaintiffs and the individual defendants executed Reservation of Rights and Tolling Agreements, which toll the statutes of limitations on plaintiffs’ claims against those individuals. On February 19, 2003, Judge Scheindlin issued an Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part the issuer’s motion. None of the claims against the Company were dismissed. On June 26, 2003, counsel for the plaintiff class announced that they and counsel for the issuers had agreed to the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (the “Memorandum”) to settle claims against the issuers. The terms of that Memorandum provide that class members will be guaranteed $1 billion in recoveries by the insurers of the issuers and that settling issuer defendants will assign to the class members certain claims that they may have against the underwriters. Issuers also agree to limit their abilities to bring certain claims against the underwriters. If recoveries in excess of $1 billion are obtained by the class from any non-settling defendants, the settling defendants’ monetary obligations to the class plaintiffs will be satisfied; any amount recovered from the underwriters that is less than $1 billion will be paid by the insurers on behalf of the issuers. The Memorandum, which is subject to the approval of each issuer, was approved by a special committee of the priceline.com Board of Directors on Thursday, July 3, 2003. Thereafter, counsel for the plaintiff class and counsel for the issuers agreed to the form of a Stipulation and Agreement of Settlement with Defendant Issuers and Individuals (“Settlement Agreement”). The Settlement Agreement implements the Memorandum and contains the same material provisions. On June 11, 2004, a special committee of the priceline.com Board of Directors authorized the Company’s counsel to execute the Settlement Agreement on behalf of the Company. The Settlement Agreement is subject to final approval by the Court and the process to obtain that approval is still pending.
The original complaint alleges that defendants violated the federal securities laws by issuing and selling Priceline common stock pursuant to the March 30, 1999 IPO
without disclosing to investors that some of the underwriters in the offering,
including the lead underwriters, had solicited and received excessive and
undisclosed commissions from certain investors.
Specifically, the complaint alleges that in exchange for the excessive commissions, defendants allocated Priceline shares to customers at the IPO price. To receive the allocations (i.e., the ability to purchase shares) at the IPO price, the underwriters' brokerage customers had to agree to purchase additional shares in the aftermarket at progressively higher prices. The requirement that customers make additional purchases at progressively higher prices as the price of Priceline stock rocketed upward (a practice known on Wall Street as "laddering") was intended to (and did) drive Priceline's share price up to artificially high levels. This artificial price inflation enabled both the underwriters and their customers to reap enormous profits by buying stock at the IPO price and then selling it later for a profit at inflated aftermarket prices.