On March 9, 2007, the Court entered the Finding and Order on Fees and Expenses, awarding lead counsel fees in the amount of $43,558,317.00 and reimbursement of expenses in the amount of $1,813,312.71 from the fund. Further, the Court entered the Findings on the Settlement and Allocation, approving the plan of allocation of the settlement. Lastly, the Court entered the Final Judgment approving the settlement.
According to a press release dated December 22, 2006, the court certified a class action. Under the proposed settlement, the defendants will pay $285 million. Of this, $273 million will be paid by El Paso and its insurers, and $12 million will be paid by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. A hearing will be held to determine whether to (a) approve the settlement, (b) approve the plan of allocation, (c) approve counsel's fees and expenses, and (d) dismiss the action. It will be: Lynn N. Hughes; United States District Court; March 6, 2007, at 9:00 a.m; 515 Rusk Avenue; Houston, Texas 77002.
In a press release dated August 2, 2006, El Paso Corporation (NYSE: EP) announced that it has reached settlements of its shareholder class action and derivative lawsuits. First, El Paso announced that it has reached agreement in principle to settle all shareholder class action litigation filed on behalf of purchasers of El Paso securities between February 22, 2000 and February 17, 2004. Under the terms of the agreement El Paso and its insurers will pay a total of $273 million to the plaintiffs. El Paso will contribute approximately $48 million and its insurers will contribute approximately $225 million. Since El Paso previously reserved a substantial portion of its contribution in prior periods, the settlement will have no material impact on its second quarter financial results. Within 45 days, the parties intend to submit a Stipulation of Settlement to the court seeking preliminary approval of this settlement. Second, El Paso settled an associated derivative lawsuit that made similar claims to those in the class action litigation. The settlement involved the payment of approximately $17 million which was fully funded by El Paso's insurers, of which approximately $12 million will be used to fund the settlement of the shareholder litigation. This settlement has been approved by the court.
In a press release dated September 19, 2005, Attorneys for former Coastal chairman El Paso have begun negotiations on a settlement to a securities class-action lawsuit filed against the Houston-based independent producer El Paso and its former management, court papers show. Attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants in the case told a status conference Sep 14 before Judge Lynn Hughes of the District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston they were in settlement discussions. Hughes Sep 9 had instructed attorneys for both sides to file "a one-page proposal of what they believe needs to be done" to settle. The suit was filed in July 2002 by El Paso shareholders alarmed at the precipitous drop in the value of their shares. Wyatt, one of the largest shareholders as a result of El Paso's acquisition of Coastal, was named lead plaintiff in October 2002.
As summarized by a law firm’s website, on April 19, 2004, competing motions for the consolidation of all related cases and for the appointment of Lead Plaintiff and Lead Counsel were filed with the Court. On April 28, 2004, Judge Lynn Hughes issued an order consolidating all related cases into an already pending action entitled Goldfarb v. El Paso Corp, Civil Action No. H-02-2717. On May 26, 2004, a hearing was held and arguments were heard with regard to the appointment of Lead Plaintiff and Lead Counsel. On that same day, Judge Lynn N. Hughes signed an order changing the caption of the case to Oscar Wyatt v. El Paso Corp. and appointing Lead Plaintiff and Lead Counsel. On November 9, 2005, Judge Hughes signed an order amending the May 26, 2004 order and appointed Berman DeValerio Co-Lead Counsel and Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System Co-Lead Plaintiff. On July 2, 2004, Plaintiffs filed a Second Consolidated Class Action Complaint (the "2nd Consolidated Complaint") which extends the Class Period to include all persons who purchased or acquired the securities of El Paso between February 22, 2000 and February 17, 2004, inclusive, and names as additional Defendants. On July 7, 2004 the Court issued an Order Staying the case and on July 14, 2004 issued an Order allowing Defendants to file their Motions to Dismiss and Plaintiffs to file their reply briefs. On August 26, 2004 Defendant Wise filed a Motion to Dismiss the 2nd Consolidated Complaint and on August 27, 2004 Defendants filed their Motions to Dismiss. Plaintiffs filed their oppositions to Defendants' motions on September 24, 2004 and Defendants filed their replies on October 14, 2004. On November 19, 2004, the Court issued an Order stating it will not rule on Defendants’ motions until the stay is lifted. On June 17, 2005, the Court issued an Order lifting the Stay. To date the Court has not yet ruled on Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss.
In 2004, several purported securities class action complaints were filed against El Paso Corporation and subsequently consolidated with the existing lawsuit against El Paso first filed in 2002. According to the complaint for the 2004 filing, the complaint alleges defendants violated Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, by issuing a series of material misrepresentations to the market during the Class Period thereby artificially inflating the price of El Paso securities. More specifically, the complaint alleges that during the Class Period defendants caused El Paso to report in its public filings, press releases and other public statements favorable financial results by, among other things, artificially inflating the Company's reported reserves as it relates to oil and natural gas. The complaint alleges, among other things, that defendants failed to disclose that the Company's estimates were based on improperly manipulated reported reserve estimates that deviated from industry standards and resulted in a knowingly false high estimate of reported reserves. The complaint further alleges that on February 17, 2004, El Paso announced, that the Company had overstated its reported reserves by 41% or 1.8 trillion cubic feet and warned of a $1 billion pretax charge triggered by the revision. On this news, El Paso shares fell 18% and traded as low as $7.26 per share. As a result of Defendants' conduct, the complaint alleges, El Paso was able to inflate its stock price, maintain its credit rating, and maintain its status in the energy industry as a leader.
On October 25, 2002, a complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The case, Conner v. El Paso, et al., was later voluntarily dismissed and became part of this action against El Paso. According to the complaint, the action was filed on behalf of purchasers of 9% Equity Security Units of El Paso Corporation ("El Paso" or the "Company") (NYSE: EP.A) in the public offering of the 9% Units on or about June 21, 2002, (the "Offering") or traceable thereto, (the "Class Period") against defendants El Paso, certain of its officers and directors, and the Underwriters of the Offering, Credit Suisse First Boston and J.P. Morgan Securities. The complaint alleges that defendants violated Sections 11, 12(a)(2), and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 by issuing Equity Security Units pursuant to a Prospectus and Registration Statement that were materially false and misleading in its omission of material facts concerning the Company's true financial condition, nature of its relationship with Credit Suisse First Boston, conflict of interest of a senior executive, and participation in the California energy crisis that had the effect of artificially inflating the market price of the Company's securities. As a result of the Offering, defendants were able to sell the 9% Units at a price of $50 per Unit to unsuspecting public investors. Since the Offering, the price of the 9% Units declined to as low as $20.55 per unit (on September 24, 2002), leaving investors -- who were led by the prospectus to believe El Paso was prepared to take advantage of its exceptional business practices -- with substantial losses on their investments. Plaintiffs allege, among other things, that the Offering was achieved by means of a registration statement and prospectus which negligently failed to advise investors that El Paso had booked hundreds of millions of dollars in profits years before they would be actually realized while also keeping off of its books billions of dollars of debt. Moreover, the Company manipulated the California energy market in the winter of 2000/2001 and, as a consequence of this malfeasance, artificially inflated the Company's reported results.
In a Press Release dated September 4, 2002, the amended complaint alleges that, during the class period, El Paso manipulated both energy prices and accounting regulations in order to report materially inflated revenues from its energy-trading operations and in order to hide billions of dollars of debt in off-balance-sheet partnerships. Since May 29, 2002, El Paso shares lost over 66% of their remaining value, falling from approximately $35 per share to below $11 per share, after: (i) the
extent of El-Paso's off balance sheet debt began to be revealed beginning in late May 2002; (ii) news emerged in June 2002 that the SEC and the Justice Department had initiated inquiries into El Paso's energy-trading operations and into the possible reporting of inflated revenues through sham trading transactions; and (iii) El Paso, in light of these events, announced a restructuring in which it cut its energy-trading workforce in half and moved $2 billion in off-balance-sheet debt back onto its balance sheet.