On August 23, 2022, Judge Gerald Austin McHugh, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted class certification in a securities fraud class action against an energy company and its subsidiary (the “Company”) and its executives under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The suit alleged that defendants made misstatements and omissions regarding the status of the construction of three natural gas pipelines and that the Company’s stock price dropped following certain corrective disclosures. The Court certified the class after holding that plaintiffs met the requirements of Rule 23(a) as well as the predominance and superiority requirements of Rule 23(b)(3).

The Court focused its analysis on the Rule 23(b)(3) predominance requirement and whether—after plaintiffs established that they were entitled to the presumption of reliance under the Supreme Court’s decision Basic v. Levinson—defendants satisfied their burden of rebutting that presumption by preponderance of evidence and showed that the alleged misrepresentation did not have an impact on the stock price. The primary disagreement between the parties was whether certain information that was already in the market could be viewed as “new” information that was disclosed by a separate event and the proper window within which to consider price impact. Specifically, defendants argued that plaintiffs must be able to show a statistically significant price decline within a same-day or next-day window of the initial disclosure, and plaintiffs asserted that market impact could be shown by statistically significant declines that occur more than one day after the corrective disclosure. The Court held that, while temporal proximity is “an important factor in analyzing price impact,” it could not be “as rigidly applied” and the relevant time window could be extended if plaintiffs could “show a sound conceptual and evidentiary basis” for such extension. With respect to several of the statements at issue, the Court held that “the nature and timing of the disclosures, the lack of transparency, the attempts by [the Company] to cast damaging information in a positive light, and the obvious confusion in the market at certain points require[d] a more precise and nuanced analysis of when the market would have absorbed relevant information,” and that such considerations supported extending the time window to assess price impact.

The Court’s fact-intensive analysis of whether the alleged event constituted new information in the market and had a price impact, included a review of competing expert reports, the nature of the statement including the source of the statement, the source of publication and whether the disclosure was qualitative or quantitative, as well as analyst reactions. Based on that analysis, the Court held that certain disclosures constituted “new” information to the market even though the underlying facts were already known, and that certain circumstances sufficiently explained the delayed price impact of an event and reserved for the merits stage of the proceeding whether loss causation could be established.

With respect to two other events at issue, the Court found that defendants successfully rebutted the presumption of reliance because (1) defendants showed that the alleged event did not relate to the subject matter of the alleged misrepresentation regarding the project timeline and capacity, and the circumstances thus did not warrant extending the time window to consider the price impact beyond a two-day window; and (2) the price impact alleged by one of the events was not statistically significant.

After also holding that plaintiffs satisfied the Rule 23(a) requirements of numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of the proposed class representative, and Rule 23(b)(3) requirement of superiority of a class action to other available methods of adjudication, the Court certified plaintiffs’ proposed class, but narrowed to exclude the claims based on misrepresentations for which defendants had successfully rebutted the presumption of reliance.