Supreme Court to hear pension fund class action, SEC statue of limitation cases

U.S.Supreme Court building
U.S.Supreme Court building

A class-action lawsuit led by the $24.3 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds against Amgen is on the docket for the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012-2013 session, which began Monday.

The class of investors led by the Hartford, Conn.-based pension funds alleged in 2007 that Amgen withheld information about the safety of two of its anemia drugs, but before that lawsuit could proceed, Amgen challenged the class certification process. Amgen was rebuffed by federal district and appellate courts in California.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 5 to consider whether district courts must prove material harm before certifying a class action in such cases.

Numerous amicus briefs have been filed on behalf of both parties, including the $239.3 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, and the $152.1 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, in support of the investor class.

Amgen's case is being supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among other groups concerned about the ease of class action lawsuits.

Connecticut was granted lead plaintiff status because it sustained the largest investment losses.

Christopher J. McDonald, an attorney with the law firm of Labaton Sucharow representing the investors, said that regardless of the high court decision, the case is far from over. “Either way, we expect to be remanded back to the district court, where the discovery process has been stayed during the appeal, so we still have a while to go,” he said in an interview.

The Supreme Court, this term is also scheduled to hear a case brought by a former portfolio manager and chief operating officer with GAMCO Investors (GBL), seeking to clear their names following a $16 million settlement with the SEC in April 2008 over market timing of the Gabelli Global Fund between 1999 and 2002. The court will address whether the statute of limitations for penalties begins when the SEC discovered the claim, or when the claims first accrued. Calls to lawyers representing Marc Gabelli and Bruce Alpert were not returned at press time.

A date for arguments has not been set in the Gabelli case