The New York State Common Retirement Fund and four Ohio public retirement systems have asked to be appointed joint lead plaintiff in securities class-action cases against BP PLC over its oil-drilling safety.
In a memorandum in support of their motion for lead plaintiff status, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Lafayette, La., the retirement systems estimate they lost between $181 million and $229.4 million in aggregate on their BP stock, depending on the accounting method, from June 30, 2005, through June 1 of this year.
The $132.6 billion New York state fund, Albany, and the $71.3 billion Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, Columbus, were joined in the motion by the $60.9 billion Ohio State Teachers Retirement System; the $10.1 billion Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund and the $9.6 billion Ohio School Employees Retirement System, all also based in Columbus.
The motion seeks lead plaintiff status in the class-action cases of Johnson Investment Counsel Inc. vs. BP, filed June 7, before Judge Rebecca F. Doherty, and Ludlow vs. BP, filed May 21, before Judge Richard T. Haik Sr. Both cases are pending in U.S. District Court in Lafayette.
In addition, the New York and Ohio funds also filed motions Tuesday seeking lead plaintiff status in Yuen vs. BP, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California, and Greenfield vs. BP, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, said Robert Whalen, spokesman for the New York comptroller's office.
The systems in the motion also are seeking the court's approval of the law firms of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and Berman DeValerio to serve as co-lead plaintiff counsel.
Beside BP, the litigation names as defendants BP officers and directors and its BP America Inc. unit.
In making the motion, the New York and Ohio funds “assert that under federal law they should serve as the lead plaintiff because of their significant losses as a result of the BP's misconduct,” according to a joint statement by the funds.
“BP misled investors with false and misleading statements about the safety of its drilling operations and its ability to fix events like the oil spill,” Thomas P. DiNapoli, state comptroller and sole trustee of the New York fund, said in the statement.
Richard Cordray, Ohio attorney general, who is assisting the Ohio funds, added in the statement, “By forming a partnership between New York and Ohio, we aim to compensate investors for what we believe was securities fraud and effect real change in the way BP and other companies do business,”
The memorandum alleges that because of the company's misleading statements, “BP's securities traded at artificially inflated prices.”
“The truth did not begin to emerge” until the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling unit, operated by BP in the Gulf of Mexico, causing “a massive oil leak with devastating environmental and economic consequences.” Eleven workers on the rig were killed. Since then BP stock has lost about 40% of its value, the memorandum states.
Spokesmen Ted Hart for the Ohio attorney general's office, Richard E. Lorant for Berman DeValerio and Art Silverman for Cohen Milstein couldn't be reached for comment.