Many of G&E’s cases directly address ESG criteria where the damage has stemmed from environmental or climate-related devastation, social injustice or human rights violations, corporate malfeasance or negligence:
G&E represented residents and businesses harmed by the devastating November 2018 wildfire in Northern California, allegedly caused by the negligence of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The fire was the deadliest and most devastating wildfire in California history, where 85 people died and more than 19,000 structures, including residences and commercial properties, were damaged or destroyed. G&E sought compensation on behalf of all victims that were injured or died in the fire or suffered property damage or other emotional distress, and in December 2019, settled the case for $13.5 billion.
G&E represented the City of Baltimore and Baltimore County in litigation against Monsanto Co. arising out of its production, marketing and sale of carcinogenic industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs), resulting in environmental contamination and contamination of certain of Baltimore and Baltimore County public water systems. Baltimore and Baltimore County asserted common law environmental claims seeking both monetary damages for injury to their public resources and an abatement plan to be funded by Monsanto; and elected to serve as class representatives in a proposed nationwide class action settlement on behalf of similar plaintiffs. Monsanto has agreed to a $550 million settlement.
G&E settled a shareholder derivative action on behalf of shareholders of CBS against its former CEO, Leslie Moonves, and CBS Board members, to contest the forced merger of CBS and Viacom, which was effectuated because one set of actors (the Redstone Family) controlled the boards of both CBS and Viacom. The merger left CBS shareholders saddled with the underperforming Viacom, and the price of the combined entity’s stock plummeted amidst poor performance. The derivative action challenged the fairness of the Viacom-CBS merger, and also asserted claims of corporate waste and unjust enrichment against Ms. Redstone and the CBS directors. The case settled for $167.5 million.
G&E served as co-lead counsel representing residents and businesses harmed by the catastrophic gas explosions in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts, caused by the negligence of Columbia Gas and NiSource. In September 2018, a series of gas explosions and fires impacted as many as 80 homes and businesses, affected thousands of families, injured dozens of people, and killed one man. In July 2019, G&E achieved a settlement of $143 million.
G&E reached a $139 million settlement – one of the largest settlements of derivative shareholder litigation in the history of Delaware Chancery Court – in a shareholder lawsuit against News Corp’s Board of Directors alleging breach of fiduciary duties by putting the personal and political interests of Rupert Murdoch, founder and CEO of News Corp, above those of the company’s public stockholders. The complaint focused on, among other things the Board’s very public failure to adequately investigate and remedy a years-long cover-up by News International, a News Corp subsidiary, of illegal activity associated with hacking the phones of British journalists and celebrities and other privacy violations.
G&E worked with the Delaware Attorney General to secure a landmark settlement of up to $75 million with chemical maker DuPont and related companies, in connection with their alleged use and disposal of toxic PFAS chemicals. A known carcinogen with other noxious health effects and unusually strong persistence, PFAS are widely used in industrial processes and consumer products from food packaging and cosmetics to waterproof fabrics and non-stick cookware. Referred to as ‘the most significant environmental settlement’ in state history by the Attorney General, the agreement capped a sweeping forensic investigation that included environmental sampling and analysis, economic modeling, and examination of corporate records.
G&E served as co-lead counsel for plaintiffs in a class action alleging that Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and other officers and directors, breached their fiduciary duties to the class by approving the reclassification of Facebook stock. The reclassification, if implemented, would have allowed Zuckerberg to maintain majority voting control while reducing his economic stake in the company by over 65%. Just days before trial was set to begin, the Board abandoned the reclassification, a complete win for the plaintiffs and the class.
From 2013 through 2015, Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton intentionally misrepresented its mining safety practices to investors, and failed to make appropriate disclosures about significant safety risks at its Brazilian operations. In early November 2015, the Fundão dam at the Germano iron ore mine in Brazil (co-owned by BHP) collapsed, causing a toxic mudslide that killed 19 people and caused permanent environmental damage. BHP’s stock price fell dramatically, and continued to fall as additional news about the collapse came out until, by late November 2015, it had fallen 20%. In May 2018, a large group of institutional investors led by G&E filed an international securities class action in Federal Court in Australia. In July 2019, the Full Appellate Court approved class certification and appointed our group as co-lead, staying all other putative class actions. In December 2020, BHP appealed the dismissal of its motion to dismiss/strikeout application. In June 2021, the Appellate Court found in our favor and dismissed BHP’s appeal in its entirety. BHP appealed once again, and in October 2022, the High Court of Australia affirmed the Appellate Court’s ruling. Having been unsuccessful before all three levels of Australia’s court system, BHP has exhausted its rights of appeal. Accordingly, the class is open to all investors, including non-Australian residents, who purchased BHP Ltd. and BHP Plc shares on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges.
Despite its prior denials, Vale operated several high-risk dams, putting at risk Vale’s workers, as well as the towns and local populations in which it operated. After the 2019 collapse of one of its dams in southeastern Brazil, and following additional negative news, Vale’s stock dropped significantly: roughly $14.7 billion in market cap on the common share float. G&E, with the assistance of Brazilian counsel, filed a Request for Arbitration in January 2022, asking the Market Arbitration Chamber of the Brazilian Stock Exchange to initiate an arbitration against Vale for their violations of Brazilian corporate, securities and tort laws in connection with the collapse of the dam.
G&E serves as co-counsel in a Title IX and Section 1983 putative class action against Brown University. The proposed class representatives bring the action on behalf of approximately 4,000 current and former female Brown students. The complaint alleges that the Ivy League school systematically and repeatedly failed to adequately respond to and prevent incidents of sexual harassment and assault on campus, despite knowledge that sexual assault on its campus is endemic. In October 2022, G&E defeated Brown’s motion to dismiss.
G&E serves as co-counsel in this action alleging claims related to the wrongful death of Roxsana Hernandez, a 33-year-old Honduran transgender woman and asylum seeker. Roxsana arrived in the U.S. seeking asylum in California, where she was immediately detained and transported between several different private detention facilities. As she was HIV positive, she became increasingly ill, and she was repeatedly denied access to basic human necessities and urgently needed medical care. Roxsana ultimately died while in custody. G&E and its co-counsel bring claims pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, negligence, and other state law claims against the various private prison detention centers that detained and transported Roxsana.
G&E filed a complaint against Celgene alleging executives misled investors as to the efficacy of one late-stage developmental drug, subsequently abandoned by the company, requiring a $1.6 billion impairment charge. The stock declined nearly 11% on this news. The complaint also alleges that another of Celgene’s key drugs had missed profit expectations, contrary to Celgene’s multiple positive statements about the security of these drug revenues. When the truth was revealed, Celgene’s stock dropped another 9%, causing Celgene investors to suffer billions in damages from purchasing Celgene common stock at artificially inflated prices.
G&E’s clients allege that Teva and several of its executives misled investors regarding the pricing of Teva’s drugs and participated in a generic drug price-fixing conspiracy. With a securities class action was pending, G&E filed multiple direct opt-out actions for clients asserting securities fraud claims under both U.S. and Israeli securities laws. Teva is also facing antitrust litigation by U.S. State Attorneys General, criminal charges by the U.S. Department of Justice, and private antitrust lawsuits by insurance companies, pharmacies, and other entities for the same alleged conduct. A $420 million settlement was announced in the class action in January 2022, the opt-out actions are ongoing.
In 2015, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. came under scrutiny from governments, investors and others regarding its business model and its relationships with certain specialty pharmacies. In 2016, Valeant announced it would restate its financials and disclosed that it was being investigated by the SEC. The price of its securities, including its common stock, dropped sharply. When a securities class action was filed, G&E filed an opt-out action against Valeant in the federal District of New Jersey. In addition, multiple class actions were filed against Valeant in Canada. In August of 2017, the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec authorized a securities class action to proceed. G&E entered into agreements on behalf of several clients to preserve their claims under Canadian law. Certain of those clients have filed an action in Ontario against Valeant for their losses on Canadian-listed Valeant stock.
After media and regulatory investigations, Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, reluctantly admitted to participation in a massive money laundering scandal involving its branch in Estonia. Its CEO, its Chairman and its Chief Legal Officer promptly resigned. Danske disclosed that it had profited from this scheme to the tune of €200 billion. Its stock lost over $9 billion in value as a result. G&E and its co-counsel have filed claims in Denmark on behalf of 300 investors seeking approximately $1 billion in damages.
G&E, together with other U.S. and international law firms, represents over 100 institutional investors in a case against Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (“Petrobras”), a Brazilian oil and gas company that is the country’s largest corporation in terms of revenue. Petrobras is involved in a major corruption and kickback scandal, which resulted in its common and preferred shares losing more than 60% of their value. The case is proceeding in an arbitration before the Market Arbitration Chamber of the Brazilian Stock Exchange.
Recent G&E ESG Institute highlights: