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Court delays decision on Enron case
Question of the Day
The case asks whether Enron shareholders can pursue a lawsuit against Wall Street investment banks that did business with the Texas energy company.
The justices already agreed to consider a similar suit accusing two equipment manufacturers, Motorola Inc. and a unit of Cisco Systems Inc., of colluding with cable TV provider Charter Communications Inc. to deceive investors.
At issue in both cases is whether shareholders can collect damages from investment banks, lawyers and other parties that aided fraud committed by their corporate clients.
Dan Newman, a spokesman for the Enron plaintiffs’ law firm Lerach Coughlin, said the justices likely deferred action on the Enron case partly because they already agreed to hear the Charter Communications dispute.
The Charter case attracted significant attention because the Bush administration recently decided against filing a brief on behalf of the investors, even though the Securities and Exchange Commission recommended doing so.
The suit asserted that the banks played roles in the accounting fraud that led to Enron’s collapse.
Shareholders and investors in the class-action lawsuit asked the Supreme Court to review the ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court reversed a decision by U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston, who said shareholders could sue as a class.
Attorneys general of 30 states have sided with Enron shareholders in their bid for class action.
The appeals court decision put the case on hold, which was set to go to trial April 16.
“The banks should be held accountable,” said William Lerach, who represents the Regents of the University of California, the lead plaintiffs in the litigation. “Beyond shielding them from redress in the Enron case, the Fifth Circuit’s decision gives other corporations the green light to commit fraud without consequence in the future, threatens the credibility of the securities markets and leaves investors without any legal recourse.”
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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