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Law firm to start $25m class action against AWB
Class Action News | 2007/04/13 20:45

A number of disgruntled current and former shareholders of AWB Ltd are suing the wheat exporter for $25 million over its role in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn Cashman said today that it would begin a shareholder class action against AWB in the Federal Court.

AWB said the proposed class action was "ill-conceived".

"If the proceedings are issued, they will be vigorously defended," AWB said.

The managing principal of the Maurice Blackburn Cashman's NSW branch, Ben Slade, said the firm was acting for an unspecified number of institutional and retail investors in AWB who were claiming they lost money because AWB failed to inform the stock market of its activities in Iraq.

"We've been instructed by a number of victims of AWB's wrongful conduct seeking compensation for the losses that they've suffered as a result of that wrongful conduct," Mr Slade said.

Mr Slade said it was alleged AWB had failed to continuously disclose to the marketplace material facts that could reasonably be expected to affect the company's share price.

He said it was claimed that AWB should have revealed it was involved in taking steps that caused Australia to be in breach of United Nations sanctions under the oil-for-food program and by one means or another was getting money from a UN account to make payments to Iraq in breach of the program.

"That is a material fact that the sharemarket should have been told, and had they been told the share price of AWB shares would have been lower than it was," Mr Slade said.

"There are certain groups that wouldn't have bought any AWB shares at all, and there are others who would have bought at a materially lower price."

Mr Slade said the claimants estimated direct losses at about $25 million and there was also the possibility of claims for opportunity loss.

Australia's single desk wheat exports system is set for overhaul after AWB was found to have paid $290 million in kickbacks to Iraq between 1999 and 2003 under the UN's corruption-ridden oil-for-food program.

The Cole inquiry into AWB's kickbacks, which reported in November 2006, recommended 11 former executives face further investigation for possible breaches of criminal and corporations law.

Pet Food Recall Prompts Lawsuit
Class Action News | 2007/04/10 16:10

Several pet owners have filed a product liability lawsuit against a pet food manufacturer following a nationwide recall of tainted pet food. Lauri Osborne, of Plymouth, Connecticut, and others, filed a federal class action lawsuit against Menu Foods, the manufacturer of the Iams® canned food that allegedly caused fatal kidney failure in one of her cats and left two others seriously ill.

On March 16, Menu Foods issued a nationwide recall of 60 million containers of wet pet food products after receiving reports of animals suffering from kidney failure throughout the United States and Canada

Samples analyzed by the Food and Drug Administration uncovered traces of melamine – a chemical used in making plastics, laminates, and fertilizer.

Menu Foods has established hotlines that pet owners can call to receive updated information on the recall. According to their own hotline, Menu foods also delayed announcement of the recall until it could be confirmed that their product was responsible for the slew of animal deaths.

Coast Financial Slapped With Class Action Lawsuit
Class Action News | 2007/04/06 03:24

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Coast Financial Holdings Inc.[ticker: CFHI], the parent company of Coast Bank of Florida, on behalf of purchasers of the bank’s publicly traded securities.

The complaint alleges that defendants violated the federal securities laws by issuing materially false and misleading statements in press releases and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the complaint, Bradenton, Fla.-based Coast Financial partnered with Construction Compliance Inc. (CCI) to lend money to borrowers who would use the money to construct homes in Southwest Florida.

The lawsuit accuses the banking company of hiding the facts about its relationship with CCI and the true risks associated with the real estate market.

Enron investors ask Supreme court to review ruling
Class Action News | 2007/04/06 01:37

Plaintiffs in a $40 billion Enron shareholder lawsuit today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an appeals ruling that sapped the litigation's strength. In a court filing, lawyers for the lead plaintiff in the litigation, the Regents of the University of California, called the appeals March ruling "an injustice to the victims of the Enron fraud." The trial had been slated to start April 16, but the ruling from a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put the case on a shelf pending the outcome of the plaintiffs' appeal to the Supreme Court.

In throwing out the case's class-action status, the appeals panel also erased the plaintiffs' ability to allege that defendants Merrill Lynch & Co., Credit Suisse First Boston and Barclay's were primary participants in fraud that helped fuel Enron's failure in December 2001.

When U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon granted class-action status last year, her ruling included that the plaintiffs could argue that the banks were primary participants rather than bit players. If a jury agreed, they could be held liable for their own actions as well as everyone else deemed to be involved.

Such a finding could have led to a multibillion-dollar judgment in excess of the $7.3 billion in settlements already reached — the bulk of which came from banking titans J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

The appeals panel ruled that Harmon erred in giving plaintiffs that much latitude, saying the deals the banks conducted with Enron "at most aided and abetted Enron's deceit."

The Securities and Exchange Commission can pursue aiders and abettors, but civil securities litigation can only pursue primary violators.

The plaintiffs countered in today's filing that the banks were at the epicenter of fraud, cooking up financial structures and schemes to help Enron doctor its financial statements.

Spokesmen for all three banks, which have consistently denied the plaintiffs' allegations, declined comment today.

Second pet fool lawsuit filed in LA
Class Action News | 2007/04/03 19:32

The second lawsuit to be filed in L-A Superior Court in a week over contaminated pet food comes from a Los Angeles-area woman whose eight-year-old purebred Samoyed named Sammy died of kidney failure after eating an I-A-M-S meal.

Kelly Finestone filed the suit yesterday against Ontario, Canada-based Menu Foods Incorporated and Petco Animal Supply Stores Incorporated of San Diego.

Finestone alleges negligence and strict liability. Her lawsuit states that she bought the dog for twelve-hundred dollars, then spent three thousand dollars on veterinarian bills after he got sick. It cost five-hundred dollars to cremate him.

The lawsuit also alleges Fineman suffered emotional distress and a loss of companionship after her dog's death. Her lawsuit does not specify the amount of additional general and actual damages she is asking for.

She is also looking for others to join in her lawsuit.

Class Action Filed as to Tainted Pet Foods
Class Action News | 2007/03/30 22:28

With a continuing rise in the number of pets harmed or killed by tainted pet food, the next inevitable phase of the calamity is unfolding: Lawsuits. At least six class action suits already have been filed against Menu Foods, the Canadian firm that has recalled millions of servings of pet food that it manufactures for 42 brands of cat food and 53 brands of dog food sold nationwide.

In Oregon alone, at least 28 animals have died after eating the food - including five dogs in Springfield and one in Pleasant Hill, and two cats each in Eugene and Springfield and one in Pleasant Hill. Ill animals also have been listed in Veneta and Cottage Grove, according to the latest numbers from the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association.

"This is really tragic. It sounds like it is going to be really huge," said Michele Smith, an attorney with the Eugene firm of Johnson Clifton Larson & Schaller.

People with potential legal claims react in different ways, she said. Some wait until most of the facts are known. Others want to rush right to a lawyer, Smith said.

advertisement Pet owners such as Allan Hall of Eugene are not waiting. Hall said he has been angry since his 15-year-old dachshund, Tabbitha, died March 13, within days of eating food that was subject to the recall.

"This was my best friend for 15 years. I was with her since she was six weeks old," Hall said Thursday.

Hall compiled his veterinary records, got help from a retailer to get a copy of his receipt for the food and contacted the Food and Drug Administration to register his case. Then he got on the Internet to contact a law firm in Wisconsin that has filed a class action lawsuit.

"I am interested in joining a class action lawsuit," Hall said. "The only thing that will make me feel better is that this company will not make pet food again. That's what I want."

Smith said pet owners should save unused food portions, labels from containers, store receipts, veterinary reports and bills, along with photographs of their pet or other evidence that might bolster their legal claims.

The Menu Foods litigation is only beginning, she said. Company and government officials have not yet confirmed the source of the problem, much less who may be responsible and what can be done about it. The company has said publicly that it will cover the veterinary bills of affected animals.

Nevertheless, hundreds of pet owners already have contacted the Seattle law firm of Myers and Company, one of the firms seeking class action status for a lawsuit against Menu Foods, said Tom Baisch, an associate attorney with the firm.

Affected pet owners need not hurry to sue, he says. The first hurdle will be convincing a judge that the cases are enough in common to be handled as a class. If so, the cases will be consolidated, with a panel of attorneys working to resolve it for all affected pet owners.

If a judge accepts the suit as a class action, affected pet owners are presumed to be a part of the class, he said. However, they need to file their information with the Food and Drug Administration or contact lawyers who have filed the lawsuits so they can receive information about the case, he said.

Pet owners can contact the FDA consumer complaint coordinator at (425) 483-4949 to report cases of illness or death due to the recalled food. Owners must report the specific product name, lot numbers of the product, and provide a veterinarian's report and diagnosis.

Owners need not pay legal fees to be part of the case. When the case settles, they can choose whether to accept the deal or withdraw and pursue their own lawsuit, Baisch said.

"It could take months. It could take years," Baisch said.

The list of recalled food:

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