Compliance

Wyeth Settles Stock Drop Suit

By Jay Polansky editors@plansponsor.com | January 04, 2013

January 4, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Wyeth Inc. agreed to settle a class action stock drop lawsuit.

The pharmaceutical company will pay $2,000,000 to end the suit alleging it breached its fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by offering inflated company stock in three employee retirement plans.

The plaintiffs, Carlos M. Herrera and other plan participants, said the company should have known the stock was not a prudent investment and acted imprudently by not preventing further investment. While investors expected Wyeth to come to market with a drug called Pristiq, the plaintiffs alleged the company knew of clinical studies that called Pristiq’s effectiveness into question.

Wyeth's stock tumbled after the company announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had designated Pristiq as “approvable” for treatment of vasomotor symptoms – an intermediate step between the agency’s final approval and a rejection. On hearing the news, investors sent the company's stock price down 10% from $56 per share to $50.30 per share and it kept falling during the class period, to a low of $38 per share.

A federal judge had tossed out the lawsuit in April 2010 (see “Wyeth Walks Off with Stock Drop Win”), but the plaintiffs appealed.

The proposed settlement, given preliminary approval by the court January 3, is here.