Orlando Restaurant Company Accused of Misleading Investors

March 19, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The law firm of Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP said it is seeking class-action status for a case alleging that Orlando-based Darden Restaurants misled investors about its financial performance last year.

The Orlando Sentinel reports the firm is representing the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 51 pension, whose members are in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but said it is filing on behalf of purchasers of Darden’s common stock between June 19, 2007, and December 18, 2007.

The complaint alleges that Darden and certain executives artificially inflated the company’s share price last year by giving “materially false and misleading statements” about rising food costs and the performance of its core restaurants, and also alleges that the company’s statements allowed certain insiders to sell 427,933 shares of common stock for more than $18.5 million, according to the Sentinel.

The suit names Clarence Otis, Darden’s chief executive officer and Brad Richmond, Darden’s chief financial officer as defendants.

The complaint says Darden’s stock, which had been trading at more than $44 in August, fell more than 21% after the company lowered its fiscal 2008 earnings-per-share forecast on December 18 as part of its second-quarter earnings announcement, citing increasing costs and a weak U.S. dollar.

The law firm regularly engages in class-action securities litigation, often representing institutional investors, and was involved in Enron (See CIBC Agrees to $2.4B Enron Settlement ) and WorldCom (See CalPERS/CalSTRS Reach Settlement With WorldCom ) investor suits.