A news release Tuesday from the law firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann said the settlement caps a large-scale pre-trial discovery operation that included the taking of more than 150 depositions and reviewing of more than 18 million pages of documents for the trial that had been scheduled to begin for later this summer (See Judge Certifies Williams K Plan Company Stock Suit as Class Action ).
The law firm was appointed lead counsel and a federal judge tapped the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan as lead plaintiffs, the announcement said.
According to the announcement, the October 2002 lawsuit alleged wrongdoing in two areas concerning company stock:
the purchase of Williams’ shares on the open market and the purchase of company stock during four securities offerings in 2001 and 2002.
The allegations relate to Williams’ former telecommunications subsidiary Williams Communications and Williams’ energy trading operation, known at the time as Energy Marketing & Trading. The allegations against Williams Communications concern Williams’ alleged failure to timely disclose that it would have to incur multi-billion dollar losses in connection with Williams’ guarantees of certain Williams Communications’ financial obligations.
In connection with the share purchase during the Williams’ Energy Marketing & Trading business, the suit charged that Williams manipulated the reported value of its long-term energy contracts in the midst of the California energy crisis in 2001. Based on these valuations, the two lead plaintiffs alleged that Williams inflated earnings by hundreds of millions of dollars during the period.
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