In re CenturyLink Sales Practices and Securities Litigation
Stoll Berne, led by attorneys Keith Dubanevich, Tim DeJong, and Keil Mueller, has been appointed co-lead counsel along with Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP (BLB&G) on behalf lead plaintiff the State of Oregon by and through the Oregon State Treasurer and the Oregon Public Employee Retirement Board, on behalf of the Oregon Public Employee Retirement Fund (Oregon) in a securities class action against CenturyLink, Inc. and certain of its senior executives. The case involves claims pursuant to Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 arising out of false and misleading statements concerning the Company’s fraudulent billing practices from March 1, 2013 through July 12, 2017 (the Class Period).
During the Class Period, CenturyLink made a series of false and misleading statements, including that: its employees were subject to a strict code of ethics; that its sales and customer services personnel “promote[d] sales of services that [met] the needs of [CenturyLink’s] customers”; and that its “customers value[d] the convenience and price discounts associated with receiving multiple services through a single company.” The Company also reported strong revenue growth and sales, and represented that its financial condition was strong and growing.
In truth, CenturyLink incentivized unethical and unlawful behavior, including by allowing CenturyLink employees to add services, lines, and accounts for customers without their permission, resulting in millions of dollars in unauthorized charges to CenturyLink customers. Further, contrary to CenturyLink’s representations, the Company’s revenues and earnings growth were simply unsustainable because they were dependent upon improper and illegal conduct that subjected the Company to heightened regulatory scrutiny, governmental action, and significant fines and sanctions that could severely curtail its business.
Investors learned the true facts about the Company’s business practices and financial condition through a series of corrective disclosures. First, on June 16, 2017, Bloomberg reported that a former CenturyLink employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that she was wrongfully terminated after notifying CenturyLink’s CEO about the Company’s improper sales practices, including secretly billing millions of dollars of unauthorized charges to CenturyLink customers. On June 19, 2017, Bloomberg reported that a consumer class action lawsuit against the Company had been filed on behalf of CenturyLink customers seeking up to billions of dollars in damages in connection with CenturyLink’s unlawful billing practices. Then, on July 12, 2017, the Minnesota Attorney General announced that it had filed a lawsuit against CenturyLink alleging violations of state consumer protection laws after a year-long investigation which provided extensive detail concerning CenturyLink’s billing misconduct. These revelations resulted in sharp declines in the prices of CenturyLink’s securities, causing investors to incur substantial losses.
In the wake of these disclosures, on June 21, 2017, the first of several securities class actions was filed against the Company. On October 20, 2017, Magistrate Judge H. L. Perez-Montes of the Western District of Louisiana consolidated the related securities class actions and appointed Oregon as Lead Plaintiff, and Stoll Berne and BLB&G as Co-Lead Counsel.
In February 2018, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred the consolidated actions to the District of Minnesota before the Honorable Michael J. Davis. On April 20, 2018, Judge Davis consolidated a subsequently-filed securities class action against CenturyLink under Oregon’s leadership. On June 25, 2018, Oregon filed a consolidated securities class action complaint. In July 2019, Judge Davis denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss.