Big Lots Shareholder Class Certified in Securities Action

March 17, 2017

On March 17, 2017, the Honorable Michael H. Watson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio certified a class of investors in the action against Big Lots, Inc. and denied defendants’ motion to exclude plaintiffs’ expert. In certifying the class, the court stated that Robbins Geller is “qualified” and “experienced” to represent the class. In denying defendants’ motion to exclude plaintiffs’ proposed expert, the court concluded that the expert is “qualified and that his opinions are both relevant and reliable.”

Big Lots is a closeout retailer that sells a variety of merchandise, including perishables, furniture, clothing and electronics. Lead plaintiffs are pursuing claims for securities fraud and insider trading against Big Lots and Big Lots’ former Chairman and CEO, Steven Fishman, former CFO, Joe Cooper, former General Counsel, Charles Haubiel, and former VP of Finance and current CFO, Timothy Johnson. Initially filed by Robbins Geller in July 2012, the case alleges defendants provided misleading sales and earnings figures that allowed 17 Big Lots officers and directors to engage in a $36 million insider-selling spree while Big Lots’ stock was trading at artificially inflated prices. After the complaint was filed, many regulatory agencies launched their own investigations into potential insider trading and securities fraud regarding Big Lots’ securities, including the SEC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and the regulatory authority for the New York Stock Exchange.

Judge Watson also commented that “there can be no serious dispute that Robbins Geller is qualified, experienced, and generally able to conduct litigation.  As noted in the Court’s Opinion and Order appointing Robbins Geller as lead counsel, the firm secured the largest recovery to date in a shareholder class action while serving as lead counsel in In re Enron Corp. Securities Litigation, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39867 (S.D. Tex. Dec. 22, 2005).” He succinctly concluded: “To say the least, Robbins Geller has extensive experience in handling class actions.”

Robbins Geller attorneys David W. Mitchell, Lucas F. Olts, Brian E. Cochran and Kevin A. Lavelle were appointed as class counsel representing class representatives City of Pontiac General Employees’ Retirement System and Teamsters Local 237 Additional Security Benefit Fund.

Willis v. Big Lots, Inc., et al., Case No. 2:12-cv-604, Opinion and Order (S.D. Ohio Mar. 17, 2017).

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