Several others vying for lead role in class action suit against Bank of America

John O'Brien Mar. 26, 2009, 11:00am

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - Ohio Attorney General Richad Cordray has plenty of competition for his wish to have a New York firm representing two state pension funds named lead counsel in a class action lawsuit filed against Bank of America.

Cordray publicized the motion to have five public pension funds named lead plaintiffs in the case, which alleges Bank of America withheld information and made misleading statements regarding its recent purchase of Merrill Lynch. Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer is representing the two Ohio funds.

Employees of the Kaplan firm donated $50,000 to the Ohio Democratic Party in 2008. Cordray, a Democrat, was elected last year after disgraced Democrat Marc Dann resigned during a sex scandal.

In February, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin wrote that there were at least 22 actions in the court that he was prepared to consolidate. Several of those plaintiffs have asked to be named the lead plaintiffs.

Five other motions have been filed so far, one by an individual (Judy Calibuso) who is represented by four law firms requesting to be named lead counsel.

The other four motions were filed by:

-The Louisiana Municipal Police Employees Retirement System and the Hollywood Police Officers' Retirement System;

-The California State Teachers' Retirement System and the California Public Employees' Retirement System;

-The West Palm Beach (Fla.) Police Pension Fund, Firemen's and Policemen's Pension and Relief Fund of the City of Tuscaloosa (Ala.) and the Westmoreland County (Pa.) Employee Retirement System; and

-Finger Interests Number One, Ltd.

Finger Interests is urging shareholders to vote against the re-election of Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis and two other top executives in April.

Finger Interests even started a Web site to promote its cause.

The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, the Ohio Pubic Employees Retirement System and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, as well as a Dutch national fund and a Swedish national fund, motioned to become lead plaintiffs Monday.

Bank of America's stock price was inflated and a new $10 billion worth of stock was facilitated because of the company's actions, Cordray said. Weeks after the Dec. 5 vote approving the purchase, it was revealed that Merrill Lynch incurred losses of more than $15 billion during the fourth quarter of 2008, and Bank of America executives had secretly demanded billions of taxpayer dollars to complete the deal, he said.

Since the deal, Bank of America's common stock has dropped more than 80 percent. Cordray says the five pension funds should lead the plaintiffs because they suffered significant losses from investing in Bank of America.

Cordray said the five funds lost approximately $274 million.

The other three funds are represented by New York firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman and Radnor, Pa., firm Barroway Topaz Kessler Meltzer & Check.

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