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Hood's outside counsel named lead plaintiff in securities class action

By John O'Brien | May 12, 2009


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - Despite being termed a "professional plaintiff," a retirement fund represented by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and his outside counsel will be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against a group of financial institutions.

Iron Workers Local No. 25 said Hood's office was violating a 1995 law that said an individual could not be named lead plaintiff in more than five class action cases in a three-year period. Attorneys hired by Hood -- some of whom are contributors to Hood's campaign -- have been named lead plaintiff in 10 suits in the past three years.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff appointed the Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi lead plaintiff April 23. Defendants in the case include Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan and sold mortgage-backed certificates to investors.

"Needless to say, MissPERS is 'overseeing' a fairly dramatic number of complex cases," attorneys for the iron workers union wrote.

"To avoid application of the bar, MissPERS must credibly demonstrate that the circumstances here would allow MissPERS to control yet another securities class action. No such circumstances exist here."

Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman of New York argued that the amount of cases it is leading is a plus.

"As an institutional investor - precisely the sort of plaintiff that Congress intended to direct securities class actions as Lead Plaintiff under the (Private Securities Litigation Reform Act) - MissPERS is not subject to the bar on the number of class actions for which it can serve as lead plaintiff under the PSLRA," the firm wrote.

"Numerous courts within this District have rejected similar arguments. The number of class actions in which MissPERS has been appointed to serve as lead plaintiff demonstrates that it is in fact more than qualified to serve as Lead Plaintiff."

Attorneys at Bernstein Litowitz have contributed $41,500 to Hood, who also received $75,000 from Houston's Bailey Perrin Bailey. He hired BPB to pursue a case against pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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