Craig v. CenturyLink, et. al.

Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
Case Number: 3:17-cv-01005 (Lead)
Judge: U.S.D.J. S. Maurice Hicks, Jr.; U.S.M.J. Joseph H.L. Perez-Montes
Class Period: 03/01/2013 - 06/19/2017
Case Contacts: Michael D. Blatchley, Michael Mathai

This securities class action asserts claims pursuant to Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against CenturyLink, Inc. (“CenturyLink” or the “Company”), and certain of its senior executives (collectively with CenturyLink, the “Defendants”), arising out of false and misleading statements concerning the Company’s fraudulent billing practices from March 1, 2013 through June 19, 2017 (the “Class Period”).

CenturyLink is a communications company that provides a wide variety of telecom services, including broadband internet, Ethernet, managed hosting, video entertainment, television, and phone and VoIP, throughout the United States.  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”; that its “customers value[d] the convenience and price discounts associated with receiving multiple services through a single company”; and that the Company offered its “services at just and reasonable rates.”  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.  Then, 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.  These revelations resulted in sharp declines in the prices of CenturyLink’s securities, causing investors to incur substantial losses.

Following 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 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 as Lead Plaintiff, and Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP and Stoll Stoll Berne Lokting & Shacter, P.C. as Co-Lead Counsel. 

The consolidated action pending before Judge Perez-Montes is subject to a Conditional Transfer Order transferring the cases to the District of Minnesota, where the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation  previously transferred numerous class actions brought by CenturyLink customers that were originally filed in different courts across the country.  Defendants have opposed transfer, and Lead Plaintiff intends to respond to Defendants’ submission.  The parties are currently negotiating a schedule for the filing of a consolidated complaint and the briefing of Defendants’ anticipated motion to dismiss. 

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