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CenturyLink Investors Get Class Status in Overbilling Litigation

Sept. 15, 2020, 4:58 PM

CenturyLink Inc. investors who accused the company of misleading them about “systemic ‘cramming’ of customer accounts” with unsolicited services can pursue their case as a class, a federal judge in Minnesota said.

The class includes everyone who acquired the communications firm’s common stock or certain senior notes from March 1, 2013, to July 12, 2017 and isn’t affiliated with the company, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota said Monday. CenturyLink lost a bid to toss the suit in 2019.

The company argued that Oregon—selected as a class representative on behalf of a state pension fund—was subject to unique defenses, so it didn’t meet the typicality requirement, Judge Michael J. Davis’s opinion said. State law enforcement investigated the alleged scheme, but there’s no evidence Oregon relied on nonpublic information when it traded CenturyLink stock, the opinion said.

CenturyLink also challenged the adequacy of Oregon and a trust also chosen as a class representative, but the “argument against adequacy is a reiteration of their typicality argument, which the Court has already rejected,” Davis said.

The company asked the court to shorten the class period by nearly a month because a Bloomberg article revealed “the thrust of the alleged fraud” on June 16, 2017. But “shortening the Class Period would be inappropriate at this time,” in part because CenturyLink denied the allegations and new information came out in July, the opinion said.

Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP and Stoll Stoll Berne Lokting & Shlachter PC will serve as class counsel.

Cooley LLP, Winthrop & Weinstine PA, and Blackwell Burke PA represented CenturyLink, according to the opinion.

The case is In re CenturyLink Sales Pracs. & Sec. Litig., 2020 BL 350239, D. Minn., No. 17-md-02795, class certified 9/14/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Bennett in Washington at jbennett@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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