Alphabet Shareholders Seek Class Certification in Securities Fraud Suit Over Bug

Earlier this week, lead plaintiff Rhode Island filed a motion for class certification in its case against Google LLC, its parent company Alphabet Inc., and several company leaders. The motion says that the shareholder suit is exactly the kind well-suited for class certification because class members’ claims, that they purchased stock at artificially inflated prices due to Google concealing internal problems, are identical.

Events giving rise to the case occurred in 2018 when Google allegedly learned that a several-year-old software bug had allowed hundreds of third-party developers access to user profile data on the Google+ social-networking platform. The case says that the belated discovery and investigation of this bug also revealed other security vulnerabilities in the platform.

The plaintiffs accuse Google of choosing to conceal these issues and omit them from public statements and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings for two consecutive quarters. When the news came to light, the company’s share price fell, injuring stockholders who bought at artificially inflated prices, under the plaintiffs’ theory of liability.

The district court sustained Google’s motion to dismiss in February 2020. The decision was later overridden by the Ninth Circuit. Google, backed by amici like the Chamber of Commerce, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari. As previously reported, the petition was denied several months ago, leaving the appellate tribunal’s decision intact.

Now, lead plaintiff Rhode Island has asked for certification of a class of investors who purchased stock between dates in April and October 2018. “Among the prospective class members, there is literally no variation regarding any factual or legal issues here,” the motion says in support of its argument that the plaintiffs have satisfied the applicable requirements.

The motion ventures that there is no dispute over a single class-certification factor and no argument otherwise. Denying certification would unjustly block Rhode Island from having the opportunity to prove its claims, the motion says. 

Lastly, interim class counsel Robbins Geller Rudman & Down LLP also asks for appointment as lead counsel. The Google defendants are represented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.