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Angie's List hit with shareholder suit

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Angie’s List’s CEO William Oesterle and four other top executives made a series of false or misleading statements about the company’s prospects that inflated its stock price earlier this year as they sold $13 million of their own shares, a lawsuit seeking class-action status alleges.

Bringing the case on behalf of shareholders Eva and Harold Baron is Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, a national securities litigation firm that led $7.3 billion in settlements for former investors of scandal-plagued energy giant Enron Corp.

Robbins Geller said it filed the suit on Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.  

The suit alleges multiple violations of federal securities regulations and seeks unspecified financial damages on behalf of common shareholders between Feb. 14 and Oct. 23 of this year.

The 27-page complaint said Oesterle was the biggest benefactor, selling 486,400 shares for a net $10.4 million.  

It wasn’t immediately clear if the stock sales were required per terms of the executives' stock option plans, however.

Also listed as defendants are co-founder and chief marketing officer Angela Hicks Bowman; controller Charles Hundt; former chief financial officer Robert R. Millard; and former chief technology officer Manu Thapar.

Broadly, the suit recounts a litany of positive statements made by Oesterle and other executives during earnings calls and in presentations to analysts and shareholders.  

In fact, the Indianapolis-based firm that provides reviews of service providers (such as plumbers and roofers) by its members exceeded analysts' expectations during much of 2013.

“Based on the positive mantra” of executives, the suit alleges, Angie’s stock price hit a high of $28 last July. At the same time, executives were selling shares, “with the price of the company’s stock artificially inflated based on their misstatements.”

A key issue in the complaint is that the company was increasingly relying on providing free memberships in order to “artificially” boost its subscriber figure.

The suit cites an interview that The Wall Street Journal conducted with Oesterle that indicated  Angie’s was cutting the subscription cost for new members in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis to $10 from $40.

The market didn’t respond well to the news, with Angie’s shares falling more than 17 percent on Oct. 3.   

The stock would fall from $28 earlier in the summer to a low of around $12 this fall. In trading Tuesday morning, shares had dropped 2.5 percent to $14.27.

The company went on to report a third quarter loss of $13.5 million, or 23 cents a share, which was worse than the 20-cents-per-share loss that analysts were led to expect “based on defendants’ bullish” statements, the suit alleges.

Angie’s List spokeswoman Cheryl Reed said Tuesday that the company would have no comment about the lawsuit.

Robbins Geller’s local counsel is Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson LLP.
 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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