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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. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

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  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

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