‘We Just Took Notice’: How a Miami Law Firm is Growing Its Class-Action Practice
By Jasmine Floyd |
Miami-based firm Roche Freedman is building a securities class action practice that has grown from three lawyers to 22 in about two years.
And it’s finding success, having been appointed co-lead counsel or sole lead counsel in more than 20 nationwide securities class actions. But some attorneys say plaintiffs counsel typically have difficulty in bringing successful securities fraud actions.
Miami partner Devin “Vevel” Freedman and New York counterpart Kyle Roche launched the firm in August 2019 with offices in the two cities.
“As we began to grow our practice area, we just took notice of the security class-action practice, and realized that there was an opportunity for lawyers of our background,” Freedman said. “A lot of us come from the defense side firms. We were at these larger defense side practices, and we thought there was a chance to bring everything we had learned on the defense side and switch that to help the plaintiff side practice. Therefore we thought this seemed like a good place to go. There’s a very high level of lawyering, and it’s a fulfilling area in which to practice. We help recover damages for the class and engage on the highest level with some of the best lawyers in the country.”
Among dozens of cases is Lowry v. RTI Surgical Holdings, in Illinois, where litigants reached a multimillion-dollar settlement and are awaiting court approval, counsel Constantine Economides said.
“We’re now in that stage where we file the papers publicly with the court, and said we agree with the principle of a $10.5 million dollar settlement, which we think is an extraordinary result for the class,” Economides said. “The court has preliminarily approved that settlement, and we’re working toward seeking final approval early in 2022.”
The firm is opportunistic, keeping a watch on trends in securities disputes.
“After we make our determination, we then file plaintiff applications in the cases where we think we have a client that’ll be competitive to secure appointment as lead plaintiff,” Freedman said. “Also, we’ll watch companies for issues we think are fraudulent, and we’ll draft the complaints and file the class actions ourselves, and so we find a Broad spectrum of cases and we have a particular focus on cryptocurrency based security cases. So we filed 11 cases, and in all but one of those cases we were appointed as lead plaintiffs.”
Economides said the firm monitors cases filed weekly and daily across the country, with an eye on the 60-day deadline for anyone who wants to move to be lead plaintiff.
“If the allegations are strong and the case is something that we want to take on, and we have a competitive client who can represent the class, we’ll represent that client in seeking appointment as lead plaintiff,” he said.
Roche Freedman focuses on cannabis, securities, cryptocurrency, arbitration and general litigation.
“We’ll go to that frontier,” Economides said. “Defense side or plaintiffs side, we want to benefit our clients who are in litigation, and through those cases, we aim to develop, interpret and apply the laws—whether crypto, cannabis, or otherwise—in ways that preserve our clients’ interests.”
When dealing with security cases, Freeman believes the biggest challenge is getting past motions to dismiss.
“You’ve got an elevated pleading standard that applies and defendants are successful in getting these cases dismissed at that early stage. To combat that, we do a lot of the front end work that lawyers may not normally do in these cases. We hire investigators and accountants to help us investigate the allegations in the complaint and spend a significant amount of time looking into the legal issues and briefing the opposition to a motion to dismiss,” Freedman said.
Some attorneys think it’s a tough business.
Litigator Andrew G. Fiorella, partner at Benesch Law in Cleveland, Ohio, for instance, typically represents the defense. He believes it is difficult for plaintiffs to bring successful securities fraud class actions.
“What we’ve seen recently has been a focus on the ‘strict liability’ cases, the Section 11 or 12 that are easier to bring. Those claims apply to a smaller number of cases, but they are somewhat easier for plaintiffs to bring. In my opinion, it still hasn’t been wildly successful. In the last 10 years or so, claims survive the pleading stages only where outrageous conduct has been pleaded quite clearly and plausibly,” Fiorella said. “I believe that this outcome is what the Supreme Court and Congress intended. They wanted fewer of these claims to proceed. I believe reforms were designed to make it more difficult to bring securities fraud claims and to apply in fewer cases.”
For litigators on both sides, Fiorella believes securities cases are intellectually challenging, and provide a practitioner with the chance to present nuanced and sophisticated arguments to the court.
“The law continues to evolve in this area,” he said. “Although we have seen a limiting of these cases recently, changes in legislative and judicial priorities could once again expand or clarify the boundaries of cognizable claims.”