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Construction Workers Pension Fund v. Navistar International Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 22, 2014

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS PENSION FUND — LAKE COUNTY AND VICINITY, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff,
v.
NAVISTAR INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

SARA L. ELLIS, District Judge.

Lead Plaintiff Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund ("Central States") brings this case on behalf of itself and a putative class of similarly situated persons or entities who purchased securities in Navistar International Corporation ("Navistar"). Central States alleges that Navistar and sixteen current and former officers and directors-Daniel C. Ustian, Andrew J. Cederoth, Eugenio Clariond, John D. Correnti, Diane H. Gulyas, Michael N. Hammes, David D. Harrison, James H. Keyes, Steven J. Klinger, William H. Osborne, Dennis D. Williams, Stanley A. McChrystal, John P. Waldron, Richard C. Tarapchak, Jack Allen, and Eric Tech-made false or misleading representations with regard to Navistar's business operations that caused Navistar's stock price to be artificially inflated. Specifically, Central States alleges that Defendants misrepresented and concealed material information regarding the viability of Navistar's engine design and development efforts to meet certain Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") standards. In doing so, Central States contends that Defendants violated Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 78j(b) and t(a), and SEC Rule 10b-5, 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5. Now before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss the Consolidated Amended Complaint [99, 101, 103][1] and Central States' motion to strike certain statements and exhibits attached to one of the motions to dismiss [108]. Because Central States fails to specify which of Defendants' statements were false or misleading and fails to specifically connect each alleged misstatement with a contrary allegation of fact, the motions to dismiss are granted and the Consolidated Amended Complaint is dismissed without prejudice. Central States' motion to strike is denied as moot.

BACKGROUND[2]

Navistar produces commercial and military trucks, buses, diesel engines, recreational vehicles, and chassis, and provides parts and service for trucks and trailers. Its North American truck and engine market is a core segment of its business. Navistar's stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Central States seeks to represent a class of individuals who purchased or otherwise acquired Navistar stock between June 9, 2009 and August 1, 2012 (the "Class Period"). The last day on which Central States purchased Navistar stock during the Class Period is October 27, 2011. The Individual Defendants served as directors and/or officers of Navistar during the Class Period.

Navistar's truck and engine business is subject to various EPA regulations. In 2001, pursuant to the Clean Air Act, the EPA issued a rule that required a 95% reduction in nitrogen oxide ("NOx") emissions from heavy-duty diesel engines. Specifically, new engines were to emit NOx at a rate of no more than 0.2 g/bhp-hr ("0.2 NOx") by 2010. To obtain EPA certification, a manufacturer had to demonstrate compliance with the 0.2 NOx standard. Alternatively, certification could be obtained through a combination of a 0.5 NOx engine and banked emissions credits. For a period of time, the EPA also allowed manufacturers to pay nonconformance penalties ("NCPs") while they finished developing their emissions control technology.

In response to the new EPA standard, the heavy-duty truck industry-except for Navistar-pursued selective catalytic reduction ("SCR") technology, which uses an after-treatment device to reduce emissions.[3] These manufacturers met the 0.2 NOx standard on time. Navistar decided to pursue a different technology-exhaust gas recirculation ("EGR"), an in-cylinder solution that does not require after-treatment. Because EGR technology was still being developed, Navistar's initial strategy to comply with EPA's regulation involved certification through the use of banked emissions credits.

Investors and analysts were particularly focused on Navistar's public updates on the development of EGR technology and progress toward obtaining 0.2 NOx certification. Navistar publicly made statements that it had developed "viable, proven' EGR technology and investors should not be concerned about whether Navistar would be able to certify EGR engines at 0.2 NOx because it already had produced 0.2 NOx engines that were being tested." Consol. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. For example, Ustian, Navistar's then-CEO and one of its directors, stated in November 2010 that Navistar was "100% there in terms of [its] ability to" achieve 0.2 NOx with EGR technology. Id. ¶ 10. Ustian was also quoted as saying that Navistar had products "that are running today at 0.2 [NOx]."[4] Id. ¶ 115. Similar statements were made in press releases, conference calls, trade articles, and at various conferences. Navistar's SEC forms also discussed its strategy of focusing on EGR technology. Additionally, in March 2011, Ustian represented that Navistar had submitted its 13-liter EGR engine to the EPA for certification at 0.2 NOx, but the EPA stated in later court filings that it did not receive an application for such certification until January or February 2012. Navistar did announce that it submitted another application for its 13-liter EGR engine to the EPA for certification at 0.2 NOx on January 31, 2012.

Navistar did not achieve the 0.2 NOx emissions requirements through EGR technology and never was certified as meeting that requirement independent of banked emissions credits. From the start, Navistar's engineers had encountered various technical problems with EGR technology and continually noted that additional time was needed before a compliant engine would be ready. These issues were brought to the attention of senior-level management, including Ustian, Tech, and Cederoth. For example, CW5, the Chief Engineer of Navistar's Engine Group, in an August 27, 2010 presentation (the "Go Fast presentation"), indicated that EGR technology meeting the 0.2 NOx standard would not go into production until at least Q1 2014 for a 13-liter engine, Q3 2014 for an 11-liter engine, and Q1 2015 for a 15-liter engine. This schedule would leave Navistar with at least a 1.75 year gap between when its emissions credits would be exhausted and when the 13-liter engine would be compliant. And despite Navistar's engineers' suggestions that an alternative to EGR should be pursued, development of an SCR backup plan was halted. Additionally, Navistar incurred excessive warranty costs in connection with its newly-developed 2010 and 2011 engines, which had valve and soot problems. These warranty costs were larger than the amount for which Navistar had reserved.

On February 14, 2012, Navistar's share price declined after an internet article reported that the EPA would fine Navistar for shipping back-dated engines during its 2010 engine transition. Then, in February 28, 2012 letters to counsel for Daimler Trucks, Mack Trucks, and Volvo, the EPA indicated its initial concerns that Navistar would be able to certify its engine at 0.2 NOx and that even if it could be certified, Navistar would not be able to introduce it until June 15, 2012. On March 8, 2012, Navistar announced a $153 million loss for the first quarter of 2012. On April 19, 2012, Wells Fargo downgraded Navistar to "Market Perform" based on challenges Navistar faced, including obtaining EPA emissions certification for its engines.

On June 7, 2012, before the markets opened, Navistar reported a $172 million loss for its second fiscal quarter ending April 30, 2012, due in part to increased warranty expenses for repairs to 2010 and 2011 vehicles. This caused Navistar's stock price to drop by $4.04 per share (14.35%) that day. Then, on July 6, 2012, Navistar announced that it was abandoning EGR technology in favor of the SCR strategy the rest of the heavy-duty truck industry had already adopted. Navistar's stock price dropped by $4.37 per share (15.18%) that day. Finally, on August 2, 2012, Navistar issued a press release announcing that it was withdrawing its full year fiscal 2012 guidance until releasing its third quarter 2012 results in September. Navistar also disclosed an SEC formal letter of inquiry into accounting and disclosure matters dating back to November 2010.[5] Navistar's stock price fell $3.33 per share (13.44%) that day. On August 30, 2012, Navistar disclosed that Ustian had resigned from Navistar effective August 26, 2012.

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Rule 9(b) requires a party alleging fraud to "state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud." Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). This "ordinarily requires describing the who, what, when, where, and how' of the fraud, although the exact level of particularity that is required will necessarily differ based on the facts of the case." AnchorBank, 649 F.3d at 615 (citation omitted). Rule 9(b) applies to "all averments of fraud, not claims of fraud." Borsellino v. Goldman Sachs Grp., Inc., 477 F.3d 502, 507 (7th Cir. 2007). "A claim that sounds in fraud'- in other words, one that is premised upon a course of fraudulent conduct-can implicate Rule 9(b)'s heightened pleading requirements." Id.

On top of the pleading burden imposed by Rules 8 and 9(b), Congress further heightened the pleading standards on securities fraud claims when it enacted the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act ("PSLRA"). Congress created this standard to check pleading abuses in private securities fraud suits. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd. ( Tellabs II ), 551 U.S. 308, 313-14, 127 S.Ct. 2499, 168 L.Ed.2d 179 (2007). In order to properly allege that the defendant misrepresented or omitted material facts, the PSLRA requires the plaintiff to "specify each statement alleged to have been misleading, the reason or reasons why the statement is misleading, and, if an allegation regarding the statement or omission is made on information or belief, the complaint shall state with particularity all facts on which that belief is formed." 15 U.S.C. § 78u-4(b)(1). In pleading scienter, the PSLRA requires that the plaintiff, "with respect to each act or omission alleged to violate this chapter, state with particularity facts giving rise to a strong ...


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