Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum made the announcement this week. A federal judge in Minnesota confirmed the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund as lead plaintiff in the case. The pension fund is suing to recoup losses the state says it experienced due to the company’s actions.
Read authorized the case on behalf of the pension fund.
The initial lawsuit was filed in 2017 after “revelations the company urged employees to add services and lines to customer accounts without obtaining the necessary clearance, leading to millions of dollars in unauthorized charges,” the announcement reads.
Disclosure of CenturyLink’s actions caused the value of the company’s shares to “nosedive,” according to the suit. Losses to Oregon public trust funds as a direct result of the “fraud and subsequent disclosure” are estimated to be $6 million, depending on when stock values are computed, it said.
“The message here is pretty simple: Don’t defraud your customers and shareholders,” Read said. “If corporate misbehavior undermines the sustainability of public trust funds, Oregon will demand accountability on behalf of taxpayers, schools, communities and public employees.”
In addition to Oregon, class-action suits have been filed against CenturyLink in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Washington. There’s also a suit filed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and numerous investor class-action suits.
Mark Molzen, CenturyLink spokesman, said “this is not a new lawsuit and CenturyLink’s position has not changed.”
“These allegations are completely inconsistent with our company culture,” he said. “However speculative or unfounded we think these claims may be, we are treating them very seriously and will vigorously defend against them.”
As a lead plaintiff in the case, Oregon will set legal strategy and spearhead settlement negotiations. The state also will have the opportunity to press for new management practices.
“Every year, telecommunications issues make our list of consumers’ top complaints,” Rosenblum. said. “Oregonians want to know that when they sign up for cable or internet, the company providing these services will be honest and reliable. And, when a company in Oregon does engage in fraudulent behavior, consumers expect us to hold its management and directors accountable.”