Denmark's largest commercial pension fund, PFA, and the US state of Ohio, have been appointed as co-leads in the securities class action case against Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) by a federal judge in California after he agreed to consolidate a series of lawsuits against the social media company.
The complaint — originally filed on November 12 by attorney general of Ohio David Yost on behalf of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) and all investors — contends that, from April 21 through October 21 of last year, Facebook and its senior executives intentionally misled the public about the protections the social media platform provided users against harmful content through its proprietary algorithm.
The plaintiffs maintain that these misrepresentations led to an artificially inflated Facebook share price which later fell by more than 14% following revelations in leaked internal documents and whistleblower testimony provided by the social media company’s company product manager Frances Haugen.
The drop in share price saw $150 billion wiped off Facebook’s market capitalisation in October 2021, resulting in around $3 million in losses for OPERS. The social media giant rebranded to Meta Platforms Inc. in the weeks that followed.
“As investors, we must be able to trust that the listed companies in which we invest our beneficiaries' money provide timely, complete, and accurate information to us and the rest of the market," Rasmus Bessing, chief operating officer at PFA Asset Management, said in a statement.
“Facebook/Meta Inc., as one of the world's largest content providers and social media, has a responsibility to comply with its publicly stated commitments to apply its standards of behavior equally to all users and take appropriate steps to prevent the spread of misinformation or harmful content,” he said.
A representative from PFA told AsianInvestor that the pension fund currently holds 1,070,000 shares in Meta, worth just under $180 million (1.3 billion DKK).
According to PFA’s representative, all investors that suffered a loss on their purchases of Facebook Class A common stock between April 29, 2021 and October 21, 2021 are being represented in the class action “unless they opt out” which means other pension funds can file claims to participate in the recovery if the lawsuit is successful.
PFA Pension of Denmark, which filed its motion to serve as lead plaintiff jointly with Ohio state, was appointed by Judge Jon S. Tigar “by virtue of having the largest financial interest” according to the ruling.
The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), also petitioned to serve as lead plaintiff but were unsuccessful. A CalPERS representative declined to offer comment due to the ongoing litigation, but told AsianInvestor that the fund held over 5.5 million shares in Facebook at the end of June 2021.
While it is unclear which investors will file claims to recover their losses in the event of a ruling against Meta, institutional investors currently own over 75% of the publicly traded company, according to data from Morningstar.
These include some of the largest pension funds in the world including Norges Bank Investment Management which is the tenth largest shareholder with a 1.2% stake in Meta worth more than $4.6 billion.
In Asia, the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) of Japan had a $2.6 billion investment in Meta, and as of March 2022, ranking the social media firm ninth in terms of value size on its list of overseas equity investments.