Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson
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Ericsson, together with its subsidiaries, provides communication infrastructure, services, and software solutions to the telecommunications and other sectors. The Company operates in, among other countries, the Republic of Iraq (“Iraq”).
Ericsson has a well-documented history of using bribes to secure business in countries throughout the Middle East and Asia. For example, in December 2019, Ericsson was the subject of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) action alleging, among other things, that the Company used third party consultants and illicit payments from 2011 through early 2017 to access business in Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, and China. The Company also entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) the same month for its illicit business dealings.
The complaint alleges that, throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s business, operations, and compliance policies. Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) Ericsson overstated the extent to which it had reformed its business practices to eliminate the use of bribes to secure business in foreign countries; (ii) Ericsson had paid bribes to the terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (“ISIS” or the “Islamic State”) to gain access to certain transport routes in Iraq; (iii) accordingly, the Company’s revenues derived from its operations in Iraq were, in at least substantial part, derived from unlawful conduct and thus unsustainable; and (iv) as a result, the Company’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.
On February 15, 2022, during intraday trading hours, Ericsson issued a press release disclosing media inquiries into its business dealings in Iraq. That press release assured investors of the Company’s “transparency” regarding these inquiries, while vaguely alluding to having undertaken its own investigative and compliance efforts.
Then, on February 16, 2022, Ericsson’s Chief Executive Officer told a Swedish newspaper that the Company may have made payments to ISIS to gain access to certain transport routes in Iraq, noting that the Company had identified “unusual expenses dating back to 2018” but had not yet determined the final recipient of the funds for those expenses, although Defendants could “see that it disappeared[,]” and that Ericsson has spent “considerable resources trying to understand this as best we can.”
Following these disclosures, Ericsson’s American Depositary Share (“ADS”) price fell $1.44 per ADS, or 11.57%, to close at $11.01 per ADS on February 16, 2022.
Finally, on Sunday, February 27, 2022, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (“ICIJ”) published a report on Ericsson’s alleged dealings with ISIS in Iraq, citing a leaked internal investigation that revealed that Ericsson had reportedly made “tens of millions of dollars in suspicious payments” over nearly a decade to keep its business in the country. The ICIJ report also alleged that “a spreadsheet lists company probes into possible bribery, money laundering and embezzlement by employees in Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brazil, China, Croatia, Libya, Morocco, the United States and South Africa[,]” which “have not been previously disclosed.”
On this news, Ericsson’s ADS price fell $0.84 per ADS, or 8.3%, from its closing price on February 25, 2022, to close at $9.28 per ADS on February 28, 2022, the next trading day.