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James Langdon
James Langdon

The POWER 30: James Langdon

Wall Street was shaken to its core by the Oct. 19, 1987, stock market crash. On one day, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 23 percent of its value.

There was work for lawyers at the time — many arbitrations occurred for aggrieved sellers and would-be sellers. Many said that the results of the crash were attributable to the debt investors were carrying.

At any rate, there was plenty of work for James Langdon at Dorsey & Whitney, where he started shortly before the crash and where he still practices, representing financial services and public company clients as well as others.

He practices in federal and state courts as well as before regulatory agencies, particularly the SEC. Langdon is also active before regulatory agencies and in arbitration forums including: the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, FINRA; the American Arbitration Association; and United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Then, as Langdon understated, “a lot of mortgage stuff” happened in the mid-2000s, including fraudulent lending and bankruptcies. He has also developed a practice in securities fraud class actions, where it is alleged that a public company had lied. He is the co-chair of the firm’s class-action practice group.

“The law about money and the stock market changes constantly, but the market is mostly about fear and greed,” Langdon said. “When the stock tumbles on bad news, there are plaintiffs’ lawyers saying the public should have been told, but stocks go up and down for all sorts of reasons.”

The last year and a half of COVID has brought in-person trials to a halt, but market gyrations have continued, Landgon said. “There was a lot of volatility but it’s back at an almost historic level,” he said.

Class actions go up and down, some led by very successful plaintiff’s firms, Langdon said. But he sees a slow trend toward more and more barriers to class certification, an important step for defendants. “Once a class is certified the damages get really high,” Langdon said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has given defendants some new tools, Langdon said. Last June, it reversed a $40 million judgment from the 9th Circuit over Article III standing for class members in a Fair Credit Reporting Act claim. In Transunion LLC v. Ramirez, the court held that only plaintiffs concretely harmed by a defendant’s statutory violation have standing to seek damages against that private defendant in federal court.

Also in June, the court issued Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., et al. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, et al., vacating a securities fraud class certification. The teachers alleged that Goldman maintained an artificially inflated stock price by repeatedly making false and misleading generic statements about its ability to manage conflicts. The court ruled that in certifying a class, the trial court should consider all record evidence relevant to price impact, opening up room for expert testimony.

The court then also said that defendants bear the burden of persuasion to prove a lack of price impact by a preponderance of the evidence at class certification.