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March 22: Abe Pomerantz and the Class-Action Suit

March 21, 2016

WebAttorney Abe Pomerantz, a 1924 graduate of Brooklyn Law School who pioneered the use of the class-action suit to tame corporate misconduct and return corporate profits to small shareholders, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1903. In 1933, a woman with twenty shares in the National City Bank of New York, which had collapsed in value from $585 to $17 per share after the 1929 stock-market crash, contacted Pomerantz to see if she could sue the bank. He discovered that key bank officers had set aside profits to give themselves bonuses, and he won the case. Pomerantz devoted his firm to shareholder lawsuits and won against such companies as McDonnell Douglas Corporation and the Dreyfus Fund. He was treasurer for Henry Wallace’s 1948 campaign for president against Harry S. Truman. Two years earlier, he helped to lead the prosecution of German industrialists for war crimes, but he quit after eight months, accusing the Truman Administration of not wanting to pursue the trials.

“The class action lawsuit has redressed the shocking imbalance between the perpetrator and the victim of security frauds. Now it is possible to have a fair confrontation between the fleeced and the fleecers.” —Abraham Pomerantz