Judge Certifies Class in Pluralsight Securities Litigation

Shareholder Advocate Winter 2024

February 16, 2024

Class action complaint

Richard E. Lorant

A federal judge in Utah has certified a class of Pluralsight, Inc. investors seeking damages after Pluralsight stock dropped 40% when executives allegedly admitted they had exaggerated the size of the sales force key to the company’s continued growth.

In a December 27 memorandum decision and order granting class certification, U.S. District Judge David Barlow designated lead counsel Cohen Milstein as class counsel and its clients— lead plaintiffs Indiana Public Retirement System and Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago—as class representatives.

“We are very pleased with this detailed and well-reasoned opinion,” said Carol V. Gilden, the Chicago-based partner leading Cohen Milstein’s litigation team. “With the class certified, we can focus on marshaling the evidence we are collecting through the discovery process to secure the best possible resolution for our clients and the class.”

Headquartered in Utah, Pluralsight provides cloud-based and video training courses, skill and role assessments, learning paths, and analytics tools to businesses. Plaintiffs allege that the company and two top executives violated securities laws by making materially false misrepresentations and omissions about Pluralsight’s sales force and its ability to sustain strong growth in billings.

The complaint further accuses the executives, Aaron Skonnard, the CEO and Chairman, and James Budge, the chief financial officer, of violating securities laws by trading stock based on their inside knowledge. In all, plaintiffs allege that Pluralsight’s top three executives sold $47 million in stock during the class period, which runs from January 16, 2019, through July 31, 2019, including through their 10b5-1 trading plans.

In his opinion, Judge Barlow found that plaintiffs satisfied the requirements to pursue a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). Under the rule, the class must be large enough to make it impractical to pursue claims as individuals; the class members must share common “questions of law or fact;” and the class representatives must have “claims or defenses” typical of those of the class at large and “fairly and adequately” protect the interests of the class.

In appointing class counsel, the judge found that “Cohen Milstein will fairly and adequately represent the class’s interests.” He based his decision on the firm’s prosecution of the lawsuit since its March 2020 lead counsel appointment, its experience as class counsel in other cases, and its significant resources.

Indeed, it took plenty of perseverance and skill to even reach the class certification stage. Filed in New York, the proceedings were transferred to the District of Utah where, in March 2021, the judge who was first assigned to the case dismissed plaintiffs’ amended complaint. More than a year later, in August 2022, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s dismissal on plaintiffs’ main claims. Following their successful argument to the appeals court, lead plaintiffs filed their second amended complaint in November 2022 and followed with their motion to certify the class in March 2023.

The case is Indiana Public Retirement System, et al. v. Pluralsight, Inc. et al., 19-cv-00128- DBB-DAO (D. Utah).