Sidley scoops China Life class action

Sidley Austin Brown & Wood has beaten US rival Shearman & Sterling to win a mandate to defend China Life Insurance in a class action against the company.

Last month, Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman filed a class action law suit on behalf of independent shareholders against China Life, which completed a $3.5bn (£1.91bn) dual listing in Hong Kong and New York last December.

The suit alleges, that China Life and some of its directors violated federal securities legislation. The breaches included an alleged failure by China Life to disclose financial irregularities relating to the insurance giant’s state-owned parent, which artificially inflated its share price.

As well as beating Shearman, which was also invited to pitch for the work, Sidley Austin’s appointment will be a blow for China Life’s new adviser Debevoise & Plimpton, which was ignored by the company on the class action. However, it is likely that Debevoise, which represented China Life for the first time on the flotation, missed out because of a potential conflict.

One source said: “The key issue in the case is going to be the adequacy of the due diligence carried out by the company’s underwriters and legal advisers.”

A Debevoise source said: “It’s not unusual for clients to have separate advisers for corporate and contentious work. The firm still advises China Life on corporate matters.”