Bragar Eagel & Squire, P.C., a nationally recognized stockholder rights law firm, announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed against Sotera Health Co. (“Sotera” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ: SHC) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on behalf of all persons and entities who purchased or otherwise acquired Sotera securities pursuant to the November 20, 2020 IPO; pursuant to the March 18, 2021 SPO; and/or between November 20, 2020 and September 19, 2022 both dates inclusive (the “Class Period”). Investors have until March 27, 2023 to apply to the Court to be appointed as lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.
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Sotera provides sterilization and lab testing and advisory services to the medical device and pharmaceutical industries. The Company operates through three businesses: Sterigenics, Nordion, and Nelson Labs. Through its Sterigenics brand, which accounts for the majority of Sotera’s annual revenues, Sotera provides outsourced terminal sterilization services for the medical device and pharmaceutical markets. Terminal sterilization is the process of sterilizing a product in its final packaging.
The Company’s sterilization services rely on three primary technologies, one of which is Ethylene Oxide (“EtO”) processing. EtO processing is a gas sterilization process in which pallets of packaged goods are loaded into a chamber that is then injected with EtO gas to penetrate the packaging. That process emits toxic fumes which must be filtered before being released into the air. Sotera, through its Sterigenics business, conducts or has conducted EtO processing at facilities located in Illinois, California, Georgia, and New Mexico.
In August 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) published an assessment concluding that EtO was significantly more likely to cause cancer than previously known.
In December 2016, the EPA reclassified EtO as a chemical known to be carcinogenic to humans and increased its estimate of EtO’s cancer potency by a multiple of thirty. The EPA has concluded that EtO exposure affects the most vulnerable members of the population, including children, stating that “for a single year of exposure to EtO, the cancer risk is greater for children than for adults . . . because EtO can damage DNA.”
In August 2018, the EPA released the National Air Toxics Assessment (“NATA”)—a screening tool that estimates cancer risks based on emissions data in tens of thousands of census tracts across the United States. The NATA report revealed that people living in communities near Sterigenics’ facilities in Illinois, Georgia, and New Mexico had among the highest cancer rates in the country.
That same month, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report titled “Evaluation of Potential Health Impacts from Ethylene Oxide Emissions.” That report documented the public health impacts of Sterigenics’ emissions on the area surrounding its Illinois facility and revealed the staggering and disproportionate risks of cancer in that area, which included several schools and a daycare.
Beginning in September 2018, shortly after the publication of the EPA’s NATA report, cancer-stricken plaintiffs filed a surge of lawsuits in Illinois against Sotera, alleging that EtO emissions from the Company’s sterilization facility had caused their cancer.
On September 30, 2019, after significant pressure from the public and action taken against the Company by Illinois regulators, Sotera announced the closure of its Illinois facility. Beginning in August 2020, just months before the IPO, cancer-stricken plaintiffs living in proximity to a Sterigenics facility in Georgia filed lawsuits similar to those filed in Illinois.
On November 20, 2020, Sotera conducted its IPO, ultimately selling 53.59 million shares of common stock at $23 per share for gross proceeds of more than $1.2 billion. Months later, on March 18, 2021, the Company conducted the SPO, through which selling shareholders, including affiliates of Sotera’s private equity shareholders, Warburg Pincus LLC (“Warburg Pincus”) and GTCR, LLC (“GTCR”), as well as Sotera’s CEO, sold 25 million shares of Sotera common stock at $27 per share for $675 million in gross proceeds.
In the Offering Materials (defined below) issued in connection with the Offerings, and throughout the Class Period, Sotera made numerous materially false and misleading representations concerning its emissions control systems and exposure to liability from lawsuits for the Company’s failure to limit harmful EtO emissions. The Company represented that it had “a proactive [environmental, health and safety] program and a culture of safety and quality.” In addition, Sotera stated that it employed adequate and effective safeguards to control EtO emissions. Moreover, Sotera and its executives vehemently denied allegations that the Company’s EtO emissions from its sterilization facilities caused cancer and other severe health issues in people living in the communities near those facilities.
These and similar statements made throughout the Class Period were false. In truth, Sotera and its senior executives and controlling shareholders knew, or at a minimum, recklessly disregarded, that for years the Company failed to employ effective emissions control systems to prevent the release of excessive amounts of toxic EtO gas from its sterilization facilities. Those deficiencies exposed people living in the surrounding communities to a significantly increased risk of cancer and subjected Sotera to an increased risk of liability from hundreds of EtO-related lawsuits. As a result of these misrepresentations, shares of Sotera stock traded at artificially inflated prices throughout the Class Period.
Investors began to learn the truth on September 19, 2022, when an Illinois state court jury in the first lawsuit arising from Sotera’s EtO emissions to go to trial, captioned Kamuda v. Sterigenics U.S., LLC, No. 18 L 10475 (Ill. Cir. Ct.) (“Kamuda”), found Sotera liable for the plaintiff’s cancer. Specifically, the jury awarded the plaintiff $363 million in damages, including $38 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages. Of great significance for Sotera investors, the jury cited Sotera’s and Sterigenics’ “willful and wanton” misconduct in not preventing toxic EtO emissions, and failing to warn about the severe health hazard posed by the Company’s Illinois facility. As a result of these disclosures, Sotera’s stock price declined by $4.90 per share, or 33.3%, from $14.73 per share on September 16, 2022, to $9.83 per share on September 19, 2022.
On September 19, 2022, after the market closed, news reports revealed that the jury verdict in the Kamuda case was supported by “[e]mails and corporate documents” that showed “the companies knew long ago” about the toxic effects of EtO. Despite that knowledge, Sotera “delayed installing pollution-control equipment and attempted to undermine federal regulations that would require costly improvements at sterilization facilities.”
The next day, on September 20, 2022, analysts at Goldman Sachs downgraded Sotera stock, noting a significantly greater risk to Sotera in future EtO-related litigation due to facts that emerged in the Kamuda case and “possible bands of outcome being so open ended that it creates a material overhang on the stock for the foreseeable future.” As a result of these disclosures, Sotera’s stock price declined by an additional $1.63 per share, or 16.6%, from $9.83 per share on September 19, 2022, to $8.20 per share on September 20, 2022.
Then, on September 21, 2022, analysts at JP Morgan downgraded Sotera stock after finding that “investors are likely to price in this unprecedented ruling as a higher probability of a larger settlement or subsequent payouts of the 700+ remaining individual lawsuits, which [Sotera] could potentially not afford.” As a result of these disclosures, Sotera’s stock price declined by an additional $0.88 per share, or 10.7%, from $8.20 per share on September 20, 2022, to $7.32 per share on September 21, 2022—more than 68% below the IPO price of $23 per share, and nearly 73% below the SPO price of $27 per share.
As a result of Defendants’ wrongful acts and omissions, and the precipitous decline in the market value of the Company’s shares, Plaintiffs and other Class members have suffered significant losses and damages.
If you purchased or otherwise acquired Sotera shares and suffered a loss, are a long-term stockholder, have information, would like to learn more about these claims, or have any questions concerning this announcement or your rights or interests with respect to these matters, please contact Brandon Walker or Melissa Fortunato by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone at (212) 355-4648, or by filling out this contact form. There is no cost or obligation to you.
About Bragar Eagel & Squire, P.C.:
Bragar Eagel & Squire, P.C. is a nationally recognized law firm with offices in New York, California, and South Carolina. The firm represents individual and institutional investors in commercial, securities, derivative, and other complex litigation in state and federal courts across the country. For more information about the firm, please visit www.bespc.com. Attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes.
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Bragar Eagel & Squire, P.C.
Brandon Walker, Esq.
Melissa Fortunato, Esq.