The complaint brings forth claims for violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 against Cerence Inc. (“Cerence” or the “Company”) and certain of its senior executives (collectively, “Defendants”). The complaint alleges that Defendants made false and/or misleading statements, as well as failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects on behalf of all persons or entities that purchased Cerence common stock between February 8, 2021 and February 4, 2022, inclusive (the “Class Period”).
Cerence is a Burlington, Massachusetts-based company that focuses on building artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistants primarily for the automotive market. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, supply-chain issues, and the semiconductor shortage, which reduced the global production of automobiles, Cerence continued to report growing revenues and strong demand for software licenses for its products. Cerence even touted its “visibility” into demand for its products by providing revenue guidance for fiscal year 2024 – guidance that drew the attention of securities analysts and that the Company signaled significantly during the Class Period.
The complaint alleges that, during the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and misleading statements and failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects in violation of the Exchange Act and SEC Rule 10b-5. Specifically, Defendants failed to disclose: (1) that the global semiconductor shortage had a materially negative impact on demand for Cerence’s software licenses; (2) that Defendants masked the impact of the semiconductor shortage on demand for the Company’s software licenses by pulling forward sales; and (3) that, as a result of the above, Defendants’ statements about Cerence’s business, operations, and prospects were false and misleading and/or lacked a reasonable basis.
The truth began to emerge during Cerence’s earnings call on November 22, 2021 for the fiscal fourth quarter of 2021 ended on September 30, 2021, causing Cerence’s stock price to fall and investors to suffer substantial losses. On that call, Cerence announced revenue guidance for fiscal year 2022 that was well below analysts’ expectations. In response to this revelation, Cerence’s stock price fell more than 20 percent from a closing price of $104.06 the prior trading day, to a close of $82.59 on November 22, 2021. The Company’s stock price continued to fall another 5% the following day to close at $78.27 on November 23, 2021.
Then, approximately three weeks later, Cerence’s Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) Sanjay Dhawan abruptly resigned. On this news, Cerence’s stock price fell an additional 11% from a closing price of $78.08 on December 14, 2021 to a closing price of $69.20 on December 15, 2021.
Finally, on February 7, 2022, the Company announced results for its fiscal first quarter of 2022 ended on December 31, 2021 and shocked the market with three disclosures. First, the Company announced that Chief Financial Officer Mark Gallenberger would be retiring, effective March 11, 2022. Next, during its earnings conference call, new CEO Stefan Ortmanns announced he had conducted a review of each of the Cerence business units’ plans, forecasts, and assumptions, and determined the “conversion from bookings to revenue will take longer than expected.” As a result, Cerence was forced to lower its fiscal year 2022 guidance, only a few months after providing disappointing guidance for the same period. Finally, Cerence completely withdrew the closely watched fiscal year 2024 guidance. On this news, Cerence’s stock price fell an additional 30%, from a closing price of $63.58 on the prior trading day of February 4, 2022, to close at $43.61 on February 7, 2022.
On May 12, 2022, the Court appointed the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi as Lead Plaintiff and Saxena White as Lead Counsel.
On July 26, 2022, Lead Plaintiff filed the amended complaint. Motion to dismiss briefing conclude in late-November 2022, and a ruling on the motion to dismiss is expected in early-2023.