RICHMOND, Va. -- A federal judge has given preliminary approval to a proposed settlement with former Massey Energy investors who claim they were misled about the company's safety record before a 2010 mine disaster.
U.S. District Judge Irene Berger OK'd Alpha Natural Resources' $265 million settlement with the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board last week. A hearing is set for June, according to Alpha.
In court filings, Alpha said it still denies all allegations of wrongdoing and liability, but is settling to "eliminate the burden, expense, uncertainty and distraction of further litigation."
A fatal blast that killed 29 miners occurred in April 2010 at Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County. The plaintiffs in this case allege the blast was the result of Massey’s top executives ignoring dangerous conditions at their mines, says a complaint filed seven weeks after the incident. Massey subsidiary Performance Coal owned the mine. Alpha bought Massey Energy in 2011 for $7.1 billion in cash and stock.
Earlier this month, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia closed the Non-Prosecution Agreement that Alpha entered into on Dec. 6, 2011.
"We are pleased that the U.S. Attorney determined that Alpha has met or exceeded its obligations under the NPA," Alpha Executive Vice President and General Counsel Vaughn Groves said. "Throughout this process, we remained committed to responsibly addressing the UBB tragedy and resolving Massey's liabilities, while implementing safety measures, training and research that will make our industry safer for miners not just today, but well into the future.
"We focused on strengthening our safety culture so that the results of this NPA will be positive and permanent. We appreciate the trust that U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and his office had in Alpha to enter into the NPA and we believe that the substantial safety achievements that Alpha has made these past two years have justified that trust. "