Serial Class Actions Against Israeli Public Companies for Failing to Meet Mandatory Accessibility Requirements
Dozens of motions were filed in recent weeks to certify class actions against some of the most well-known and leading publicly traded companies and reporting corporations in Israel. These motions to certify class actions are similar in nature (apart from the different defendants) and most were filed by the same plaintiffs-petitioners and through the same attorneys.
Corporations must publish immediate and periodic reports on a regular basis via the Israel Securities Authority’s online system (MAGNA) and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s online system (MAYA). Accordingly, corporations publish various reports via these platforms and attach documents to some of them (financial statements, immediate and periodic reports, prospectuses, etc.).
The main allegation in these proceedings is that the defendant corporations failed to perform the adjustments needed to make their reports and attached documents accessible to people with disabilities. If true, this would be a violation of the provisions of the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law, 1998 and the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Regulations (Service Accessibility Adjustments), 2013, which the plaintiffs allege apply to the defendant corporations under the circumstances.
To put it simply, these class actions allege the defendant corporations are discriminating against people with disabilities and denying them the possibility (entirely or partially) of examining the contents of reports and planning their next steps accordingly. The plaintiffs are petitioning the court to order each defendant corporation to make service accessibility adjustments to their reports and documents and to award pecuniary relief to the plaintiffs totaling millions of shekels.
Our firm is representing a significant number of the defendant corporations. Additionally, other publicly traded companies have asked us to issue an opinion about the applicability of the law’s provisions regarding the obligation to make reports accessible.
Ostensibly, and even though the proceedings have just now begun, numerous questions have already arisen. Do the law’s provisions indeed apply to the corporations themselves under the circumstances (or to other entities)? How and to what extent is it possible to implement the law’s provisions in relation to specific reports on the relevant platforms? Were accessibility adjustments indeed not performed in a way that prevented people with disabilities from examining the reports?
There is no dispute about the importance of making accessibility adjustments for people with disabilities and of diligently complying with the law’s provisions. However, there are disagreements about the parties on whom to impose this obligation, under what circumstances, and whether there is justification to certify class actions at an aggregate sum of tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of shekels.