Shareholders file class-action suit against Panera

RICHMOND HEIGHTS Mo. Shareholders have filed a class-action lawsuit against Panera Bread Co. and several of its officers, alleging the company failed to disclose information in late 2005 and the first seven months of 2006 that could have influenced their investment decisions. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.

The lawsuit charges the defendants with violating securities law by not disclosing information that would have softened the surprises that were delivered to investors and Wall Street on July 27, 2006. On that date, according to the lawsuit, Panera shocked the investment community by announcing second-quarter results that significantly undershot the chain’s performance trend. Officials were also uncertain about the company’s financial performance for the remainder of the year because sales would depend on a new dinner product, a flat-bread pizza called the Crispani, whose startup costs were characterized at the time as being higher than expected, the suit alleges.

APanera spokesman said in statement, "We believe we have meritorious defenses to the claims in the purported class-action lawsuit that has been filed against us, and we are prepared to vigorously defend the lawsuit."

Panera, which recently dropped the Crispani, currently operates or franchises more than 1,100 bakery-cafes under the Panera Bread and Saint Louis Bread Co. brands.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.