Cornerstone Releases Report on Settlements

Cornerstone Research has released its annual report on securities class action settlements. The notable findings include:

(1) There were 53 settlements in 2012, involving $2.9 billion in total settlement funds. While the overall number of settlements represents a 14-year low, the total settlement funds increased by more than 100% from 2011. The increase in total settlement funds was due in large part to an increase in $100m+ settlements (accounting for nearly 75 percent of all settlement funds in 2012).

(2) The average reported settlement amount increased from $21.6 million (2011) to $54.7 million (2012). There also was a sharp increase in the median settlement amount from $5.9 million (2011) to $10.2 million (2012). The key factor identified by Cornerstone as responsible for the increase in settlement values was a spike in the median “estimated damages” associated with the settled cases (a significant portion of which were related to the credit crisis).

(3) More than 50% of the settled cases were accompanied by a derivative action filing, compared with a post-Reform Act average of 30%. The presence of a derivative action historically coincides with a higher settlement value for the related securities class action.

Quote of Note (press release): “Class action securities fraud litigation is, like many other lines of business, ‘hit driven,’ in that a small number of settlements often account for a large percentage of the dollar flow. That fact of life can make annual settlement data quite lumpy. Settlement trends are often best viewed over time periods longer than a year, and by carefully analyzing settlement data to reflect the underlying characteristics of the cases being settled. So, just as a lull in last year’s data suggested a pickup for this year in the aggregate statistics, it is always possible that this year’s bump could cause total settlement dollars to tick downward next year.”

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