NERA Economic Consulting and Cornerstone Research have released their respective 2019 annual reports on federal securities class action filings. As usual, the different methodologies employed by the two organizations have led to different numbers, although they both identify the same general trends.
The findings for 2019 include:
(1) The reports agree that there continue to be a record or near-record number of filings, with an increase in “standard” filings alleging violations of Rule 10b-5, Section 11, and/or Section 12 offsetting a decline in M&A-related cases. NERA finds that there were 433 filings (the same as the 433 filings in 2018), while Cornerstone finds that there were 428 filings (compared with 420 filings in 2018).
(2) Over the last few years, the Second Circuit and Ninth Circuit have had a similar number of standard filings. In 2019, however, both NERA and Cornerstone report that the number of Second Circuit standard filings was nearly double the number of Ninth Circuit standard filings (NERA – 103 (2d) v. 52 (9th); Cornerstone 108 (2d) v. 56 (9th)). The Third Circuit had the next highest number of filings (NERA – 28; Cornerstone – 32).
(3) Filings against foreign issuers had steadily increased from 2013-2017, with these companies facing a disproportionate (as compared to their percentage of listings) risk of securities class action litigation. In 2018, the numbers took a dip, but they have rebounded to a record high. Cornerstone finds that there were 57 standard filings against foreign issuers in 2019, representing 24.3% of all standard filings.
(4) NERA reports a sharp increase in standard filings based on missed earnings guidance (from an average of 20% of filings over the past four years to 32% of filings in 2019).
(5) NERA finds that the average settlement value ($30 million) held steady and the median ($12.8 million) settlement value increased slightly. However, the median settlement values in 2018 and 2019 were more than 25% higher than the median settlement values in the previous three years, reflecting a downward trend in the proportion of cases settled for less than $10 million.