NERA Economic Consulting and Cornerstone Research have released their respective 2021 annual reports on federal securities class action filings. As usual, the different methodologies employed by the two organizations have led to slightly different numbers, although they both identify the same general trends.
The findings for 2021 include:
(1) The reports agree that there was a significant decline in filings, primarily driven by a sharp drop in the number of M&A-related filings (down over 80%). NERA finds that there were 205 filings (compared with 321 filings in 2020), while Cornerstone finds that there were 218 filings (compared with 333 filings in 2020).
(2) Both NERA and Cornerstone analyzed the number of filings with COVID-19 related claims: NERA identifies 20 filings with COVID-19-related claims (less than in 2020), while Cornerstone identified 17 filings with COVID-19-related claims (the same as in 2020, but with fewer filings in the second half of the year).
(3) Filings related to special purpose acquisition companies (SPACS) rose significantly, constituting more than 10% of all filings. NERA identified 24 SPAC-related cases, while Cornerstone identified 32 SPAC-related cases.
(4) The Second Circuit (New York) and Ninth Circuit (California) traditionally have been the locations with the most filings, but that peaked this past year. According to Cornerstone, 72% of all standard filings were brought in those courts, the highest combined proportion of any two circuits since tracking began in 1997.
(5) NERA finds that if settlements related to merger objections, settlements with no cash payment to the class, and individual cases with settlements of $1 billion or greater are removed, the annual average settlement value in 2021 was $21 million. That is the lowest annual average within the most recent 10 years.