Securities Litigation Declined in 2009

Securities litigation declined significantly in 2009 compared with 2008, according to a study by accounting firm and consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Federal class-action filings in 2009 were 26% below 2008 levels, and financial crisis-related lawsuits were 48% below 2008, according to a PwC press release. Financial services companies remained the most popular target, named in 41% of total filings—down 7% from 2008.

The study found regulators and institutional investors were less involved in 2009 litigation. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was involved in 11% of cases in 2009, down from 19% in 2008; while institutional investors were lead plaintiffs in 48% of total filings, down from 50% in 2008.  

About 20% of all 2009 lawsuits targeted Fortune 500 companies, which was 3% below 2008 levels but still the third-highest level since 1995.

PwC found the lag time between filing a lawsuit and the end of a class period increased markedly in 2009 to almost 218 days, 71% higher than the 127-day average in 2008. Between 1995 and 2008, lawsuits on average were filed 114 days after the end of the class date. 

A January report from Cornerstone Research and the Stanford University Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse found some differences in data regarding securities fraud lawsuits (see “Securities Class Action Settlements Lower in 2008”), but PwC noted that the Cornerstone study and the its study use different definitions of what constitutes a new securities lawsuit.