The 2008 securities lawsuit filings were dominated by new lawsuits filed against companies in the financial sector, as has been well-documented elsewhere (refer here). But while lawsuits against financial companies were the most prominent feature of the 2008 securities filings, there were also a significant number of lawsuits filed against companies outside the financial sector. In particular, life sciences companies, which historically have experienced a heightened level of securities litigation exposure, suffered a significant level of litigation activity once again in 2008.
For purposes of this post, I am including under the heading "life sciences" companies any company either in SIC Code series 283 (Drugs) or in SIC Code series 384 (Surgical, Medical and Dental Instruments and Supplies). Reasonable minds could differ about whether additional categories should also be included within life sciences companies, but the interests of simplicity and consistency with my own prior analyses support this categorical definition.
A review of the 2008 securities lawsuit filings shows that, notwithstanding the primacy of litigation involving financial companies during the year, heightened securities litigation activity involving life sciences companies continued in 2008.
According to my analyses, during 2008, there were 15 new securities lawsuits filed against companies in the 283 SIC Code series, including nine in the 2834 SIC Code category (Pharmaceutical Preparations). There were also eight securities lawsuits filed against companies in the 384 SIC Code category, including five in the 3845 SIC Code category (Electromedical Apparatus).
The fact that there were 23 new securities lawsuits filed against life sciences companies in 2008 is quite remarkable given the predominance of the credit crisis litigation wave.
The total number of life sciences lawsuits is significant in relative terms as well. By way of comparison to the 23 new securities lawsuits filed against life sciences companies in 2008, there were 21 securities lawsuits filed against life sciences companies in 2007. (My detailed analysis of the 2007 life sciences securities lawsuits can be found here.)
The fact that the number of lawsuits filed against life sciences companies actually increased in 2008 is extraordinary in light of the extent of the surging credit crisis litigation wave.
The 23 securities lawsuits filed against life sciences companies in 2008 represents approximately 10% of the total of 226 new securities lawsuits overall that were filed in 2008, which is comparable to the 12% that life sciences lawsuits represented of 2007 securities lawsuit filings.
That this significant of a percentage of securities litigation activity is unrelated to the credit crisis litigation wave underscores a point I have previously emphasized (for example, here), that while the subprime and credit crisis-related litigation wave is a significant factor driving securities lawsuits filing activity, it is by no means the sole factor.
The lawsuits filed against life sciences companies in 2008 involved a wide variety of allegations. The most common allegation, asserted in five of the lawsuits, is that the defendant company misrepresented the results or progress of one or more of its clinical trials. Lawsuits filed against four companies alleged financial misstatements or improper revenue recognition.
Other lawsuits involved allegations relating to disclosures about product efficacy; manufacturing deficiencies or controls; merger integration issues; misrepresentations about an officer’s credentials; intellectual property concerns; and product commercial viability.
The attributes of these companies that most frequently attract litigation is the combination of their susceptibility to disruptive events and the vulnerability of their share prices. These kinds of setbacks are an almost inevitable attribute of the regulatory and scientific environment in which these companies operate. However, these kinds of risks are also often comprehensively disclosed.
As a result, though life sciences companies are frequently sued, they have not proven to be easy targets. As I noted here and here, lawsuits filed against life sciences companies are frequently dismissed. Nevertheless, life sciences companies continue to attract the unwanted attention of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Securities Litigation Survey: Readers interested in securities litigation topics under the year-in- review heading will want to take a look at the January 2009 memorandum by the Skadden law firm entitled "Securities Litigation 2008 – Noteworthy Decisions" (here). The memorandum does a particularly good job briefly summarizing the eleven decisions discussed as well as identifying the significance of the decisions.
Early Registration Deadline Approaching: The early registration deadline for the C5 D&O Liability Insurance Conference is approaching. The Conference is scheduled to take place March 24 and 25, 2009 in London. As reflected in the program brochure, which can be accessed here, the program has a number of interesting speakers and will be addressing many of the current hot topics in D&O insurance. I will be participating in a panel entitled "Current Litigation Trends in Europe and the US: Are Class Actions on the Horizon?"
The early registration deadline for this conference is February 9, 2009, after which the registration fee becomes considerably more expense.