On January 27, 2010, NERA Economic Consulting released its updated annual review of Canadian securities class litigation entitled "Trends in Canadian Securities Class Actions: 2009 Update" (here). The report presents an interesting study of the evolution of class action litigation in a jurisdiction outside the U.S.
According to the report, there were eight new securities class action lawsuits filed in 2009, which is fewer that the ten filed in 2008 "but still greater than filings in previous years." With the addition of the eight new cases, there are now 23 pending securities class actions, representing more than $14.7 billion in claims. Most of these cases were filed in the last three years although some of the pending cases were filed almost 10 years ago.
Though the number of new filings is noteworthy, the more significant developments may be the class certifications in three cases and the ruling allowing the IMAX securities class action plaintiffs leave to proceed under the new Ontario securities laws. (My prior detailed discussion of the rulings in the IMAX case can be found here.). The NERA report comments that these rulings "may ultimately prove to be an inflection point" for securities class action litigation in Canada.
Though there were significant new filings in 2009, one noteworthy feature of the cases that were filed is the "absence in Canada of class actions filings relating to the credit crisis." This absence may be due in part to the relatively smaller impact of the credit crisis in Canada compared to the U.S. and the negotiated $32 billion restructuring of the Canadian Asset Backed Commercial Paper market, which may have preempted further litigation.
Six cases settled in 2009 for a total of approximately $51 million, for an average of approximately $8.5 million and a median of approximately $9 million (which is roughly comparable to the median settlement of U.S. securities class action lawsuits). 2009 settlements averaged 13.7% of the amount of claimed damages. Cases with cross-border litigation counterparts in the U.S. tended to settle for larger amounts both in terms of absolute dollars and as a percentage of claimed damages.
According to a January 27, 2010 article in the Vancouver Sun (here), the number of filings and the procedural developments (including the rulings in the IMAX case) are "a wake up call for publicly traded companies." Law firms are "advising their clients to revisit their compliance and corporate-governance procedures to protect against similar suits."
One lawyer quoted in the article says that he is also advising his clients to review their corporate insurance, as well. He goes on to state that "We’ve seen over the years there are a lot of problems in terms of clients don’t really have the type of coverage they need."
Yet, as for the question of whether there may be a flood of litigation, one plaintiffs’ attorney quoted in the article sounds a note of caution. The attorney, Dimitri Lascaris, who is one of the lead attorneys in the IMAX case, notes that that the Canadian system still provides for adverse costs, and even the liberalized standard under the new Ontario law are time consuming and expensive. So, he says, "we’re never going to achieve the level of activity in securities class actions that we see in the United States."
In light of these developments and their potential significance regarding insurance coverage, the session planned for the upcoming PLUS D&O Symposium (scheduled next Wednesday and Thursday in New York) on the topic of Canadian Securities Class Action Litigation is quite timely. The panel will be moderated by my friend Dave Williams from Chubb (Canada) and planned speakers include a number of prominent players in the area in Canada, including Dimitri Lascaris. Information about the Symposium can be found here.
The Securities Litigation Watch blog has a post about the NERA study here.
Excess Side A Carrier Contributes to Options Backdating Settlement: On January 25, 2010, a judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania preliminarily approved the settlement of the options backdating lawsuit that had been filed against Black Box, as nominal defendant and certain of its directors and officers. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to pay plaintiffs’ counsel $1.6 million and the company agreed to adopt certain corporate governance measures.
As reflected in the parties’ stipulation of settlement (here), as part of the settlement, the company is to receive a payment of $1.5 million from its Excess Side A carrier as well as another $500,000 from its EPL carrier.
According to a January 25, 2010 article about the settlement in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (here), the company also separately settled a claim against the company by its former CEO, who left the company in connection with the options backdating related matters. At the time he left, the CEO claimed, the company took away over $19.6 million in options related compensation. The company settled these claims for its agreement to pay $4 million.
The Black Box settlement marks the second instance of which I am aware in which an Excess Side A carrier contributed toward an options backdating related derivative lawsuit settlement. (The first instance is the Broadcom settlement, about which refer here.) This is yet another instance where Excess Side A insurance is being called on to provide protection outside of the insolvency context. As I have previously noted, the Excess Side A carrier’s contribution to these settlements may be a significant development for the carriers, who have offered the product in a largely low loss environment, at least outside the insolvency context.
The settlement with the CEO is an odd component of this settlement. There aren’t many of these cases where the former CEO who left as a result of backdating related issues walked away with a cash payment.
I have in any event added the Black Box settlement to my table of options backdating related lawsuit settlements and dismissal motion rulings, which can be accessed here.
SEC Will Issue Guidance on Climate Change Disclosure: On January 27, 2010, the SEC voted 3-2 to provide interpretive guidance on existing dislosure requirements to require climate change related disclosure under certain circumstances. The SEC's January 27 release can be found here. The SEC's release states that the interpretive release will be posted on the SEC web site as soon as possible. The news release identifies several examples of situations that might trigger disclosure requirements, including: impact of legislation and regulation; impact of international accords; indirect consequences of regulation or business trends; and physical impacts of climate change.
Suit Against Rating Agencies Dismissed, But Without Reaching First Amendment Issues: According to a January 27, 2010 Am Law Litigation Daily article by Andrew Longstreth (here), Judge Lewis Kaplan has granted the motions of Moody's and S&P to be dismissed from a securities lawsuit filed by certain investors who had invested in certain mortgage-backed securities underrwitten by Lehman Brothers. Judge Kaplan has not yet issued a written opinion but according to the article his opinion was based solely on the fact that the rating agencies didn't have anything to do with the offering documents at issue in the case. HIs ruling reportedly did not reach the rating agencies first amendment defenses (about which refer here.)