On March 31, 2008, Cornerstone Research released its review and analysis of 2007 securities class action settlements. Cornerstone’s press release can be found here and the full report can be found here. The Cornerstone Report differs in certain particulars from the previously released NERA Economic Consulting report (about which refer here), but the two reports are directionally consistent.

Cornerstone’s press release emphasizes that the aggregate dollar value of all settlements was down 60% compared to 2006, but the full report emphasizes that, when the four largest settlements are removed from the analysis, the aggregate value of all settlements in 2007 exceeded all prior years except the unprecedented year of 2006.

The full report also highlights that the median securities class action settlement reached an all-time high of $9.0 million in 2007, compared to a median of $6.9 million for the years 1996 through 2006. The increase in the median settlement in 2007 is “partly due to the fact that the percentage of cases settling for $10-20 million increased substantially from prior years.” On the other hand, the number of settlements in excess of $100 million declined from 14 in 2006 to only nine in 2007.

According to the Cornerstone report, the average securities class action settlement fell from $105 million in 2006 (excluding the Enron settlement) to $62.7 million in 2007. But the 2007 average still exceeded the average of $54.7 million for the years 1996 through 2006.

The Cornerstone report examines the factors affecting settlement amounts and concludes that the presence of institutional investors lead plaintiffs and the existence of parallel shareholders’ derivative lawsuits both tend to have an upward effect on settlement values.

The press release quotes Stanford Law Professor Joseph Grundfest as saying that “it seems clear that the aggregate dollar value of settlements over the next two or three years is likely to decline significantly because the inventory of large cases in the pipeline just isn’t there. The interesting open question is whether the subprime crisis will cause an uptick in securities fraud settlement activity that might, given the settlement cycles in the litigation industry, only become apparent three to five years from now.”

The differences between the analysis in the Cornerstone and NERA Economic Consulting reports appears to be due at least in part to the different methods the two studies used to categorize settlements by settlement year, with one report categorizing the settlements by the year in which the settlement was announced and the other report categorizing the settlement by the year in which it was approved.