As I noted in a prior post (here), NERA Economic Consulting, in a May 15, 2008 paper (here), had asked the question whether options backdating-related securities class action lawsuits were settling for less than data from prior class action settlements would predict. In the May 15 paper, looking at the settlements to date, NERA found that the options backdating-related securities lawsuit settlements were well below predicted amounts.


NERA has now published an October 22, 2008 paper (here) that revisits its earlier analysis in light of intervening options backdating-related securities settlements.


With respect to the previously observed expectations gap, NERA had hypothesized in its earlier paper that either suits alleging backdating are generally viewed as weaker or the weakest cases had simply settled most quickly.


In its most recent paper, NERA revisits these hypotheses in light of three recent settlements – Brocade Communications, UnitedHealth Group and Monster Worldwide – finding that there may be support for the conclusion that the initial settlements may have been low because the weakest cases settled first. In these three more recent dispositions, the settlements were either at or well above predicted ranges. Indeed, NERA found that the UnitedHealth Group case was as much as five times greater than the predicted amount.


At the same time, NERA noted that four of the more recent settlements were more consistent with prior observations, in that the settlements were below predicted ranges.


In its earlier report, NERA had concluded that on average the options backdating cases were settling for about 38% of the predicted amount. With the addition of the intervening settlements the average settlement is up to about 74% of predicted amounts. However, this increase is largely driven by the inclusion of the UnitedHealth Group settlement. Without the UnitedHealth Group settlement, the average of the options backdating settlements drops to 43% of the predicted amounts.


Nevertheless, based on its analysis (and I am simplifying here), NERA still cannot reject the hypothesis that options backdating-related securities settlements are on average no different than settlements in non-backdating cases with similar level of investor losses and other similar traits.


NERA notes that of the overall options backdating-related securities lawsuits, 17 remain to be settled, which represents a larger group of cases than the 15 cases that have settled to date. It remains to be seen whether or not these remaining cases will or will not settle within expected ranges.


My table showing all options backdating related case dispositions, including settlements and dismissals both for all options backdating-related securities lawsuits and options backdating related derivative lawsuits, can be found here.