A recurring theme on this blog has been the growing threat of civil litigation following in the wake of increased Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement activity. (Refer for example, here.) A recent study both establishes both the overall scale of FCPA enforcement activity and quantifies the magnitude of the FCPA follow-on securities litigation.
The January 28, 2009 NERA Economic Consulting study, entitled "FCPA Settlements: It’s a Small World After All" (here) reports that since 2002, SEC and DOJ litigation and class actions involving the FCPA have "increased steadily," with over "$1.2 billion in settlements and penalties involving more than 30 countries during that period."
While this impressive number is inflated by the $800 million penalty and disgorgement recently imposed on Siemens, it also apparently does not include the pending $559 million settlement to which Halliburton recently agreed.
The Report, which draws on a database of all FCPA settlements between 2002 and 2008, includes a list of the ten largest regulatory settlements (again, not including the pending Halliburton settlement), which range between $16 million and $800 million. These figures include settlements with both the SEC and the DOJ.
What makes this Report really interesting is its analysis of settlements of securities class action lawsuits based on FCPA-related allegations.
The Report states that in securities fraud class action lawsuits arising from alleged FCPA violations a total of $84.4 million has been paid in settlements between 2002 and 2008. The Report further notes that if the outsized Siemens settlement is removed from the analysis, the settlements related to securities class action lawsuits represent 21% of all of the total FCPA-related civil and regulatory settlement by public companies during the period 2002 through 2008.
Based on the author’s review of several recently settled FCPA-related class action settlements, the Report concludes that "the behavior connected to the alleged FCPA violation can sometimes have a lasting impact on the company’s business." The class action settlements demonstrate "the link between alleged FCPA violations, ongoing revenue and the potentially large impact on firm value."
The Report also contains a table reflecting the market-adjusted price reactions to FCPA-related news and announcements. Analysis of the data shows that "the majority of companies that exhibited statistically significant price reactions at the 5% level to FCPA-related news had resulting 10b-5 actions filed against them."
The Report concludes by stating that as a result of globalization trends, coordinated regulatory activity and record-keeping requirements, FCPA enforcement is a growing priority around the world, and states that "as FCPA-enforcement against domestic and foreign issuers increases, it is likely that related securities litigation will be an issue in many of these cases."
The NERA Report’s detailed analysis is very interesting and is also quite consistent with my own analysis of the growing liability threat that FCPA enforcement activity represents. The Report also provides statistical support for my view, expressed here, that "the proliferation of this type of litigation activity and the significant involvement of the leading plaintiffs’ firms suggests that this category of emerging litigation may represent an increasingly important area of potential liability to directors and officers."
This growing liability exposure also raises a number of potentially significant D&O insurance coverage issues, which I discussed at length in the June/July 2008 issue of InSights, which can be found here.
My recent post analyzing the opinion in the InVision case, in which the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a securities class action lawsuit that had been based on FCPA-related allegations, can be found here.
A recent post with a year-end 2008 FCPA update can be found here.