As a result of recent legislative changes, Canadian securities litigation filings increased substantially in 2008, according to a January 26, 2009 Report by NERA Economic Consulting entitled "Trends in Canadian Securities Class Actions: 1997-2008" (here). A January 26, 2009 press release describing the report can be found here.
According to the Report, plaintiffs filed a record nine new securities class action lawsuits in Canada during 2008, which represented an 80% increase over the previous annual maximum and a 125% increase over the prior year.
This level of filing activity is still "miniscule" compare to the securities litigation filings in the U.S., even allowing for the fact that the Canadian securities markets are in the aggregate much smaller than those in the U.S.
However, in recent years, four Canadian provinces have introduced "continuous disclosure" regimes and have enacted civil liability provisions as well. These provisions include certain "gate keeping" mechanisms (including, for example the requirement that the plaintiffs seek leave of court to pursue a class action), but plaintiffs nevertheless seem interested in pursuing relief under these new statutory regimes.
For example there have now been a total of twelve new securities lawsuits filed in Ontario since the 2006 revisions to the relevant laws. (The Ontario Securities Act, as amended, can be found here.)
One of these Ontario cases involves IMAX Corporation, which is also the subject of a U.S. securities lawsuit. As I discussed in a prior post (here), the prospect for Canadian securities actions may have, as the NERA Report puts it, "received a boost" with a ruling in the IMAX case, which permitted the plaintiffs in that case to conduct a certain amount of discovery at the pre-approval state.
As NERA Report observes, "for parallel US-Canada actions, the IMAX ruling may enable plaintiffs to do an end-run around the discovery stay provisions of the PSLRA by brining an action north of the border."
The NERA report also observes that the recent filing in Ontario of a class action against AIG may be an example of this tactic. My prior post discussing the Ontario securities action against AIG and its possible tactical purposes can be found here.
The NERA Reports that among the Canadian filings are cases demonstrating the impact of several trends that have also driven U.S. securities litigation. That is, the 2008 cases include lawsuit filings related to the credit crisis (against CIBC and AIG), as well as cases based on allegations of options backdating.
Nearly one-quarter of the Canadian class actions involve companies in the financial sector, and nearly one fifth involve resources companies.
The Report states that there have been twenty securities class action settlements, but only one (the Southwestern Resources case, which settled for CAN$15.5 million) involved a case brought pursuant to new securities legislation. The Report shows that cross-border cases tend to result in larger settlements than Canadian-only cases.
Overall the Report notes that while the plaintiffs’ bar is "more active than ever" and filed a record number of new lawsuits in 2008, "it remains to be seen whether the gate-keeping aspects of the new amendments to the legislation, as interpreted by the courts, will meaningfully hinder the ability of plaintiffs to prosecute class actions in Canada."