Lawsuits alleging violations of the securities laws showed a strong comeback in the third quarter of 2009, according to an Advisen report released on October 14, 2009 (here). The report, the latest in a quarterly series from Advisen, reports that securities lawsuit filings were up "solidly" in the third quarter after a relative decline in the second quarter. Advisen’s report is directionally consistent with my own prior analysis of third quarter securities class action lawsuit filings, which can be found here.


One absolutely critical thing to understand about the Advisen report is that it uses its own unique terminology. As reflected on page 2 of the report, the report uses the term "securities suit" to describe a broad range of lawsuits beyond just securities class action lawsuits. As used in the report, the term "securities suits" includes, beyond the class actions, regulatory and enforcement actions; collective actions outside the United States; lawsuits alleging common law torts, contract law violations and breaches of fiduciary duty; derivative actions; and any other "securities-related suit" that impacts management liability insurance policies other than ERISA liability suits.


In addition, the report uses the phrase "securities fraud suits" to describe regulatory and enforcement actions brought by the SEC and other regulatory and enforcement agencies. Importantly this category of "securities fraud suits" also includes "cases brought by private parties alleging violations of securities laws that are not styled as class actions."


The report notes with respect to the broader category of "securities suits," as that term is used in the report, that there were 169 "securities suits" in the third quarter, which represents an 11 percent increase over the second quarter of 2009.


The report also notes that there were 55 new securities class action lawsuits in the third quarter of 2009, up from 38 cases in the second quarter, but down from 59 in the third quarter of 2008. The securities class action filing rate through the first three quarters of 2009 annualizes to 220 new lawsuits, which is "below the 230 filed in 2008 but well within its historical range."


The class action securities cases were, however, only the second largest subcategory among the larger group of "securities cases" (as that term is used in the report) filed in the third quarter. The largest subcategory among "securities cases" in the third quarter was "securities fraud cases" (which, again, is the term that the report uses to describe securities-related regulatory and enforcement actions, as well as private securities suits that are not filed as class actions), of which there were 70, up from 50 in 2Q09.


Overall, the securities class action lawsuits continue to represent an increasingly smaller proportion of all "securities suit" filings. The report notes that the proportion of securities class action lawsuit filings as a percentage of all "securities suits" has "been on a long downward trend." Whereas in the past, securities class action lawsuits have represented a majority of all "securities suits," in the third quarter, securities class action lawsuits represented just 33 percent of all "securities suits."


The report also notes that though filings against financial firms "remained strong" in the third quarter, new filings were more "widely dispersed" among other sectors than in the first half of the year. The report also notes that new Madoff and credit crisis-related suits "dropped substantially" in the third quarter compared to the first half of the year.


The report also notes the "long-term trend of growing numbers of suits against non-U.S. companies." Specifically, the report notes "the number of large securities suit filings against non-U.S. companies" are on a "long-term growth path."


With respect to potential insurance, the report notes that there is a growing number of "securities suits" that potentially trigger insurance coverage other than D&O insurance. The report notes that this trend "started in 2008 and continued in 2009," largely due to the filing of credit crisis and Madoff-related lawsuits. These cases may even be excluded by D&O policies but covered by E&O or fiduciary liability policies.


The Advisen report introduces a couple of nifty new features this quarter. First, the report includes a "Sector Impact Metric," which is designed to show the degree to which "securities suits" hit various industrial sectors over the past decade. The other new feature is the "Market Cap Impact Metric," which measures the market capitalization loss experienced by companies with securities class action lawsuits.


Speaker’s Corner: On Friday, October 16, 2009 at 11 am EDT, Advisen will be hosting a webinar to discuss the third quarter, in which I will be participating along with Arthur J. Gallagher’s Phil Norton, Zurich’s Paul Schiavone, and Advisen’s David Bradford. The session will be moderated by Advisen’s Jim Blinn. In addition to reviewing trends of securities litigation during the third quarter, the panel will discuss appropriate D&O limits.Registration for the webinar can be found here.