On April 14, 2010, the insurance information firm Advisen released its analysis of first quarter 2010 securities litigation filings and trends. The quarterly report, which is entitled "Securities Suits Ease Back to Normal Following a Frantic Two Years," can be accessed here. As detailed below, the Advisen report concludes that the securities lawsuit filing activity "floated back to earth in 2010, to a pre-credit crisis plateau."




Before any attempt can be made to try to read the Advisen report, it is absolutely indispensible to understand that the Advisen report uses its own terminology. 


The most important thing to understand is that the Advisen report uses the term "securities litigation" to include a very broad range of kinds of lawsuits, including not just securities class action lawsuits, but also derivative actions, regulatory and enforcement actions, individual lawsuits, and collective actions in courts outside the United States. 


The Advisen report also apparently includes within the category "securities lawsuits" cases that many readers might not think of as "securities claims," including claims alleging "common law torts, contract violations and breaches of fiduciary duties."


The Advisen report uses the term "securities lawsuits" basically to mean any type of corporate or securities litigation (other than ERISA litigation), regardless whether or not the legal action was commenced in the U.S. or even apparently whether it alleges a violation of the securities laws. Because of the enormous variety of litigation encompassed within this category, throughout this post I have put the phrase "securities lawsuits" or "securities litigation" in quotation marks. 


The Advisen report also uses the phrase "securities fraud" lawsuits as a subset of the larger group of "securities lawsuits." Contrary to what you might expect, however, the category of "securities fraud" lawsuits does not include class action lawsuits alleging securities fraud – securities fraud class action lawsuits are their own separate category ("SCAS"). Instead, the phrase is used to refer to regulatory and enforcement actions — yet somehow also includes private securities lawsuits that are not filed as class actions.


So the "securities fraud" lawsuit category includes, in addition to regulatory and enforcement actions, lawsuits alleging fraud under the federal securities laws if the fraud is alleged by an individual but not if it is alleged on behalf of a class.


The Report’s Conclusions

Though the Advisen report’s title suggests that "securities litigation" is "back to normal," overall what the report seems to show is that "securities litigation" declined in the first quarter relative to recent periods.


Thus the report shows that there were 178 "securities lawsuits" (again, as that term is very broadly defined in the report). This first quarter filing rate for this broad category of litigation is down 34 percent from the final quarter of 2009 and 39 percent compared the year prior first quarter. This relative reduction in filing activity appears to be due to the decline in the number of credit crisis and Madoff-related lawsuits.


The 178 "securities lawsuits" in the first quarter represents an annualized filing rate of 712 "securities lawsuits," which would be 29 percent below the 2009 total number of "securities lawsuits" of 1,003.


This filing decline also affected the number of securities class action lawsuit filings as well. (Again, securities class action lawsuits, or "SCAS," represent a subset of "securities lawsuits.") According to the Advisen study, there were 38 securities class action lawsuits filed in the first quarter, which would represent an annualized filing rate of only 152 lawsuits. (Just by way of comparison, Cornerstone reports that the annual average number of securities class action lawsuits during the period 1996 to 2008 was 197.)


In continuation of a recent trend, the proportion of securities class action lawsuits as a percentage of all "securities lawsuits" continued to decline in the first quarter of 2010. Securities class action lawsuits represent 21 percent of all "securities lawsuits" in the first quarter of 2010, down from 23 percent in all of 2009, and 28 percent in 2004.


Though the decline in quarterly filing activity is attributable to the decline in Madoff and credit crisis-related lawsuit filings, financial firms remained the most frequently targeted. Financial firms were named as defendants in 31 percent of all "securities lawsuits," down from 39 percent in 2009 and 42 percent in 2008.


In addition to this still significant but declining level of filings involving financial companies, the report also notes "a wider spread of suits by industry sector," including the following sectors, indentified by their prevalence as targets as a percentage of all "securities suits"; "information technology (14 percent), consumer discretionary (13 percent), healthcare (11 percent), and industrials (11 percent).


Seventeen (or ten percent) of first quarter 2010 "securities lawsuits" were filed against non-U.S companies, down from 12 percent in all of 2009. The report states that there was "one large suit [against a non-U.S. company] filed in a non-U.S. court." The report does not define what is meant by "large."


Advisen Webinar: On Friday On Friday April 16, 2010, I will be participating in an Advisen webinar, entitled "First Quarter Securities Litigation Review," to discuss first quarter 2010 securities lawsuit filings as well as other first quarter securities litigation developments. Other participants in the webinar, which will take place at 11:00 am EDT, include Ken Ross from Willis, ACE’s Scott Meyer, Wilkie Farr’s Michael Young, and Advisen’s David Bradford. Advisen’s Jim Blinn will moderate. Registration information for the webinar can be found here. 



Reader Advisory: Terminology Matters!