While many courts are showing a greater willingness to grant motions to dismiss in subprime-related securities class action lawsuits, some cases are surviving dismissal motions and others are settling for hundreds of millions of dollars, as a result of which the "watchword is uncertainty until a more consistent and predictable pattern emerges," according to a recent study.
In a June 2010 report entitled "Subprime Class Actions Revisited," Jonathan Eisenberg of the Skadden law firm examines 14 new subprime-related securities lawsuit rulings issued during the first five months of 2010. This report updates Eisenberg’s prior analysis of 16 dismissal motion rulings entered in 2009.
Eisenberg’s overall conclusions are that "courts are showing more evidence of subprime fatigue and a greater willingness to grant motions to dismiss even in cases that do not require proof of scienter," but while "recent trends have been more favorable for defendants, the results are by no means one-sided, and the final chapters of the subprime class action story have yet to be written."
Eisenberg notes that, by contrast to his earlier study, "more than half of the recent dismissals occurred in non-scienter Securities Act claims." Eisenberg also notes that courts continue to dismiss many of the Section 10(b) claims asserted in the subprime securities class action, "principally, but not exclusively, on the ground that the allegations of scienter are inadequate." Court has also found a number of the allegedly fraudulent statements immaterial as a matter of law.
With respect to the cases that have survived dismissal motions, the basis "overwhelmingly" are allegations related to "declining underwriting standards." In light of the numbers of cases that have survived the dismissal motions, as well as the significant dollar figures involved in some of the settlements, "while the story in the aggregate is positive for defendants, much risk remains in these cases." Overall, Eisenberg finds that he has "not found a single factor that explains the outcomes across all cases."
My running tally, listing (with links) dismissal motions rulings and settlements in all subprime and credit crisis-related lawsuits, can be accessed here. All of the decisions referenced in Eisenberg’s article are listed with links in my tally.
One interesting aspect of Eisenberg’s paper is with respect to his discussion of the difficulties plaintiffs face in trying to allege that defendants were "slow to recognize the enormity of the subprime crisis." He recites data from Bloomberg’s tally of subprime-related write downs showing that "less than three-tenths of one percent of the more than $1.75 trillion of global write-downs between 2007 and 2009 occurred prior to the third quarter of 2007." The rest occurred incrementally from the third quarter from the 2009.
Eisenberg suggests these data show that Judges "are and should be skeptical of the types of claims that could be made against virtually any financial institution that was late to recognize the damages ultimately inflicted by the subprim tsunami."
Special thanks to Jon Eisenberg for providing a copy of his article.