The amount of damages awarded in 2009 Japanese securities cases exceeded "the aggregate amount of securities litigation damages determined by court decisions in Japan for the entire previous decade," according to a new study of Japanese securities litigation from NERA Economic Consulting. The report, dated August 2, 2010 and entitled "Trends in Japanese Securities Litigation: 2009 Update," and which can be found here, updates the NERA report released last year that surveyed Japanese securities litigation from 1998-2008.


According to the report, there were 39 total cases filed in 2009, of which 14 related to misstatements, the same number of misstatement cases as in 2008. The balance of the filings largely involve broker-dealer cases, of which there were 23 in 2009, 12 of which related to unlisted stock trading.


The most significant trend noted in the report has to do with damages awards. The total value of all 2009 securities lawsuit judgments was about 47.2 billion yen (just under $550 million), which is four times the 2008 total and the highest annual level ever. The average damage aware per judgment amount was also a record high of 1.9 billion yen, or about $22 million.


Both the 2009 filings and damage awards reflected matters involving two notable companies, Livedoor and Seibu Railway. Thus, of the 14 new disclosure cases filed in 2009, five each related to Seibu Railway and Livedoor. New cases "involving other companies and/or allegations were limited." Similarly, much of the damages awarded "were related to the Livedoor and Seibu Railway cases." The report specifically notes awards that approximately 25 billion yen in damages is attributable to just two awards involving those two companies in 2009.


The report acknowledges that as the Seibu Railway and Livedoor cases are resolved, there is like to be a decrease in the number of judgments and damages related to misstatements, but the report suggests that any such downturn will be "short-term."


The report attributes the historical trends of increased number of disclosure related lawsuits and increased damages to changes that were introduced in Japanese law in 2004. Among other things, these changes the plaintiffs’ burden for proving damages was decreased and the powers of the Japanese Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission were increased. Increased disclosure burdens on companies and heightened institutional investor expectations "may lead to an increase in the number of misstatement cases in the [the] future."


Though the reasons for the phenomenon in Japan may have uniquely Japanese attributes, Japan is only one of several countries that has seen an increase in the number and severity of securities related lawsuits in recent years, largely as a result of relatively recent legal reforms. Prior NERA reports have detailed these trends in Australia (about which refer here) and Canada (about which refer here).


These trends, which are also emerging in other counties as well, seem likely to continue, both because of the evolving impact of legal reforms as well as because of increased expectations of institutional and other investors. Other factors, including the increasing availability of litigation funding, which has proved to be a significant factor in the growth of securities litigation in Australia and elsewhere, could also contribute to these developments.


Another factor that at least potentially could encourage these trends is legal developments in the United States, particularly the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2010 decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank (about which refer here and here). As a result of this decision aggrieved investors who purchased securities on non-U.S. exchanges will be unable to pursue remedies under the U.S. securities laws in U.S. courts. As a result, some foreign-domiciled investors who might have attempted to pursue claims in the U.S. may now seek to pursue claims in their own country – and even, to the extent they find the remedies or procedures in their own country to be unsatisfactory, to seek legislative.


In any event, as the authors of the recent study suggest, the developments in Japan seem to represent longer term trends, which seems to be true in other countries as well. Even though there are still many more securities lawsuits in the U.S. than elsewhere, the number and significance of the lawsuits outside the U.S. appear to be increasing.