New securities class action lawsuit filings in the third quarter of 2010 remained below longer term historical averages, although consistent with filing levels in more recent quarters. There were 39 new securities class action lawsuits filed in the third quarter, bringing the 2010 YTD total number of new filings to 125, as of September 30, 2010.


The 125 new filings through the end of the third quarter compares with the 129 that were filed in the first three quarters of 2009, and implies a total of about 166 by year end 2010 (compared to 169 in 2009). The implied 2010 total is well below the annual average of 197 new securities class action lawsuits filed during the period 1996 to 2008.


Though the overall 2010 YTD filings levels remain below historical levels, new filings did turn up slightly in September 2010, when there were 21 new securities class action lawsuits filed, the highest monthly number of filings since 2008.


New filings against companies in the financial services sector remain an important component of new securities class action lawsuits. During the third quarter there were eight new filings in the 6000 SIC Code series (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate), and an additional three new filings involving firms without SIC Codes but that are financially related. These eleven total new filings against financially related firms represented about 28% of third quarter filings.


Subprime and credit crisis related securities class action lawsuits continue to be filed in the third quarter of 2010. Seven, or about 18%, of the third quarter filings were subprime or credit crisis-related.


While filings against financially related companies continue to predominate as they have since 2007, there were a number of other areas of concentration in the third quarter as well. As I have noted elsewhere, there was a proliferation of filings in the third quarter against for-profit education companies. A total of six for-profit educational companies were sued in the third quarter.


In addition, as has been the case over time, new filings against life sciences companies was also an important part of the third quarter filings. There were a total of seven new filings against companies in the life sciences sector, including four against companies in the 2834 SIC Code category (pharmaceutical preparations). .


For the first three quarters of 2010, there have been 26 new securities lawsuits filed against companies in the 6000 SIC Code series and another 15 against financially-related companies without SIC codes, for a total of 41 new lawsuits against financial companies, or about one third of all 2010 filings. 22 (or about 17.5%) of all 2010 filings have been subprime or credit crisis-related.


Filings against life sciences companies have also been a significant component of 2010 YTD filings. There have been 19 new securities lawsuits filed against companies in the life sciences industry, including 13 against companies in the 2834 and 2835 SIC Code categories. (SIC Code 2835 include in vitro and in vitro diagnostic substances).


There have been ten new securities class action lawsuits filed this year against foreign-domiciled companies, or about eight percent of the total. Interestingly, there have been four new securities class action lawsuits filed against foreign-domiciled companies since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Morrison v. National Australia Bank.


Of the 125 YTD filings, 17 (or about 13.6%) represented so-called "belated filings" – that is, cases in which the filing date came more than a year after the proposed class period cutoff date. Though there have been a significant number of these belated filings this year, the number of these filings has slowed as the year has progressed. Only four of these 17 belated cases have been filed since June 30, 2010.


Apple Turnover: You may have missed it this past week, but the parties to the long-running Apple Computer options backdating-related securities class action lawsuit have reached a settlement, as reflected in their September 28, 2010 memorandum in support of their settlement stipulation. The Apple case is one of the last of the 39 options backdating related securities class action lawsuits to finally be resolved.


The Apple settlement incorporates a rather unusual feature. On the one hand, the parties have agreed to settle the case for two conventional settlement terms — a payment of $14 million in cash for the benefit of the plaintiff class and the company’s agreement to adopt certain corporate governance reforms. But in addition, the company has agreed to make payments totaling $2.5 million to 12 educational institutions’ corporate governance programs.


These payments work out to approximately $208,333 for each of the twelve institutions. The memorandum in support of the parties’ settlement stipulation reports that the lead plaintiff selected the twelve institutions "after conducting a review of corporate governance programs nationally."


While these corporate governance programs undoubtedly represent worthy causes, you do have to wonder about this settlement feature, which arguably provides no benefit either to members of the class or to current Apple shareholders. It also raises questions about compelled corporate philanthropy at shareholders’ expense.


I have in any event added the Apple settlement to my running table of options backdating related case resolutions, which can be accessed here.


Advisen’s Third Quarter Litigation Overview: On October 15, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. EDT, I will be participating in an Advisen webinar reviewing the Third Quarter Securities Litigation. Other participants include Scott Meyer from ACE, Adam Savett of Claims Compensation Bureau, and Dave Bradford of Advisen. The session will review Advisen’s analysis of third quarter 2010 Securities litigation and settlements and discuss the larger implications for underwriters, brokers and risk managers. Information about the free webinar, including registration instructions, can be found here.