latestgavelMy post earlier this week about the $275 million Activision Blizzard shareholder derivative lawsuit settlement – and in particular my suggestion that the Activision settlement may be the largest derivative suit settlement ever – provoked an interesting flurry of emails and conversations about the lineup of other large derivative lawsuit settlements. To address the various questions I have received on the topic, I have set out below my unofficial list of the derivative suit settlements involving the largest cash components. My purposes in posting this list are two-fold: first, in response to several requests, to share the information I have; and two, to encourage others who may have different or additional information to share the information so that I can update or supplement the list as appropriate.


Here is my list of the  largest derivative lawsuit settlements of which I am aware (last updated July 20, 2023):

$735 million  Tesla Board Compensation Derivative Suit (2023). 

$310 million      Alphabet/Google #Me Too Derivative Suit (2020) (nominal value of payment over ten years) {See Note 1 Below}

$300 million      Renren Derivative Settlement (2021) (settlement amount subject to "true up" process that could increase the ultimate amount of the settlement). The settlement was ultimately approved in June 2022 (here). 

$286 million      American Realty Capital Partners/Vereit (2020)

$275 million       Activision Blizzard (2014)

$240 million      Wells Fargo Phony Account Derivative Suit (2019) (total stated value of settlement = $320 million inclusive of $240 cash component) 

$237.5 million   Boeing 737 Max Air Crashes Derivative Suit (2021)

$180 million       FirstEnergy Corp. (2022)

$175 million      McKesson Corp. (2020)

$167.5 million   CBS/Viacom (Paramount Global) (2023)

$150 million       AIG (sham reinsurance transaction)

$139 million       News Corp. (2013)

$137.5 million   Freeport-McMoRan (2015)

$124 million      Cardinal Health, Inc. (2022)

$122 million       Oracle (2005)

$118 million       Broadcom Corp. (Options Backdating) (2009)

$117 million       Altria Group (Juul investment) (2022){See Note 2 below}

$115 million       AIG (2002 lawsuit) (2008)

$100 million       NCI Buildings System, Inc. (2021)

$90 million       L Brands (2021) (nominal value of settlement over five years) {See Note 3 below}

$90 million       21st Century Fox (2017)

$90 million      PG&E (2017)

$89.4 million     Del Monte Foods (2011) (Note: Questions whether this case involves settlement of a derivative claim, refer here).

$87.5 million     Charter Communications (2023)

$85 million        Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Corp. (2023)

$79.5 million     Goldman Sachs/1MBD (2022)

$75 million           Pfizer (2010)

$72.5 million   HSBC (2020)

$62.5 million      Bank of America (Merrill Lynch Acquisition) (2012)

NOTE 1: It could be argued that the $310 amount is not the amount of the settlement of the derivative action; It is rather the total amount of money that Google/Alphabet agreed to spend over 10 years in connection with various therapeutics. As Vice Chancellor Glasscock said in approving the settlement: “I don’t think the $310 million set-aside of company funds to promote both the laudable diversity ends achieved in this settlement is at all a measure of the benefit. It’s a cost to the company. It may very well be a wonderful investment, and I suspect it will be, but it doesn’t represent a tangible benefit flowing to the company. It’s a cost from the company.”

NOTE 2: The $117 million figure represents the amount of money that the company  agreed to spend on various therapeutics over a period of several years. It is a cost to the company, not a benefit. It arguably does not represent the value of the settlement.

NOTE 3: The $90 million figure represents the amount of money that the company  agreed to spend on various therapeutics over a period of several years. It is a cost to the company, not a benefit. It arguably does not represent the value of the settlement.


I suspect strongly that there have been settlements with values between the $62.5 Bank of America settlement and the $110 million El Paso-Kinder Morgan settlement. I am hoping readers that are aware of any derivative suit settlements with values in that range, or any other settlements that ought to be on this list, will please let me know. UPDATE: Several readers reminded me of the $89.4 million Del Monte Foods derivative lawsuit settlement and the $75 million Pfizer shareholder derivative lawsuit settlement, which I have added to the list above. The Pfizer settlement is discussed in greater detail here. FURTHER UPDATE: After receipt of comments from readers, I have removed the $110 milllion El Paso settlement from the list as it was originally published. Upon review, I was persuaded that the case had not been filed as a derivative action bur rather as a direct action on behalf of a shareholder class for damages. (For further detail refer here).


These settlements are of course all dwarfed by the $2.876 billion judgment entered in June 2009 against Richard Scrushy in the HealthSouth shareholders’ derivative lawsuit in Jefferson County (Alabama) Circuit Court, but that judgment represents its own peculiar point of reference, It also was of course a judgment following trial rather than a settlement.


Another peculiar point of reference is the $1.262 billion judgment that Chancellor Leo Strine entered in October 2011 the Southern Peru Copper Corporation Shareholder Derivative Litigation (about which refer here). That case also represents its own form of litigation reality, and it too represents a derivative suit judgment following trial, rather than a settlement.


Another derivative lawsuit resolution that is worth considering in the context of the “largest ever” question is the December 2007 settlement of the UnitedHealth Group options backdating-related derivative lawsuit. As discussed here, the lawsuit settled for a total nominal value of approximately $900 million. However, while the press reports at the time described the settlement as the largest derivative settlement ever, the value contributed to the settlement consisted of the surrender by the individual defendants of certain rights, interests and stock option awards, not cash value in that amount.


In the past, going back ten years or so, shareholders’ derivative suits typically did not present the possibility of significant cash payouts, at least in terms of settlements or judgments. The cases did present the possibility of significant defense expense and also of the possibility of having to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees, but by and large there was usually not a cash settlement component. As the significant examples above show, that has clearly changed in more recent years.


This trend gained particular momentum with the options backdating scandal. Many of the options backdating cases were filed as derivative suits rather than as securities class action lawsuits (largely because the options backdating disclosures did not always result in the kinds of significant share price declines required to support a securities class action lawsuit). Many of the options backdating cases settlements included a cash component, and as illustrated by the Broadcom case mentioned above, some of the options backdating derivative suit settlements included very substantial cash components


It is interesting to note how many of the derivative settlements listed above were entered in connection with lawsuits objecting to a merger or acquisition transaction – the Activision Blizzard Settlement, the Freeporr-McMoRan settlement, the El Paso-Kinder Morgan settlement, and the BofA/Merrill Lynch settlement all related to lawsuits arising out of merger or acquisition transactions. Indeed, the News Corp. settlement related at least in part to objection to a transaction involving one of Rupert Murdoch’s children. The rise of merger objection litigation has been the target of a great deal of criticism but the number of recent large settlements involving merger or acquisition transactions highlights the fact that among the many cases that are filed there may be at least a few that are more serious.


As I have noted in the past in connection with the increasing numbers of jumbo derivative lawsuit settlements, the upsurge in the number of derivative suit settlements that include a significant cash component undoubtedly is being viewed with alarm by the D&O insurance industry. For many years, D&O insurers have considered that their significant severity exposure consisted of securities class action lawsuits. The undeniable reality now is that in at least some circumstances, derivative suits increasingly represent a severity risk as well. And the settlement amounts themselves represent only part of the D&O insurers’ loss costs. The D&O insurers also incur millions and possibly tens of million of defense cost expense in these derivative suits.


The increasing risk of this type of settlement represents a significant challenge for all D&O insurers, but particularly for those D&O insurers concentrating on providing Excess Side A insurance. Those insurers will have to ask how they are to underwrite the risks associated with these kinds of exposures, and how they are to make certain that their premiums adequately compensate them for the risk.