As was the case for the last two reporting years, there were relatively few larger securities class action lawsuit settlements during 2019 compared to prior years. As reported in latest large securities class action lawsuit settlement report from ISS Securities Class Action Services (ISS), there were only two settlements finalized in 2019 large enough to make the list of all time large settlements. However, there are a number of pending tentative securities class action lawsuit settlements that are likely to be finalized in 2020, and thus are likely to lead to an increase in the number of Top 100 settlements during the year. The February 20, 2020 report, entitled “The Top 100 U.S. Class Action Settlements of All Time (as of December 31, 2019)” can be found here.
The two cases that made the Top 100 list during 2019 are Cobalt International Energy, at $389.6 million, the 43rd largest of all time; and Alibaba Group Holding, at $250 million, tied for 69th largest. While there were only two securities suit settlements making the top 100 list in 2019, four in 2018, and two in 2017, there were as many 12 making the list in 2016.
The total value of the 101 securities class action lawsuit settlements finally approved in in 2019 was $3.17 billion, a decrease from the total valued of the 126 approved settlements in 20918 of $5.84 billion. Much of the difference between the two totals is attributable to the massive $3 billion Petrobras settlement, which was approved in 2018.
While there were relatively few of the largest securities suit settlements in 2019, there likely will be more of the larger settlements finalized in 2020. According to Jeff Lubitz, Executive Director of ISS Securities Class Action Services, among pending settlements that are likely to be finalized in 2020 include Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($1.2 billion); American Realty Capital Partners ($1 billion); First Solar ($350 million); SCANA Corporation ($192.5 million); and Snap, Inc. ($187.5 million).
Just for the sake of level-setting, in order to make the Top 100 list as it currently stands, a future settlement would have to exceed $168 million.
Of the Top 100 settlements, 92 percent have involved an institutional lead plaintiff, whereas only 8 percent have involved a non-institutional lead plaintiff.
Of the top 100 settlements, 36 have been led in whole or in part by the Bernstein Litowitz law firm, and 16 have been lead in whole or in part by the Robbins Geller law firm (and its predecessor firm), including the largest of all time, the Enron settlement ($7.2 billion). 14 have been led by Milberg (and its predecessor firm).
In terms of aggregate recoveries from the Top 100 settlements, the Bernstein Litowitz law firm is top, with $25.9 billion in total settlements in the Top 100; the Robbins Geller law firm, with $15.1 billion in total settlements from among the Top 100; and the Barrack, Rodos and Bacine law firm, with $13.1 billion to total recoveries from among the top 100. (Please note that these law firm aggregate figures reflect cases that the law firm led in whole or in part.)
Of the top 100 settlements, 41 have involved restatements, while 59 have not involved restatements. However, the restatement cases are among the very largest. Of the top 15 settlements on the list, 12 involved restatements, as well as 15 of the 20 largest.
My thanks to Jeff Lubitz of ISS Securities Class Action Services for sending me a link to the latest report.