As previously reported (here), 2019 was a relatively slow year for securities class action lawsuit settlements compared to 2018. However, there were a number of significant securities lawsuit recoveries and the total recoveries in the aggregate were for at least some law firms quite substantial. In a March 11, 2020 report entitled “The Top 50 of 2019,” ISS Securities Class Action Services sets out a list of the top 50 law firms — ranked by total cash amount and by number of cash settlements – with respect to final securities class action lawsuit settlements in 2019 in North America (inclusive of both the U.S. and Canada). ISS’s report can be found here.
There were a total of 116 securities class action lawsuits in North America in 2019, of which 105 cases resulted in monetary recoveries for shareholders. These settlements resulted in a total of $3.21 billion settlement funds, compared to $6.1 billion in 2018. (The 2018 total was substantially increased by the $3 billion Petrobras settlement).
Based on these settlements, ISS Securities Class Action Services has created a list of the top 50 plaintiffs’ firms ranked by dollar value of securities class action lawsuit settlements completed in 2019 in which the firm was appointed lead or co-lead counsel.
In this list of settlement value recovered, the Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman ranks first with a total of over $711 million in total settlements. Of this total, $389.6 was obtained in the largest of the 2019 settlements, involving Cobalt International Energy. Bernstein Litowitz has been ranked first or second for seven straight years.
The Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd law firm ranks second on the value recovered list, with settlements of $561.3 million, of which $160 million was recovered in the fourth largest 2019 settlement in the Wal-Mart Stores case. The Robbins Geller firm has finished among the top three for seven straight years.
Coming in at third is The Rosen Law Firm, with total settlements of over $438 million. In fourth place at $409.6 million is Entwistle & Cappucci, and in fifth place is the Kessler Topaz law firm, with total settlements of $211.7 million.
Only nine firms topped the $100 million total settlements mark, down from 12 law firms in the 2018 report. The list things out toward the bottom; indeed, the firm ranked 50th on the list did not exceed $1 million.
The report also ranks the plaintiffs’ law firms according to the number of final settlements during the year. The Robbins Geller law firm topped this list with 17 settlements. The Glancy Prongay & Murray law firm came in second with 13; the Rosen Law Firm has third with 12; and the Labaton Sucharow law firm was fourth with ten. Interestingly, the Bernstein Litowitz law firm, which came in first on the list of total settlement recoveries, came in sixth on the list of number of final settlements, with eight.
The report notes that 2019 was a “relatively slow year” in terms of overall settlement recoveries, 2020 will likely be a more active, as there are at least two billion plus securities class action settlements in the pipeline that likely will be finalized in 2020: Valeant Pharmaceuticals (now Bausch Health Companies, Inc.) for $1.2 billion; and American Realty Capital Properties (now Vereit) at $1 billion. Robbins Geller is lead counsel in both cases.