There are a lot of different ways you might look at securities class action litigation settlement data. You might, for example, look at average or median settlement amounts. You might look at the data in the aggregate. Or you could look at it geographically – say, according to the U.S. state in which the case was pending. That is exactly what ISS Securities Class action Services has done. In its latest report, entitled “The Largest U.S. Settlements By State,” the authors identify the largest settlement by U.S. state. The report is interesting and does answer a question that does come up from time to time. A copy of the report can be found here.
The report is based on a review of all federal court securities class action settlements of cases filed after January 1, 1996 and settled before July 1, 2021. Only court approved settlements are included. The report does not include non-U.S. cases, antitrust cases, state court cases, or SEC disgorgements. In cases involving partial settlements, all partial settlements are combined into an aggregate amount. The date of the settlement reflects the year of the most recent court approval. The state to which a settlement is assigned is the state in which the courthouse where the cases was pending is located, not necessarily the location of a company’s headquarters.
The report identifies the largest securities lawsuit settlements in 48 states and in the District of Columbia. Three states – Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming have yet to have a securities class action lawsuit settlement on their federal court dockets. The 49 settlements listed total $32.5 billion and average $663.4 million. The graphic at the top of the post and at the end of the post was created by ISS Securities Class Action Services.
The state with the largest settlement is Texas (with the $7.242 billion Enron settlement), and the state with the smallest settlement is North Dakota (with the $5.1 million settlement in the North Dakota Developments LLC case). Seven states, including Texas, have a largest settlement over $1 billion.
It is interesting to see what the largest settlement is in various jurisdictions. For example, it is interesting to note that the District of Columbia, which is not even a state (to which all D.C. residents might add, “Taxation without representation is tyranny”) has as its largest settlement the 2013 settlement in the Fannie Mae lawsuit (the case settled for $153 million). The largest settlement in my home state of Ohio is the 2007 settlement in Cardinal Health ($600 million).
The plaintiffs’ law firms with the most “state largest” settlements are the Robbins Geller law firm, which had the largest settlement in 19 states, totaling $13.18 billion and the Bernstein Litowitz law firm, which had 13 of the state largest settlements totaling $12.96 billion.
The largest settlement not included in the list of state largest settlements is the $3 billion Petrobras settlement, the 5th largest securities class action settlement of all time. Petrobras was pending in federal court in New York and the largest NY settlement is the $6.194 billion WorldCom settlement. The report notes that of the 16 all-time settlements to surpass $1 billion, 50 percent took place in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
A quick read of the list does provide some interesting items. For example. tiny Rhode Island’s largest settlement is the $48 million settlement in the Rite Aid Corp. case. The absence of any settlements from the federal court dockets of Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming is also interesting, perhaps reflective of relatively little securities litigation in the federal courts in those states. You do wonder how long it can last that these three states have no federal securities class action lawsuit settlements.