Securities class action lawsuit filings remained at elevated levels in 2019, but the mix of cases changed during the year, according to the recently published annual report from NERA Economic Consulting. According to the report, which is entitled “Recent Trends in Securities Class Action Litigation: 2019 Full-Year Review,” there were relatively fewer merger objection lawsuits during the year, and relatively more standard securities suits. NERA’s January 21, 2020 press release about the report can be found here, and the report itself can be found here. My own analysis of the 2019 securities litigation can be found here.
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As the various stories and revelations came to light during the peak of the #MeToo movement, there were also a number of D&O lawsuits filed against companies whose executives were the target of the stories. Among these lawsuits was the #MeToo-related securities class action lawsuit filed against CBS. On January 15, 2020, in a lengthy and detailed opinion, Southern District of New York Judge Valerie Caproni largely granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit, although the lawsuit did survive as to one set of allegations involved alleged statements by former CBS executive Leslie Moonves. The court’s ruling underscores the difficulty for plaintiffs in trying to translate sexual misconduct allegations into securities claims.
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On January 6, 2020, solar panel company First Solar announced that it had settled the securities class action lawsuit  pending against the company and certain of its executive officers for a payment of $350 million. During the long course of this matter, the case made its way to the Ninth Circuit a couple of times; the case even involved an unsuccessful petition to the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. In addition to its sheer size, there are a number of other interesting aspects to this settlement, as discussed below. The settlement is subject to court approval. The company’s January 6, 2020 press release can be found here.
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Last August, when prominent litigation funding firm Burford Capital Ltd. was hit with as securities class action lawsuit, I published a post highlighting the new suit. In a post in which I arguably had some fun at Burford’s expense – the post was entitled “Isn’t It Ironic? Litigation Funding Firm Hit With Securities Suit” – I detailed the shareholder plaintiff’s allegations. Having drawn readers’ attention to the lawsuit, it seems only fair for me now to point out to readers what subsequently happened in the lawsuit. The fact is, the plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit, albeit without prejudice.
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The number of federal court securities class action lawsuit filings during 2019 was consistent with the heightened number of filings in each of the two prior years. The total number of suits during 2019 was significantly increased by the number of federal court merger objection lawsuit filings, but even just with respect to the traditional suit filings, the number of securities suit filings in 2019 was well above historical levels. The 2019 federal court securities litigation rate (that is, the number of lawsuits relative to the number of listed companies) was at an all-time high.
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In prior posts, I have detailed the havoc that the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2018 decision in the Cyan case has wrought, as Securities Act liability class action defendants find themselves facing multiple parallel suits in both federal and state court. A recent ruling in a consolidated federal court action involving the failed Miller Energy Company underscores the procedural disarray that Cyan continues to cause; in this case, the federal court, in reliance on Cyan, has remanded to state court two actions that pre-Cyan had been removed to federal court and consolidated with a third federal court action. As discussed below, this decision demonstrates yet another way in which Cyan produces outcomes contrary to procedural simplicity and judicial efficiency.  Eastern District of Tennessee Judge Thomas Varlan’s December 6, 2019 decision in the case can be found here.
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On November 21, 2019, when a plaintiff shareholder filed a securities class action lawsuit against Aurora Cannabis, Inc. and certain of its directors and officers, the company became the latest U.S.-listed Canadian cannabis company to be hit with a U.S. securities class action lawsuit. The lawsuit against Aurora came just one day after a different claimant launched a separate U.S. securities lawsuit against another Canadian-based and U.S.-listed cannabis company, Canopy Growth. These two companies join a growing list of cannabis-related firms that have been hit with securities suits this year. As discussed below, these cannabis-related company lawsuits are one of several factors contributed to the continued elevated level of securities class action lawsuit filings in the U.S.
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As observers have discussed the kinds of problems that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Cyan decision can create, specific concerns have included the possibility of parallel state and federal court litigation, and even the possibility of parallel litigation in multiple states. In the course of the discussion of these issues, these litigation risks might have seemed merely theoretical. However, a series of lawsuits filed against a recent IPO company show that these kinds of multiple and parallel litigation risks are far from merely theoretical. The raft of jurisdictionally complicated litigation the company now faces shows the extent of the problems that Cyan creates. The company’s situation also underscores the dramatic need for Congress to address revise the securities laws in order to prevent these kinds of situations.
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Nessim Mezrahi

The length of the class period is one of the most significant variables in defining the make-up of the plaintiff class in securities class action litigation. As discussed in the following guest post from Nessim Mezrahi, the length of the class period not only affects the aggregate damages of the class but it also could be a key factor in the selection of the lead plaintiff. As a result, Mezrahi suggests, the length of the class period is a consideration that deserves greater attention. Mezrahi is cofounder and CEO of SAR, a securities class action data analytics and software company.  A version of this article previously was published on Law 360. I would like to thank Nessim for allowing me to publish his article on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is Nessim’s article.
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In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2018 Cyan decision, in which the Court affirmed that state court’s retain concurrent jurisdiction for liability action under the ’33 Act, plaintiffs’ lawyers have initiated a number of Section 11 actions in the courts of a number of states. This new wave of state court Securities Act lawsuits is now making its way through the courts. As the cases have progressed, in some instances the state courts have granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss. The latest example of a state court granting a defendants’ motion has now occurred in the Connecticut state court claim alleging ’33 Act violations in connection with Pitney-Bowes September 2017 debt note IPO. The Connecticut court’s October 24, 2019 order granting the defendants’ motion to strike, a copy of which can be found here, raises a number of interesting issues.
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