In 1995, Congress passed the Private Securities Class Action Reform Act (PLSRA) over President Clinton’s veto in order to try to address perceived securities class action litigation abuses. According to a new report from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform entitled “A Rising Threat: The New Class Actions Racket That Harms Investors and the Economy,” despite the PSLRA’s reforms, many of the same abuses that led to the PSLRA’s enactment have returned, and as a result the securities class action system is “spinning out of control.” According to the report, the time has come for Congress to intervene again to curb “abusive practices that enable the filing of unjustified actions.” The Institute’s October 23, 2018 report can be found here
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Along with the recent rise in third-party litigation financing has come a widely-held perception that there is something vaguely shady about it. For example, a May 12, 2018 New York Times article, in what is nearly a compulsory formulation, described litigation funding as “unregulated and opaque.”  This common perception about litigation funding is one reason why I have long felt that eventually that some form of  litigation financing disclosure is going to be required – indeed, one state has already instituted rules requiring the disclosure. The possibility for more universal disclosure requirements moved one step closer last week, when three U.S. Senators introduced legislation that would make litigation financing disclosure mandatory in certain kinds of federal court lawsuits. The draft bill has predictably drawn praise and scorn from commentators with opposing viewpoints, but the key thing at this point is that the debate about litigation financing disclosure has moved from the fringes and has now taken center stage.
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Shareholder derivative lawsuits are notoriously difficult for claimants. In order to pursue a derivative suit, a shareholder plaintiff must overcome numerous procedural and pleading hurdles. Even when cases survive the initial obstacles, the ultimate outcome often consists of little more than the payment of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees with slight benefit to the company in whose name the claim was ostensibly was pursued. In light of these considerations, UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge has a modest proposal: Eliminate derivative litigation altogether. In a brief October 3, 2017 post on his ProfessorBainbridge.com blog (here), Bainbridge suggests that we just do away with the whole inefficient process. Bainbridge raises a number of interesting points, but, as discussed below, while I agree with some of his concerns, I am not sure I agree with his proposed solution.
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us capitolIn the early days of the Trump presidency, the new administration has made it clear that it is going to tackle perceived regulatory excess. The new President has also made it clear that he intends to reform the Dodd-Frank Act. In keeping with these initiatives, a Republican congressman has now introduced a legislative proposal to reform class action litigation. According to his February 10, 2017 press release (here), Rep. Rob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act (H.R. 985) to “keep baseless class action suits away from innocent parties, while still keeping the doors to justice open for parties with real and legitimate claims.” The Bill, which is a grab bag of proposed procedural reforms clearly intended make class action litigation more difficult, addresses a host of concerns and includes some surprising features, including, among other things, a provision that would address third party litigation funding.
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france1On October 1, 2014, new statutory provisions went into effect in France allowing consumers the means to seek and obtain relief on a class–wide basis. Though these provisions have been in force for over two years now, the use of the class action mechanism has not really caught on. Because the class action procedures have not yet been widely taken up, there have already been at least two revisions of the original provisions adopted that expanded the scope of the original class action model, and further revisions seem likely. In a November 17, 2016 memo entitled “The Implications of the Expanded Scope of the French Class Action System on Potential Liability and Insurance Coverage for Companies Domiciled in and Doing Business in France” (here), Kevin Dreher and Laura Ferry of the Reed Smith law firm take a look at the modified French class action mechanism and examine the mechanism’s implications for companies doing business in France.
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daumierOne of the legal issues that attracts continuous  vigorous debate is the question of whether or not class actions in general, and securities class actions in particular, produce a social benefit sufficient to justify their sometimes enormous costs. This question receives an interesting and readable analysis in an article in the November 19, 2015 issue of The New York Review of Books entitled “The Cure for Corporate Wrongdoing: Class Actions vs. Individual Prosecutions” (here) in which Southern District of New York Judge Jed Rakoff reviews Columbia Law Professor John Coffee’s new book, Entrepreneurial Litigation: Its Rise, Fall, and Future (here).  While Judge Rakoff provides his (quite positive) assessment of Professor Coffee’s book, he also  delivers his own analysis of the issues Professor Coffee raises, as well as of the prescriptions Professor Coffee proposes for the class action defects he has identified, as discussed below.
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Allen_Claudia_2013_Color[1]For many years, business groups and corporate representatives have tried to reform shareholder litigation through legislation and case law development, with mixed success. However, in more recent years an interesting new initiative has emerged – the attempt to achieve litigation reform through amendments to corporate bylaws. This effort received a significant boost last year when