The Future of Class Actions for Securities Fraud

Cornerstone, in conjunction with the Stanford Securities Class Action site, just issued a mid-year report on class actions.  There were 78 new class actions filed in the first six months, down 13 from the last six months of 2013 (but 13 more than the first six months of that year).  

If the numbers simply double over the year (to some where around 155), the total number will be one of the lowest on record (only 120 were filed in 2006 and 152 in 2012, otherwise the number has not fallen below 166 in the prior 15 years).  Nonetheless, the rate seems to be consistent with the numbers since 2009, with filings falling in a narrow band of 152 to 188).  Of course, the stats do not take into account both a positive and a negative that can affect the rate of filings.  

The negative is Halliburton, which gave defendants additional ability to show that misrepresentations did not affect market price at the class certification stage.  The main effect is likely to be the dismissal of more cases at the class certification stage.  Nonetheless, it may also cause a decline in the number of suits as plaintiffs anticipate this possibility and decline to bring more marginal cases where the effect of the disclosure on market price is problematic.

The positive is that the stock market is at very high levels.  Should the market undergo a significant drop, there may be an increase in the number of lawsuits.  Thus, for example, the largest number of suits filed in recent years was 223 in 2008, when  the market collapsed.   

J Robert Brown Jr.