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Securities Class Action Settlements
2010 Review and Analysis

The Number of Securities Class Action Settlements Is Lowest in Ten Years ,
According to New Report by Cornerstone Research

Median Settlement Amount and Estimated Damages
Increased for Cases Settled in 2010

Average Settlement Amount Decreased

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See also:
2003 Securities Class Action Settlements
2004 Securities Class Action Case Filings
2004 Securities Class Action Settlements
2005 Securities Class Action Case Filings
2005 Securities Class Action Settlements
2006 Securities Class Action Case Filings
2006 Mid-Year Assessment:
   Securities Class Action Case Filings

2006 Securities Class Action Settlements Study
2007 Securities Class Action Case Filings
Securities Class Action Settlements:
   2007 Review and Analysis

2007 Mid-Year Assessment:
   Securities Class Action Case Filings

2008 Mid-Year Assessment:
   Securities Class Action Case Filings

2008 Securities Class Action Case Filings Report
2009 Mid-Year Assessment:
   Securities Class Action Case Filings

2009 Securities Class Action Case Filings Report
Securities Class Action Settlements:
   2009 Review and Analysis

2010 Mid-Year Assessment:
Securities Class Action Filings
   2010 Year in Review
marginThe number of Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (Reform Act) settlements approved in 2010 was the lowest in more than ten years, according to Securities Class Action Settlements — 2010 Review and Analysis, an annual report by Cornerstone Research. In 2010 there were 86 court-approved securities class action settlements, involving $3.1 billion in total settlement funds. The number of settlements approved in 2010 decreased by approximately 15 percent compared with 2009, and the total dollar value of settlements declined by more than 17 percent, from $3.8 billion in 2009 to $3.1 billion in 2010.

marginThe median settlement amount for cases settled in 2010 increased to $11.3 million from $8.0 million reported in 2009. This represents a year-over-year increase of more than 40 percent. This is the largest percentage increase in the median settlement amount in the last ten years and is the first time during that same period that the median settlement amount, even when adjusted for inflation, exceeded $10 million. In addition median estimated “plaintiff-style” damages for 2010 settlements reached $547 million, the highest level observed since passage of the Reform Act in 1995.

Simmons Photo
Laura E. Simmons, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor,
Mason School of Business
The College of William & Mary
marginThe average settlement amount decreased slightly from $37.2 million in 2009 to $36.3 million in 2010 and remains substantially below the average of $54.8 million for all post–Reform Act settlements through 2009. The decline in the 2010 average settlement is due to a decline in very large settlements. For the third consecutive year, no single securities class action settlement exceeded $1 billion, and the average of the top five “mega-settlements” in 2010 (settlements in excess of $100 million) declined more than 30 percent from the average for 2009 mega-settlements.
Grundfest Photo
Joseph A. Grundfest, Esq.
Professor, Law and Business
Stanford Law School

marginProfessor Joseph Grundfest, Director of the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse in cooperation with Cornerstone Research:

Bullet   “Just like movies and music, securities fraud litigation is a hit-driven business. Mega-settlements in 2010 were smaller — they just weren’t reaching the high dollar levels we have seen in the past. That depressed the average size of recoveries in the markets as a whole. Or, to thoroughly mix metaphors, plaintiffs hit more doubles and triples in 2010 rather than grand-slam home runs.”

Bullet   “In 2010 we saw an increase in the percentage of settlements with accompanying SEC actions. Parallel SEC proceedings, on average, lead to higher settlements in class actions. Increased SEC enforcement activity turns out to account for part of the increase in the median size of settlements.”

marginProfessor Laura Simmons of the College of William & Mary Mason School of Business and Senior Advisor at Cornerstone Research:

Bullet   “I don’t expect the sharp drop in the number of settlements to reoccur in the near future; however, the broad-based shift toward higher settlement amounts may persist in upcoming years.”

Bullet   “While only fifteen credit-crisis-related settlements have occurred to date, there have been no surprises associated with these case settlements. Generally these cases involve relatively high damages and large defendants; not surprisingly, they tend to settle for higher amounts.”

Additional Key Findings

marginThe percentage of settled cases that involved a remedy of a corresponding SEC action prior to the settlement of the class action increased to 30 percent in 2010 compared with 20 percent for all cases settled through 2009. Cases that involve SEC actions are associated not only with significantly higher settlements, but also higher settlements as a percentage of estimated “plaintiff-style” damages.

Bullet   The median inflation-adjusted Disclosure Dollar Loss— the dollar value decrease in the defendant firm’s market capitalization at the end of the class period — increased to $158.1 million in 2010, representing more than a 10 percent increase from 2009.

Bullet   Institutional investors continue to increase their participation in post–Reform Act class actions as lead plaintiffs. In 2010 institutions served as lead plaintiffs in more than 67 percent of settlements — the highest proportion to date among post–Reform Act settlements.

Bullet   In 2010 allegations related to violations of generally accepted accounting principles were included in approximately 70 percent of settled cases compared with 65 percent for cases settled in 2009. These complex cases continued to be resolved with statistically significant larger settlement amounts than cases not involving accounting allegations. Given that the proportion of settlements involving accounting cases has increased over the last few years, the complexity of these cases may also have contributed to an increasing interval between the filing date and the settlement date that we observe among 2009 and 2010 settlements.

Bullet   The number of cases involving companion derivative actions decreased in 2010 compared with 2009. Slightly more than 40 percent of cases settled in 2010 were accompanied by a derivative action filing compared with more than 45 percent of cases in 2009. The 2010 percentage is still higher than the post–Reform Act average of 30 percent.

Bullet   The Ninth Circuit (California/Alaska/Arizona/Hawaii/Idaho/Montana/Nevada/Oregon/Washington) had the highest number of approved settlements with 32 cases, followed by the Second Circuit (New York/Connecticut/Vermont) with 21 class action settlements approved in 2010.

marginA full copy of this Cornerstone Research Report is available at Securities Class Action Settlements — 2010 Review and Analysis. Additionally, Dr. Simmons and Professor Grundfest are available for interviews.


Cornerstone Research provides financial and economic analysis in litigation and regulatory proceedings, with a focus on securities, antitrust, intellectual property, financial institutions, energy, and accounting. Cornerstone Research also cosponsors Stanford Law School's Securities Class Action Clearinghouse, the leading source of data and analysis on the financial and economic characteristics of securities class action litigation.
Laura E. Simmons, Ph.D.

Mason School of Business
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187, USA


Email: Laura E. Simmons, Ph.D.


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Joseph A. Grundfest, Esq. William A. Franke
Professor of Law and Economics

Stanford Law School
Crown Quadrangle
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610


Email: Joseph A. Grundfest,


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Revised: March 17, 2011 TAF

© Copyright 2011 Laura E. Simmons, Ph.D. and Professor Joseph A. Grundfest, Esq. / Cornerstone Research, All Rights Reserved