Decline in Credit Crisis-Related Lawsuits

The number of federal securities class action filings continued to decline in the first half of 2010 due in part to a decrease in credit crisis-related litigation, according to two just-released reports.

A report prepared by the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse and Cornerstone Research found a total of 71 federal securities class actions were filed in the first half of 2010, a 15.5 percent decline from the 84 filings in each half of 2009.

Credit crisis-related litigation accounted for only eight filings in the first half of 2010, compared with 37 filings in the first half of 2009 and 16 filings in the second half of 2009.

Stanford law school professor Joseph Grundfest said:

The securities fraud litigation wave stimulated by the credit crisis now appears to be history. We have an inventory of cases waiting to be dismissed, settled, or tried, but to borrow a phrase from the current Gulf oil spill crisis, it seems that this flow has largely been capped.†

If the filing rate for the first six months of the year continues, there will be a total of 143 filings in 2010, the second lowest annual number of filings since 1997.

A second report by NERA Economic Consulting similarly noted that a decline in cases related to the global credit crisis was a key factor in the decline in securities class action filings.

However, these declines were partially offset by an increase in the frequency of other types of filings, including cases related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

NERA observed that the number of complaints filed alleging product and operational defects has risen and occurred with greater frequency than any other complaints filed in the first half of 2010:

Despite the attention devoted to financial product-related litigation, the growth in the product and operational defects category mostly reflects traditional non-financial product and operational defect allegations, such as those relating to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or vehicle recalls issued by Toyota.†

Another trend in allegations in the first half of 2010 was an upturn in cases alleging breach of fiduciary duty.

Check out the D&O Diary blog for  further analysis of both reports.

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