big stack of papers (documents)

2015 was a busy, fast-paced year for securities class action filings.

According to a report published by NERA Economic Consulting, 234 federal securities class action complaints were filed in 2015. This is the highest number of filings since 2008 and marks an 8 percent increase over 2014.

The 2015 median time between the end of the alleged class period and the filing of complaints is also notable: a record-setting 11 days, down approximately 40 percent from 2014. The median class period was also the shortest in the past decade, falling to 310 days.

What’s behind the uptick in filings? One reason is an increase in the number of cases filed against foreign-domiciled companies. While 2015 did not approach 2011’s record-setting 23.9 percent of filings against foreign companies, 2015 ended with 14.8 percent of filings against foreign companies, the highest since 2011. Another reason for the spike is an increase in the number of filings related to the technology sector: 2015 saw about 1 out of 5 filings directed at the technology sector, a more than 90 percent increase over 2014.

One outlier was the financial services sector, which actually saw a significant decrease in new securities filings. Filings against financial services firms amounted to 12 percent of the total in 2015, down from 19 percent in 2014 and down from a whopping 50 percent in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.

The 234 federal securities class action complaints filed in 2015 fall into two main categories: cases alleging violations of Rule 10b-5, Section 11 or Section 12 (182), and merger objection cases (43).

The average settlement in 2015 was $7 million. The largest settlement of the year was paid by American International Group, Inc., in the amount of $970.5 million.

As we move into 2016, the downward trend in securities class actions against financial sector companies will likely continue as cases related to the financial crisis are resolved. If current trends hold, there will be a greater number of filings against nonfinancial and foreign companies.