|Investor class action filings jumped last year, with more than $600 billion in cases filed against financial services firms. But an expected second-half surge never happened.
During 2008, 210 securities class action lawsuits were filed in federal court, a report announced today from the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse said. The report was prepared in cooperation with Cornerstone Research.
Federal class action filings increased 19 percent from 176 actions in 2007.
The maximum dollar loss attributable to all 2008 claims was estimated at $856 billion, up from $676 billion the prior year. The maximum loss attributable to financial services firms was approximately $394 billion last year, and the defendants in the cases accounted for approximately one-third of all large financial institutions and more than half of market capitalization in the financial services sector.
Last year's activity included 97 cases tied to the subprime liquidity crisis, 21 lawsuits involving auction-rate securities and 103 class actions against financial services firms.
"The data suggests an intriguing possibility that the pool of major financial services defendants might be getting fished out," Stanford Professor Joseph Grundfest said in the announcement. "Many major financial services firms have already been sued and plaintiffs may be choosing to focus on filing amendments to existing complaints rather than initiating new ones."
Grundfest predicts class action filings will decline next year as the biggest targets have already been sued.
A Cornerstone Research executive speculated that an expected surge during the second half of 2008 never materialized because prospective plaintiffs found it too difficult to isolate the stock movement of an individual company from the overall volatile market.
By region, 92 cases were filed in the Second Circuit, which includes New York. Another 28 were filed in the Ninth Circuit, which includes California, and 17 were filed in the Eleventh Circuit.