Foreign Registrants Face Unprecedented Shareholder Class Actions
In 2002, PricewaterhouseCoopers Foreign Securities Litigation Study reported an unprecedented 22 foreign issuers who were named in securities class actions, an increase of 47 percent over the 15 cases filed in 2001. (Note: 2001 numbers exclude "IPO Laddering" cases).
PricewaterhouseCoopers' research shows that since the start of 2002, foreign issuers have agreed to pay a total of approximately $700 million to settle shareholder class actions in the U.S. The average post-Private Securities Litigation Reform Act 1995 settlement for cases against foreign registrants is nearly $23 million. There have been 15 settlements at the amount of $10 million or greater and seven settlements for $30 million or greater.
In recent weeks class actions were filed against French, Australian and Israeli companies. Other cases during 2003 were filed against companies in Hong Kong, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
More than 77 percent of the cases against foreign companies contained accounting allegations in 2002, and more than half of the 2003 cases contain accounting allegations.
"In recent years there has been an increased focus, both by U.S. regulators and private litigants, on foreign companies registered on U.S. stock markets. Some of the world's leading companies have found themselves subject to private securities class actions and Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice investigations. The most prominent trend emerging from the majority of the securities litigation cases filed has been the increase in the number of accounting related complaints filed," said Grace Lamont, partner in the New York Securities Litigation Group of PricewaterhouseCoopers. "In addition to complying with their own local accounting rules and requirements, foreign registrants must also be expert in applying U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) requirements."
A total of 130 shareholder class actions have been filed against U.S. corporations to date this year. The total volume of securities litigation cases against both U.S. corporations and foreign registrants in 2002 was 217.
PricewaterhouseCoopers has identified 68 settlements against U.S. companies through September 22, 2003 with an average settlement value of $24.5 million, which includes a number of extremely large settlements over $50 million.