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Category Archives: Securities Law

Is the Price Right? An Empirical Study of Fee-Setting in Securities Class Actions

Baker, Lynn A. and Perino, Michael A. and Silver, Charles, Is the Price Right? An Empirical Study of Fee-Setting in Securities Class Actions (February 11, 2015). Columbia Law Review, 2015, Forthcoming; U of Texas Law, Law and Econ Research Paper; St. John’s Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-0003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2584649

“Every year, fee awards enable millions of people to obtain access to justice and strengthen the deterrent effect of the law by motivating lawyers to handle class actions. But the process by which judges decide how much to pay lawyers remains a black box. Settlements go in one side; fee awards come out the other. The inputs and outputs have been studied, but the actual operation of the fee-setting mechanism has not. Consequently, it is difficult to know why judges award the amounts they do or whether they size fee awards correctly. Both numerically and in terms of dollars recovered, securities cases dominate the federal courts’ class action docket. We therefore undertook to peer into the fee-setting black box by studying in detail all of the 434 securities class actions that settled in federal district courts from 2007 through 2012. We examined the actual court filings in each case to create an original, comprehensive dataset of information on all points at which federal judges are likely to consider issues relating to fees. These data enable us to paint a picture of the fee-setting process that is unusually detailed and nuanced and that falsifies many common beliefs.  Among our major findings are that: (1) federal judges often deviate from the path Congress laid out in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA), which requires lead plaintiffs to set the terms of class counsel’s retention and federal judges to serve as backstops against abuses; (2) fees tend to be lower in federal districts that see a high volume of securities class actions than in districts that handle these cases less often; (3) fee cuts are significantly more likely among judges that see a high volume of securities class actions than among low volume judges; (4) the well-known “decrease-increase” rule, according to which fee percentages decline as settlements become larger, operates mainly in high-volume districts; and (5) judges appear to cut fees randomly, that is, on the basis of their own predilections rather than the merits of fee requests. Finally, we learn that so-called “lodestar cross-checks,” which require judges to consider the “time and labor expended by counsel” and other factors to ensure against excessive fees, accomplish nothing. Actual fee awards reflect something closer to a pure “percentage of the fund” approach. In sum, we found little evidence that the actions currently taken by the courts in securities class actions move class counsel’s fees closer to the “right price.” We therefore propose a set of procedural reforms which courts could easily adopt that would make fee-setting in securities class actions more transparent, more compatible with the normative goals of the PSLRA, and more predictable. The reforms would encourage lawyers to invest optimally in class actions, with salutary effects for investors seeking compensation and the integrity of the financial markets.”

Role of Academics and Industry in Improving Equity Market Structure

The Role of Academics and Industry in Improving Equity Market Structure, Michael S. Piwowar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on March 21, 2015. “Editor’s Note: Michael S. Piwowar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Piwowar’s recent remarks at the University of Notre Dame, Mendoza CollegeContinue Reading

Insider Trading in Commodities Markets

Verstein, Andrew, Insider Trading in Commodities Markets (February 21, 2015). Available for download at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2568140 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2568140 “In securities markets, insider trading is a crime. In commodities, insider trading is almost completely legal. This divergent treatment has long been accepted as appropriate, given perceived differences between the markets. For example, it has been thoughtContinue Reading

Who Regulates Whom and How? An Overview of U.S. Financial Regulatory Policy for Banking and Securities Markets

Who Regulates Whom and How? An Overview of U.S. Financial Regulatory Policy for Banking and Securities Markets. Edward V. Murphy, Specialist in Financial Economics. January 30, 2015. “Financial regulatory policies are of interest to Congress because firms, consumers, and governments fund many of their activities through banks and securities markets. Furthermore, financial instability can damageContinue Reading

Bitcoin: Questions, Answers, and Analysis of Legal Issues

CRS – Bitcoin: Questions, Answers, and Analysis of Legal Issues. Craig K. Elwell, Specialist in Macroeconomic Policy; Maureen Murphy, Legislative Attorney; Michael V. Seitzinger, Legislative Attorney, January 28, 2015 “Bitcoin first appeared in January 2009, the creation of a computer programmer using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. His invention is an open-source (its controlling computer codeContinue Reading

OCC Issues Government Securities Act booklet of the Comptroller’s Handbook

“The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued today the Government Securities Act” booklet of the Comptroller’s Handbook. This new booklet, part of the Securities Compliance series, consolidates certain guidance from the Comptroller’s Handbook for Compliance, “Securities Activities” booklet, issued in September 1991, and the Comptroller’s Handbook booklet “Investment Securities,” issued in MarchContinue Reading

Research Shows XBRL Filing Costs Lower than Expected

AICPA: “EXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is a global data standard used for reporting business information in a computer-readable format. The standardization of business reporting information eliminates the costs associated with manually processing this data or using proprietary products that lock data in incompatible formats.  When it enacted the Final Rule for XBRL, the U.S.Continue Reading

SEC to Simplify Analysis of Corporate Financial Data

Pilot Program Will Be Expanded Next Year to Include Data in Footnotes By MARIA ARMENTAL, WSJ.com – Dec. 30, 2014 “The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a program aimed at making it easier for investors to dig through and compare company financial filings. Under the program being tested, financial data the companies report will be organized into structuredContinue Reading

SEC Issues Annual Staff Reports on Credit Rating Agencies

[December 23, 2014] “the Securities and Exchange Commission issued its annual staff report on the findings of examinations of credit rating agencies registered as nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs) and submitted a separate report on NRSROs to Congress. “These reports provide the most current and comprehensive picture of the credit rating industry,” said SEC ChairContinue Reading

SEC Office of the Investor Advocate Report FY2014

REPORT ON ACTIVITIES FISCAL YEAR 2014 – Office of the Investor Advocate. “THE OFFICE OF THE INVESTOR ADVOCATE was established pursuant to Section 915 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), as codified under Section 4(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78d(g). Exchange Act SectionContinue Reading

Home Depot SEC Filing – Pretax Breach Cost $43 million

eSecurity Planet – “In a recent SEC filing, Home Depot stated that a recent data breach that exposed 56 million credit cards and 53 million email addresses cost the company $43 million in the third quarter of 2014 alone. Specifically, Home Depot says it “recorded $43 million of pretax expenses related to the data breach, partially offsetContinue Reading

How the SEC Helps Speedy Traders

Jackson, Robert J. and Mitts, Joshua, How the SEC Helps Speedy Traders (November 6, 2014). Available for download at at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2520105 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2520105 “We show that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s system for disseminating market-moving information in securities filings gives some investors an advantage over others. We describe two systems — the SEC’s fileContinue Reading