Number of Securities Class Action Settlements Falls as Median Settlement Amount Reaches Highest Level Since 2010


Total assets of issuer defendants are the highest among post–Reform Act settlements.

The number of securities class action settlements declined 21% relative to 2022, following the 15-year high set in 2022, according to a new report released today by Cornerstone Research. Despite the decline in settlement activity, the median settlement amount, median “simplified tiered damages,” and median assets of issuer defendants remained historically elevated.

The report, Securities Class Action Settlements—2023 Review and Analysis, found that the number of securities class action settlements in 2023 fell to 83, a 21% decline compared to 105 settlements in 2022. The aggregate monetary settlement value was approximately $3.9 billion, roughly the same as the $4.0 billion total in 2022. The median settlement amount of $15.0 million marked the highest level since 2010, representing an 11% increase from 2022.

The fact that cases are taking longer to settle explains, in part, the drop in the number of securities class action settlements in 2023.

“The fact that cases are taking longer to settle explains, in part, the drop in the number of securities class action settlements in 2023,” said Dr. Laarni T. Bulan, a report coauthor and principal at Cornerstone Research. “Disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may be contributing to this, but it is also worth noting that cases are reaching more advanced stages prior to resolution, including a smaller proportion of cases settled before a ruling on class certification compared to prior years.”

According to the report, the median duration from the case filing to the settlement hearing date of 3.7 years in 2023 was unusually high. Since the passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act in 1995, the time to settle has reached this level in only one other year (2006).

In addition to the median settlement value reaching its highest level since 2010, the average settlement amount in 2023 was $47.3 million, a 25% increase from 2022. More than a third of settlements were greater than $25 million, the highest since 2012.

“The median total assets for defendants in 2023 settlements involving Rule 10b-5 claims reached $3.1 billion, more than 150% higher than the prior nine-year median and an all-time high among post–Reform Act settlement years,” said Cornerstone Research senior advisor and report coauthor, Dr. Laura E. Simmons. “Issuer defendant assets serve, in part, as a proxy for resources to fund a settlement and are highly correlated with settlement amounts. Thus, the increase in defendant assets likely contributed to the growth in settlement amounts in 2023.”

Median “simplified tiered damages” declined 16% from a record high in 2022 but remained at elevated levels compared to the prior nine years.

Securities Class Action Settlements—2023 Review and Analysis

Key Trends
  • Issuer defendant firms involved in cases that settled in 2023 involving Rule 10b-5 claims were 19% larger than defendant firms in 2022 settlements, as measured by median total assets.
  • There were nine mega settlements (those equal to or greater than $100 million), the highest number since 2016. These settlements accounted for nearly two-thirds of total settlement dollars in 2023.
  • In 2023, the median settlement amount for cases with only Securities Act of 1933 claims was $13.5 million, an 85% increase from 2022.