Monday, 4 May 2009

And You Thought the Plaintiffs Bar Couldn't Get More Busy

Insurance executives ask their heads of claims the same thing: "How many Securities Class Action Cases (SCAS) were filed?" There's no industry standard definition and Advisen, our friend Kevin LaCroix at the D&O Diary (blog here), and other service providers like NERA or Cornerstone have varying counts.

NERA and Cornerstone make their money by serving as expert witnesses during trial and pre-trial stages. NERA and Cornerstone collect data as a byproduct of this business.

Advisen makes its money collecting data and licencing access to this data on a one-time or continuous basis. Data and predictive models are our core business and we are dedicated to the commercial insurance industry so our output is tailored to their specific needs.

So the answer to the executive's question is "Depends on what you define as a SCAS" but, more importantly, SCAS is only one part of the exposure to liability insurers. In fact, in Q1 2009, SCAS dropped to less than 40% of all securities filings. Advisen tracks shareholder and other derivative suits and cases involving breach of fiduciary duty and securities fraud.

Advisen tracks filings in US federal and state courts and collective actions and other cases filed in overseas courts against US and non-US companies.

In summary, there is no standard definition of "securities class action suit." But for management liability professionals, the more important question is"How many and what types of lawsuits are likely to result in claims under D&O, E&O or fiduciary liability policies?" Advisen tracks and reports on all manner of suits, filed in state, federal and foreign courts, that are likely to result in losses to companies and their management liability insurers. The Advisen database is the most complete, accurate and timely of its kind.

Today Advisen released the findings of its quarterly securities litigation review and the report is available free of charge here. The headline is that filing activity was up significantly from 2008 rates, but the pace can't be sustained and will likely level off over the year.

The executive's follow up questions are "how many of these companies do we write policies for" and "what do we need to reserve". Reserving capital erodes profit so frequency is not popular, but frequency of filings is only part of the picture.

The elephant in the D&O room is whether these cases will yield insured loss. Advisen has already written (see here) about how defense costs are going to eat significantly into the policy limits but that for many reasons, this increased frequency is unlikely to result in an increase in claims paid.

D&O and E&O professionals would benefit from reading the report (here) and seeing if their clients are on the list (here).

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