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Securities class action settlements up in 2016

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The number of securities class action settlements approved by U.S. courts in 2016 was 85, the highest level since 2010, according to a report issued Wednesday by San Francisco-based Cornerstone Research.

Total settlement dollars approved in 2016 was $5.99 billion, or almost double 2015’s $3.07 billion, according to the report, “Securities Class Action Settlements – 2016 Review and Analysis.”

A total of $4.8 billion of that settlement was accounted for by “mega” settlements of more than $100 million; the number of these large settlements may decline in the future, although the total number of settlements could increase, according to the report.

The report also predicts that health care and related industry sectors, such as biotech and pharmaceuticals, “may play a growing role in both the number and total dollar amounts of settlements in the future.”

The median settlement amount in 2016 was $8.6 million, about 40% higher than 2015’s median of $6.1million, according to the report.

“These data continue to emphasize the importance of mega cases and mega settlements, often concentrated in industries with large market capitalization components, like pharmaceuticals and finance,” said Joseph Grundfest, professor of law and business at Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, California, in a statement. “Class action securities fraud litigation is a hit-driven business in which a small number of cases regularly account for the lion’s share of plaintiff recoveries.”