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The Rise of Global Securities Class Actions

Recovery opportunities are emerging in more countries and jurisdictions. Are you ready to capitalise?

The US continues to dominate securities class action activity, with robust securities laws and well-established processes providing a means for investors to recover losses. In parallel, however, a changing legal landscape and more complex securities are making class actions increasingly common in more than 35 jurisdictions outside of the US.

Over the last 5 years, we have seen filings outside of the US increase year on year, with around 250 cases filed or investigated collectively on average at this point, and we expect this trend to continue for reasons to be explored in more detail in this article.

One of the key developments we saw in November 2021, was the first ever securities class action settlement in China, after a court found that a pharmaceutical company inflated its financials and failed to disclose material information to its investors.  As China becomes yet another jurisdiction primed for securities class action activity, it’s harder than ever to ignore the expanding scope of the global landscape and the increased recovery opportunities now open to investors.

Whether you are an asset owner or asset manager, it is highly likely you will be an eligible participant in class actions globally. Investors are now looking more closely at these opportunities not only from an investment recovery perspective but also with an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) lens.

But global securities class action monitoring and recovery is challenging. With different jurisdictions, come different legal procedures, which requires unique experience and expertise to navigate. Below I describe a few reasons for the growth of securities class actions outside of North America and what you should consider as you choose a partner who can help you capitalise on this unfolding opportunity.

Three factors fueling global class action activity

In 2010, the US Supreme Court decided in Morrison v National Australia Bank LTD that non-US/foreign investors cannot seek redress related to foreign securities on foreign exchanges. When this ruling closed the door to some class action litigation in the United States, it opened the door for other jurisdictions to fill the vacuum. 

Each year since 2010 we’ve seen increasing securities class activity outside of North America. There are many reasons for the precipitous growth, but these are three key factors:

1. Evolving legal landscape

Several countries and jurisdictions have passed new legislation to facilitate collective redress.  Most notably, in 2020, the EU Collective Redress Directive established a legal framework for mass claims for both consumers and investors of the 27 member states.

The Netherlands meanwhile passed its own Collective Damages Act in 2020, allowing for damages claims to be brought on behalf of affected investors. Other jurisdictions include Scotland with the 2020 Civil Litigation Bill and Germany extending the Capital Investor Model Proceedings Act through to 2023. And, as noted above, China saw its first-securities class action settlement in late 2021.

All these legal developments are creating fertile ground for more class action filings in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

2. ESG disclosure practices and regulations

Many investors now recognize the link between ESG factors and the long-term financial health of a corporation.

So, to attract investors, corporations now regularly include ESG disclosures in their regulatory filings and in ancillary reports, such as the corporate sustainability statement.

For many of the cases brought outside of the US, overstating ESG performance or material ESG failures have been the main catalyst for bringing these types of actions against corporations. As more corporations participate in ESG disclosure, it is likely that more litigation will follow.

Compounding these issues are the evolving regulations around ESG disclosure. In November 2021, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS) announced the creation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), introducing new global ESG disclosure standards. These pending regulations and international standards are likely to create uncertainty, and where there’s uncertainty around material disclosure there’s the potential for increased securities class action activity.

3. Increasing funding

Finally, there has been greater investment in securities class action filings outside of North America. For example, US-based law firms are establishing practices in the EU to advance class action cases. Unlike EU-based law firms, US law firms are more likely to assume the upfront cost and risks that may be associated with some jurisdictions.

The EU, by contrast, typically practices a litigation funding model where third-party investors finance the legal costs of filing and litigation in exchange for a percentage of the settlement. These practices reduce the risks and burden on claimants, which provides greater opportunities for investors to seek legal redress and potentially drive corporate governance changes within the corporation. In addition, the likelihood of bringing spurious litigation is reduced due to the risk and financial investment assumed by the litigation funder.

We expect these trends to continue indefinitely. As such, there’s growing opportunity for investors to capitalise on recoveries outside of the US. But navigating global securities class actions is challenging.

Global class action recovery is complex

In the US, the adopted model is opt-out, which means you as an investor, are deemed to be part of the class unless you actively opt-out of the settlement. The litigation has completed, a settlement fund has been established and you, as a passive investor must file a claim form to recoup investment losses. This process can largely be automated for all but the most complex cases and is aided by centralised reporting databases for settlement notices and claim forms. And, because of the maturity of the US class action legal landscape, the cases usually follow standard, robust, and well-defined procedures.

By contrast, outside of the US, most of the jurisdictions adopt an opt-in model, whereby you must actively opt-in to the litigation to recover your investment losses. Each jurisdiction has its own procedures for registration, with various levels of participation requirements. As a result, there is no automated process that can be followed, so the considerations for an investor are very different.

For some jurisdictions, there are also additional risks to consider, particularly for those jurisdictions that do not allow litigation funding or employ an adverse costs rule – all of which may put extra burden on claimants. In addition, the rise of competing actions begs an obvious question – ‘Which one do I join?’ Opting into the right case for the investor is of paramount importance - simply selecting an option where loss figures appear to be materially higher than others or a case that appears to have a much larger marketing budget may not always be the best option.

Choose a partner you can trust

Having the ability to navigate the complexities of the global landscape is vital and with that there’s tremendous opportunity to capitalise on investment recovery opportunities. Outside of the US, successful registration and recovery requires not just expertise, but also local knowledge and deep strategic relationships with law firms and litigation funders who work with investors to recover losses. That’s why so many financial services firms and institutional investors choose Broadridge.

Broadridge has the experience and global footprint you need to identify opportunities and maximise recoveries in every region and jurisdiction. Our advocacy model ensures you get hands-on service and the right support at every step. From onboarding and intake to filing preparation and settlement processing, our legal and operations experts personally manage each stage of the process and set you up for success in this growing and increasingly dynamic space.

Discover how we can help you confidently handle class actions and collective redress proceedings, worldwide.

Article first published in Alpha Week.

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