Coughlin Stoia Still Dominates (For Now)

A new report out today shows that San Diego’s Coughlin Stoia, the law firm of attorney Bill Lerach, continues to dominate the field of class-action securities lawsuits even with its former superstar out of the picture.

Coughlin Stoia originated a quarter of all cases settled in 2009, according to this report by Cornerstone Research.

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Class-action securities settlements last year totaled $3.829 billion.

The median settlement was $8 million. The study found that the presence of a “highly active” firm like Coughlin Stoia didn’t increase the chances of winning a big settlement.

Coughlin Stoia, formerly the West Coast offices of Milberg Weiss, was renamed after Lerach pleaded guilty to conspiring to conceal kickbacks to plaintiffs.

A separate Cornerstone Research study suggested that the glory days of big class-action settlements — like Coughlin Stoia’s $7.2 billion judgment against Enron Corp. — may be over.

These cases are no longer a race to the courthouse. New class-action filings in 2009 were marked by a much longer lag between the filing date and the end of the period covering the alleged fraud.

Coughlin Stoia was involved in a majority of the cases with long filing lags. Historically, cases with a longer filing lags are more likely to be dismissed.

Cornerstone concludes:

“The recent surge in filing lags potentially suggests that the pool of current litigation opportunities is shrinking and that plaintiff law firms are revisiting cases involving more distant price drops that were previously viewed as being lower in priority because, among other reasons, they are more likely to be dismissed.”

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