A total of 169 federal securities class-action lawsuits were filed in 2009, a sharp decline from 2008.

In 2008, 223 such lawsuits were filed, representing a 24 percent decline in 2009, according to a new report by Cornerstone Research and the Stanford University Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse.

“Plaintiffs simply ran out of financial firms to sue,” said Stanford professor and former SEC commissioner Joseph Grundfest.

The total of 169 federal securities class actions filed in 2009 were 14 percent below the annual average of 197 observed between 1997 and 2008. Litigation activity related to the credit crisis declined even more markedly from 100 filings in 2008 to only 53 in 2009, a 47 percent decrease. Only 17 of those filings occurred in the second half of 2009.

Market capitalization losses attributable to 2009 filings, as measured by disclosure dollar loss and maximum dollar loss, decreased from 2008 levels by 62 percent to $83 billion and by 24 percent to $634 billion, respectively.

Plaintiff law firms filed a much larger number of lawsuits long after the date on which the alleged fraud was disclosed to the market. The filing of these delayed class actions was particularly notable in the second half of the year when the median filing lag was 100 days, more than three times the historical average.

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