Have Institutional Fiduciaries Improved Securities Class Actions? A Review of the Empirical Literature on the PSLRA's Lead Plaintiff Provision
Handbook of Institutional Investment and Fiduciary Duty, Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming
25 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2012
Date Written: November 13, 2012
In 1995, Congress substantially revamped the governance of securities class actions when it created the lead plaintiff provision as part of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. This paper reviews the empirical literature evaluating that provision. The story that emerges from these studies is of a largely successful statutory innovation that has markedly improved the conduct of these cases. There is little doubt that passage of the PSLRA spurred institutions to become more active in securities class actions. Overall, the results of that participation are positive. Existing studies demonstrate that cases with institutional lead plaintiffs settle for more and are subject to a lower rate of dismissal than cases with other kinds of lead plaintiffs, although some questions remain regarding whether these results are driven by institutional self-selection of higher quality cases. One study has shown that institutional participation is correlated with at least some improvements in corporate governance. Institutional lead plaintiffs have had their largest impact on attorneys’ fees. Not only is institutional participation correlated with lower fees and greater attorney effort, but there is evidence to suggest that institutions have created an economically significant positive externality - a reduction in fee awards even in cases without institutional plaintiffs. Institutional participation, however, has not been an unalloyed good. Other studies suggest that institutional investors are subject to their own agency costs, particularly in the form of pay-to-play arrangements with plaintiffs’ law firms. Those arrangements appear to eliminate some of the beneficial effects associated with institutional service as lead plaintiffs.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation