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Companies spent record amounts in 2006 to get rid of big dollar securities fraud cases, exceeding all previous years with $17.2 billion, including a whopping $6.6 billion partial settlement in the Enron Corp. case, according to Cornerstone Research. The average size of settlements in 2006, including four individual cases over $1 billion each, was $45 million � more than double the average for all cases filed after the 1995 Securities Litigation Reform Act cases. Excluding the Enron deal, the year saw $10.6 billion in settlements in a class of cases involving fraudulent stock price inflation claims. Primarily four deals for over $1 billion each drove the high numbers. And despite the record-setting totals in big dollar cases, the majority of settlements � 60% � settled for less than $10 million, a pace that has remained stable for several years, Cornerstone reports. A couple reasons may have contributed. Institutional investors were lead plaintiff in over half of all 2006 settlements and Cornerstone found institutional plaintiff involvement consistently increased settlement size in each of the last 10 years. Among plaintiffs lawyers, 54% of all settled cases last year involved two firms: Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, and Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman. Others in the top five were Schiffrin & Barroway with 12%; Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman at 9% and two firms, Abbey Gardy, and Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshifz, with 6% each.

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