Settlement Slowdown

The number of securities fraud settlements in 2011 dropped to their lowest levels since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), according to a new study by Cornerstone Research. But while settlements reached an all-time low, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was busy filing a historic number of enforcement cases. 

65 Securities fraud settlements that won court approval in 2011 (down from 86 in 2010)

$1.36 billion Total payments in those 65 settlements (down from $3.21 billion in 2010)

$19.9 billion Total payouts in 2006, the peak year for such settlements

8.6% Increase in the number of enforcement cases filed by the SEC between 2010 and 2011

$208.5 million Settlement between Washington Mutual and its investors (the largest 2011 deal in the study)

Floundering Firms

The majority of law firm practice groups fall short when it comes to generating business, cross-selling and group planning, according to an Altman Weil Inc. survey of managing partners. The solution? Underperforming firms should devote more time to leadership activities and more thoughtful planning sessions, says Thomas Clay of The American Lawyer. The mostly disheartening statistics are below:

49% Practice groups that are “very good” or “excellent” in overall performance, according to managing partners who were surveyed

63% Firms with a formal practice group planning process

14% Law firms that invested 250 hours or more per year in leadership activities

13% Firms that require mandatory leadership training for practice group leaders (among firms with 500 or more lawyers, the number was closer to one-third)

Stanford Scheme

After three years of investigation, financier R. Allen Stanford was convicted of fraud for his involvement in the biggest Ponzi scheme since the Bernie Madoff scandal. For two decades, Stanford supposedly managed funds for investors from more than 100 countries, when in reality he was using their investments to fund a luxurious lifestyle and a string of failed businesses. Here’s a look at the numbers behind Stanford’s Ponzi scheme:

$7.1 billion Total amount that Stanford stole from nearly 30,000 investors

$2 billion Stanford’s estimated net worth before his arrest

$330 million Total stolen funds that U.S. authorities can seize from Stanford’s frozen foreign bank accounts

13 Charges on which jurors convicted Stanford (he was acquitted on one count of wire fraud)

230 Years that Stanford could spend in prison if his sentences run consecutively

Jabbering Jurors

How much damage can you do in 140 characters? If you’re a juror, an errant Tweet could lead to a mistrial. To prevent this, many judges are specifically forbidding social media use in their instructions to the jury, according to new survey in the Duke Law & Technology Review. And jurors may be taking these admonitions to heart—many jurors who did not use social media to discuss ongoing cases cited judicial instructions as a deterrent.

50 million Users who log into Twitter daily, according to CEO Dick Costolo

6% Judges responding to the survey who “have not specifically addressed jurors’ use of social media”

60% Judges who specifically instructed jurors not to use social media, using the Court Administration and Case Management Committee (CACM) model

92% Percentage of 140 jurors surveyed who said they were not tempted to use social media during trials

Increasing Insurance

It’s lonely—and potentially expensive—at the top. Fearing expensive litigation, more and more companies are upping insurance coverage for their executives, according to a 2011 Directors and Officers (D&O) Liability Survey, released by Towers Watson. Key numbers from the survey, which included 401 public, private and non-profit companies, are below:

25% Public companies that increased the limits of their D&O insurance policies in 2011

14% Private and non-profit companies that increased their D&O insurance policies

69% Respondents who received an inquiry about the scope of their D&O insurance (up from 57% in 2010)

81% Respondents who said that regulatory claims are among their top three D&O liability concerns

47% Companies that conducted an independent review of their D&O policies in the past two years