Lyle Roberts summarizes the competing numbers from Cornerstone and NERA:
Why the decline in filings this past year? Possible reasons put forward by the reports include better corporate governance (Cornerstone and NERA), a strengthened federal enforcement environment (Cornerstone), a strong stock market combined with lower stock price volatility (Cornerstone), and distraction on the part of the plaintiffs' bar (NERA).
The Chamber of Commerce votes for the last explanation, noting that the decline in Milberg Weiss cases alone is greater than the decline in total cases. If I can add two more explanations: (1) there's just simply a backlog of bigger cases filed earlier in the decade. 21st-century cases have many more e-mails and tertiary defendants than cases in the 1990s; (2) the number of securities cases has always naturally fluctuated somewhat—add an upward market, firms withdrawing from or refusing to enter American securities markets, and Milberg Weiss distraction, and of course the total number is going to go down.
What's worth noting is that "number of securities suits" is hardly the best number to judge this by: Lerach Coughlin doesn't get paid by the complaint. Settlements and contingent fees are up, and so are legal defense expenses. It's hardly an improvement in the legal climate if the plaintiffs' bar has replaced the $10 million nuisance settlement with the $1-billion extortion payoff by a bank to avoid a 5% risk of being bankrupted by a meritless legal ruling holding it entirely responsible under joint and several liability for the Worldcom or Enron collapse.