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Business Law Today

May 2024

Securities Class Actions on the Rise: International Trends to Watch

Stephen Cirami


  • Globally, institutional investors are increasingly utilizing class actions to drive ESG-related goals, reshaping corporate governance. Securities-related settlements values surpassed $13 billion worldwide in the past two years, underscoring their importance, with collective redress mechanisms growing worldwide.
  • While traditional equity investments dominate most portfolios, emerging asset classes and complex financial products have added to the complexity of securities class actions, complicating recovery processes.
  • Navigating global investment recovery demands understanding diverse country-specific legal intricacies amid evolving jurisdictional landscapes. The expansion of class and collective actions outside the U.S. has significantly broadened markets, attracting funders and firms to opportunities in the EU, APAC, and elsewhere.
Securities Class Actions on the Rise: International Trends to Watch Ashari

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Class actions have taken the financial world by storm these past few years, capturing widespread investor, media, and regulatory attention and dominating many corporate governance and legal discussions.

Today, institutional investors are utilizing existing and new class action laws as a corporate governance tool for companies they invest in. Now, these laws stand at the forefront, playing a pivotal role in shaping policies for asset recovery, steering shifts in investor behavior, and creating new focus on ESG policies, as well as influencing other critical factors.

Indeed, total securities-related settlement values worldwide amounted to approximately $13 billion in the last two years alone, and there are over one thousand securities class actions remaining in litigation.

And the rise of such class actions is no longer just a phenomenon in the United States. Significant opportunities now exist outside the U.S., as a wave of collective action litigation across the European Union (EU), the Asia–Pacific region (APAC), and other regions continues to pick up steam.

Growth in Securities Class Actions around the World

As the growing number of securities class action cases outside the U.S. mature and settle, multiple recent recoveries have eclipsed the $1 billion mark, with several high-profile opt-in litigations underway, including claims against Wirecard AG (Germany), Airbus SE (the Netherlands), Glencore Plc (United Kingdom), and Mitsubishi Motors (Japan).

These actions are fueled by new laws and edicts, such as multiple countries’ implementation of the landmark EU Directive on Representative Actions, which was adopted in 2020. Although several EU member states have yet to comply (and are subject to financial penalties in the meantime), prominent shareholder recovery jurisdictions, including the Netherlands and Germany, have already updated their procedures and laws to further improve access to courts and encourage resolution of disputes on a large scale.

Countries outside the EU have followed suit. Recent developments out of APAC include New Zealand, where in 2022 the country’s Law Commission recommended a statutory framework for class actions, and Singapore, whose Monetary Authority highlighted that improving investors’ options to seek redress for losses arising from securities market misconduct is a key issue the country needs to address moving forward in 2023.

This trend across European and APAC countries of enacting new and bolder class action laws ties back to the Supreme Court of the United States’s decision in Morrison v. National Australian Bank in 2010. In that landmark decision in U.S. securities class action jurisprudence, the court held that § 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act only applies to U.S. securities or domestic transactions, ending its use for class action claims related to non-U.S. transactions in securities listed on foreign exchanges. Since then, out of necessity for injured parties outside of the United States, the quest for alternative venues has evolved in a full-fledged global movement. And over the last few years, the globalization of class action lawsuits has taken on a life of its own.

Today, business attorneys find themselves navigating a maelstrom of challenges, from the ever-expanding scope of these actions to emergence of new jurisdictions, heightened client interest, and advising financial services firms in their demanding and ever-changing global landscape.

Navigating this dynamic terrain is a challenge and vital responsibility for attorneys in the financial sector.

Complex Asset Classes and Antitrust Class Actions

Traditional equity investments have long dominated portfolios. Likewise, securities-related class actions have historically been dominated by holders of common stock or ordinary shares. This creates additional complexities as new laws emerge: (1) each country’s new class action laws have nuances that must be navigated, and (2) the complexity in recovery is compounded by new, innovative, and sophisticated asset classes.

Technological advancements and the swift flow of information have torn down barriers to entry in the investment world, fueling an appetite for new opportunities. Cryptocurrency, once considered incompatible with risk-tolerant investment strategies, is now capturing institutional attention. This transformation unfolds against a backdrop of maturing regulatory surroundings and evolving market infrastructure across the globe.

In the uncharted territory of cryptocurrency’s financial “Wild West,” asset managers are beginning to utilize class action laws when something has gone wrong.

However, the industry is also seeing an increase in the use of class action law globally to recover lost investments from other complex financial products. Often these cases are not brought on traditional securities laws, but rather antitrust or competition laws, further complicating the process. For example, 2023 set a record for the sheer number of antitrust settlements involving publicly traded securities or financial instruments. Indeed, there were nine such settlements collectively exceeding $650 million in aggregate. Two of the larger settlements include $187 million for investors in BBSW-based derivatives and $155.5 million for investors who transacted in SIBOR- and/or SOR-based derivatives.

Thus, the complexities in navigating these cases do not arise solely from novel financial products like cryptocurrencies; they extend to complex financial products such as asset swaps, bonds and floating rate notes, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, forward rate agreements, inflation swaps, interest rate swaps, and total return swaps, just to name a few.

Globetrotting Insights: Navigating International Class Action Trends

Embarking on an active process to reclaim international investments begins with recognizing the distinctive country-by-country demands inherent in such legal battles. The global stage of investment recovery is evolving, and strategic awareness of unique challenges and opportunities is the key to navigating this intricate terrain.

Since Morrison, U.S. courts have not had jurisdiction over what is commonly known as “f-cubed cases.” These cases involve (1) foreign investors pursuing legal recourse against (2) foreign issuers for fraud that (3) transpired beyond U.S. borders. This restriction triggered a surge in foreign class actions, or collective actions, echoing beyond the U.S.

Yet only recently has this caused a wave of collective action litigations to increase across the EU and APAC, as well as other zones, prompting a noteworthy influx of litigation funders, U.S. litigation firms, and mass litigation units into these expanding markets. The driving force behind this expansion lies in evolving jurisdictional landscapes that render the pursuit of such actions legally more feasible.

The past few years have witnessed billion-dollar settlements in various corners of the globe, from Steinhoff and Fortis in the Netherlands to Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in the UK. No longer are substantial recoveries confined to the Western Hemisphere, either. In the APAC region, securities class action dockets stand out as some of the busiest beyond U.S. borders, with settlements routinely surpassing the $100 million threshold. Australia spearheaded this trend, and a multitude of investor actions are filed in Taiwan.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has also made a notable entrance into this arena, introducing its own collective action legislation through the Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Issues Concerning Representative Litigation in Securities Disputes. In a mere twelve months, the PRC courts handed down a substantial $385 million verdict in the Kangmei Pharmaceutical investor action. In December 2023, a securities settlement of 280 million yuan (about $40 million USD) was reached on behalf of 7,195 investors in Essence Information Technology Co., Ltd. in a case in the Shanghai Financial Court.

While guiding clients through the intricacies of international class actions, a pivotal consideration arises—the prevalence of opt-in systems in the majority of jurisdictions. Under these systems, interested parties must actively choose to participate in the litigation, often backed by distinct teams and legal theories from the third-party litigation funders.

Navigating parallel opt-in claims is a common challenge, as seen in Germany, where six separate Wirecard actions demanded assessment. Business attorneys must be adept at steering their clients through nuances of different and competing litigations. In the example of the Wirecard case, a client may opt not to pursue a claim against auditor defendant Ernst and Young, while still seeking recovery against other defendants or taking part in one of several insolvency proceedings.

There are other material differences each investor must navigate as well, from relevant countries’ laws, to each case’s legal and economic damage theory.

For example, in the U.K., a claimant might need to demonstrate “reliance” on misrepresentations made by the company as a condition for certain claims, a departure from the U.S., where there is a well-established presumption of reliance supported by the courts.


As more countries embrace the idea of opening their courts to collective redress actions, it’s evident securities class actions are not just changing but will continue to boom, as institutional investors are keenly watching this wave, pulling the financial services industry along for this important ride. A notable shake up in broker-dealer services and a surge within the custodial business is emerging as they gear up to offer global, comprehensive support. Traditionally, attorneys advising broker dealers focused on notifying individual wealth customers about potential security settlements. But now, they’re stepping into a broader role, diving into holistic claim filing and client asset recovery services. This shift and the dynamic landscape of international class actions demands vigilance and adaptability from legal advisors and the financial services industry around the globe.