This fifth edition of The Securities Litigation Review is a guided introduction to the international varieties of enforcing rights related to the issuance and exchange of publicly traded securities.
Unlike most of its sister international surveys, this review focuses on litigation – how rights are created and vindicated against the backdrop of courtroom proceedings. Accordingly, this volume amounts to a cross-cultural review of the disputing process. While the subject matter is limited to securities litigation, which may well be the world’s most economically significant form of litigation, any survey of litigation is in great part a survey of procedure as much as substance.
As the chapters that follow make clear, there is great international variety in private litigation procedure as a tool for securities enforcement. At one extreme is the United States, with its broad access to courts, relatively permissive pleading requirements, expansive pretrial discovery rules, readily available class-action principles and generous fee incentives for plaintiffs’ lawyers. At the other extreme lie jurisdictions like Sweden, where private securities litigation is narrowly circumscribed by statute and practice, and accordingly quite rare. As the survey reveals, there are many intermediate points in this continuum, as each jurisdiction has evolved a private enforcement regime reflecting its underlying civil litigation system, as well as the imperatives of its securities markets.
This review reveals an equally broad variety of public enforcement regimes. Canada’s highly decentralised system of provincial regulation contrasts with Brazil’s Securities Commission, a powerful centralised regulator that is primarily responsible for creating and enforcing Brazil’s securities rules. Every country has its own idiosyncratic mixture of securities lawmaking institutions; each provides a role for self-regulating bodies and stock exchanges but no two systems are alike. And while the European regulatory schemes have worked to harmonise national rules with Europe-wide directives – an effort now challenged by the (possible) imminent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union – few countries outside Europe have significant institutionalised cross-border enforcement mechanisms, public or private.
We should not, however, let the more obvious dissimilarities of the world’s securities disputing systems obscure the very significant convergence in the objectives and design of international securities litigation. Nearly every jurisdiction in our survey features a national securities regulatory commission, empowered both to make rules and to enforce them. Nearly every jurisdiction focuses securities regulation on the proper disclosure of investment-related information to allow investors to make informed choices, rather than prescribing substantive investment rules. Nearly every jurisdiction provides both civil penalties that allow wronged investors to recover their losses and criminal penalties designed to punish wrongdoers in the more extreme cases.
Equally notable is the fragmented character of securities regulation in nearly every important jurisdiction. Alongside the powerful national regulators are subsidiary bodies – stock exchanges, quasi-governmental organisations, trade and professional associations – with special authority to issue rules governing the fair trade of securities and to enforce those rules in court or through regulatory proceedings. Just as the world is a patchwork of securities regulators, so too is virtually each individual jurisdiction.
The ambition of this volume is to provide readers with a point of entry to these wide varieties of regulations, regulatory authorities and enforcement mechanisms. The country-by-country treatments that follow are selective rather than comprehensive, designed to facilitate a sophisticated first look at securities regulation in comparative international perspectives, and to provide a high-level road map for lawyers and their clients confronted with a need to prosecute or defend securities litigation in a jurisdiction far from home.
A further ambition of this review is to observe and report important regulatory and litigation trends, both within and among countries. This perspective reveals several significant patterns that cut across jurisdictions. In the years since the financial crisis of 2008, nearly every jurisdiction reported an across-the-board uptick in securities litigation activity. Many of the countries featured in this volume have seen increased public enforcement, notably including more frequent criminal prosecutions for alleged market manipulation and insider trading, often featuring prosecutors seeking heavy fines and even long prison terms.
Civil securities litigation has continued to be a growth industry as the 2008 crisis gave rise to a new normal in the private enforcement of securities laws. While class actions are a predominant feature of US securities litigation, there are signs that aggregated damages claims are making significant inroads elsewhere. Class claims are now well established as part of the regulatory landscape in Australia and Canada, and there appears to be accelerating interest around the world in securities class actions and other forms of economically significant private securities litigation. Whether and where this trend takes hold will be one of the important securities law developments to watch in coming years.
This suggests the final ambition for The Securities Litigation Review: to annually reflect where this important area of law has been, and where it is headed. Each chapter contains both a section summarising the year in review – a look back at important recent developments – and an outlook section, looking towards the year ahead. The narrative here, as with the book as a whole, is of both convergence and divergence, continuity and change – with divergence and change particularly predominant in recent years, following political upheaval in the United States and Britain that could herald a sharp break from international cooperation and forceful government regulation in the global finance capitals of New York and London.
An important example is the matter of cross-border securities litigation, treated by each of our contributors. As economies and commerce in shares become more global, every jurisdiction is confronted with the need to consider cross-border securities litigation. The chapters of this volume show jurisdictions grappling with the problem of adapting national litigation systems to a problem of increasingly international dimensions. How the competing demands of multiple jurisdictions will be satisfied, and how jurisdictions will learn to work with one another in the field of securities regulation, will be a story to watch over the coming years. We look forward to documenting this development and other emerging trends in securities litigation around the world in subsequent editions.
Many thanks to all the superb lawyers who contributed to this fifth edition. For the editor, reviewing these chapters has been a fascinating tour of the securities litigation world, and we hope it will prove to be the same for our readers. Contact information for our contributors is included in Appendix 2. We welcome comments, suggestions and questions, both to create a community of interested practitioners and to ensure that each edition improves on the last.
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz