What Counts as Fraud? An Empirical Study of Motions to Dismiss Under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act
This article presents the findings of a study of the resolution of motions to dismiss securities fraud lawsuits since the passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) in 1995. Our sample consists of decisions on motions to dismiss in securities class actions by district and appellate courts in the Second and Ninth Circuits for cases filed after the passage of the Reform Act to the end of 2002. These circuits are the leading circuits for the filing of securities class actions and are generally recognized as representing two ends of the securities class action spectrum. Post-PSLRA, the Second Circuit applies the least restrictive pleading standard to securities claims and the Ninth Circuit applies the most restrictive. The Ninth Circuit's post-PSLRA reputation as being a tougher venue in which to win securities fraud class actions is borne out by a significantly higher dismissal rate. The differences between the two circuits are also reflected in factors that correlate with dismissal. For example, allegations of violations of accounting principles other than revenue recognition correlate negatively with dismissal in the Second Circuit. This coefficient, however, is insignificant in our regressions for the Ninth Circuit. Allegations of revenue recognition violations are insignificant in both circuits, regardless of whether the issuer has been forced to restate those revenues. The circuits part ways on other factors as well: the Second Circuit is significantly less likely to dismiss cases with allegations of false forward-looking statements, a surprising result given the stringent standards for such statements imposed by the PSLRA. The Ninth Circuit is significantly less likely to dismiss complaints with allegations of ‘33 Act violations, and the Second Circuit is more likely to dismiss cases brought by the Milberg Weiss firm. When it comes to insider trading, however, both circuits are skeptical, and the allegations correlate with dismissal in both circuits.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of Michigan;
Publication date: 2005-03-01