This year is the 10th anniversary of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the landmark legislation designed to make companies more accountable for securities fraud. In a surprising twist, a study by Cornerstone Research reported Wednesday that U.S. securities fraud settlements took a nosedive in 2011, resulting in the smallest number and size since SOX was enacted.
Even more surprising is that this occurred the same year that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed the most enforcement cases ever in its history—735 to be exact. The SEC approved only 65 securities fraud settlements in 2011, which totaled just $1.36 billion. In 2010, the agency approved 86 settlements that totaled $3.21 billion.
Experts say that settlement numbers may climb upwards again in 2012, Thomson Reuters reports. American International Group’s (AIG) $725 million settlement will be included in this year’s total, and settlements with Lehman Brothers and Motorola, among others, may also make the cut.