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Worldwide, investors recovered $7.9 billion through securities class actions last year, according to ISS Securities Class Action Services. (All figures are in U.S. dollars.)

The firm reported that global class action recoveries reached a five-year high in 2023, led by an 18% increase in U.S. recoveries to $5.8 billion.

“The high-profile securities class actions resolved in 2023 include two against Wells Fargo for an aggregate value of $1.3 billion, as well as a $450-million settlement with Kraft Heinz,” it said.

These so-called “mega-settlements” helped drive increased investor recoveries, ISS said, adding that the 10 largest securities settlements during the year totalled $2.6 billion.

Indeed, settlements involving Wells Fargo accounted for half that total — with a $1-billion settlement relating to the bank’s failure to fix its compliance and oversight failures that were revealed in a scandal involving the opening of millions of fake accounts. The settlement, which was approved by the Southern District of New York in September 2023, is one of the 20 largest of all time, ISS noted.

Wells Fargo also accounted for the third-largest settlement of the year, which resolved allegations that the bank hid from investors that it was unnecessarily charging customers for auto-collision protection insurance.

Another financial firm, Allianz Global, accounted for the fifth-largest settlement of the year — a $145 million payout to shareholders of mutual funds that suffered massive losses during the market turmoil that arose in early 2020.

There were also six U.S. antitrust actions that partially settled in 2023, including four settlements involving allegations of financial benchmark manipulation stemming from the LIBOR-rigging scandal that dates back to the 2008 financial crisis.

Complicated cases take a long time to resolve, ISS noted, with the six cases that settled in 2023 averaging 10.8 years from filing the complaint through to settlement.

Additionally, ISS said that large ESG-related settlements “remain an important part of the landscape, as do cases related to merger integration issues,” noting that four of the top 10 deals involved merger-related issues.

There were also significant settlements involving allegations of breaches of fiduciary duties by corporate directors and officers, it noted.