The Unjustified Judicial Creation of Class Certification Merits Trials in Securities
The class action device is vital to deterring securities fraud and remedying its victims, who almost never suffer losses sufficient to justify an individual suit. Nonetheless, the federal courts have begun to convert the class certification process into a premature trial on the merits, thereby precluding victims of securities fraud from pursuing otherwise valid claims of financial wrongdoing. In particular, in a series of important decisions, the federal courts have required plaintiffs to prove the essential elements of their securities fraud claims at the preliminary class certification stage.
This Article demonstrates why this trend should end. The judicial creation of class certification merits trials in securities fraud cases is inconsistent with the federal securities laws and Supreme Court precedent. Moreover, judicial resolution of the merits of a securities fraud claim at the class certification threshold infringes on the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury. Nor can class certification merits trials be excused by any legitimate policy concerns. The harm purportedly averted by these trials is illusory. The supposed threat that class certification and post-certification discovery costs will produce in terrorem settlements is unfounded and illogical. Finally, this Article concludes that the harm caused by class certification merits trials is substantial. This new procedure will over-deter the very type of private securities fraud actions that both supplement Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement actions and compensate victims for losses caused by securities fraud.