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European Company and Financial Law Review

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In this paper, we provide an overview of the most significant empirical research that has been conducted in recent years on the public and private enforcement of the federal securities laws. The existing studies of the U.S. enforcement system provide a rich tapestry for assessing the value of enforcement, both private and public, as well as market penalties for fraudulent financial reporting practices. The relevance of the U.S. experience is made broader by the introduction through the PSLRA in late 1995 of new procedures for the conduct of private suits and the numerous efforts to evaluate the effects of those provisions. We believe that the evidence reviewed here shows that the PSLRA's provisions have largely achieved their intended purposes. For example, many more private suits are headed by an institutional lead plaintiff, such plaintiffs appear to fulfill the desired role of monitoring the suit's prosecution and their presence is associated with suits yielding better settlements and lower attorneys' fees awards. SEC enforcement efforts, while significant, have tended to focus on weaker targets, suggesting that the big fish get away. Equally importantly, markets impose their own discipline on companies whose managers release false financial reports and, in turn, firms discipline the managers who are responsible for false misleading reporting, perhaps because of the presence of, or potential for, private enforcement actions.

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