The settlements that reach the press, those covered by 8K filings or news releases, may well account for the largest part of corporate settlements paid (See my post of April 15, 2007: confidentiality of settlement amounts.). I presume this to be true since a single blockbuster settlement easily overshadows lots of small, nuisance payments. Shareholders must be informed about material payments and the resolution of significant litigation. On the other hand, many companies year after year have no settlements that rise to that level of financial significance or they have no legal requirement to disclose settlements.
It would be good to have some benchmarks around this topic. Perhaps general counsel would be willing to estimate the ratio over the past couple of years for their company of disclosed-to-confidential amounts (See my post of Sept. 22, 2006: 95 percent of settlements are in cash.). Also there are some settlement databases (See my post of March 13, 2006: verdict and settlement databases.).
I have tried to bring some visibility to the question of how much is paid in settlements by companies in the United States, but the bits of data are fragmented (See my post of May 30, 2005: lack of benchmark data about settlements; July 16, 2005: settlements as a percentage of total legal spend; Feb. 13, 2008: settlement ratios by practice area; July 16, 2005: settlements and judgments in relation to outside counsel spending; Jan. 20, 2009: settlement costs in relation to costs of outside counsel; and Oct. 27, 2010: data on settlements.).