Ameritrade Stock Spam Settlement

In 2007, plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against Ameritrade, alleging that Ameritrade was somehow behind the plaintiffs’ receiving spam pushing the purchase of certain stocks–because, after all, there is no other way that anyone receives spam.

In 2008, the parties settled, with $1.87M for the attorneys, and zero pecuniary benefits to the 6.2-million-member class other than coupons for anti-virus software. Unfortunately for the attorneys,

at the preliminary approval hearing, Matthew Elvey, one of the class representatives, came forward and expressed numerous “reservations” about the settlement. He suggested that the gains the class would receive under the settlement had the appearance of benefitting the class but were, in operation, trivial.

This is understatement: Elvey told the court that he opposed the settlement, and even filed papers to that effect. Judge Vaughn Walker therefore declined preliminary approval–but then a few months later approved a similar settlement that had some minor changes such as the expiration date of the coupons and the wording of the notice.

To date, there is no evidence that the spam was connected to Ameritrade, or that a breach of Ameritrade data security that released home addresses for its customers has resulted in any harm, despite Ameritrade seeding databases with dummy spam-catcher e-mail addresses, and multiple analyses of whether identity theft had occurred.

Objections to this settlement are due July 9, 2009, with a September 10 hearing date in the Bay Area. And wouldn’t you know it, I am a class member, though I must have thrown my densely written notice in the trash.

(Case No. C 07-2852 VRW (N.D. Cal.)).