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OpenMarket: Class Action Fairness

  • Oetting v. Green Jacobson / Oral argument September 10 in 8th Circuit on cy pres

    September 3, 2014
    Bank of America settled a nationwide securities class action in the E.D. Mo. for hundreds of millions of dollars. For some reason, the district court judge ordered that $2 million or so of the settlement fund not be distributed immediately. By a few years later in 2013 (after interest and restitution from a settlement administrator employee that had embezzled from the settlement fund), there's $2.7 million left over. At the behest of St. Louis class counsel, but over the objection of the class representative, the district court distributes that money not to the class, but to a local St. Louis charity. Class counsel rushes to hold a ceremony delivering the check notwithstanding the automatic...
  • Laguna v. Coverall N.A.

    September 2, 2014
    Coverall N.A. settled a class action over janitorial franchises by paying a $1M attorney fee and setting up a claims-made process that would pay about $56,625 to the class. The parties justified this settlement by pointing out injunctive relief that some class members would be eligible for; if the maximum number of class members took advantage of the injunctive relief, they said, it would be worth $20 million. Wait a second, complained an objector: most class members will never take advantage of the injunctive relief because they're not eligible for it, and the court should get that data from the defendant to find out the true value of the injunctive relief before approving a settlement that might run afoul of Bluetooth. The district court...
  • Allen v. Dairy Farmers of America

    July 24, 2014
    What happens when class counsel wants to settle and the class representatives do not? Rule 23(a)(4) and the Constitution require adequate class representation before individual class members can be bound. If class counsel can hijack a class and force a settlement when no class representative approves, it would seem to unconstitutionally abrogate the Rule 23(a)(4) inquiry. If class representatives have limited power to bind a class (as the Supreme Court has held in Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Knowles and Smith v. Bayer Corp.), how can a class without any representation do so? And if a zombie class can proceed and settle without any class representatives, why have the Rule 23(a) requirements at all, and not just allow attorneys to sue on behalf of a class without any individual standing?
  • Letter to Chicago Lawyer Magazine

    July 10, 2014
    To the editor:

    Your June 2014 article "Cy pres success" contains a material misstatement of the law, when it implies that giving the class's money to legal services organizations is invariably a "recognized approach to avoid granting awards to dubious organizations." A number of decisions, including Ira Holtzman, CPA v. Turza, 728 F.3d 682 (7th Cir....
  • Eubank v. Pella Corporation (7th Cir. 2014)

    June 6, 2014
    Judge Posner writes a very interesting Seventh Circuit opinion reversing a settlement approval on multiple grounds. A lot of friends forwarded the decision to me. I got to write back that I had argued it.

    This wasn't a Center for Class Action Fairness case; the Center is a non-profit and restricted by federal tax law to cases where the client would not be able to retain a private attorney. But an objector's counsel retained my private solo law practice to assist with the briefing for one of the objectors; I then argued the appeal in Chicago in April along with counsel for the class representatives frozen out of the deal.

    But even if it's not a CCAF case, it's worth discussing here. The opinion is going to be very helpful to...
  • Opening brief in Redman v. RadioShack

    May 1, 2014
    RadioShack committed the sin of printing credit-card receipts with expiration dates on them, which exposed it to possible liability of $100 a receipt ($1000 if willful), a bankrupting sum. Class counsel settled for coupons. Our clients objected that the settlement did not comply with CAFA's limitations on coupon settlements, and was structured so that class counsel's benefit would outstrip that of the class. As is typical in coupon settlements these days, the settling parties denied that the coupons were coupons. For some reason, the district court bought the argument, and awarded $1M in attorneys' fees while the 16-million-member class will receive 83 thousand coupons with a face-value of $10, give or take. We've appealed, and filed our...
  • May 8 debate in Washington DC

    April 29, 2014
    I'll be debating Professor Brian Fitzpatrick in Washington, DC, the morning of Thursday, May 8. Registration and details at the e21 site.
  • Ninth Circuit win in Apple MagSafe case

    April 28, 2014
    The Apple MagSafe settlement paid the attorneys $3.1 million, but the class less than a quarter of that, yet the district court rubber-stamped settlement approval without addressing the objection to the self-dealing by class counsel, and, worse, imposed an illegal $15,000 bond to appeal the case. We posted the bond and appealed. (Briefing and oral argument here.) Thursday, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded for consideration under the appropriate legal standards, and was especially critical of the abusive appeal bond. The most comprehensive coverage is by ...
  • Wasserman on cy pres

    April 13, 2014
    University of Pittsburgh Law Professor Rhonda Wasserman has a paper on cy pres forthcoming in the USC Law Review, "Cy Pres in Class Action Settlements." The paper discusses in detail two CCAF cases, In re Baby Products Antitrust Litig., and Marek v. Lane.
  • Opening brief in Pearson v. NBTY, Inc., No. 14-1198 (7th Cir.)

    April 9, 2014
    In a settlement of several class actions over the labeling of glucosamine supplements, class counsel settled for a claims process that paid the class under $900,000, and token injunctive relief that tweaked the labels, while leaving much of the supposedly fraudulent labeling language in place (and precluding class members from ever suing on that language again). For this, class counsel asked for $4.5 million, claiming that the settlement was really worth tens of millions because 4.7 million class members could have made $3 claims. (In reality, the postcards mailed to ascertainable class members failed to inform them that they were actually class members, and the claims process demanded they provide receipts or other information already in the defendants' possession. Little wonder no money was actually distributed to the class.) Defendant NBTY was really only on the hook for $2...


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