A smoking gun in debate over consumer class actions?

Reuters reports on the Center for Class Action Fairness' case Frank V. Poertner. CCAF objected to a settlement of consumer fraud over Duracell batteries which granted the attorneys a far greater payout than the class members.

Six members of the class of more than 7 million Duracell battery buyers filed objections to the settlement, arguing (among other things) that few consumers would actually bother to file claims for the cash piece of the settlement, which amounted to $3 or $6 per claim. In response, defense lawyers at Jones Day submitted a declaration from Deborah McComb, a senior consultant at Kurtzman Carson Consultants, a settlement administrator. KCC is administering the Duracell settlement, and the point of McComb’s declaration is that the rate of claims in this case is consistent with what KCC typically sees in similar settlements that have received final approval…

 .76 percent of battery buyers filed claims to receive $3 or $6. If all of those claims turn out to be valid, McComb said in the declaration, the settlement fund will disburse $344,850 to class members. But remember: The settlement is supposed to be worth $49 million — the number on which plaintiffs lawyers have based their fee request. Even counting the $6 million in Duracell products that will be distributed to charities if the settlement is approved and the injunction against false labels the defendants agreed to, there’s an awfully big gap between the alleged value of the deal and the actual cash benefit to the class.

I don’t mean to pick on the Duracell case or counsel in the class action, who point out in their response to settlement objectors that it’s standard procedure in the 11th Circuit to base fee awards on the benefit available to class members and not the benefit actually delivered to them. I should also point out that I was alerted to the McComb declaration by Ted Frank of the Center for Class Action Fairness, who is one of the objectors in the case.

Read the full article at Reuters.