October 26, 2017
On behalf of Jonathan M. Crist, CEI’s Center for Class Action Fairness objected to plaintiff's renewed motion for attorneys' fees and expenses in a shareholder suit arising out of Verizon’s acquisition of Vodafone’s interest in Verizon Wireless.
As in the overwhelming majority of strike suits, the settlement in Gordon v. Verizon did not provide any monetary relief to shareholders. Instead, it provided immaterial supplemental disclosures and corporate governance change. For example, among the four disclosures class counsel identified as the “greatest hits” was one that simply put previously provided information into tabular form. In the renewed motion, plaintiff's attorneys sought $2 million in fees and expenses for their role in recovering this insignificant relief for the shareholder class.
The motion was filed on remand from the Appellate Division: The New York Supreme Court initially denied approval of the settlement. While, on appeal, the Appellate Division found there were minimal settlement benefits sufficient to approve the settlement and remanded for a determination of fees, the Appellate Division did not find that the benefit warranted the excessive $2 million sought by the attorneys and instead noted that fees should be commensurate with the benefit achieved, with minimal benefit resulting in minimal fees.
This objection is in a similar vein as CEI's victory in Walgreen, as we seek to expand to other jurisdictions the steps taken by the Seventh Circuit and Delaware to limit rent-seeking by plaintiffs' lawyers in deal litigation.
At a hearing on October 26, 2017, the court awarded a reduced amount of $1.5 million in fees and expenses.
Read more about CEI’s Center for Class Action Fairness here.
June 16, 2017
Class member and CCAF attorney Anna St. John objected to settlement approval, class certification, and the request for attorneys' fees in Saska v. Metropolitan Museum of Art. The case involved the Museum's "pay what you wish" admission policy, in particular claims that the policy deceived the public in violation of state law. The proposed settlement provides class members with near-worthless injunctive relief, primarily in the form of changes to the wording of the admission price: "suggested" and "the amount you pay is up to you" will be substituted for "recommended."
At the same time, and in a clear signal of who the settlement was structured to primarily benefit, the class attorneys are seeking fees of $350,000. The proposed settlement suffered from the further defect that the proposed relief benefits only future museum visitors, while the class is defined to include only past visitors—many of whom will not visit the museum in the future and therefore will not recover even nominal value from the proposed policy changes.
The fairness hearing was held on May 5, 2017, at the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County.
On June 15, 2017, the court approved the settlement and requested attorneys' fee award in Saska v. Metropolitan Museum of Art. The court denied an incentive award for the named plaintiffs on the grounds it lacked authority to make such awards.