CEI’s Center for Class Action Fairness is challenging the legality of a class action settlement with Google that provides millions of dollars to the attorneys, and zero dollars to the class. Class members, who waive all rights to damages under the settlement, receive the same benefit whether or not they opt out.
In the original class action case, plaintiffs sued Google for alleged federal privacy violations over Google’s circumvention of Safari browser users’ privacy settings, but class counsel negotiated a settlement that provided $0 to class members and $5.5 million to be divided between class counsel and third-party charities. One of those charities is a non-profit for which co-lead counsel serves as chairman of the board, and several others are charities to which Google routinely donates, bringing into question the benefit to the class.
The Center for Class Action Fairness (CCAF) objected to the settlement, but was overruled by U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on February 2, 2017. CCAF director and class member in this case, Ted Frank, filed a notice of appeal on March 1, 2017. CCAF is challenging the final approval of the class action settlement in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
In July 2017, 13 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of CCAF’s objection. The state attorneys general agree with CCAF that the feasibility of distributing funds depends on whether it’s impossible to distribute funds to some class members, not whether it’s possible to distribute to all class members. According to CCAF director and senior attorney Ted Frank, this is an important distinction that helps prevent nearly every class-action settlement from turning into an abusive cy-pres-only settlement, which harms class members.