Friday, June 25, 2010

Good reporting, bad reporting

Compare and contrast the excellent analysis of's Dan Fisher with the shallow softball St. Louis Business Journal on the A.G. Edwards case—though the latter coaxes from Robert Blitz of Blitz Bardgett and Deutsch an admission that his lawsuit would have been deemed meritless if it had been in federal court.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bachman v. A.G. Edwards update

You may recall the $60 million settlement that wasn't to which CCAF objected. Judge Angela T. Quigless approved the settlement and approved the $21.6 million award of attorneys' fees and costs without addressing any of the objections.

And if you ever hear a class action attorney tell you that what they really care about is "access to justice," you have my permission to laugh sardonically. The Bachman attorneys have asked the court to require any objector-appellants (each of whom have about $20 at stake) to post a $325,000 appeal bond—despite the fact that Missouri law does not permit such a thing. CCAF filed an opposition to the request (citing Professor Fitzpatrick's recent article disapproving of excessive appeal bonds), and I was in St. Louis yesterday to argue at the hearing. We will see whether CCAF gets to appeal the judgment or has to appeal an illegal appeal bond order.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ninth Circuit appeal in Bluetooth - opposition briefs

Earlier this month, plaintiffs and defendants each filed appellees' briefs defending the district court's approval of the Bluetooth settlement against our appeal. We'll be filing our reply brief later this week; stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dewey v. Volkswagen, Water Ingress Settlement objection

The Dewey v. Volkswagen settlement where attorneys are asking for over $23 million for recovering an $8 million reimbursement fund for a small subset of the class (but attributing tens of millions of dollars to a valuation of injunctive relief where VW and Audi send a letter to class members) has gotten a lot of reaction around the Internet. (E.g., Major, Olson (and commenters), Pero, CJAC, Passat World.)

Today, the Center for Class Action Fairness filed an objection on behalf of four class members, including one who gets nothing despite water leakage into the passenger compartment that required over $1000 of repairs. The fairness hearing is July 26. Oddly (but all too typically), objections are due before the parties make their filings and present their evidence for the fairness of the settlement, so we'll need to make a supplemental filing July 12 to address the expert report's valuation of the injunctive relief.

The case is Dewey v. Volkswagen AG, No. 07-CV-2249 (D.N.J.).

Update, June 16: see also Public Citizen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Coupon settlement in DC approved in Envision EMI case

"Some 15,000 students paid between $2,380 and $2,729 to attend" 2009 inauguration conferences organized by Envision EMI, which class action attorneys claimed, quite plausibly, was a ripoff. So the class members get... two $625 coupons for two more conferences from the same substandard vendor. And those coupons have several limitations, including the fact that only ten percent of seats at any given conference are eligible for coupon use. The settlement is characterized as a "$17 million settlement" in the press, though in fact claims will certainly be much lower. (If fewer than $8 million is awarded, the remainder will go to cy pres, but the settlement does not specify the cy pres recipient.) The lawyers, including the Hausfeld LLP firm, will get over $1.4 million. Several state attorneys general objected, but the court approved the settlement anyway, while holding the fee award in abeyance. Looks like the students will be getting ripped off twice.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cy pres bill in Ohio House

I've previously written about the problem of cy pres, charitable donations used to expand the apparent value of class action settlements that often serve as double-compensation for the trial lawyers. One particular Ohio law firm, Dworken & Bernstein, has demonstrated this problem first-hand by regularly negotiating for cy pres awards in settlements that otherwise are pretty lackadaisical in terms of class benefits, getting the settlement approved by claiming the cy pres award is a benefit to the class (even when it benefits a charity affiliated with the judge, or is a local charity despite the fact that the money is supposed to be going to a national class), and then taking personal credit for the donation in ceremonies with oversized checks, as if the money being donated was the law firm's rather than that of their clients. (The website's stock photo of the grateful child with the flower is particularly compelling.)

Public choice aficionados would be fascinated by recent Ohio developments where the Dworken firm has lined up multiple charities to support pernicious legislation, HB 427, that would enshrine this conflict of interest and breach of fiduciary duty to one's clients into Ohio law. On May 18, I testified before an Ohio House committee on the subject.