Friday, December 23, 2011

Festivus update

  • In the Toys "R" Us baby products antitrust case, the E.D. Pa. approved a settlement and fee request that pays $14M to attorneys and $8.1M to class members over our objection. describes it as a "24% recovery for the class"; if that's accurate, that raises the question why there will be another $13 million of payments to cy pres recipients not disclosed to the class instead of to the class. Aside from the fact of attorneys getting nearly twice as much as class members.
  • We also lost in the Franklin Templeton Mutual case, where the judge approved a settlement and fee request where the attorneys are getting $2.142 million and the class $2.27 million. To me, that effectively reads the attorneys' fees restrictions directly out of the PSLRA, but we'll wait for a more egregious abuse to take that legal question up on appeal.
  • With all that bad news, we'll take a small partial victory in the Fogel v. Farmers case, where the court reduced an outrageous fee request of $90 million (for a $159 million class recovery) to a merely ginormous $73.7 million award. The judge praised our objection as helpful and invited us to make a fee request. We requested between $10,500 and $33 thousand in fees and expenses, and the court awarded us over $47 thousand. Awkward. We'll try to put the money to good use for class members in other cases, though with appeals, we aren't going to see it for some time. The settlement had Bluetooth problems and the fee disposition is a gigantic windfall that could have been more appropriately directed at the class, but it's in California state court (a legacy pre-CAFA case), there are other objectors who will appeal, and we'll defer to what they're doing, with perhaps an amicus instead of a direct appeal; the long-term precedential value of this case, with even a successful appeal, is pretty close to zero.
  • I forgot to mention a similar small partial victory in the HP Laserjet case back in August; the court approved the settlement after valuing the coupon relief at zero, but did reduce the attorney award from $2.75M to $2M. Close enough for government work; we didn't appeal.
  • We've been invited to make a fee request in another case where we objected in the District Court of Maine a while back, the New Vehicles Canadian Export Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 1532; our objection resulted in an improper $500,000 cy pres being returned to the class common fund. We haven't decided whether to request a token amount of that. 
  • Appellee briefs are in in the Inkjet case in the Ninth Circuit. I'll post about that after the new year if you don't want to look it up on PACER yourself.

Friday, December 16, 2011

mid-December update

  • Wednesday, we filed our Second Circuit brief in Blessing v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc. 
  • Appellees are filing response briefs in Cobell v. Salazar today. We'll put them up in our Cobell appeal update post when they make it onto the web. Oral argument is scheduled for February 16. If you're going to be in the DC area at the beginning of February, and I know you personally, let me know if you're interested in attending a moot.
  • The district court approved the settlement in Barber Auto Sales v. UPS. I'm unhappy with the ruling, which I think is very wrong, but the case is both too small and too narrow to be worth appealing; we already have the larger Sirius case and pending HP Inkjet case in appellate courts to raise the Class Action Fairness Act issues that would have been central to this case. Devoting resources to appealing this case would preclude us from objecting in a couple of other cases, and stretch us pretty thin with the existing appellate schedule. Can't win 'em all, even if we only bring cases that should be won.
  • The district court approved the settlement and the fee request in Trombley v. National City Bank. If it's not an abuse of discretion to approve a 28% fee and $3000/hour-of-paralegal recovery when a case settles without any risk on Docket Entry No. 5, it never is, so we're thinking long and hard about whether to appeal this one; one objector has already appealed, so our appeal wouldn't have any effect on when payouts occurred.
  • The appalling refusal of Missouri appellate courts to do anything about the coupon settlement ripoff in Bachman v. AG Edwards earlier this year resulted in that state receiving attention in the annual Judicial Hellholes report earlier this week.
  • It's not all bad news. Yesterday was the hearing in the second settlement. The parties agreed to modify the settlement to remove the Bluetooth kicker, and the court indicated it would reduce the $1.05M fee request, meaning that money will go to the class. The fee reduction alone might outstrip the original $117,000 settlement, which is now worth over $2.5M. If you're keeping track, that's the fifth time in a row we've won a case and/or fee reduction against Kabateck Brown Kellner; one hopes that this discourages them from continuing to bring bad class actions just to negotiate self-serving settlements. This time, they refrained from abusive ad hominem attacks against us in their briefs; they're learning.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Yes, the Ticketmaster class action settlement is appalling

Yes, we know about the Ticketmaster class action settlement, which over a dozen class members have emailed us about. There's no question that this coupon settlement (complete with questionable cy pres) would be illegal in federal court. Unfortunately, the case is pending in California state court. This limits the precedential value of the case (it's only a jurisdictional accident that it's not in federal court; if it were brought today it would be), and I'm sufficiently discouraged by the last few ventures into state court that I'm reluctant to devote limited resources to it. Including objections and a notice of appeal we've committed to file but haven't yet, we have nineteen cases pending, including eight appeals where the briefing isn't finished.

However, many of the class members who have written us are attorneys. So a possibility is that sufficiently angry attorney class members volunteer to write the briefs (working off of briefs we've previously filed on these issues). Then someone based in California (or me) could attend the fairness hearing. Other class members could submit their objections saying they're joining that one. We're going to try to coordinate that over the course of this month; if you've written to me, and I haven't emailed you yet on this, I will this weekend.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cobell v. Salazar Indian trust appeal of Kimberly Craven, No. 11-5205 (DC Circuit)

Update, September 1: The plaintiffs moved for an $8.3 million appeal bond to create a procedural barrier to prevent Ms. Craven from exercising her appellate rights. Unfortunately for them, such an excessive appeal bond is illegal. Their motion inexplicably failed to cite binding precedent and court rules that contradicted their position, and we have requested sanctions.
Update, September 9: The website has been updated with the plaintiffs' September 7 reply brief on the appeal bond briefing, but omits any link to Ms. Craven's response brief.

Update, September 14: We've reached an agreement with the appellees to expedite the briefing schedule for the appeal. Ms. Craven's opening brief will be due October 17; the appellees' response briefs will be due December 16; our reply brief will be due January 6. This will, one hopes, shave several months off the time for resolution of the appeal. The D.C. Circuit has agreed to this schedule. Coverage at BLT.

Update, October 6: class counsel's motion for appeal bond denied. Class counsel is ordered to produce a declaration explaining how its brief failed to cite binding precedent and misrepresented the law. Let's see how long it takes to get the district court opinion on the website.

Update, October 17: Craven's opening brief was filed today. The appellees' briefs are due December 16. I expect some amicus briefs to be filed October 24.

Update, October 26: The Competitive Enterprise Institute filed an amicus brief this week in support of Ms. Craven's appeal. More coverage at BLT.

Update, December 1: We've moved for judicial notice of a government motion to dismiss a $400 million lawsuit over Indian trust mismanagement based on the Cobell settlement. The existence of this motion supports our argument that the class certification of (and settlement distribution for) the Trust Administration class was illegal. The website took down all the briefing for the appeal bond issue rather than acknowledge the district court's ruling denying the bond and criticizing their briefing strategy, so this appears to be the first appearance of the affidavit required by the court that class counsel was required to file in November. The website also fails to identify that the briefing schedule for the 11-5270 appeals has not been set yet; the settling parties have requested that that be expedited to conclude in March, well after Ms. Craven's appeal briefing concludes. Finally, the DC Circuit granted CEI's leave to file an amicus brief.

Update, December 15:
  • Oral argument is scheduled for February 16, with a panel of Rogers/Tatel/Brown. 
  • Plaintiffs' opposition to the motion to judicial notice.
  • Monday, the government has filed a brief in Two Shields v. United States that essentially argues that class certification of the Trust Administration Class under Rule 23 was illegal for the same reasons we argued that it was illegal. We've made a second motion for judicial notice of that filing. That brief contradicts the position that the government took at the fairness hearing, so I'm curious to see what they do when they file their briefs tomorrow. Certainly, however, the Two Shields case demonstrates that this illegal settlement adversely affects more than just Kimberly Craven.
Update, December 16:
Interestingly, the plaintiffs' appendix was 446 pages. In their motion for the appeal bond, they had told the district court that they would incur $33,523.02 of photocopying costs, which appears to be off by a factor of at least 50.

Update, January 6. We filed our reply brief today. Oral argument is scheduled for February 16. Oral argument in the Good Bear appeal is scheduled May 15.

Update, August 22. On June 27, Kimberly Craven replaced us as counsel in this litigation. We are no longer counsel to Kimberly Craven in this case. We could not respond to inquiries about the litigation under normal circumstances, but there's even less reason to contact us now that we have nothing to do with it.