Friday, June 24, 2011

June 20 was a busy day

The growth of the Center for Class Action Fairness LLC can be shown just by the breadth of its activities on Monday, June 20:
  • There were twelve objectors at the Cobell v. Salazar fairness hearing, and I was the only attorney representing an objector. Unfortunately, the district court overruled our objections, and approved the $3.4 billion settlement. There was some good news: if one takes the plaintiffs' request for $224 million in a fee and expense award seriously, rather than as a tactical maneuver to give the judge room to award high fees while appearing to cut the request, then the judge's decision to award $99 million in fees (and reject another $11 million in expense requests by the class representatives) means that there will be another $136 million available for class members when and if distribution takes place.
  • Dan Greenberg was at the fairness hearing in the Central District of California for Stetson v. West Publishing which drew some extra blogosphere attention because it involved BarBri expenses for many many recent law-school graduates. The court, from the bench, rejected the coupon settlement, which entailed over $1.8 million in attorney-fee requests. It's the second win from the bench in a row for Dan; we're still waiting for the official opinion in the coupon settlement rejection in Sobel v. Hertz (D. Nev.).
  • And Adam Schulman, our local counsel Chris Arfaa, and I helped file Dan's reply brief in the McDonough v. Toys "R" Us (E.D. Pa.) baby products class action settlement, where the attorneys are requesting about $14 million though the class is likely to receive less than $20 million. The fairness hearing will be July 6 in Philadelphia.
The Center for Class Action Fairness represents class members pro bono when they are treated unfairly by class action settlements. Please contact me if you get notice of a class action settlement that you are concerned might be unfair, and I will evaluate it for free.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Weeks v. Kellogg - Rice Krispies class action settlement

In 2009, the state of Oregon complained to Kellogg that they said Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies were fortified with antioxidants, and Kellogg changed the description of the boxes of the cereal—though the cereal is fortified with antioxidants. Almost immediately, several plaintiffs' lawyers filed lawsuits on the basis of Kellogg's announcement, and after several amended complaints, Kellogg's agreed to a nuisance settlement of $2.5 million. Class members can request $5 refunds for up to three boxes of cereal purchased between June 1, 2009 and March 1, 2010, an amount that will be reduced pro rata if the settlement money runs out, though one might expect that there will only be a few thousand claims. Though the class is nationwide, Kellogg is giving another $2.5 million (retail value, so it's really costing them half as much) in food to two local charities in Santa Monica and Atlanta. The class representatives will seek $5000 each.

How much are the attorneys asking for? I don't know: it's not in the notice or settlement agreement, but it comes out of the $2.5 million settlement fund. (The attorneys will announce on July 18; objections must be received by July 25—a Monday. This abbreviated and substandard notice is arguably a violation of Rule 23(h) and Ninth Circuit procedure in In re Mercury Securities Litig.. The notice is otherwise substandard, as there are several hoops one must jump through to object that are not listed in the notice.) Anything left over after the class is paid will go to the two local charities and a trial-lawyer group.

The case is Weeks v. Kellogg, Case No. CV 09-08102(MMM)(RZx) (C.D. Cal.).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bankruptcy creditor objections: "Hipster Battles Funds"

A bankruptcy court reorganization approval has some similarities to a class action settlement fairness hearing, as the court engages in an equitable inquiry to determine whether unrepresented parties are being fairly treated by a proposal. And, as we know from the fairness hearing context, courts often disregard the concerns of lay parties who can't afford to retain attorneys to protect them. So Nate Thoma faced long odds when he filed a pro se objection to the reorganization proposal of bankrupt Washington Mutual, complaining about a structure that failed to treat similarly-situated creditors equally and "gerrymandering" by favored bondholders to buy up a smaller-valued class of securities that would be frozen out to create the artificial appearance of an impaired class favoring the reorganization. Three cheers to him for winning. [WSJ (h/t L.O.); Thoma objection; In re Washington Mutual, Inc., 442 BR 314 (Bankr. D. Del. 2011)]

Baby products objection

As discussed at Point of Law, CCAF has filed an objection to the Babies "R" Us settlement in McDonough v. Toys "R" Us, Inc., No. 06-cv-242 (E.D. Pa.).