Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mid-September update

  • Procter & Gamble (but not the plaintiffs) filed an en banc petition seeking further review of the 2-1 decision striking down the ludicrous attorney-benefit-only settlement in Dry Max Pampers. CCAF filed its opposition yesterday.

  • Similarly problematic to the Dry Max Pampers settlement is the case of Richardson v. L'Oreal, a pathetic lawsuit and settlement that seems to have forum-shopping shenanigans. CCAF attorney Adam Schulman filed an objection on behalf of a class member.

  • One tactic class counsel engages in is to attempt to scare off objections with abusive discovery requests. This happened in L'Oreal, where class counsel purported to try to subpoena every attorney working for CCAF. Less than one business day after the subpoena was served and we sent this letter, class counsel withdrew all of the subpoenas. We're not scared of discovery: we follow the rules, and as Citigroup showed, class counsel almost always has something to hide. In this case, for example, it's doubtful the class representatives ever had any real input in the settlement process, and some might not even have standing; and I'd wager there's more than a colorable chance that there are documents existing where the parties agree that they don't want to be in the Ninth Circuit because of Bluetooth. But we're leanly staffed, and offensive and defensive discovery can be time-consuming and take away from the fun appellate stuff we like to do. If you're a litigator who'd like to be on our pro bono SWAT team call list the next time someone tries to play discovery games with us (subject of course to conflict checks and the like when the occasions arise), please drop me a line. We're engaging in fundraising so that we can be more aggressive with offensive discovery in future cases.

  • We won $26.7 million for shareholders in the Citigroup case, but we think we can win even more on appeal. Another objector appealed anyway, so we're not adding any delay. We filed a notice of appeal yesterday. [Litigation Daily]

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Korean Air and Asiana Airlines coupon settlement

At first glance, the Korean Air Passenger Settlement looks pretty good: $50 million in cash for class members. You have to dive very deep in the papers (it's nowhere in the notice) to find out that the attorneys are going to ask for $21.5 million of that cash. They justify this by valuing coupons with face value of $36 million at $36 million, but we know from the Class Action Fairness Act and In re HP Inkjet Printer Litig. that you're not allowed to do that. Tsk, tsk. (And, of course, 25% is likely excessive even if the settlement was worth $86 million, given that the lawsuit just piggybacked on a government antitrust investigation. But, of course, the court is never going to hear that unless a class member comes forward and objects, or retains counsel (perhaps pro bono counsel?) to represent them at the fairness hearing. The class consists of:
All persons and entities (excluding governmental entities, Defendants, and Defendants’ respective predecessors, subsidiaries, and affiliates) who purchased Passenger Air Transportation on [Korean Air or Asiana Airlines], or any predecessor, subsidiary, or affiliate of the Defendants, at any time during the time period January 1, 2000 through August 1, 2007. As used in this definition, “affiliates” means entities controlling, controlled by, or under common control with a Defendant [and does not include travel agents]. “Passenger Air Transportation” means passenger air transportation service purchased in the United States for flights originating in the United States and ending in the Republic of Korea (“Korea”) or flights originating in Korea and ending in the United States.

There is a claim form online if you want your cash and coupons; class members should get formal notice shortly. One of the lead class counsel is Jeff Westerman, who you might remember from his Milberg days for his role in the NVIDIA settlement bait-and-switch where he hired an expert witness to testify against letting class members recover what the settlement notice told them they'd recover. So one is skeptical when one reads in the settlement that "Korean Air and Class Counsel shall set the maximum coupon redemption value per ticket by mutual agreement."

Monday, September 9, 2013

August and September update

We've been very busy!
  • In Fraley v. Facebook, the district court adopted our theory of attorneys' fees (zero value for injunctive relief and for settlement money paid to administrators); the parties, perhaps in response to our objection, upped the class-member award to $15 from $10. So a fee reduction of $2.5 to $3 million, with several million more available for the class. Not a bad day's work, and enough of an improvement that we're not going to appeal the parts of the decision the court got wrong.

  • Speaking of whether class counsel should get a commission on money paid to the settlement administrator... You may recall the Ninth Circuit throwing out a bad settlement (in an opinion later modified) over Frosted Mini-Wheats that paid $800,000 to consumers, $2 million to lawyers, and some unknown figure to unknown cy pres. On remand, the parties set up a $4 million settlement fund—but $900,000 or so is earmarked for settlement administration. Is that a $4 million settlement, or is it really a $3.1 million settlement, because that's all the class can hope to get? Class counsel is "only" seeking $1 million this time, which is still disproportionate to actual class relief; meanwhile, the objectors who turned the $800,000 in class relief into over $2 million of class relief aren't being given anything. This morning, I'll be at the fairness hearing in San Diego, presenting the CCAF objection of Chicago Law professor Todd Henderson. Class counsel's main argument against us is that we're funded by the Koch brothers (not remotely true), and therefore we should be ignored. 

  • We filed a cert petition appealing our Second Circuit loss in Sirius. I'll write a longer post about that, plus our amicus support.

  • Another case that merits a longer post is a fascinating Eighth Circuit brief we filed last week in an appeal of a $2.6 million cy pres award.

  • Speaking of bad cy pres (and bad coupon settlements), we filed our opening Ninth Circuit brief in EasySaver Rewards ($8.85 million for attorneys, $3 million for local cy pres, $225,000 and worthless coupons for the class) in July.
  • CCAF attorney Adam Schulman filed an objection to the horrendous settlement in Berry v. LexisNexis, which is like Dry Max Pampers, but far worse, with a larger class and the attorneys asking for $5.5 million. This merits a longer post, but we were honored that a passel of very highly-paid attorneys representing a competing class action and their objectors saw fit to adopt so many of our arguments.

  • In Pearson v. Target Corp., class counsel is seeking $4.5 million for a settlement over glucosamine sales likely to pay less than half of that to the class. I am a class member, and CCAF attorney Melissa Holyoke filed an objection on my behalf.

  • In the Southwest Drink Voucher case, the court approved the settlement, but hasn't ruled on the attorneys' fees yet. We're deciding whether to appeal.

  • Cato filed an amicus in support of our cert petition in the Facebook Beacon case.

  • More press coverage than you can shake a stick at. And I did a lengthy "Liberty Law Talk" podcast with Richard Reisch about class action abuse generally.
Given that one of our attorneys is pregnant, another is getting married, and a third is moving, we're being very productive, though of course, we've had help from pro bono counsel.