Alison Frankel

California Supreme Court OKs class action fees based on settlement size

August 11, 2016

A footnote in the 1977 California Supreme Court decision in Serrano v. Priest created four decades of nagging doubt about the proper method for California state judges to calculate fee awards for class action lawyers. Serrano III, as the ruling is known, could be read to require judges to award fees based plaintiffs’ lawyers’ hourly billings – and not on the size of the recovery the lawyers obtained for class members.

Should amici be heard in challenges to DOL’s fiduciary rule?

August 10, 2016

(Reuters) – It took the Department of Labor three tries to adopt new rules for brokers and financial advisers who sell retirement-related products. As Reuters reported when the new policy was adopted last April, the Labor Department’s previous attempts in 2010 and 2015 met with such an outcry from the insurance, brokerage and investment advisory industries that proposals were pulled out of consideration and revised. And, of course, finance professionals aren’t the only stakeholders in the regulation of retirement investment advisers. It is safe to say that millions of people are impacted by the new regulations, which, among many other things, require brokers to act in the best interests of their clients, rather than just assuring that brokers’ products are suitable for their clients.

In last tranche of MBS litigation, trustees now have edge on investors

August 9, 2016

(Reuters) – On Monday, the plaintiffs’ firm Scott & Scott asked U.S. District Judge William Pauley for permission to drop its five-year-old case against Bank of New York Mellon. Scott & Scott’s client, a pension fund for Chicago police officers, had accused BNY Mellon of failing investors in Countrywide mortgage-backed securities trusts by neglecting its duties as trustee. Its complaint, filed in August 2011, presaged a surge of similar investor suits against MBS trustees that intensified after New York’s highest court set a hard-and-fast six-year time limit on breach of contract suits against MBS issuers.

The long-shot argument to hold up VW emissions settlement

August 8, 2016

(Reuters) – Virginia lawyer James Feinman believes he has found a big loophole in Volkswagen’s $14.7 billion settlement with owners of nearly 500,000 clean diesel cars. On behalf of Virginia car owners with claims in state court, he is relying on an unusual interpretation of nuisance law – and bucking his own state attorney general – to stand in the way of VW’s proposed deal, which received preliminary approval from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco on July 26.

Will judges outside Delaware follow Chancery’s lead in M&A shareholder cases?

August 4, 2016

(Reuters) – There were two big takeaways from a new Cornerstone Research study of shareholder suits challenging big M&A announcements. First, Cornerstone confirmed what other analysts have previously reported: Plaintiffs’ lawyers are filing fewer cases in the wake of a 2015 crackdown on disclosure-only settlements by Delaware’s Chancery Court. The drop-off is dramatic (assuming that, like me, you accept the premise that the filing rate of shareholder M&A suits is the stuff of drama). At the 2013 peak of shareholder M&A litigation, plaintiffs’ lawyers sued to challenge 94 percent of announced deals valued at more than $100 million. In the first half of 2016, the rate was down to 64 percent – lower than we’ve seen since 2009.

In Remington trigger defect class action, claims rate is flashpoint

August 2, 2016

U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith of Kansas City is still not ready to grant final approval to a proposed class action settlement that would provide replacement trigger mechanisms to the owners of more than 7.5 million supposedly defective Remington bolt-action rifles. After a hearing Tuesday morning on a revised proposal from Remington and plaintiffs’ lawyers, the judge directed the two sides to file another proposed order, keeping alive a controversy the case has kicked up.

Judge Rakoff’s soapbox: On Uber, arbitration and fair play

August 1, 2016

(Reuters) – Uber’s decision not to move immediately to compel arbitration in a long-shot antitrust class action against CEO Travis Kalanick continues to reverberate disastrously for the ride-sharing company.

Plaintiffs lawyers’ fee fight is lesson in dismissal standards

July 29, 2016

(Reuters) – There’s not much dispute on the basic facts in a $1 million fee fight between the plaintiffs’ firms Grant & Eisenhofer and Bernstein Liebhard.

The SEC’s twisty argument to toss pay-to-play muni bond rule challenge

July 28, 2016

(Reuters) – Last December, Congress wanted to make sure that the Securities and Exchange Commission would keep its nose out of campaign finance reform. As you know, there’s been considerable debate in recent years about whether the SEC should require corporations to disclose their political spending. The agency hasn’t shown much eagerness to do so, but in the Appropriations Act of 2016 (which was actually passed in December 2015), the House and Senate seemed to take the issue out of the SEC’s control. The law barred the commission from using SEC funds to “finalize, issue or implement any rule, regulation or order regarding the disclosure of political contributions.”

Around the world, pro bono is catching on – new report

July 28, 2016

Nicholas Glicher, legal director of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was trained as an English solicitor and worked as a Mayer Brown attorney in London and Chicago. He winces at lawyer jokes and pop-culture portrayals of lawyers as villains. So for him, the results of the foundation’s third annual survey of law firm pro bono activities around the world was an antidote. Pro bono is thriving, from China – where lawyers reported working an average 37 hours a year on pro bono – to South Africa, where nearly half of the lawyers at reporting firms logged at least 10 hours of pro bono work in 2015.