Alison Frankel

Obscure N.J. law spurs wave of big-money consumer class actions vs. online sellers

July 1, 2016

In 1980, New Jersey enacted a law to prohibit businesses from deceiving consumers about their legal rights. The awkwardly named Truth in Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act provided statutory damages of $100 to “aggrieved consumers” who, for instance, bought a ticket or signed a contract that falsely claimed customers couldn’t sue over personal injuries. The point of the law was to protect unsophisticated buyers who might be dissuaded by these deceptive notices from enforcing their legal rights.

‘Glaring’ conflict doomed $7.25 billion Visa/MasterCard settlement

June 30, 2016

The biggest money-damages antitrust settlement in U.S. history died Thursday at the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals. Not because of last year’s scandal surrounding leaks to a onetime MasterCard lawyer since charged with fraud, but because the agreement between credit card giants MasterCard, Visa and the merchants suing them for inflating certain fees was fundamentally unfair to some of the retailers.

As states regulate cash advances to plaintiffs, litigation funders cheer

June 29, 2016

(Reuters) – On Friday, Vermont and Indiana will begin regulating the business of advancing cash to plaintiffs in personal injury litigation, joining six other states that since 2008 have enacted laws intended to shield consumers from predatory litigation funders.

Why VW was smart to fold in emissions cheating case

June 28, 2016

(Reuters) – A few years back, the German automaker Porsche hired Robert Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell to defend the company against fraud suits by hedge funds that alleged they lost more than $3 billion shorting Volkswagen shares. The hedge funds accused Porsche of lying about its 2008 accumulation of VW shares and options, squeezing short-sellers when Porsche revealed that it controlled virtually all of VW’s publicly sold stock. Porsche denied the claims and litigated the cases aggressively in both state and federal court – a strategy that looked very smart after appellate judges in both jurisdictions tossed the hedge funds’ suits.

Chancery’s message to shareholders: Race to the courthouse is back on

June 15, 2016

(Reuters) – When plaintiffs’ lawyers contemplate the filing of a shareholder derivative complaint, they have to make a fundamental choice: They can rush to the courthouse with easily obtained information from news stories and public filings or they can conduct an investigation before they sue, using corporate books and records that shareholders are entitled to see in order to inform their allegations.

Notorious porn copyright troll committed ‘fraud on courts’ – 9th Circuit

June 14, 2016

(Reuters) – The shadowy Chicago firm known as Prenda Law existed for only a couple of years. Its practice was ostensibly copyright enforcement, though the firm never litigated an infringement claim all the way to a judgment on the merits. Prenda’s principals – John Steele, Paul Hansmeier and Paul Duffy – were often evasive about their relationship to the firm and to Prenda’s nominal clients, shell companies that owned copyrights on porn movies. But before its dissolution in 2013, Prenda was undeniably profitable. All told, according to an opinion issued Friday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the firm’s principals made millions of dollars from the business model they pioneered.

Federal courts are quietly allowing gun control – and SCOTUS is letting them

June 13, 2016

(Reuters) – Later this week, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are scheduled to consider a petition by Connecticut gun rights advocates who want the court to strike down the state’s restrictions on military-style semiautomatic weapons – the type of firearm used in this weekend’s horrific mass shooting at a nightclub in Florida and in the 2012 massacre of first graders at Sandy Hook elementary school.

1st Circuit to decide who owns copyrights on Ripoff Report reviews

June 9, 2016

(Reuters) – In January 2012, an online reviewer named Christian Dupont posted a scathing comment at Ripoff Report about Boston lawyer Richard Goren, whose firm is called Small Justice. The post accused Goren, among many other scurrilous things, of defrauding elderly clients and filing baseless lawsuits to seize his clients’ assets. Goren, who says the allegations are “completely baseless and false,” sued Dupont for defamation in Massachusetts state court over the January post and a followup in February. Dupont never showed up, and Goren ended up with a judgment awarding him copyrights to the inflammatory posts.

AIG, CVS to pay $310 million for (allegedly) tricking plaintiffs’ lawyers

June 8, 2016

(Reuters) – It happens all the time in securities class actions: Plaintiffs’ lawyers and fraud defendants agree to settlements based on the size of the company’s insurance policy for directors and officers. If a company carries, say, a $50 million D&O insurance policy, the class is better off settling for $50 million than allowing the insurance money to be paid out to defense lawyers – especially if the company claims it’s on the brink of bankruptcy.

Why Trump lawyers won’t ask Trump University judge to step aside

June 6, 2016

(Reuters) – There is a curious disconnect between what the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says in public about the judge overseeing two class actions claiming Trump University was a swindle and what Trump’s lawyers do in court.