Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lawyers' 'Final' Presentation: The Settlement Is Good, Because We Say So

The lawyers who stand to collect $4.4 million for their work on a proposed $10-million-to-$18-million settlement have filed their “final” papers with the judge in preparation for next week’s approval hearing. It’s a case that their clients publicly touted as being worth “anywhere from $2.5 billion to $600 billion,” and it seems safe to conclude that it’s truly worth somewhere between $18 million and $2.5 billion. As for the License by Default provision that gives away all our future rights forever to the very entities that have been ripping us off for decades … well, that’s just another day at the class-action office.

* More than 400 class members have opted out. Among them are several big names, including my fellow Bay Area resident Terry McMillan, the bestselling author of Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and other novels. Curiously, the opt-out list also includes at least one publisher. And not just any publisher but the publisher of McMillan and many others: Viking Penguin, the world’s second-largest English-language trade book publisher.

* In a rare moment of clarity, the lawyers say the settlement’s “level of complexity is staggering.”

* Lawyer A.J. De Bartolomeo produces several declarations from various absent class members who say the settlement is peachy. One is from a writer who is working his way through college and has a dying mother. Another’s wife and daughter both have degenerative diseases.

* De Bartolomeo submits her partner Dan Girard’s published letter in The Weekly Standard responding to writer Charlotte Allen’s criticism of the settlement. De Bartolomeo ignores objectors attorney Charles Chalmers’ simultaneously published Weekly Standard letter about the License by Default.

* Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken says that “not one” member ”expressed any reservations” about the settlement. (Paul, I’ve got to have you over for brunch with my co-objector Chris Goodrich.)

* Nor was a negative word to be heard from any of the “thousands” of visitors to a joint informational website maintained by the associational plaintiffs. (Any reader of this blog knows that that website, a laughingstock, was effectively abandoned within weeks of its launch.)

* Lawyer Michael Boni reiterates that notice of the July settlement amendment was posted “on the website” on August 11. Which website? He ignores the fact that, in violation of the court’s order, the supplemental notice was not posted prominently at the ASJA and NWU websites. Until August 24 the supplemental notice was not mentioned at all at the latter.

* In an earlier brief objectors’ attorney Chalmers had made the simple statement, “Class action settlements are disapproved.” Class rep consultant Samuel Issacharoff characterizes this as “a rather extraordinary claim.”

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