Sadly for fans of consumer litigation, the great diet-plan advertising war has ended almost as quickly as it started. On Friday, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig announced a settlement to a false advertising action that Weight Watchers had filed against Jenny Craig in late January. At issue: a Jenny Craig ad in which the company (and spokeswoman Valerie Bertinelli) claimed that clinical trials showed Jenny users lost twice as much weight as customers using "the largest weight-loss program."
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison represented Weight Watchers, which claimed in the federal suit that the Jenny Craig ads represented false advertising and unfair and deceptive competition. A federal judge immediately issued a temporary injunction banning Jenny Craig from airing the offending ad. That injunction became permanent last week, after Jenny Craig (represented by Sidley Austin) agreed to cut the ad in exchange for Weight Watchers dropping its suit, according to Reuters and lawyers who worked on the matter.
Jenny Craig will not pay any fines, fees or legal costs under the terms of settlement, court records show. Alan Unger, who led the Sidley team along with James Arden, declined to comment when we reached him Monday, except to say that Jenny Craig is a longtime Sidley client. Lynn Bayard, who led the Paul Weiss team for Weight Watchers along with Martin Flumenbaum, also declined to comment. Paul Weiss has represented Weight Watchers for more than a decade thanks to the firm's relationship with H.J. Heinz Co., which owned Weight Watchers before selling the dieting staple in 1999, Flumenbaum has told us.
The claims in the Jenny Craig/Bertinelli ad were based on two studies conducted 10 years apart. Weight Watchers argued that the studies could not withstand scientific scrutiny, and that the weight loss claims had no basis in fact.
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.