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Fla. Lawyer Settles With Argentinian Firm for $1 Million
Daily Business Review
Miami class action attorney Jeremy Alters has reached a $1 million settlement with an Argentinian law firm that claimed it was the one to have originated the theory behind a billion-dollar class action lawsuit against the nation's banks.
The settlement reached with Raponi & Hunter Abogados on June 6 came one week before a two-week trial was to begin before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey.
Raponi & Hunter, represented by Miami attorneys Stuart Ratzan and Herman Russomanno, was seeking 25 percent of Alters' attorney fees in the massive lawsuit, which could have totaled in the tens of millions of dollars.
Alters' lawyer, Miami attorney Andrew Hall, said the Raponi lawyers settled the case because they felt they were going to lose.
"Jeremy was more than generous," Hall said. "He really wanted to avoid a drawn-out trial and put this case behind him."
"Mr. Osvaldo Raponi and Mr. Jaime Hunter have amicably resolved all legal issues with Jeremy Alters and his law firm," Russomanno said. "Messrs. Raponi and Hunter were delighted to have contributed to the outstanding settlement of the overdraft litigation and send their congratulations to all the excellent plaintiffs' law firm who achieved this fantastic result for the consumers of this country."
"We also believe this is vindication for the fact that Mr. Raponi's and Mr. Hunter's efforts from Argentina helped redress a wrong done to millions of American consumers," Ratzan said.
In October 2012, Alters settled a lawsuit brought by another Argentinian firm that claimed it was partially responsible for the lucrative bank overdraft case. That settlement with Campos y Asociados was for $600,000.
The Campos firm also sought a 25 percent cut of Alters' fees in the case. The action was a consolidation of cases from around the country that ultimately landed in Miami before Senior U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King. The plaintiffs accused more than 30 banks of systematically overcharging customers on overdraft fees.
So far, Bank of America is the largest bank to have settled, agreeing to pay $410 million. By the time the case is concluded, settlements are expected to reach $1 billion with attorney fees reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars, making it one of the largest class action cases in Florida history.
The Campos firm said it had a $30,000-a-month contract with Alters to find cases, make introductions and act as consultants for Alters in South America. The firm alleged it introduced Alters to Raponi, which claimed it developed the idea of suing banks for allegedly rearranging transactions to boost their overdraft collections.
Alters and U.S. co-counsel wound up filing the massive class action in Miami in 2008. Eventually, they partnered with Miami lawyers Aaron Podhurst, Bobby Gilbert and Stuart Grossman, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Bruce Rogow and several out-of-state counsel.
Alters denied he got the idea for the litigation strategy from the Raponi lawyers. He said they made an unrelated suggestion about a bank class action, but he got the idea for the overdraft case after finding three similar cases that had been filed in California. He said he offered Raponi a 6 percent cut of his fees in February 2011 and was refused.
Alters argued that both firms did not have the proper visa to conduct business in the United States and did not have permission from The Florida Bar to provide assistance.
However, Alters' defense theory was rejected June 6 by Bailey, who granted the plaintiffs partial summary judgment. She ruled Alters could not use the Argentinian lawyers' immigration status as an affirmative defense.
The Raponi settlement ends Alters' disputes related to the bank overdraft case. Scott Schlesinger of the Schlesinger Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale had filed a charging lien against Alters in the case, noting he had loaned Alters $2.1 million to help fund the overdraft case and was Alters' co-counsel. Schlesinger later withdrew the lien.
In November 2012, Alters merged his law firm with a New York class action firm to create Morelli Alters & Ratner.