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UNPAID OVERTIME VERDICT IS AFFIRMED A state court of appeal has upheld an $88 million unpaid overtime verdict against Farmers Insurance Exchange. In a 60-page unanimous opinion, First District Court of Appeal Justice Douglas Swager affirmed the lion’s share of the largest California verdict awarded in the booming field of wage-and-hour class action litigation. Farmers, along with amici the California Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations, challenged the statistical process by which damages were determined in the case, Bells v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, C.D.O.S. 1152. They also argued that the court erred in certifying the class and that several recent federal cases invalidated the court’s analysis of the workers claim to overtime pay. In 2001, an Alameda County jury awarded $90 million in damages to a class of 2,400 Farmers claims adjusters who the court ruled had been improperly classified as managers, and thus denied overtime pay. Justice Swager, joined by Justices James Marchiano and William Stein, affirmed the $88.8 million in unpaid time-and-a-half overtime, but threw out $1.2 million for unpaid double overtime. It remanded the case to amend the plan of distribution. “Overall it’s a very good decision for employees and one that is based on a very detailed and extensive record,” said San Francisco attorney Steven Zieff, who represented the plaintiffs. A Winston & Strawn attorney who represented Farmers did not return calls for comment. — Alexei Oreskovic ORRICK OPENS 4TH EUROPEAN OFFICE Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has expanded its presence in Italy with the acquisition of a 16-lawyer firm in Rome, Studio Legale e Tributario. Orrick opened an office in Milan last year when it hired away a group of attorneys from the legal affiliate of Ernst & Young. The firm now has four European offices, including Paris, which Orrick opened in 2002, and its 6-year-old London outpost. Together, the offices have 95 lawyers. With last week’s acquisition, Orrick has completed its investment strategy in Italy “by being in all the right places and all the right practice areas,” said David Syed, managing partner for Orrick’s European offices. While the Milan office handles corporate M&A and equity work, the Rome office will focus on banking and finance and administrative law. Milan is Italy’s finance capital, and Rome serves as the administrative capital where banks and publicly owned and state-owned companies are headquartered. Patrizio Messina and his two partners, Claudio Guccione and Domenico Galli, formed Studio Legale three years ago when they spun out of Studio Legale e Tributario Alderighi, Tesauro e Associati. Their firm represents major financial institutions and Italian infrastructure and transportation companies. — Brenda Sandburg AKIN GUMP SETTLES DOT- COM SUIT DALLAS — Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and a former partner recently settled a state court suit alleging fraud and securities law violations in connection with the firm’s representation of a now-defunct Internet startup in San Antonio called E-Court Inc. Dallas-based Akin Gump and former partner H. Dale Langley Jr., now a solo practitioner in Austin, paid a total of $2.625 million to the plaintiffs — a group of disgruntled investors from the Rio Grande Valley and the receiver for E-Court. Akin Gump and Langley deny the allegations in the suit. The suit settled days before it was set for trial in Hidalgo County in September 2003, but the money wasn’t paid to the defendants until December 2003, says John T. Klug, a lawyer for the Rio Grande Valley plaintiffs. The receiver is distributing the money to the Rio Grande Valley investors who were plaintiffs in the suit as well as to other E-Court investors who were not plaintiffs. Daniel Bishop II, the lawyer for the receiver, says all but $50,000 of the proceeds was paid to investors during January. He expects the receivership’s affairs to be resolved by the end of March. Klug, of counsel at Schirrmeister Diaz-Arrastia in Houston, says the settlement provides his clients 100 percent of the money they lost by investing in E-Court, although the contingent fee the plaintiffs are paying Klug and other plaintiffs lawyers comes out of that. Klug says the plaintiffs from the Valley are netting 67 percent of their investments, which totaled $1.4 million. Other investors in E-Court who were not named plaintiffs in the suit will get less, Bishop says, but they will net at least 45 percent of their investment, after expenses and attorney fees. “Probably the most extraordinary thing, quite frankly, is the recovery of money in excess of the investment,” Bishop says. “About $2.5 million was invested in the company, and the settlement is for about $2.62 million.” Bishop, a shareholder in Watson Bishop London Brophy, says only investors who actually paid for their stock are eligible for a payment. Bishop and Klug say most of the $2.62 million in settlement money came from insurance companies for Akin Gump and for Langley. – Texas Lawyer

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