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Some 300 former employees of the now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison who sought to file a class action seeking compensation from their former firm were denied Wednesday, though they can still pursue individual claims, among other options. In his ruling, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali said he felt the current system of processing employee claims was working well. “I am stepping away from the details and concluding in my judgment that the process as implemented is effective,” Montali said. Meanwhile, Brobeck trustee Ronald Greenspan will extend the deadline for employees to take advantage of a settlement offer by 30 days, until the end of April. “The trustee would rather make a fair settlement offer and have hundreds accept it rather than have litigation,” said Greenspan’s lawyer, Bennett Murphy of Hennigan, Bennett & Dorman. Murphy said that more than 465 former Brobeck employees have accepted the offer and that the claims filed by 119 employees have yet to be settled. Greenspan’s offer provides employees with 65 percent of what they are entitled to receive under the Worker Adjustment and Restraining Notification Act, which governs what employers owe when they don’t give adequate notice of termination, Murphy said. Additionally, the offer also provides 100 percent of retirement plan contributions that Brobeck failed to make and 100 percent of reimbursement expenses. An average employee would immediately receive $10,000 under the settlement offer, Murphy said earlier this month, although they could also expect to receive several thousand dollars more over time. On Wednesday, Montali said that employees unsatisfied with the settlement offer have other options, among them asking a U.S. bankruptcy trustee to form a committee to represent their interests. Lawyers from McNutt & Litteneker, who filed the motion for class certification on behalf of all former Brobeck employees, say the amount received by employees varies widely and that many have not truly appreciated how little they might receive based on Greenspan’s description. For instance, McNutt says the trustee was handing out payments under the WARN Act only to those employees in offices of 50 people or more. He also has complained that adequate notice of the settlement was not given to the employees, many of whom have been unaccounted for. “The situation is as it has been all along,” said McNutt & Litteneker attorney Scott McNutt. “We thought [the class action] would bring down the expense and speed up the process, but we are certainly prepared to go forward and ascertain the full amount of the 300 individual claims held by our clients,” he added. “We believe that we can obtain � better settlements than the trustee is currently offering.” Montali also took issue with Jayne Loughry, a former Brobeck attorney who has communicated with fellow staffers through a Web site. He questioned how Loughry’s lawyers could complain that employees weren’t given adequate notice when she held a list of e-mail addresses of former employees. McNutt argued in court that he was worried about how Greenspan intended to use the e-mail addresses, and outside court, Loughry said the employees didn’t give her permission to distribute their names. Montali also asked how McNutt & Litteneker intended to be paid if they become class counsel. “The judge correctly saw this motion as a back-door way of creating an employee committee whose lawyers could be paid by the bankruptcy estate,” said Murphy after court. But McNutt didn’t interpret the judge’s words the same way. He said attorneys could be paid either from the Brobeck estate or by the employees through individual fee arrangements. One former employee, graphic artist Thomas Morris, said after the hearing that he was planning to call the trustee and hear details about the proposed settlement. On the other hand, he wasn’t sure he would take it. “I will at least contact the trustee and see what the offer would be, and I will at least have the opportunity to reject it,” Morris said.

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