Vanessa Blum writes for The Recorder, an American Lawyer affiliate.
SAN FRANCISCO — Plaintiffs attorney Joseph Saveri is on a settlement spree.
In a five-day span, Saveri and his former law firm, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, disclosed settlements in three antitrust class actions, including a closely watched Silicon Valley employment case.
The deals come roughly one year after Saveri struck out on his own from Lieff Cabraser, where he had worked for 20 years and built the firm's antitrust practice. They mark the first victories — and first positive cash flow — for the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, which employs three lawyers in addition to Saveri.
In the San Jose case, plaintiffs struck a deal with Pixar Animation Studio and Lucasfilm Ltd. to end litigation over claims the companies had agreements with other Silicon Valley companies not to compete for valuable tech workers.
Saveri and co-lead counsel Kelly Dermody, a partner at Lieff Cabraser, reported the agreement in a Friday letter to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who is presiding over the employment suit, In re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation.
Plaintiffs accuse Apple Inc., Google Inc. and other Silicon Valley heavyweights of conspiring to suppress employees' salaries and keep them at their jobs with a series of bilateral "nonpoaching" agreements. The value of the settlement with Pixar and Lucasfilm, two of the smaller companies on the defense side, has not been disclosed.
Then there was the Big Pharma settlement with a big figure attached. Saveri and Lieff Cabraser announced last week a $74 million deal with Bayer Corp., the maker of the antibiotic Cipro, in a long-running pay-for-delay suit in San Diego County Superior Court. If approved, it would resolve claims against Bayer that its payments to generic drugmakers to keep cheaper versions of the medicine off the market unlawfully restrained competition.
And on Monday, lawyers disclosed a deal in a federal class action accusing chemical companies of conspiring to fix the price of titanium dioxide, an industrial pigment used to give paint and other products a bright white color. That settlement, the first in a direct purchaser case pending in Maryland federal court, was reached with Huntsman International, a titanium dioxide producer based in Salt Lake City. Terms weren't disclosed.
Saveri called the developments gratifying.
"It justifies the reason I opened my own firm," he said. "Ultimately, the firm is going to be judged by the results we achieve." The three settlements come in cases filed prior to Saveri's departure from Lieff Cabraser.
The high-tech employee case is awaiting a hearing on class certification; the Cipro case is on appeal to the California Supreme Court; and parties in the titanium dioxide case are awaiting a summary judgement ruling.
Partner Eric Fastiff, head of Lieff Cabraser's antitrust group, said the piggy-back timing of the three settlements was "just a coincidence."
"What drives good settlements," Fastiff said, "is the ability to try cases and win cases."