Michael Hausfeld, left, and Daniel Brockett, right.
Michael Hausfeld, left, and Daniel Brockett, right. (Courtesy photos)

A pair of recent filings in U.S. litigation over alleged foreign exchange rate manipulation has revealed a dispute that pits Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan against the plaintiffs firms Hausfeld and Scott + Scott.

The dispute, which revolves around foreign exchange rate antitrust litigation, takes on added import because all three firms are eyeing key roles in similar litigation overseas.

The spat between the firms stems from a memorandum that Quinn Emanuel crafted in late 2016 and early 2017 about the foreign exchange rate antitrust litigation and later sent to plaintiffs firm Bernstein Liebhard and multiple institutional investors. Hausfeld and Scott + Scott serve as co-lead counsel in the United States for investor plaintiffs in the foreign exchange rate litigation, while Quinn Emanuel in 2014 lost a bid for a lead plaintiffs counsel role.

The underlying antitrust suit alleges a widespread scheme involving many of the world’s largest banks. They’re accused of manipulating the foreign exchange market, which averages some $5 trillion in trading per day. A number of the bank defendants, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Barclays plc, have settled the U.S. litigation for a total of more than $2 billion, although claims remain pending against several others, such as Credit Suisse AG and Deutsche Bank AG.

On May 12, Hausfeld and Scott + Scott wrote in a brief that the memo Quinn Emanuel initially crafted and sent out contained misleading information about the settlement and deadlines to opt out of the class to pursue individual claims. In light of those communications, Scott + Scott and Hausfeld wrote, U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan should force Quinn Emanuel and Bernstein to turn over the names of the institutional investors they contacted.

“Plaintiffs have serious concerns that the communications could confuse class members or convince them to compromise their rights under the settlements based on erroneous information,” the brief said.

But Quinn Emanuel, which responded on Monday, said the bid by Scott + Scott and Hausfeld was a ruse and that the information they asked for would be confidential under attorney-client privilege. Quinn Emanuel accused Scott + Scott and Hausfeld of trying to obtain the information to give the firms a leg up in competing for a key role in parallel foreign exchange litigation expected to start soon in Europe.

“The decision whether or not to opt out is a particularly significant one for a number of large and sophisticated class members who suffered significant damages arising out of the FX cartel in the U.S. … and overseas,” Quinn Emanuel wrote in its brief. “Class counsel … have an obvious self-interest in preventing such entities from opting out and also in persuading these entities to engage them, rather than Quinn Emanuel or another law firm, in Europe.”

Scott + Scott’s Christopher Burke declined on Wednesday to comment while the issue is pending in court, and Michael Hausfeld of Hausfeld didn’t immediately respond to an email.

Both firms have previously cited the forex case as a driving force behind their efforts to expand and pursue antitrust cases across the Atlantic. Recent plaintiff-friendly reforms in the U.K. and the European Union have made those markets more attractive to U.S.-based plaintiffs firms.

Daniel Brockett of Quinn Emanuel on Wednesday confirmed that his firm is actively competing against Scott + Scott and Hausfeld for potential European claims related to alleged forex market manipulation.

“We have really strong competition lawyers in our London office and I think we have said in our papers here that that’s something that we’re doing,” he said. “We’re actively advising potential clients in Europe.”

Schofield has scheduled a hearing for June 5 on Scott + Scott and Hausfeld’s motion to compel. The two firms have a deadline of May 23 to file a reply brief responding to the opposition brief that Quinn Emanuel filed Monday.

Scott Flaherty covers the business of law with a special focus on plaintiffs firms. He can be reached at sflaherty@alm.com. On Twitter: @sflaherty18.