Several South Florida law firms have hit pay dirt in two settlements, banking $53.4 million in attorney fees to end overdraft fee class actions.
U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King approved a settlement Dec. 19 with JPMorgan Chase Bank for $162 million, which delivers $48 million to the plaintiffs attorneys. The previous day, he approved a deal with California-based Bank of the West for $18 million, including $5.4 million in attorney fees. Firms received 30 percent of total settlement dollars in both cases.
The orders ended two in a string of class action suits filed by customers against more than 30 banks accused of structuring the timing of transactions to generate the most overdraft fees. Bank of America was the first to settle under a $410 million agreement approved in November, delivering $123 million in attorney fees, which have been paid.
About 30 plaintiffs firms from around the country will divvy up the fees, with lead counsel including Podhurst Orseck in Miami, the Alters Law Firm in Miami, Bruce Rogow P.A. in Miami and Grossman Roth in Boca Raton splitting the largest pieces of the pie. The checks will not be issued for several months, according to Jeremy Alters of the Alters Law firm.
“It was great work by our team, a fantastic recovery for consumers, and it has resulted in meaningful change for the customers,” Alters said. “We are very proud of the result.”
Fourteen of the banks have settled, six cases were dismissed based on arbitration clauses, and the rest are pending. Lawyers have said one or more cases could go to trial. They hope to have all the cases wrapped up in 18 months.
“We are very close to settling two more,” said Aaron Podhurst of Podhurst Orseck.
Total settlements in the bank overdraft cases could top $1 billion, which could make the case the largest consolidated class action case in South Florida history. A class action suit brought by gas stations owners against ExxonMobil in 2007 currently holds that record at $1.1 billion.