At least six teams of lawyers are competing for the top leadership posts in the lawsuits brought over Equifax Inc.’s massive data breach.
Four proposed slates, ranging from seven to 12 lawyers, have filed motions to lead the class actions filed by consumers. Equifax revealed last year that more than 145 million of its customers had their personal information hacked in a data breach. Two other teams are hoping to lead lawsuits brought by financial institutions over the breach.
Most of the lawyers have backgrounds in data breach cases, such as Yahoo and Target, but some include attorneys who were involved in the litigation over Home Depot’s data breach, which was before U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash of the Northern District of Georgia.
Thrash, now overseeing more than 350 class actions brought over Equifax, has scheduled a Feb. 9 hearing over appointments for lead counsel.
Thrash told lawyers at a hearing last month that he planned to establish two tracks in the multidistrict litigation—one for consumers and one for financial institutions. He also indicated that he wanted the leadership teams to be thin.
Lawyers filed about 50 applications for leadership roles. Many referenced their appointments in Home Depot or their previous work against King & Spalding, the law firm representing Equifax. Some firms cited their work in the Anthem data breach litigation, even as U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California last week chastised lead counsel for bringing in 49 additional law firms on the case.
In an unusual twist, several insisted they had not cut deals with other plaintiffs firms for work—a reference to side deals and quid pro quo agreements that critics contend has led to repeat players leading MDLs. Some lawyers said they would keep costs down, while others insisted they would add diversity to MDL leadership, historically dominated by white, male attorneys.
Here is a quick look at the competing slates:
- The Worley Group (for consumers): Spearheaded by David Worley of Atlanta’s Evangelista Worley, this nine-person group claims to have the support of 64 firms representing consumers in the Equifax litigation. Worley, who was co-lead counsel in the Home Depot MDL consumer cases, would serve as co-lead counsel along with Ben Barnow of Chicago’s Barnow and Associates and Timothy Blood of Blood Hurst & O’Reardon in San Diego. A proposed steering committee would include Janine Pollack of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz in New York and Kevin Sharp of Sanford Heisler Sharp in Nashville.
- The Barnes/Canfield Group (for consumers): Lead by former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes of the Barnes Law Group and Ken Canfield of Doffermyre Shields Canfield & Knowles, both in Atlanta, this 10-person group brags that its lawyers have been involved in “every major data breach litigated to date,” including Home Depot, Anthem, Target and Yahoo. Canfield, who was co-lead counsel of the financial institution cases in Home Depot, would be co-lead counsel along with Amy Keller of Chicago’s DiCello Levitt & Casey and Norman Siegel of Stueve Siegel Hanson in Kansas City, Missouri, who was co-lead in the Home Depot consumer cases. Barnes, co-liaison counsel in Home Depot consumer cases, would be liaison counsel. The steering committee would include Andrew Friedman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington, D.C., and Eric Gibbs of San Francisco’s Girard Gibbs, who were lead attorneys in the Anthem case, where Koh appointed a special master last week to look into the billing of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
- Robbins Geller/Hagens Berman slate (for consumers): Stuart Davidson of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and Thomas Loeser of Seattle’s Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro proposed a seven-member team. It includes four women: Cari Laufenberg of Seattle’s Keller Rohrback, Jodi Flowers of Motley Rice in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Jennifer Scullion of New York’s Seeger Weiss and Jennifer Joost of Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check in San Francisco. The application notes that none of the lawyers on the team “have their names on the door” but “have spent years running nationwide MDLs—albeit often behind the scenes assisting their more ‘notable’ senior partners.”
- The Susman Group (for consumer): This eight-person slate lead by Stephen Susman of Susman Godfrey in Houston includes committee members Dianne Nast of NastLaw and Berger & Montague chairwoman Sherrie Savett, both in Philadelphia. Savett was on the executive committee of a data breach class action against Experian. The team has agreed not to apply for a fee worth more than 2 percent of potential credit monitoring services distributed to class members or 15 percent of any cash fund.
- CUNA/ICBA Group (for financial institutions): This group of 12 lawyers boasts they have “lead and litigated every successful major data breach action on behalf of financial institutions,” including Home Depot and Target. They claim to represent 63 of the 71 financial institution plaintiffs suing Equifax, and the Credit Union National Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America are among their clients. Nine of the attorneys held leadership positions for the financial institutions track in Home Depot. Co-lead counsel would be the same co-leads of the financial institution cases in Home Depot: Joseph Guglielmo of Scott + Scott in New York and Gary Lynch of Carlson Lynch Sweet Kilpela & Carpenter in Pennsylvania.
- The Atlanta Group (for financial institutions): This nine-person group would be led by Michael McGlamry of Pope McGlamry and Ranse Partin of Conley Griggs Partin, both of Atlanta, who served as co-liaison counsel for the financial institution cases in Home Depot. The steering committee includes Robert Kaplan of New York’s Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer, who was on the steering committee of the financial institution cases in Home Depot.