A federal judge in San Francisco has named Hagens Berman Sobol & Shapiro and Pearson, Simon, Warshaw & Penny as interim co-lead counsel in multidistrict litigation against Carrier IQ. The firms beat out a competing bid by Strange & Carpenter and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd.

Some 70 lawsuits have been filed, primarily against Carrier IQ and handset manufacturers Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and HTC Corp., alleging that the companies installed software that illegally tracks consumer use of smartphones — in particular, text messages and other keystrokes. The litigation alleges violations of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, also known as the Federal Wiretap Act, and additional privacy and consumer laws.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen heard arguments on July 12 by the two plaintiffs teams vying for the lead role. He decided on the Hagens Berman/Pearson Simon group and issued a written order explaining his decision on July 16.

“While both slates are well qualified, and the Court is particularly impressed with the early work of the Strange & Carpenter law firm, the Court finds that the Hagens Berman and Pearson Simon firms, together with the other firms identified below comprising the executive committee, present an especially impressive set of qualifications with broad and deep experience in handling large, complex litigation, and proven resources to litigate this large, complex class action,” Chen wrote.

He named Pearson Simon, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif., as liaison counsel. The other firms comprising the executive committee are Arias Ozzello & Gignac of Los Angeles; Philadelphia’s Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman; Washington’s Finkelstein Thompson; and Kiesel, Boucher & Larson of Beverly Hills, Calif.

“We’re obviously pleased that our firm got picked along with Hagens Berman, and we look forward now to making a successful case,” said Bruce Simon, a partner in the San Francisco office of Pearson Simon.

A consolidated complaint is due on Aug. 17.

The litigation began last fall after blogger Trevor Eckhart posted a YouTube video showing how Carrier IQ’s software was tracking his cellphone use. At first, Carrier IQ, based in Mountain View, Calif., demanded that Eckhart retract some of his statements, but the company backed down after the Electronic Frontier Foundation stepped in to defend him.

In his June 8 motion, Steve Berman, managing partner of Seattle’s Hagens Berman, wrote that his firm had retained Eckhart as a consulting expert.

Meanwhile, Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) launched a congressional inquiry into the software and sent letters on Dec. 1 demanding that Carrier IQ explain what its product does. Franken also sent letters to Sprint Nextel Corp. and AT&T Inc., as well as to Samsung and HTC.

The defendants have denied any wrongdoing and maintained that the software is designed to trouble-shoot their products and services — for example, by diagnosing dropped calls. Officials at Carrier IQ, whose lead counsel is Rodger Cole, a partner at Fenwick & West in Mountain View, have met with the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. Samsung’s lead attorney is Lance Etcheverry, a partner in the Los Angeles office of New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Rosemarie Ring, a partner in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson, is representing HTC.

Hagens Berman, which filed the first suit against Carrier IQ, now represents 22 plaintiffs in cases across the country, Berman wrote in his motion. Pearson Simon moved to consolidate the litigation on Dec. 2.

In choosing the Hagens Berman/Pearson Simon team, Chen rejected a competing proposal from Strange & Carpenter, based in Los Angeles, and Robbins Geller of San Diego. The two firms had filed a motion asking Chen to appoint them as interim co-lead counsel and Rothken Law Firm of Novato, Calif., as liaison counsel. They also sought to establish an executive committee consisting of Houston’s Susman Godfrey; New York’s Pomerantz Haudek Grossman & Gross; and the McNulty Law Firm in Los Angeles.

Hagens Berman, which filed the first suit against Carrier IQ, now represents 22 plaintiffs in cases across the country, Berman wrote in his motion. Pearson Simon moved to consolidate the litigation on Dec. 2.

Neither Berman nor Bruce Simon, a partner in the San Francisco office of Pearson Simon, responded to requests for comment.

In choosing the Hagens Berman/Pearson Simon team, Chen rejected a competing proposal from Strange & Carpenter, based in Los Angeles, and Robbins Geller of San Diego. The two firms had filed a motion asking Chen to appoint them as interim co-lead counsel and Rothken Law Firm of Novato, Calif., as liaison counsel. They also sought to establish an executive committee consisting of Houston’s Susman Godfrey; New York’s Pomerantz Haudek Grossman & Gross; and the McNulty Law Firm in Los Angeles.

In his order, Chen encouraged both groups to work together.

“The Court notes that, although it has appointed the above-named firms, it encourages co-lead counsel to work with other firms, in particular, those from the competing slate (such as the Strange & Carpenter firm) should resources beyond the executive committee be needed,” he wrote.

Brian Strange, managing partner of Strange & Carpenter, cast doubt on that idea, since Berman indicated during the July 12 hearing that he would prefer to work alone.

“I have the utmost respect for Judge Chen’s decision,” said Strange. “However, Mr. Berman commented at the hearing that he was not agreeable to working with anyone else.”

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.