A few million dollars here and a hundred million there added up to one very good year for Girard Gibbs. The law firm secured settlements and verdicts totaling nearly $690 million as lead counsel, liaison counsel or a member of plaintiffs executive committees. As lead counsel alone, it recovered about $300 million.
Securities class actions were the big tickets. Girard Gibbs partners, including Daniel Girard and Amanda Steiner, led negotiations that resulted in a $157 million settlement in August 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas for investors who purchased Provident and Medical Capital securities from Securities America Inc. The case centered on private-placement investments that soured. About $80 million went to class members and the rest to arbitration plaintiffs, in addition to smaller recoveries for other groups.
As lead class counsel in securities litigation against SLM Corp., Girard Gibbs recovered $35 million for investors alleging that student-loan provider SLM (better known as Sallie Mae) misled the public about its financial performance to inflate its stock price. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted final approval in September.
The San Francisco-based firm was also noteworthy for work it did in Guam. In April 2011, Girard Gibbs filed a case there on behalf of a class of Guam taxpayers, challenging the government’s chronic failure to pay or fairly expedite the payment of nearly $250 million in refunds of overpayments of taxes. Fifteen months after the case was filed, the firm overcame a motion to dismiss, obtained an order certifying the plaintiff class and prevailed on a summary judgment motion.
“This lawsuit was a bit unusual for us, in the sense that we were challenging conduct in a United States territory and advocating under a set of relatively undeveloped legal principles,” said associate David Stein, who worked on the case. “But in other ways, the circumstances were familiar to us. The rights of tens of thousands of people were being violated. They needed help and, practically speaking, a class action was the only way to vindicate their rights.”
Finally, a federal judge in the Western District of Missouri approved a settlement in May that required propane retailers to pay $10 million in class claims and settlement-related costs. The claims related to the alleged underfilling of reusable propane tanks, which cost about $40 to purchase and about $20 to exchange.