Six years of toil on behalf of electronics manufacturers in complex antitrust litigation that spanned international borders finally paid off this year for attorneys at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein.
As co-lead counsel representing thousands of direct purchasers of thin-film transistor liquid crystal display screens, used in flat-screen televisions, laptops and mobile devices, San Francisco-based Lieff Cabraser helped to secure settlements worth $460 million for companies including Apple Inc. and Dell Inc.
The plaintiffs alleged in 2007 that 11 manufacturers had conspired between 1998 and 2006 to fix prices. Along with Bruce Simon of Pearson, Simon, Warshaw & Penny, Lieff Cabraser name partner Richard Heimann oversaw the work of more than 100 lawyers at 20 firms representing the direct purchasers. Discovery spanned four years, with attorneys traveling frequently to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for depositions, and a small army of bilingual attorneys in California reviewing myriad documents.
“It was a very involved,” Heimann said. “It was a long, expensive process.”
Ultimately, the minutes of clandestine monthly meetings held in South Korean hotel rooms between representatives of the 11 defendant companies, along with email exchanges in which they discussed screen prices, proved the smoking guns. All but two defendants joined the initial settlement agreement. Toshiba initially declined to settle, and Heimann represented the direct purchasers during a six-week trial in federal court. A jury in July awarded $87 million to the direct purchasers, although under a pending agreement Toshiba will pay $30 million.
The firm serves on the plaintiffs executive committee in multidistrict litigation against 35 major banks related to checking-account overdraft fees. Its attorneys were heavily involved in negotiating a $410 million settlement with Bank of America Corp.; other banks have thus far entered into $300 million in settlements.
Lieff Cabraser partner Michael Sobol led a California class action against Dell Inc. on behalf of consumers tricked into believing they were getting a discounted price on computers because the advertisements showed a “slashed through” higher price. In reality, Dell had never charged the supposed higher prices. A judge approved a settlement in October 2011 under which Dell will pay $50 to each member of the class.