Less than two weeks after an Illinois appellate court condemned lawyer Christopher Bandas for being a “serial objector” and for the tactics he used while opposing a class action settlement, Bandas has leveled allegations against the prominent plaintiffs class action firm Edelson, describing it as one of “the most notorious and prolific serial class action litigators” in the country and accusing it of conspiring and committing fraud.
The allegations by Bandas, of the Corpus Christi, Texas-based Bandas Law Firm, are included in a countersuit he filed against Edelson on Monday in Chicago federal court. The filing responds to an ongoing lawsuit in which Edelson accused Bandas and some of his associates of making a living by extorting payments from plaintiffs lawyers who negotiate class action settlements.
Edelson’s suit, which began in 2016 and originally involved racketeering claims that have since been dismissed, called out Bandas as a so-called serial objector. The suit alleges that Bandas often files frivolous settlement objections, then threatens to continue pursuing those objections unless the lead plaintiffs lawyers pay him a portion of their legal fees from the settlement.
Edelson, which has built a reputation as a leading plaintiffs firm in privacy, data security and consumer protection cases, said it had a firsthand look at this alleged scheme in one of its cases. The firm agreed to pay $225,000 so Bandas would drop an objection to a $13.8 million settlement in Telephone Consumer Protection Act litigation against publisher Gannett Co. Inc., according to court documents. In addition to the now-dismissed racketeering allegations, Edelson’s suit included a claim that is still pending, alleging that Bandas engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Illinois.
The countersuit from Bandas, who is represented by Darren M. VanPuymbrouck of Falkenberg Ives, evoked familiar criticisms that often arise in objections to class settlements—namely, that Edelson put its lawyers’ financial welfare above that of the consumers they represent. Those criticisms came packaged in strongly worded accusations against the Edelson team, who Bandas described as “among the most notorious and prolific serial class action litigators” in the country focused on “dubious, lightweight” TCPA cases.
Bandas went on to allege the Edelson lawyers use the class action system to obtain “unjustified profits for themselves” and accused them of engaging in a “grotesque money grab.” To protect those earnings, they allegedly deploy “ruthless and unprincipled attacks” against class members and their lawyers, the countersuit said.
Beyond those more general allegations, Bandas specifically accused the Edelson team of conspiring and committing fraud. The counterclaims allege that Edelson lawyers duped Bandas into a mediation session purportedly aimed at settling an objection in the Gannett case. In reality, said Bandas, that mediation was a “sham” that the Edelson lawyers later used as ammunition for its lawsuit.
Banda’s accusations against Edelson come toward the end of a year in which the Texas lawyer has been the target of several tongue-lashings from judges.
In February, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer in Chicago expressed clear frustration with him and other “serial objectors” who “seek private gain” at the expense of class members.
“Gaming the rules of the legal system solely for personal self-enrichment wastes the time and money of courts and attorneys, wrests funds away from deserving litigants, and tarnishes the public’s view of the legal process,” Pallmeyer wrote.
Then, on Nov. 20, a three-judge Illinois appeals court panel found Bandas and a lawyer he worked with had engaged in “fraud on the court” in the Gannett class action and referred the duo to attorney disciplinary authorities in Illinois.
Reached for comment on Tuesday, Edelson founder Jay Edelson noted the Illinois appeals court’s recent finding and described Bandas’ countersuit as frivolous.
“Mr. Bandas was found to have committed fraud on the court—one of the worst things a lawyer could do,” Edelson said in an email. “His reaction is to sue us, essentially claiming that we should have kept his conduct quiet, as many others in the plaintiffs bar have done through the years.
“His suit is, of course, frivolous and seems to be a last desperate attempt of a man who realizes that the chickens have finally come home to roost.”