A federal judge said he planned to grant final approval to a $14.7 billion settlement with Volkswagen over an emissions scandal involving its diesel-powered vehicles.
“The court is strongly inclined to approve the settlement,” said U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer at a hearing in San Francisco on Tuesday. “There is an urgency, as I’ve expressed, to bring this matter to a conclusion. Cars were on the road out of compliance with environmental regulations, and it is imperative that this matter be addressed immediately.”
He said he would issue his final order by Oct. 25.
According to lawyers at the hearing, there were 462 objectors to the settlement, which requires Volkswagen to pay up to $10 billion to owners and lessees of about 475,000 diesel vehicles that were built with a device installed to cheat emissions tests. Another 3,200 class members had opted out. “If this were an election, approval for the settlement would be for a landslide,” said Volkswagen attorney Robert Giuffra, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell.
More than a dozen objectors or their lawyers spoke at the hearing, most arguing that the payouts weren’t enough or that Volkswagen wasn’t getting punished for its conduct. Some feared the settlement didn’t account for outstanding liens they’d have to pay their individual lawyers. Anna St. John, an attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Class Action Fairness, drew the quickest response from Breyer when she argued that class members were being cut out of potential compensation because legal fees hadn’t been negotiated alongside the settlement.
“I’ve seen no nexus, no connection, between the fee request that is yet to be presented to the court and the settlement being proposed to the court,” Breyer said.
In court papers, several objectors had raised concerns that they still didn’t know the amount of the fees, which would go to 22 firms on the plaintiffs steering committee that worked with federal regulators on the settlement. http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202767827774?back=law. Plaintiffs lawyers have indicated that they won’t seek more than $324 million, but a Reuters report on Friday citing undisclosed sources said the request would come closer to $175 million.
Elizabeth Cabraser, of San Francisco’s Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, declined to confirm those figures.
Breyer said he would be setting a date soon for the committee to submit its fee application, after which he would hold a hearing on the request.
The settlement includes only 2-liter vehicles. At the hearing, Giuffra said he hoped to have a separate deal reached by Nov. 3 on behalf of 80,000 consumers of 3-liter vehicles.
Contact the reporter at email@example.com. On Twitter: @abronstadnlj.