U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has picked a coalition of five plaintiffs firms to oversee litigation targeting Yahoo Inc. over its massive data breaches.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California on Thursday named John Yanchunis of Morgan & Morgan lead counsel in multidistrict litigation brought on behalf of the billion-plus Yahoo customers affected by the breaches and appointed lawyers from four other firms—Milberg; Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd; Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield; and Lockridge Grindal Nauen—to the plaintiffs’ executive committee. The lawyers are based in New York, Florida, Minnesota and California.Koh picked the five-firm coalition over three individual firms—Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, Susman Godfrey—who vied for the lead counsel slot independently and criticized the larger group’s structure as expensive and unwieldy.

Contacted by email Friday, Yanchunis said he believed his group was chosen because of its members’ “extensive experience and depth in data breach and privacy litigation.”

“We look forward to the opportunity to advocate and protect the privacy interests of our clients and the other consumers who make up the putative class,” said Yanchunis, who’s based in Tampa Bay, Florida.

In their application to lead the Yahoo case, lawyers from the coalition wrote that the geographic diversity of class members warranted a legal team with national reach. Their proposal outlined a complex division of labor with Ariana Tadler of Milberg heading up e-discovery, Stuart Davidson of Robbins Geller handling research and writing on the legal briefs, Karen Hanson Riebel of Lockridge Grindal vetting the plaintiffs, and Gayle Blatt of Casey Gerry leading the drafting of the plaintiffs’ consolidated complaint.

In Thursday’s order, Koh outlined steps that the executive committee will be required to take “to ensure efficiency.” Yanchunis will be required to review billing records monthly. All time spent on the case by plaintiffs counsel is to be recorded within seven days. Koh is also forbidding lawyers working on the case from billing for work they haven’t been assigned and barring any “block billing” that isn’t specified by task. Koh has also asked the executive committee to “impose and enforce” limits on the number of lawyers who can be assigned particular tasks.

Contact the reporter at rtodd@alm.com.

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