Class action lawsuits are civil court proceedings whereby a lead plaintiff represents the interests of a large number of people. An experienced personal injury attorney such as the personal injury lawyer Milwaukee, WI locals turn to will represent the plaintiff side. We tend to pay considerable attention to these lawsuits for various reasons:
- First of all, they tend to involve consumers who have been affected by the actions of retailers or manufacturers that present a vigorous defense.
- Second, they often seem to have been made for news media coverage due to the notoriety of the parties involved.
- Finally, the size of the settlement payouts and the overall impact on their outcome have the potential to change life as we know it for many people.
Online discussion forums and social media groups frequented by frugal people tend to closely follow class action lawsuits because they can be an untapped source of cash. If we do not pay attention to the news or if we ignore mail from law firms seeking potential plaintiffs, we will not have a chance to receive a payout from major settlements. With this in mind, here are five class action lawsuits that made history, according to Stanford Law School:
1 – Tobacco Master Settlement
When Hollywood makes films about class action lawsuits, we know we are looking at significant matters. There is A Civil Action starring John Travolta, and the film Erin Brockovich that starred Julia Roberts. Those were major civil action lawsuit cases, but the blockbuster film The Insider starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino is based on one of the largest settlements in history. With over $206 billion paid since 1998 by 40 tobacco companies, this case not only changed tobacco advertising but also forced Big Tobacco to embrace transparency.
2 – Enron Corporation
Most people will never forget that the early 21st century began with two major corporate scandals that had to be settled by means of securities class action lawsuits: Worldcom and Enron. The astonishing $7.2 billion settlement announced in 2008 certainly pleased shareholders who acquired preferred shares; these investors were essentially had been duped by Enron by major banks that agreed to finance fraudulent energy projects.
3 – WorldCom
Similar to Enron, the WorldCom class action lawsuit resulted in a major settlement for shareholders who had been unaware of the web of deceit weaved by the telecom giant with the help of Arthur Andersen. The latter became a disgraced accounting giant and financial auditor that enabled the securities fraud perpetrated by WorldCom. More than $6 billion was paid to shareholders, and the former CEO actually faced criminal charges. These days, what was left of WorldCom is now known as MCI, Inc., a telecommunications company based in Virginia.
4 – Bank of America – Merrill Lynch Merger
In this case, Bank of America allegedly inflated the loss it supposedly incurred when acquiring investment banking firm Merrill Lynch. Although the deal was not the best, the bank exaggerated the loss to get more money from the United States Treasury at the height of the Great Recession. Shares of the bank tumbled, and the court approved a $2.4 billion settlement payout to plaintiff shareholders.
5 – Volkswagen and Audi 2.0 Liter Diesel Vehicles
As one of the most scandalous class action lawsuits involving car manufacturers, the respected Volkswagen brand had no choice but to settle claims filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Attorney General, and the California Air Resources Board. More than $14.7 billion was approved for this settlement. It entitled VW and Audi owners to exchange their cars for new models or else have the company purchase back their vehicles which were found to be less energy efficient and more polluting than originally claimed.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hickey & Turim LLP for their insight into Class Action Lawsuits.