Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Highberger granted final approval to the Settlement on December 21, 2011.
Certain appeals were filed, but they are no longer pending, and the Court’s decision is final. Payments to eligible class members will be mailed during the week ending Friday November 2, 2012.
Fogel v. Farmers Group Inc.) is primarily based on the case originally advanced by the State of Texas and Governor Rick Perry, along with the Texas Department of Insurance, against Farmers Group, Inc. in approximately 2002.
Within days after the State of Texas filed the case, settlement negotiations commenced, and very shortly thereafter a settlement was announced in the amount of approximately $100 million. Joe K. Longley, an attorney from Austin, Texas (alongside Philip K. Maxwell and Steve McCleery), representing policyholder Jan Lubin, stated that Texas is settling on the “cheap,” and immediately commenced legal proceedings to derail the settlement.
Farmers’ policyholders Gilberto Villanueva and Michael Paladino both had previous class actions pending in the State of Texas prior to the State action being brought. These Intervenors were represented by State Bar of Texas members Alice Oliver-Parrott, David Burrow, David Jones, and R. Martin Weber.
At that time, Mr. Longley publicly stated that Farmers was unfairly enriched in an amount 10 times greater than the settlement amount, and presumably Mr. Longley wanted the State of Texas to settle for an amount close to $1 billion. Longley. along with several other lawyers (Phil Maxwell, Mike Gallagher, and Stephen McCleery), who were later joined by David Burrow, Alice Oliver-Parrot, Mike Gallagher and Dan Downey (collectively “Texas Class Counsel” ), immediately commenced legal proceedings to halt the settlement.
Beginning in December 2002 and continuing thereafter for five months in 2003, the parties engaged in intensive discovery; motion practice; document review; hearing preparation; hearings; and depositions, and extensive lawyer time and effort took place to prepare for, and participate in, the preliminary approval hearing the Texas District Court had set to be heard commencing in May 2003.
In February 2003, it became apparent to the Lubin’s co-counsel that additional legal assistance was needed. Mike Gallagher and Dan Downey were added at that time to act as co-counsel, with Longley & Maxwell, LLP, in representing Jan Lubin.
During those proceedings, particularly during the initial phase, Texas Class Counsel obtained and reviewed thousands of documents, and through masterful lawyering, and while opposed by the endless resources of the Attorney General of the State of Texas managed to derail the settlement. This matter became known as the “Lubin Proceedings,” and is still pending in the Texas courts, 261 Judicial District Court of Travis County.
Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, noted that “Farmers Insurance represent nearly twenty percent of the homeowners’ insurance market in Texas.” Governor Perry further noted that “the investigations are still ongoing, but the findings reflect that at least on company, Farmers Insurance, has engaged in unfair, discriminatory prices to charge consume excessive and unjustified rates.” In the above photo, Governor Perry is seen before a hunting trip near Merrill, Iowa. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Dave Weaver)
Recognizing that much of the legal work was already completed by the State of Texas and the Texas Department of Insurance — which gave rise to a presumption of validity and credibility to the allegations against Farmers — Mr. Longley and some of the Texas Class Counsel saw the enourmous opportunity that had been presented to them and sought to file a nationwide class action against Farmers.
As such, in 2003, Longley and a few of the Texas Class Counsel flew to Los Angeles to meet with Messrs. Thomas Girardi (of Girardi & Keese) and Walter Lack (of Engstrom Lipscomb & Lack); one month later, after the appropriate plaintiff had been selected, the case was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court styled Benjamin Fogel v Farmers Group Inc.
In approximately 2010, a settlement was reached in this pending matter allocating $455 million to be shared by the class, and $90 million in attorneys’ fees. Class counsel (both from Texas and California) advanced a motion for attorneys’ fees supported by declarations and exhibits. The declarations from Texas Class Counsel submitted to this Court are based on work performed in BOTH the Lubin and Fogel matters.
GIRARDI AND LACK
Usually, the relationship between Girardi & Keese and Engstrom Lipscomb & Lack is based on a business model whereby Girardi & Keese and Thomas Girardi are responsible for financing the litigation, as well as providing much needed “clout,” very often withing the judicial system of Los Angeles County and the State Bar of California (to wit Thomas Girardi’s friendship with former California Supreme Court Chief Justice George; his friendship with former California State Bar Chief Trial Counsel and former crack addict Mike Nisperos, to whom Girardi serve as a “mentor”; his financing of the political career of the present Executive Director of the State Bar of California, Hon. Senator Joe Dunn; and other questionable “friendships” and relationships, the basis of which are usually political contributions and gifts).
Walter Lack and his firm, who are more methodical, are responsible for the day-to-day management of the litigation through motion practice, discovery, hearings etc. Once serious settlement negotiations commence, Mr. Girardi himself takes over the discussions, and has the final say on whether and under what terms the case should settle.
YR’S ETHICS COMPLAINT AGAINST SKADDEN GIRARDI LACK
According to sources familiar with the situation, ethical breaches took place as a result of Skadden Arps’ representation of Girardi & Keese in the matter of In Re Girardi because, at the same time, Girardi & Keese and Skadden Arps were on opposing sides in the case of Fogel v. Farmers Group, Inc.
According to the sources, the parties named in the complaint were Raoul Kennedy, Thomas Nolan, and Richard Zurmoski of Skadden Arps as well as Graham LippSmith and Thomas Girardi of Girardi & Keese.
The complaint alleged that in August 2003, Walter Lack (of Engstrom, Lipscomb & Lack) and Thomas Girardi and Graham LippSmith (of Girardi & Keese) filed a class action suit on behalf of plaintiffs Benjamin Fogel against Farmers Group, Inc. in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The suit — which is still pending and is anticipated to settle in September 2011 — was defended by attorneys from Skadden Arps (Raoul Kennedy and Richard Zurmoski).
Despite their respective roles as plaintiffs’ counsel and defendants’ counsel in Fogel v. Farmers, Girardi & Keese and Skadden Arps entered into an agreement by which Skadden Arps and partner Thomas Nolan would represent Girardi & Keese and Thomas Girardi before the Ninth Circuit in the matter of In re Girardi following the Ninth Circuit’s issuance of an order to show cause why Girardi & Keese, Engstrom Lipscomb & Lack, Thomas Girardi, and Walter Lack should not be suspended, disbarred, or otherwise sanctioned as a result of the massive fraud which took place in litigation pursued by them against Dole Food Company.
On July 13, 2010, the Ninth Circuit issued an order suspending Walter Lack for a period of six months and reprimanding Girardi; the order also imposed almost $500,000 in monetary sanctions against the two attorneys.
On July 14 2010, in an attempt to conceal their attorney-client relationship, Skadden Arps and Thomas Nolan filed a motion with the Ninth Circuit asking for their names to be redacted from the published opinion.
Skadden Arps and its clients were in a rush to remove their names from the Ninth Circuit’s published decision in hopes of further hiding from the public the existence of its relationship with Girardi & Keese, see above. Below is yet another sample of a letter/objection alluding to the improper relationhip between Skadden Arps and Girardi & Keese.
On April 28, 2011, after Zurich Financial Group and Farmers Group, Inc. realized that a complaint had been filed with the State Bar of California alleging ethical violations, attorneys for both Zurich and Farmers approached the Los Angeles County Superior Court judge overseeing the Fogel matter (Judge William Highberger), seeking and obtaining an ex parte order modifying the settlement agreement, with little or no opposition from the plaintiff class. (Thomas Girardi, Walter Lack, as well as several attorneys form the state of Texas)
Additionally, per the ex-parte order, the class was notified that once the court approves the settlement, class members will be prohibiting from alleging in the future that they were not adequately represented by their attorneys due to the prior attorney client relationship between Girardi & Keese and Skadden Arps.
A substantial factor leading to the State Bar of California’s ethical and moral collapse allowing Thomas Girardi, Skadden Arps, and others to operate with impunity was provided courtesy of individuals who fall into two categories: minorities and/or close political allies from
Shockingly, and based on the ex parte papers submitted by Zurich and Farmers which were, presumably (and predictably), unopposed by class counsel (because any opposition would expose their own misconduct), the Court issued an order allowing the modification of a notice to the class by which the members would be informed of the attorney-client relationship between Skadden Arps and Girardi & Keese. The order also, shockingly, stated that members of the class would be prohibited in the future from asserting that they were not adequately represented by class counsel due to the Skadden-Girardi relationship.
CRIMINAL CONCPIRACY TO INJURE AND SILENCE YR
In a shocking turn of events, YR was earlier this year served with a search warrant while at home. Six investigators from the Yolo County District Attorney’s office (some of them armed) arrived at on February 23, 2012, searched the premises, and confiscated two computers and documents relating to, among others, Thomas Girardi, Alec Chang of Skadden Arps, including all materials involving Fogel vs. Farmers.
State Bar of California Board of Governors (presumably, State Bar of California Executive Director Joe Dunn of Voice of OC, Alec Chang of Skadden Arps, and others have presented claims to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Jeff Reisig and Michael Cabral to file criminal charges against YR, for among other things, alleged violations of Business and Professions Code section 6043.5, on the purported basis that the ethics complaint against Raoul Kennedy, Tom Nolan, Thomas Girardi, and Walter Lack were unfounded and constituted criminal conduct. (See ethics complaint concerning the Fogel v. Farmers Group HERE.