accomplishments

Morris v. Directors Guild of America – Producer Health Plan

Jonathan Cuneo and Matthew Miller recently represented documentary filmmaker Len Morris (director of Stolen Childhoods, an award winning documentary about child labor) in an ERISA action concerning eligibility for pension and health benefits with the pension and health plans associated with the Directors’ Guild of America.  Morris v. Directors Guild of America – Producer Health Plan (D. Mass. 2014).  The case raised questions of plan interpretation particularly relevant to directors engaged in nonprofit and public interest film making.  The matter was resolved with a confidential settlement.

Disposable Contact Lens Antitrust Litigation

Our firm was part of a team that recovered $92 million from Johnson and Johnson for consumers in this case against collusion in the disposable contact lens industry. Major manufacturers of disposable contact lenses conspired with the American Optometric Association to boycott sales to online and 1-800 contact lens suppliers, who were selling the lenses at lower prices than optometrists.

Visa/MasterCard

The Attorney General of West Virginia appointed Jonathan Cuneo and Daniel Cohen to prosecute an action against Visa/MasterCard for alleged violations of West Virginia’s consumer and antitrust statutes. The case involved a policy maintained by Visa and MasterCard that required merchants to accept Visa/MasterCard debit cards if, as nearly all merchants do, they also accepted Visa/MasterCard credit cards.

The complaint alleges that this “honor all cards” policy resulted in the escalating use of the Visa and MasterCard debit cards by consumers, while forcing merchants to accept them and pay artificially inflated fees for their use that were passed along to consumers. The case settled in 2008 for over $16 million.

Natural Gas Antitrust Cases

The counties of Los Angeles and San Bernardino retained CGL to pursue litigation against El Paso Natural Gas Co. and Sempra Natural Gas, suppliers of natural gas in Southern California. We alleged collusion to restrict supply of natural gas, creating subsequent dramatic price increases. Serving as co-counsel for both counties as well as several public and private entities in this major antitrust case, we achieved settlements for our clients in excess of $39 million after years of hard-fought litigation.

Supreme Court Upholds Miranda Rights

The House Democratic Leadership retained CGL to represent it in the Supreme Court case Dickerson v. United States, on the constitutionality of Miranda rights. The issue was weather a provision of a bill passed by Congress had overturned the Supreme Court’s ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, which established the constitutionality of “Mirandizing” suspects.

In an amicus brief to the court, Jonathan Cuneo and Charles Tiefer presented “a specifically legislative viewpoint,” arguing that Court’s decades of reaffirming Miranda prevented Congress from superseding it with a mere legislative provision. The court upheld the requirement that police read citizens’ their rights upon being arrested as a criminal suspect.

Hungarian Gold Train

CGL represented Hungarian Holocaust survivors whose property found on the “Gold Train” in the final days of World War II was appropriated by the U.S. government in the final days of World War II. We served as co-lead counsel in this landmark class-action Rosner v. United States which alleged that the plaintiffs’ personal property was loaded on a train by the Hungarian Nazi government during the waning days of WWII; that the U.S. Army later accepted the train and its contents into custody; and that, rather than returning the property to its owners, the Army misappropriated it and permitted it to be looted.

In 2005, the court approved a $25.5 million settlement, which provided a minimum of $21 million for use by existing social welfare programs to aid Hungarian victims of Nazi persecution; allocated $500,000 to fund and create an archival collection of information and artifacts as part of the U.S. reckoning; and required a first-of-its-kind statement by the U.S. government acknowledging its part in the events surrounding the Gold Train.

Securing Freedom for Kenyan Human Rights Activist Koigi Wa Wamwere

Jonathan Cuneo was instrumental in securing the freedom of Kenyan writer, politician, and human rights activist Koigi Wa Wamwere. Put on trial in Kenya and sentenced to death for false charges, Mr. Cuneo worked was successful in getting him out of prison in Kenya.

IIF Data Solutions

Mr. Cynkar was brought in at the eleventh hour as part of a new legal team to help defend a 600-employee government contractor from accusations that it had defrauded the government in its GSA Schedule Contract. With over $100 million claimed in damages, and the threat of debarment from government contracting if found guilty, this was a bet-the-company case.

Withdrawing a proposed settlement offer, the new legal team successfully defended the defendants in a jury trial. The Fourth Circuit upheld the result.

Mid-western Retail Convenience Store Managers Recover $13.1 million in Overtime

For tens of thousands of employees of a retail convenience store chain operating in the mid-western states, we won a significant amount of overtime compensation due them for their “off-the-clock” work. This $13.1 million settlement is one of the largest ever achieved in a case of this kind in the Midwest.

Joe Camel Advertising Campaign

Our firm played an important role in the California tobacco cases that ended the “Joe Camel” campaign. The defendant’s advertising campaign targeted teens and children. As a key player in the first case challenging the “Joe Camel” campaign as a violation of California’s unfair competition/consumer protection law, we helped
expose R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company’s’ “youth targeting” documents – perhaps the most significant set of tobacco documents ever to be made public. R.J. Reynolds admitted that the case was “an early, significant and unique driver” that led to the phase out of the Joe Camel campaign. In related litigation, we helped recover twelve billion dollars in settlement funds for cities and counties in California.

Congressman Henry Waxman described the members of the legal team, including Jonathan W. Cuneo, as “real American heroes.”

Buchwald v. Citibank, N.A.

Jonathan Cuneo and Matthew Miller recently represented the trustee of the estate of famed humorist Arthur Buchwald in a dispute with Citibank, N.A., Buchwald v. Citibank, N.A. (D.D.C. 2014),  in which the estate alleged that Citibank’s negligence permitted rogue financial advisor Kenneth Starr to embezzle funds from the estate through the establishment of an unauthorized line of credit.  The matter was resolved with a confidential settlement.

Guidant Heart Defibrillator

CGL’s Charles LaDuca served as class counsel in the Guidant Heart Defibrillator litigation which settled for over $205 million in 2008. On behalf of a nationwide class of patients implanted with the Guidant Ventak Prizm defibrillator, our suit alleged that Guidant Corporation misrepresented the safety of its defibrillators, which are subject to short circuiting and malfunctioning.

The plaintiff and the class sought and received a declaratory judgment that Guidant is liable for all medical care and corrective surgery caused by Guidant’s alleged misconduct, as well as the significant award for damages.

“Made in USA” Cases

We are a national leader in challenging advertisements that inaccurately label merchandise. In 2001, we achieved trial judgment in the nation’s first private suit challenging a company’s improper use of “Made in the USA” logo. In 2010, we won a landmark five-to-two decision in the California Supreme Court that found that false country-of-origin labeling harmed consumers.

In Benson v. Kwikset Corp, we led a legal team that won significant injunctive relief for false advertising as “Made in USA” in violation of California “Made in USA” requirements and unfair competition/consumer protection law. Kwikset Corp. moved its manufacturing from Anaheim, California to a facility in Mexico yet continued to market their products as “Made in USA” and “All American Made.” After twelve years of hard-fought litigation, the case settled in 2012.

In Colgan v Leatherman Tool Group, the firm was co-lead counsel in a case that charged the Leatherman Tool Group with inaccurately labeling many of its tools as “Made in USA” when many components were actually made outside the United States. After a hard-fought trial in early 2004, the Superior Court entered a significant corrective advertising program and awarded over $12 million in restitution. Unfortunately, the California Court of Appeals reversed the restitution award in 2006 and remanded the case for modification of the injunctive order. The Superior Court modified the injunction and the case then settled.

Texas Prisons Privacy Case

We served as co-lead counsel in the trail-blazing consumer privacy case Dennis v. Metromail Corp. The complaint charged that Metromail, acting through subcontractors, processed personal information from shopping questionnaires by contracting to have maximum security Texas prisoners “key” the information.

As a result, the lead plaintiff received an extremely offensive, sexually explicit letter from a convicted sexual offender. The firm’s investigation found that the personal information of almost two million Americans was processed using maximum security prisoners. The landmark settlement secured $15 million and significant non-monetary relief.

Prudential Insurance

Our firm acted in the role of claimants’ representative as part of the massive settlement involving sales practices of life insurance policies sold by Prudential Insurance Company. Under the terms of the over $4 billion settlement, individual policyholders were accorded the right to have an individual determination of their remedies.

Our firm and one other were appointed as claimant representatives. We handled over 55,000 arbitration-like proceedings in an eighteen-month period and recovered hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of policyholders.

Safe Tablesaws

CGL was retained by SD3 LLC, the parent company of SawStop LLC, to urge the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to enact a safety standard that would require table saws to be equipped with injury mitigation technology that stops the table saw from operating when a human body comes in contact with, or in close proximity to, a spinning table saw blade. In 2011, the bipartisan CPSC voted unanimously to begin the rulemaking, which is currently pending.

Ameren Union Electric Co.

We were part of a team representing AmerenUE in In the Matter of Union Electric Co., the largest electric utility in Missouri, in a major rate case. We dealt with a broad range of regulatory and constitutional issues, including the relationship between federal and state regulatory jurisdiction, the protection of contract rights, and the taking of unregulated property.

We were responsible for two of the highest “dollar value” issues in the case. For the more significant of the two, we defeated the unprecedented effort of the Public Service Commission’s staff to extend the Commission’s jurisdiction to include in the rate calculation for Missouri customers revenue from the utility’s out-of-state, unregulated affiliate, which sells power in the wholesale market. For the second, we achieved a reasonable return on equity for the utility.

McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Challenged in Supreme Court

In 2003, CGL represented members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, defending the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold bill) in the Supreme Court. In McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, the Court upheld almost all provisions of the McCain-Feingold bill.

Winstar Cases

Mr. Cynkar, while at another firm, was part of the team that brought, and prosecuted through the Supreme Court, the landmark United States v. Winstar case.

Federal regulators, in an effort to reduce their insurance liabilities for failing savings and loans during that industry’s financial crisis, had entered into agreements with the Winstar plaintiffs to take over and recapitalize failing thrifts. Subsequent legislation overhauling thrift regulation required federal regulators to breach key elements of these agreements to temporarily forebear enforcing certain regulatory standards.

As a result, the thrifts failed and were seized by the regulators. Overcoming various arguments that the federal government could not be held to its agreements in closely regulated industries in light of a congressional change of policy, the Supreme Court held that the federal government can be bound by such agreements and that it had an obligation to indemnify the thrift owners for the damages incurred. Over 100 “Winstar” cases were eventually filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims seeking damages on behalf of thrift owners.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield

Mr. Cynkar, while at another firm, was part of a team representing the Blue Cross & Blue Shield Association challenging Medicare regulations promulgated under a federal statute that makes Medicare a payer secondary to private insurers in certain circumstances, and requires reimbursement of Medicare when it has improperly made a primary payment.

Mr. Cynkar successfully argued Health Insurance Association of America v. Shalala in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit that regulations that purported to allow Medicare to secure reimbursement from the third party administrators of insurance plans, and to ignore the claims filing deadlines in insurance contracts, was unlawful.

New York Life Insurance

Mr. Cynkar, while at another firm, was lead counsel representing New York Life in New York Life Insurance Co. v. United States, a case against the federal government to recover medical expenses of New York Life’s older agents that should have been paid by Medicare.

New York Life had erroneously paid for the medical expenses of its older agents and sought reimbursement from Medicare. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that these agents were not “employees” under the Medicare statute, so that New York Life was entitled to reimbursement. The case settled with a significant payment by the federal government to New York Life.

ERISA Settlement

The firm was co-lead counsel in this class involving all 21,000 salaried retirees of McDonnell Douglas Corporation in seeking to reinstate their rights to health and welfare benefits after termination by the corporation. The firm succeeded in obtaining a settlement in the approximate amount of $450 million on behalf of the retirees.

CertainTeed Defective Roofing Shingles

CGL was co-lead counsel in the CertainTeed roof shingle litigation. On September 1, 2010, the Hon. Judge Louis H. Pollak of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania approved a settlement valued between $655 to $741 million on behalf of consumers. Approximately 75,000 class members have submitted a claim, and the claim period continues for years in the future.

The suit alleges that CertainTeed’s organic shingles fail to perform as marketed and that CertainTeed knowingly and intentionally concealed these defects. The suit also alleges that CertainTeed had no intention of providing the services set forth in their warranties for these roofing shingles.

Information about the settlement, including how to submit a claim form, is available on the web at www.certainteedshinglesettlement.com

Kitec Defective Plumbing Systems Settlement

Charles LaDuca was co-lead counsel in the Kitec Brass Fitting Litigation. On November 17, 2011, Judge Royal Furgeson, Senior Judge in the Northern District of Texas, granted final approval to a $125 million settlement concerning defective Kitec Plumbing Systems.

For more information on the Settlement please go to: www.kitecsettlement.com

Entran II Litigation

Jonathan Cuneo and Charles LaDuca were co-lead counsel in a bi-national settlement of approximately $345 million for the defective radiant heating hose known as Entran II.

Beyond these enormous settlement numbers, the court noted the moment of the case and dedication of our team: “the settlement is extraordinarily advantageous given the transaction costs which individual plaintiffs would have pursuing individual claims.”

Enron

CGL served as Washington Counsel in the Enron-related securities litigation In re Enron Corp. Sec., Derivative, which recovered over $7 billion on behalf of the injured parties, the largest recovery ever obtained for investors victimized by corporate fraud. With litigation led by the Regents of the University of California, the firm worked on a host of projects in this mammoth securities case.

We worked on a day-to-day basis with lead counsel on matters of critical importance to the case. The firm prepared memoranda on a number of specific legal topics, protected the interests of Enron investors before Congress, especially in the Congressional debate leading to the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, and consulted on many public and policy aspects of this litigation. Our firm wrote an amicus brief on behalf of a number of consumer organizations in a U.S. Supreme Court case that was related to the Enron case (StoneRidge Investment Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. and Motorola, Inc.). We also assisted Enron class members in their efforts to persuade the U.S. government to take a pro-investor position in StoneRidge.

WorldCom

CGL assisted lead counsel and the lead plaintiff, the New York Common Public Retirement Fund, in the enormous securities class action In re WorldCom, Inc., Securities Litigation. First, we served as Washington counsel, monitoring relevant Congressional and regulatory developments, where we succeeded in getting a crucial amendment on securities fraud into the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Second, a former partner served as a trial consultant in the 2005 trial against Arthur Anderson. The plaintiff’s team collected in excess of $6 billion, the second largest fraud recovery in history.

Pleading Standard Under Private Securities Litigation Reform Act

The firm filed an amicus curiae brief in Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights on behalf of Public Citizen and the Center for Study of Responsive Law (a Ralph Nader organization) addressing the heightened pleading standard under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA).

We urged the Court to interpret that standard to ensure that the PSLRA’s pleading standard comports with the burden of proof and to guarantee the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury.

Securities Litigation Reform

We directed a nationwide coalition of hundreds of public interest organizations and state and local government entities in a multi-million dollar legislative campaign to protect investor rights.

The campaign prevented the worst aspects of proposed limits on the rights of investors from being enacted by Congress in the 2006 Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA). As a result, cheated investors in corporate scandals such as Enron and WorldCom have achieved unprecedented recoveries of billions of dollars.

The Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws (COSAL)

We are the Washington, DC representatives for COSAL, which was established in 1986 to promote and support the enactment, preservation and enforcement of a strong body of antitrust laws in the United States. It is the only organization in Washington, D.C. that is dedicated to lobbying for strong antitrust laws and effective private enforcement.

In 2010, COSAL is working to overturn two Supreme Court cases that have made it much more difficult for people to use the federal courts to redress wrongs; to make changes to the Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act so that companies that conspire to fix prices can be held accountable by the victims of their wrongdoing; and to stop the practice of brand name pharmaceutical companies reaching settlements with generic drug companies to keep generics off the market.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

Representing The National Association of Shareholder and Consumer Attorneys (NASCAT), our firm led the charge for an extension of the statute of limitations in securities fraud cases as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. That controversial provision was adopted over Republican stall tactics on the floor of the Senate aimed exclusively at this provision.

As a result, investors who have been defrauded have a much longer time to bring the suit after the fraud or after the discovery of the fraud. This landmark provision overruled a Supreme Court decision in Lampf, Pleva, Lipkind, Prupis & Petigrow v. Gilbertson, et al.

Vehicle Carrier Services Antitrust Litigation

CGL was appointed Interim Co-Lead Counsel on behalf of automobile dealerships in a case alleging a conspiracy to rig bids for and fix prices ocean transportation of vehicles to and from United States ports. The case is pending in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss, which are pending.

Defendants’ conduct has been the subject of investigations by the Japanese Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, the European Commission Competition Authority, and Canada’s Competition Bureau. In the past year, the DOJ has announced that Defendants Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. and Compañía Sud Americana De Vapores S.A. agreed to plead guilty and pay an $67.7 million and $8.9 million criminal fines their involvement in a conspiracy to fix prices, allocate customers, and rig bids for vehicle carrier services to and from the United States. The JFTC also announced that it issued cease and desist orders and surcharge payment orders totaling more than $233 million against “K” Line and four other defendants for price-fixing Vehicle Carrier Services.

Titanium Dioxide Indirect purchaser Litigation

This putative class action lawsuit, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that United States producers of titanium dioxide conspired to raise the price of this important ingredient, which is used inpaints, other coated plastics, papar, and countless other consumer and industrial products. Defendants and their co-conspirators control 100 percent of the United States’ Titanium Dioxide capacity and 65.5 percent of all imports into the United States. CGL is maintaining this case on behalf of indirect purchasers, namely retailers and consumers of architectural paint (house paint) in the United States.

For additional information, please contact attorneys Jonathan Cuneo, Katherine Van Dyck, or Benjamin Elga at (202) 789-3960 or by email at jonc@cuneolaw.com, kvandyck@cuneolaw.com, or belga@cuneolaw.com.

x close window Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca, LLP
SUBMIT
disclaimer