Jessica Karmasek Jul. 24, 2015, 10:25am


SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) - Some Amazon electronic book customers on Thursday received credits to their accounts as a result of a settlement achieved by a coalition of state attorneys general in 2013.

Publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Penguin settled several antitrust lawsuits about eBook prices that were filed by the attorneys general of 31 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and class plaintiffs.

The lawsuits -- of which Amazon was not a party to -- claimed there was a conspiracy involving the five top publishers and Apple Inc. to fix and raise retail prices of eBooks.

The publishers deny they did anything wrong, but agreed to settle to avoid the cost and risk of a trial.

A total of $11,206,000 went to law firms Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC for their work in conjunction with the attorneys general: $10,455,534.56 in fees and $750,465.44 in expenses.

A federal court approved the last of the publishers’ settlements -- which totaled $166 million in relief to affected customers -- in December 2013. The distribution to eligible customers began on or around March 25, 2014.

The credits doled out this week also were part of the settlement.

According to Amazon’s FAQ for eBook Settlements, the additional distribution accounts for a “clarification” of the definition of New York Times Bestseller as used in the settlement agreements between the publishers, states and class plaintiffs.

The credits, which were added to Amazon customer accounts and will automatically apply to their next purchases of a Kindle book or print book sold, are valid for one year and will expire after July 31, 2016.

The 2013 settlement also provided for payment to class counsel.

Judge Denise Cote for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in a Dec. 9, 2013, order, granted the class plaintiffs’ motion for award of attorney fees and reimbursement of expenses.

According to a website devoted to the settlement, funds to pay these amounts did not come out of the money that was used to pay affected customers.

Hagens Berman began investigating the matter in early 2010, with Cohen Milstein hopping on board soon after. Both filed lawsuits in August 2011. The states did not file their complaint until April 2012, according to court documents.

Cohen Milstein, a plaintiffs law firm known for its class action lawsuits, has donated more than $70,000 to various state attorneys general campaigns in the last five years, calling into question its relationship with the states’ top lawyers and its motives.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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