JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - An attorney who fights settlements that provide coupons to consumers and millions of dollars to attorneys says he was not surprised by the outcome of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's settlement with Microsoft.
The 2009 settlement provided $40 million for the State, $10 million for private attorneys and up to $60 million in vouchers for consumers. Hood said this week, though, that consumers used $1 million worth of coupons, which had a value of $12.
"It's not surprising that the vouchers ended up being worthless to most Mississippians," said Ted Frank, the founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness.
"Attorneys regularly agree to coupon settlements to make settlements look larger than they are, knowing full well that only a tiny percentage of coupons will ever be redeemed."
State Auditor Stacey Pickering has challenged the attorneys fees award, arguing that all funds collected from lawsuits should be turned over to the Legislature. The state Supreme Court is deciding his appeal after hearing oral arguments in August. A related case was heard in June.
"Hood is lying to his electorate when he says the $10M in attorneys' fees did not cost taxpayers anything," said Frank, also a writer for the legal blog Point of Law.
"Money is fungible, and Microsoft was willing to spend approximately $60 million to resolve this litigation. That money could have gone to taxpayers, or to trial lawyers, and Hood apparently agreed to a structure that rewarded trial lawyers with millions.
"A contingent contract paying an hourly rate would have permitted a settlement that won taxpayers millions more dollars."
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.