AG Brnovich Urges U.S. Supreme Court To Protect Consumers From Class Action Settlement Abuses in Google Case

PHOENIX - Attorney General Mark Brnovich, leading a bipartisan coalition of 19 state Attorneys General from across the country, filed a brief urging the United States Supreme Court to protect consumers from class action settlement abuse when it decides on a Google class action settlement appeal next term.

“Class action lawsuits should be about protecting consumers and obtaining justice,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Unfortunately, in this settlement with Google, the money is lining the pockets of attorneys and select organizations, instead of going to the harmed individuals. Our office is fighting to stop this tactic.”

In the Google Referrer Header Privacy Litigation class action settlement appeal, Google settled a far-reaching consumer privacy case for $8.5 million, but consumers will not receive any of that money. Instead, more than $2 million will go to lawyers, and more than $5 million will go to five organizations that had nothing to do with the lawsuit, something that is called a cy pres-only settlement arrangement. 

In the Amicus Brief, Brnovich asked the Supreme Court to prohibit cy pres-only class action settlement arrangements, like the $8.5 million Google settlement at issue, which divert all the settlement money away from consumers.  Brnovich also urged the Court to implement limits so that, to the extent cy pres is allowed in a class action settlement, the lawyers for the class cannot get fees based on amounts awarded to cy pres recipients, since they don’t produce a direct benefit to the consumers who are supposed to receive some relief as a result of the litigation.

The brief was filed in Frank et al. v. Gaos, et al., No. 17-961 (U.S.) as a “friend of the court” under the Attorney General's statutory authority to speak on behalf of Arizonans in connection with federal class action settlements.  It represents the latest in over a dozen briefs and filings the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has made to help protect consumers from class action settlement abuse.

"Our efforts to date, and the bipartisan briefs we have spearheaded, have produced meaningful results for consumers, including improved settlement terms that make sure that consumers get a real benefit from class action settlements that affect their rights," said Brnovich.

Joining Arizona are Attorneys General from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

Full copy of the Amicus Brief.