Claimants in the long-running BAR/BRI class action are set to begin receiving settlement payments to help compensate them for the alleged conspiracy between BAR/BRI and Kaplan that caused about 130,000 prospective law students to overpay for bar-review prep courses. Those payments will begin being sent to claimants next month.
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California approved a partial payment plan that will dole out some of the money in the settlement that has languished for years while plaintiffs’ lawyers and Los Angeles federal judge Manuel Real sparred over the amount that those lawyers would receive in fees.
In February, Real determined that McGuire Woods was not entitled to the $12 million it sought in fees after it scored a $49 million antitrust settlement with BAR/BRI parent company West Publishing Corp. in July 2007 because of a conflict of interest that violated ethics rules. McGuire Woods has appealed that finding to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which has already upheld the settlement but remanded the case to the trial judge to re-evaluate attorneys’ fees.
But due to a motion filed in October by lead plaintiffs’ attorney Sidney Kanazawa, an L.A.-based McGuire Woods partner, the money in the settlement fund that isn’t affected by the appeal will begin being handed out in January.
“We felt that it didn’t make sense for that money to sit waiting in the fund until all of the appeals were exhausted. This was a way to start getting some of that money to the people to which it is owed,” Kanazawa said.
According to the Web site set up to inform claimants of the case’s status, $30 million of the settlement fund will be distributed. The total amount of the payment class members can receive cannot amount to more than 30% of the amount paid by the claimant for their bar review course.
In the case of the partial payments, for each recognized claim of $2,000, a partial reward of $277 will be sent out. Kanazawa said that once the fee issue is settled, claimants stand to receive more money.
The class action was filed on behalf of all prospective law students who purchased a full-service bar review course from BAR/BRI anywhere in the United States anytime from Aug. 1997 through July 2006. In order to have their claim considered, claimants must have had their claim form postmarked no later than Sept. 17, 2007.
Updated 3:58 p.m. to include link to BAR/BRI settlement Web site.