The AmLaw Litigation Daily Interviews Darren Robbins on Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP’s Success and What Is Next in Securities Litigation

May 23, 2016

As reported in The AmLaw Litigation Daily, “[i]n the last month alone . . . Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd . . .  racked up more than $500 million in settlements.” Titled, “Plaintiffs Giant Darren Robbins on Scorched Earth, Worthy Opponents and What’s Next in Complex Litigation,” Jenna Greene interviews Robbins Geller founding partner Darren Robbins who became a lawyer so he could “make a difference.” Greene remarked that Robbins is “now one of the most successful advocates ever for injured shareholders.” The article highlighted the success the Firm has had so far in 2016, from being ranked first in Institutional Shareholder Services’ SCAS Top 50 Report for the second year in a row as to both the total amount recovered for shareholders and total number of shareholder class action recoveries to Paul Geller being appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the Volkswagen emissions class action. Not to mention the string of hard-fought litigations resulting in billions of dollars of recoveries for investors.

The interview wastes no time before jumping into last month’s settlements in the HCA Holdings and Goldman Sachs MBS cases. In Schuh v. HCA Holdings, Inc., Robbins Geller partner Scott Saham led a trial team that obtained a $215 million settlement, the largest recovery ever in the Middle District of Tennessee. The $215 million recovery represents between 34% and 70% of the aggregate class-wide damages, far exceeding the typical recovery in a securities class action. In NECA-IBEW Health & Welfare Fund v. Goldman Sachs & Co., Robbins Geller partners Luke Olts and Susan Taylor led a team that secured a $272 million recovery after seven years of litigation. Notably, after the case was dismissed in 2010, Robbins Geller secured a landmark victory from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that clarified the scope of permissible claims on behalf of MBS investors under the Securities Act of 1933.

“We’re very appreciative of the confidence that our institutional client base has placed in us coming out of the credit crisis,” said Robbins. “A short securities case takes a year or two, and a long one can be, well, we’re about 10 days away from the second trial in Household International Inc. The case was filed in 2002 and successfully tried to a jury the first time in 2009. The trial team there is led by Mike Dowd.”  In Jaffe v. Household Int’l, Inc., Robbins Geller obtained a jury verdict on May 7, 2009, following a six-week trial in the Northern District of Illinois, on behalf of a class of investors.  On October 17, 2013, the court entered a $2.46 billion judgment – the largest judgment ever in securities fraud class action trial.  The case was subsequently remanded by the Court of Appeals to be tried on several discrete issues. That trial will begin in two weeks.

With one or two cases going to trial a year, Robbins highlighted the Firm’s decision around six years ago to “initiate our trial initiative.” Robbins Geller attorneys request that their institutional clients be “committed to not just filing a case and ending up with an average recovery, which is somewhere around 2 percent, but be prepared to have us try the case.”

The Firm’s 200 attorneys make it possible to vigorously prosecute cases without having to team up with groups of other law firms. For instance, Robbins Geller regularly dispatches trial teams across the country. “For example, last year we moved 19 people to Nashville for the trial of the Psychiatric Solutions case. At the same time, we dispatched similar contingents to Minnesota [for the St. Jude case which settled on the eve of trial for $50 million], Delaware [for the Dole case which yielded $148 million trial victory, the largest post-trial award ever in a class action challenging a merger transaction] and New York [for the Pfizer case which settled for $400 million just days before trial was set to commence],” explained Robbins. “We currently have more than a dozen people in Chicago for the trial of the Household case commencing on June 6. That’s very hard thing to do if you’re a small firm.” These cases are examples of Robbins Geller’s willingness and ability to shoulder the burden of sustained litigation and see a case through on behalf of its clients, despite facing adversaries with tremendous power and resources.  The Firm’s experienced trial lawyers include dozens of former federal and state prosecutors, uniquely positioning Robbins Geller among firms that specialize in plaintiffs’ class action litigation. 

Though the Firm has racked up some pretty major successes in the courtroom, from the iconic Enron securities class action recovery ($7.2 billion), which remains the largest securities class action in history, to the more recent partial settlements of $324 million in the ISDAfix cases, Robbins finds himself especially proud of how the Firm tackled UnitedHealth. “I think what we did in UnitedHealth, which was a follow on to the corporate governance work we had done in the mid-2000s, is something we’re particularly proud of,” he explained. “No major plaintiffs' firm wanted to do the class case because there were serious loss causation issues. In fact, I think there were only two or three lead plaintiff motions in that case.” While the $925 million recovery amount was impressive on its own, what stands out is the $30 million paid directly from “UnitedHealth's CEO's own pocket.” Though the Firm regularly obtains multi-hundred million dollar recoveries, Robbins was quick to assure that, while they may not have the same media appeal, $5 million or $10 million recoveries are just as important to many of Robbins Geller’s clients.

The interview wrapped up with the Firm’s pro bono work, which currently involves the representation of “developmentally challenged children who don’t have access to services they’re entitled to by the State of New York.” Robbins Geller has a long history of representing the less fortunate. For example, Robbins also noted how the Firm invested millions in time and expenses, declining any form of attorneys’ fees, in the representation of Asian women in litigation emancipating from Pacific Island of Saipan. “What happened was, because of the compact between the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands had their own immigration policies, their own labor policies, and no applicable minimum wage. But clothing manufacturers were allowed to use a ‘Made in the USA’ label if clothing items were produced there,” explained Robbins. Women were housed in slave labor conditions and if they were to ever speak out against their employers, they could have possibly faced criminal sanction. This case, Does I v. The Gap, Inc., along with Does I v. Advance Textile Corp. and UNITE v. The Gap, Inc., resulted in a settlement of approximately $20 million that included a comprehensive monitoring program to address past violations by the factories and prevent future ones. Members of the Robbins Geller litigation team were honored by Public Justice for their effort in achieving the precedent-setting result.

“I think there is a moral obligation for those who choose to become a member of the bar that transcends the economic component of practicing law. Certainly we are a private law practice, but we’ve had a number of situations where we have been able to combine our principles of economic and social justice with private litigation. Fortunately, doing right by our clients has yielded not just extraordinary recoveries, but also resulted in favorable social change.”

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