Risk Update

DQ & Discipline — Mass Arbitration DQ Desired, Lawyers Disciplined over “Eatery” Conflict

WarnerMedia seeks to disqualify mass arbitration firm, alleges ethics breaches” —

  • “WarnerMedia is seeking to disqualify plaintiffs firm Zimmerman Reed from representing claimants in a mass arbitration campaign against the entertainment conglomerate, accusing the law firm’s managing partner of committing serious ethical breaches.”
  • “Warner’s petition, opens new tab to disqualify, filed last week in New York State Supreme Court, alleges that Zimmerman Reed managing partner Caleb Marker and two other unnamed Zimmerman Reed professionals engaged in deceit and dishonesty when they signed up as claimants in identical mass arbitration campaigns against the company by two different plaintiffs firms.”
  • “Warner contends that Marker and the other two Zimmerman Reed professionals – an associate and a data analyst – were never legitimate claimants but signed up as clients of Keller Postman and Labaton Sucharow in order to ‘surreptitiously gain access to information’ to boost Zimmerman Reed’s own mass arbitration campaign.”
  • “The company claimed that as spurious mass arbitration clients, Zimmerman Reed gained ‘improper insight’ into how Warner responded to demands and settlement offers from Keller Postman and Labaton campaigns. Warner asserted that Zimmerman Reed tailored its demands to reflect what it learned from the other firms’ efforts.”
  • “The petition alleges that in 2023, Marker contacted Warner and Discovery Digital, both affiliates of Warner Bros Discovery (WBD.O), opens new tab, on behalf of about 70,000 purported clients who alleged that the Discovery video streaming platform illicitly disclosed their viewing history to Facebook parent Meta (META.O), opens new tab. Zimmerman Reed claimed that Discovery’s disclosures violated the Video Privacy Protection Act, which includes statutory damages of $2,500.”
  • “Marker did not inform Warner and Discovery, according to the petition, that he and the other Zimmerman Reed professionals, both of whom worked in the firm’s mass arbitration practice, were claimants in ongoing mass arbitration campaigns in which Keller Postman and Labaton Sucharow accused the company’s HBOMax platform of violating the Video Privacy Protection Act.”
  • “Warner said in its petition that it uncovered the alleged overlap by reviewing client lists provided by Labaton and Keller Postman when they asserted arbitration demands. According to Warner, Marker’s name first turned up on a list of Labaton claimants who sent a demand letter to the company in December 2022. The following month, Warner received a pre-arbitration notice of dispute in which Keller Postman said it represented Marker.”
  • “The petition argued that the only way to block Zimmerman Reed from making use of its allegedly ill-gotten information is to disqualify the firm from representing claimants in mass arbitration against Warner.”
  • “The company also alleges that Marker and the other Zimmerman Reed professionals probably breached their retainer agreements with Keller Postman and Labaton by signing up with both firms to pursue identical claims.”
  • “The Warner petition is not the first time Zimmerman & Reed has been sued by the target of a mass arbitration campaign. As my Reuters colleague David Thomas reported earlier this year, French skincare company L’Occitane accused the plaintiffs firm in a Los Angeles federal court complaint, opens new tab of conspiring with about 3,100 clients to manufacture frivolous website tracking claims under California’s Invasion of Privacy Act.”
  • “The law firm, according to the complaint, continued to encourage prospective clients to visit L’Occitane’s website after the company informed Zimmerman Reed that it was not authorized to access the site.”
  • “The judge also, however, dismissed, opens new tab L’Occitane’s case against the law firm and its clients. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Anderson held, does not apply when the operator of a public website allegedly revokes authorization to access the site but does not impose technological barriers to block unwanted visitors.”

Dilworth Paxson Attys Disciplined Over NJ Eatery Conflict” —

  • “Two Dilworth Paxson LLP partners were sanctioned by the New Jersey Supreme Court this week [May 2] for investing in a restaurant on the campus of The College of New Jersey at the same time they were legally representing another investment group on the project.”
  • “In separate orders filed Wednesday, the state Supreme Court admonished Michael Gluck, managing partner of the firm’s Freehold office, and reprimanded partner Christopher Walrath over misconduct that occurred when they were at their own firm of GluckWalrath LLP, which was absorbed by Dilworth Paxson last year.”
  • “Gluck and Walrath did not give their investor clients written notice about the potential conflict of interest or get the clients’ written consent to the arrangement, thus violating state ethics rules, the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Review Board wrote in its report to the court on the case.”
  • “Gluck and Walrath maintained that they gave verbal notice about the implications of the conflict, though, and the DRB noted other mitigating factors, including that both attorneys have otherwise spotless ethical records, that the attorneys entered into a stipulation with the DRB and that the investment deal happened years ago in 2015.”
  • “The case centered on Gluck and Walrath’s investment in a restaurant project at the college called the Brickwall at Campus Town. Gluck and Walrath became involved in the project when they introduced a group of investors they had represented in previous matters to Brickwall’s property manager in May 2015. However, in October 2015, the pair also decided to invest in the project, although their investment group client remained the majority owner with the sole authority to make decisions.”
  • “The DRB determined that the pair did not give written notice to the investors that they may want to seek independent counsel after their investment, and they did not get informed, written consent from the investors that they understood the pair’s role in the project.”