November 15, 2018 Print

Representing yourself in court is almost always a bad idea, but that’s not stopping Ted Frank. He’s an attorney and director of litigation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and this week, his case (Frank v. Gaos) will be heard the United States Supreme Court.

In 2005, like millions of other people, Frank bought a copy of the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” A few years later, a team of lawyers brought a suit against the game and came to a settlement with a price tag in the millions. According to CEI’s video explaining the case, “the lawyers took $2 million; then they gave more than $5 million to their favorite law schools and organizations; and the class members? GOT ZILCH.”

Frank decided to take the issue to court, and he started winning cases. As he told the New York Times, “the system was ripe for change because the abuses were so big.” Class action lawsuits are intended to be a remedy to wrongs done to a vast group of people. Instead, some lawyers will use the interests of a class of people as a step stool in order to reach for greater payouts for themselves. Efforts by Frank and the team at CEI are an important step in stopping this abuse.

"The issue the Supreme Court will consider in Frank v. Gaos is the practice of attorneys selling out their clients in class action settlements,” says Travis Burk, director of media relations at CEI. “In this specific case, attorneys representing a class suing Google for privacy violations negotiated a settlement that includes millions of dollars to cover their own fees and control of a slush fund to donate to their pet causes — including the attorneys’ own alma maters — while leaving class members, their clients, with nothing. This is wrong and an abuse of our class action system.”

Crooked class action lawsuits, like the one behind Frank v Gaos, corrupt the U.S. legal system; it’s an abuse of the intended purpose of a class action suit. This unfair practice lines the pockets of lawyers and their own pet organizations while ignoring the intended beneficiaries of the system.

CEI’s Center for Class Action Fairness (CCAF) has been fighting unfair class action procedures and settlements since 2009. “To date,” says the director of media relations Travis Burk, “CEI’s Center for Class Action Fairness has returned over $200 million to consumers and shareholders who have been taken advantage of by their attorneys.” The precedent set in these cases will protect consumers, investors, and the courts for years to come.