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3 - The Rise of Repeat Players

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 May 2019

Elizabeth Chamblee Burch
Affiliation:
University of Georgia
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Summary

Because hard-and-fast formal rules are scarce and ethical obligations are murky, repeat players like lead plaintiff and defense attorneys can strategically play for “rules” (the shorthand term for practices that will tip the scales in their favor in future cases) in areas that affect what matter to them most. The chapter opens with Lance Cooper’s allegations in the General Motors Ignition Switch Litigation. He claimed that lead plaintiffs’ lawyers settled all their own cases confidentially before trial and cut a secret deal with GM to limit its financial exposure if plaintiffs won a big verdict. Cooper’s allegations give life to data that reveals a world open to exploitation: few rules, little oversight, multimillion dollar common-benefit fees, and a push for settlement can tempt repeat players to fill in the gaps in ways that further their own self-interest. Connected lawyers form their own groups, enforce norms, and financially sanction defectors much like a cartel would. This chapter’s empirical analysis confirms that repeat players populate plaintiff and defense leadership positions, and its social network analysis reveals that no matter what measure of centrality is used, a key group of attorneys maintains their elite position within the network and may disproportionately impact settlements.

Type
Chapter
Information
Mass Tort Deals
Backroom Bargaining in Multidistrict Litigation
, pp. 72 - 98
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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