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Law firms in Meta antitrust lawsuit clash over lead role

  • February 27, 2023

Two major US law firms are feuding over which one will lead a consumer antitrust class action against Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook, after a judge scrapped a prior order appointing them both as co-leaders for the plaintiffs and started from scratch.

US District Judge James Donato in San Francisco said in January that he would make a new determination to select one of the firms to lead the class action amid quarreling between Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Part of the clash included a Hagens Berman partner accusing Quinn Emanuel of discounting her views based on her gender. Quinn Emanuel denied the allegation, calling it a “mystery.”

“I have significant experience-based qualms about these multi-headed plaintiff-side structures,” Donato said at a recent hearing in the case, as he heard about the dispute and wiped out a 2021 order by another judge who appointed both firms. “You don’t need them.”

The underlying case involves class claims from consumers and advertisers that Facebook exploited user data to maintain its market power. The company has denied the allegations from both sets of class plaintiffs.

The two law firms on Friday night submitted their pitches to Donato about why he should appoint them solely rather than jointly to lead the consumer class.

In its filing, Quinn Emanuel said partner Kevin Teruya was the “architect of the consumer class’s case.” Hagens Berman in its submission questioned Quinn Emanuel’s rates, suggesting they were too high.

Plaintiffs’ firms routinely vie for court-appointed leadership roles in class actions, allowing them to steer litigation and potentially to recover bigger portions of legal fees in cases that settle or win at trial.

A representative from Hagens Berman did not immediately comment, and a Quinn Emanuel spokesperson declined to comment.

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