By John Donovan
On Saturday 26 February we published an article authored by me entitled…
It announced the surprising news that an Order which allowed Shell to proceed with a Non-U.S. settlement costing Shell shareholders over $400 million in respect of the 2004 reserves fraud had been sought and obtained by Liaison Counsel Keefe Bartels – New Jersey based “Personal Injury Lawyers”. We pointed out that they are “a type of law firm known as “ambulance chasers”; “a derogatory phrase sometimes used to describe a trial lawyer who specializes in representing accident victims” (definition borrowed from Wikipedia). I made the comment: “Perhaps it was useful to have such a law firm carrying out the liaison function”.
On the second working day after our article was published, Keefe Bartels sent a letter to the trial Judge, District Judge Joel A. Pisano, effectively resigning from the position of Liaison Counsel and putting forward a proposed replacement Jan Meyers & Associates. I note that the substitute Liaison Counsel is not a personal injury specialist. Keefe Bartels had acted as Liaison Counsel since 2004.
Judge Joel A. Pisano signed an Order authorising the change on 27 February 2008.
The fact that a firm of “ambulance chasers” had a key role in litigation involving hundreds of millions of dollars stuck out like a sore thumb when the information was put into the public domain. We had therefore speculated on whether the article may have prompted this unexpected development.
However, the resignation is almost certainly due to a dispute which has broken out between the lead plaintiff lawyers Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz, LLP and Keefe Bartels regarding the division of $27 million in legal fees being paid by Shell.
DOC 479: Resignation letter to Judge Joel A. Pisano from Liaison Counsel: 26 February 2008
DOC 480: Order authorising resignation and subsitution of Liaison Counsel: 27 Feb 2008