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Brent Rigging Suit Lawyers Fight Over Litigation Control

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 01.06.41The traders, represented by the New York-based law firm Kirby McInerney LLP, sued last month in Manhattan federal court claiming some of the world’s biggest oil companies, including BP Plc, Statoil ASA, and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, conspired with Morgan Stanley and energy traders including Vitol Group to manipulate spot prices for Brent crude oil for more than a decade.

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Attorneys for four oil traders suing over alleged manipulation of crude prices copied much of their complaint and violated federal court rules in an attempt to control the litigation, a rival group of lawyers claimed.

The traders, represented by the New York-based law firm Kirby McInerney LLP, sued last month in Manhattan federal court claiming some of the world’s biggest oil companies, including BP Plc (BP/), Statoil ASA (STL), and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, conspired with Morgan Stanley (MS) and energy traders including Vitol Group to manipulate spot prices for Brent crude oil for more than a decade. The benchmark is used to price more than half the world’s crude and helps determine where costs are headed for fuels including gasoline and heating oil.

Kirby McInerney has asked U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr., who’s overseeing a dozen class action cases targeting alleged Brent crude price rigging, to appoint it lead counsel. A group of three law firms, led by New York’s Lovell Stewart Halebian Jacobson LLP, claimed in court papers filed yesterday that Kirby McInerney “suffers from an experience deficit” in litigating similar commodity manipulation suits.

Lovell Stewart, Minneapolis-based Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP and White Plains, New York-based Lowey Dannenberg Cohen & Hart PC are urging Carter to name them as lead counsel, with Lovell Stewart as chair.

Lead counsel in class actions control the direction of the litigation, assign tasks to other law firms, decide whether to settle or go to trial, and eventually reap the largest fees.

Kirby Claims

Kirby McInerney claimed in court papers that it has devoted the most resources to investigating the case. Its complaint contains the “most substantial and particularized allegations,” including claims against New York-based Morgan Stanley, Vitol and other energy traders not named in other lawsuits. Part of the support for its request is contained in papers filed under seal with the court.

The Lovell Stewart group claimed Kirby McInerney broke court rules in filing the material directly with the court without first seeking permission. They claim Kirby McInerney’s complaint made use of “extensive copying” of material from earlier-filed lawsuits and from Platt’s Crude Oil Marketwire, an industry publication. Platt’s isn’t a defendant in the lawsuits.

David Kovel, the lead Kirby McInerney lawyer on the case, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the Lovell Stewart claims.

The case is McDonnell v. Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), 13-cv-07089, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The multi-district litigation is In Re North Sea Brent Crude Oil Futures Litigation, 13-md-02475, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in federal court in Manhattan at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at [email protected]

SOURCE

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