The acrimony in Salomon Smith Barney's "boom boom room" suit continues.
In late November, the firm sent to 1,850 women proposed settlement offers ranging from 1,000 dollars to the low six figures, according to Mary Stowell of Stowell & Friedman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. About 24,000 current and former SSB female employees are covered under the July 1998 settlement of the class-action harassment and discrimination suit. Nearly 2,000 filed claims.
At the same time, Tallahassee, Fla., attorney Kent Spriggs, who represents three plaintiffs, filed a motion claiming Stowell and her partner, Linda Friedman, failed to meet their obligations under the deal. Spriggs says women pursuing claims have not had access to a panel of attorneys and have not seen statistical evidence, two things the settlement promises.
Spriggs estimates about half of those filing claims have no attorney and claims Stowell & Friedman improperly solicited retainer agreements. He asks the court to appoint a special master to oversee compliance with the settlement.
Stowell calls Spriggs' allegations "laughably false." She declines to confirm how many women are represented, either by her firm or by separate counsel, but insists potential claimants were notified about the attorney panel numerous times. Statistical evidence showing patterns of discrimination will be available for mediation sessions, she says.
The settlement is controversial because there is no pool of money from which class members receive payments. Instead, women must first mediate each claim, then they can litigate in a new program developed by Stowell & Friedman in conjunction with SSB and Duke University.
Spriggs claims the mediator pool was not created on time. Stowell says that's not true. "We had the [mediators] chosen when they were supposed to be," she says.
At press time, U.S. district court judge Constance Baker Motley was awaiting Stowell & Friedman's response to Spriggs' challenge.