New York Attorney General and Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer is asking a Northern California court to disapprove the settlement terms of an overtime suit against UBS.
In February, UBS agreed to pay $89 million to brokers who sued the firm for overtime pay and unlawful deductions. The national settlement amount includes the original lawsuit brought forth by California brokers (Bowman v. UBS) and another suit covering all other states (Glass v. UBS). California-based brokers are set to receive $44 million of the settlement while brokers across the country will share the remaining $45 million.
Spitzer says the proportion leaves New York brokers with one-third less recovery money than California brokers. He says California’s $44 million works out to $375 per month of work, while New York claimants would receive $120 per month of work. (Other states’ claimants, he says, would receive even less under the proposed settlement.)
In a proposed amicus curiae (a document filed with the court requesting the arguments be heard before a judge), Spitzer says neither plaintiffs’ nor defendants’ attorneys have adequately explained the stark difference in settlement amounts. Spitzer questions the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees, which may amount to 25 percent of the settlement, since the counsel “performed minimal work and ran no significant risk of nonrecovery.”
According to the memorandum, when the judge questioned why the Glass v. UBS amount was, per capita, “substantially lower” than the California settlement, Glass counsel replied that California law is favorable to plaintiffs. A spokesperson for UBS says, "We are confident that the settlement reached in this matter is fair and should be approved by the court."
Mark Thierman, one of the attorneys representing brokers, stands by the settlement amount, saying California labor law has the “best argument because it allows for two times the minimum wage” for overtime pay. “New York labor laws look the same, but past cases have proven that they are different,” he says.