Sunday, March 22, 2009

A citizen's letter to judges

I am undertaking to disseminate the below "citizen's letter to judges."

Dear Judge ______,

I am writing this letter as a citizen in the midst of the hardship the nation is experiencing in the financial system crisis and associated economic downturn.

There has been much discussion about how corporate compensation structures led corporate officers and others, in furtherance of their personal gain, to abusively disregard property interests and economic value belonging to other parties (such as shareholders, bond investors and home buyers), and how this resulted in great harm to the economy, as well as to those other parties specifically.

As a citizen, I think the compensation structure under which plaintiffs' lawyers operate has resulted in a longstanding disregard of and damage to the economy and to properly balanced societal interests in the civil liability system. There have been numerous books written by critics, such as Walter Olson and Philip Howard, about this subject.

Currently, as the country tries to stimulate its economy and to grow its wealth, businesses and financial assets again, I think it would behoove all concerned to renew their attention to the parasitical activities of plaintiffs' lawyers that sap economic and financial resources and that otherwise ill serve societal interests.

I cannot add much to what critics like Olson and Howard say in their books and what they report in blogs such as

I would, however, like to make a couple of comments.

First, it is more than ironical that, a few years before the recent collapse in bank shareholder value stemming from risky business decisions motivated by perverse compensation structures for corporate officers and others, the plaintiffs' lawyers, also driven by their perverse compensation structure, inflicted their own billions of dollars of damage on innocent bank shareholder value, such as in connection with Enron. See this article: Enron's smartest guys, crooks, victims and other saps.

Also, similar to the rampant greed of many persons involved in the mortgage loan financing industry that resulted in tantamount robbery, I think the plaintiffs' lawyers greed in their cookie cutter securities law class action litigation that they employ is also tantamount robbery. This was recently exemplified in cases involving Tyco, Xerox and Monster, Inc. See Tyco: On Snookering Clients Out Of $460 Million ; Objection in Xerox securities law class action; and Why aren’t retirement plan trustees screaming bloody murder?

Further I contend that the plaintiffs' lawyers compensation structure has resulted in undermining the fostering of ethical conduct by employees of corporations (see Does the Law Undermine Business Ethics? ).

Judges have an oversight role, and I regret to say I believe some judges fail in that role and are enablers of the plaintiffs' lawyers to the detriment of the economy and balanced societal interests. In several class action lawsuits, I have received notice that I was a member of the plaintiff class, and I have filed objections in three of them, which can be read here: Objection to attorney fees in Charter Cable class action (2004); Objection in credit card currency conversion class action (2007); Objection in Xerox securities law class action (2008); Objection in Norwthwestern Mutual Life class action (2008). In another class action involving Monster, Inc. and Middlesex County Retirement System, I did extensive emailing to government retirement systems and to others involved with corporate retirement plans to try to get them to scream bloody murder. See the entries in this link. Also see this about a Southwest Airlines class action loss suit, and entries here related to the Xerox class action.

One conclusion I have reached from my efforts is that some of those who are in a position to try to resist the travesties inflicted by the plaintiffs' lawyers believe it is futile and they only risk infliction of further injustices at the hands of the judicial system if they try.

As the country looks for ways to dig out of its problems, it is getting immersed in a new economic regimen of governmental investment and oversight that was inconceivable a year ago. The government, investors and public are taking a close look at compensation structures that led to damage to the economy. Where public funds have been brought to bear, the government is dictating limitations on executive compensation and the payment of dividends to stockholders. As previously indicated, this review should include looking at the country's legal system, the costs it imposes on the country, the compensation structures for plaintiffs' lawyers, and how the same has harmed the economy in the past and will hinder its rebuilding.

Further, just as other government regulators are under scrutiny for how well they performed in their oversight of activities that contributed to the current crisis, so judges ought to be scrutinized for how they have performed in overseeing the legal system and the costs that have been imposed on society.

I hope, your Honor, that you will think about the things I say in this letter and perhaps raise them with other judges.

Thank you very much.

Robert Shattuck
3812 Spring Valley Circle
Birmingham, AL 35223
(205) 967-5586

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