Vanderbilt law professor Brian T. Fitzpatrick has published a great new research paper titled The End of Objector Blackmail? The paper discusses the problems of objectors blackmailing the parties to a class action settlement into paying them a portion of the fees at the threat of holding up final approval and resolution of the settlement. Professor Fitzpatrick discusses the history of the problem, provides a statistical analysis of “quick-pay provisions,” which have been one approach to combatting the problem, and finally argues for an approach that prohibits settlements of objector appeals unless the settlement includes a modification to the underlying agreement.
My own take on this issue, based purely on my own anecdotal observations, is that the objector blackmail problem has improved significantly over the past few years. From a defendant’s perspective, it was never much of a problem to have class counsel forfeit a portion of their fee to an objector to hasten approval of a settlement, but many plaintiffs’ lawyers have started refusing to negotiate with objectors. Two additional effective practical tools for fighting frivolous objectors include 1) asking the Court to require the posting of a substantial bond pending appeal of any objection to the settlement; and 2) asking the trial court for sanctions against frivolous objectors or their counsel.