Blog : cerg

District Court Preliminarily Approves Settlement in Akaosugi v. Benihana National Corporation

On August 20, 2012, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California preliminarily approved the class action settlement reached by the parties in Akaosugi v. Benihana National Corp., Case No. 11-cv-01272 (WHA).

The Settlement Class, which consists of current and former employees of Benihana-branded teppanyaki-style restaurants in California, alleged that Benihana required employees to forfeit vacation pay in violation of California wage laws. Benihana denies any wrongdoing, and the Court has not made any finding on the merits of the claims. The parties’ settlement remains subject to final Court approval.

Lewis Feinberg is co-counsel for the class along with Minami Tamaki LLP. A court-approved notice of the proposed settlement will be mailed by October 3, 2012. A final approval hearing will be held on January 24, 2013.

Recorder: ‘LCD Makers to Pay $539M to Settle Civil Antitrust Suits’

The Recorder last week reported on a case in which Minami Tamaki partner Jack Lee is the court-appointed liaison. See article below.  Bloomberg also reported on the settlement.

The plaintiffs in the case allege that Samsung, Hitachi, Sharp and others “engaged in a worldwide, multiyear conspiracy to fix prices and hinder competition related to TFT-LCD panels, which are in TVs, notebooks and monitors.”

LCD Makers to Pay $539M to Settle Civil Antitrust Suits
By Ginny LaRoe, The Recorder
December 23, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — On the heels of a plaintiff-friendly ruling in the TFT-LCD antitrust litigation, a group of manufacturer defendants is poised to settle for $539 million.

Co-lead plaintiffs’ counsel Francis Scarpulla of Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason and Joseph M. Alioto of Alioto Law Firm filed a motion for preliminary settlement approval on behalf of indirect purchaser plaintiffs and state attorneys general on Friday. They asked U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to sign off on a deal to resolve price-fixing claims against Samsung, Hitachi, Sharp, Chimei, Chunghwa, Epson and HannStar.

Plaintiffs allege the makers engaged in a worldwide, multiyear conspiracy to fix prices and hinder competition related to TFT-LCD panels, which are in TVs, notebooks and monitors.

The filing comes after Illston earlier this month rejected defendants’ renewed bid to toss the case for lack of antitrust standing on the part of indirect purchaser plaintiffs, saying the plaintiffs alleged injuries and the direct link between defendants’ alleged anti-competitive conduct “place this case squarely within the type of suit the antitrust laws were meant to address.”

Earlier this year a group of defendants settled with direct purchaser plaintiffs for around $388 million.

Plaintiffs asked for a Jan. 20 hearing before Illston, who presides over the consolidated multidistrict litigation and related criminal action.

Minami Tamaki partner Jack Lee is the court-appointed liaison in the action.

Minami Tamaki Achieves $3.7 Million Settlement in Class Action Against Census Bureau

data_collection_05_00-56-9In September, Minami Tamaki Partner Jack W. Lee and Senior Associate Bethany Caracuzzo finalized a $3.7 million settlement with the U.S. government in a wage and hour class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 2,000 plaintiffs in 17 states against the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The lawsuit alleged that the Census Bureau violated federal law by consciously refusing to pay overtime wages to temporary census employees who worked on the Year 2000 Census.

Census administrators “were targeting a very vulnerable population here – people who are students, retired, homemakers – hoping those groups of people who were temporary employees” wouldn’t raise a fuss, said Lee in a 2001 interview with AsianWeek. Census supervisors “were trying to cross their fingers and hope that no one would notice.”

Some Census supervisors demanded that employees accomplish tasks in “whatever” time it took, requiring or allowing staff to work more than 40 hours a week.

“These people who went out and did counting door-to-door, … they had guns pointed at them, had dogs chasing them (and) had their cars break down on desert roads, just to get their jobs done,” said plaintiff Kent Christofferson, a 20-year Navy veteran who signed on as a field operations supervisor with the Year 2000 Census and was the lead plaintiff.

Census administrators “were trying to save money, because the less they spent, the better they looked,” Christofferson said in an interview with AsianWeek. “The money was available. They could have used it at any time, but they chose not to. … When you have people pushing hours and everything, you don’t need to.”

With the Census 2010 counting completed earlier this year, Lee hopes that the lawsuit helped change the way the Census Bureau managed this year’s temporary workers.

“The goal of the lawsuit was not only to obtain the wages owed the plaintiffs from the 2000 Census, but to also ensure that future Census workers would not have to go through the same injustice,” said Lee.

Negotiating Severance Packages: Parachute or Free Fall?

brad_yamauchiBy Brad Yamauchi, Partner

You probably have read about “golden parachute” severance packages that pay millions of dollars to corporate executives, even when they are fired for poor performance or a scandal. Why is that? Can you get a severance package if you voluntarily or involuntarily leave your job?

I have negotiated severance packages for hundreds of clients in my 33-plus years of representing all types of employees, from hourly or low income workers to high income executives. This is a complex area of practice that requires a broad range of knowledge and negotiation skills.

To be effective, I must be familiar with all possible legal claims and damages, evaluate stock options and other types of compensation schemes, understand the economic situations of the company and the client, understand client goals, determine the motives of corporate management, HR and their attorneys, and have enough experience to know industry standards and expectations, among other considerations.

No two negotiations are the same. I need to be creative and assertive in giving the company a reason to offer my client a significant severance package that may include continuing pay and health benefits, a lump sum of cash, stock or stock options, retirement contributions, good references, purging negative records and/or work as an independent contractor. If a severance agreement is worked out, it requires that my client waive any and all legal claims (except workers compensation). Confidentiality and an agreement not to apply for jobs at that employer are also common terms in a severance agreement.

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Minami Tamaki Partners are ‘Super Lawyers’ for 7th Straight Year

From left: Jack W. Lee; Minette Kwok, Dale Minami, Donald K. Tamaki, Lynda Won-Chung and Brad Yamauchi. Not pictured: Mark Fong and Derek G. Howard.

Each of the five partners at Minami Tamaki LLP has been named by Northern California Super Lawyers magazine as among the top attorneys for 2010 for the seventh straight year. All three of the senior counsel in the firm have also been named to the Super Lawyers distinction in 2010.

Only five percent of the lawyers in California are named by Super Lawyers. And few firms (if any) have the distinction of having all the partners of a firm named by Super Lawyers magazine for seven years in a row.

Partners Dale Minami (Personal Injury), Donald K. Tamaki (Corporate), Brad Yamauchi (Employment), Minette A. Kwok (Immigration), Jack W. Lee (Employment), and Senior Counsel Lynda Won-Chung (Immigration), Mark Fong (Personal Injury) and Derek G. Howard (Consumer Law) were selected based on voting conducted by ballots sent to more than 56,000 lawyers in the region, an extensive process involving peer nomination and a blue ribbon panel comprised of lawyers from appropriate practice areas who scrutinized the list of nominees.

Minami was also selected as one of the Top 100 Northern California Super Lawyers for the fifth year (2005, 2007-2010).

Northern California Super Lawyers is published annually in August in a special advertising section in San Francisco Magazine, which reaches more than 400,000 monthly readers. Northern California Super Lawyers magazine, featuring articles about the local legal community, is delivered to more than 64,000 readers, including Northern California lawyers, the lead corporate counsel of the Russell 3000 companies and the ABA-approved law school libraries.

The selections for Super Lawyers are made by Law & Politics, a division of Key Professional Media, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minn. Each year, Law & Politics undertakes a rigorous multi-phase selection process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, independent evaluation of candidates by the Law & Politics’ attorney-led research staff, a peer review of candidates by practice area, and a good-standing and disciplinary check.

CNN Story on Alleged ATF Retaliation Against Officer

CNN aired a report May 26 on Vince Cefalu, a special agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who says he experienced retaliation by the agency after he filed several grievances and an age-discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Minami Tamaki partner Brad Yamauchi is Mr. Cefalu’s attorney.