This American Enterprise Institute forum will not be beneficial to plaintiffs who are searching for advice on whether to accept the settlement themselves. I refer those people back to their attorneys.
For reporters who are following this story at depth, the video includes a sophisticated presentation by Jones Day attorney Mark Herrmann about settlement strategy from Merck's point of view; a provocative presentation by Professor George M. Cohen -- who calls the settlement proposal an illegal antitrust conspiracy -- and a scholarly presentation by Professor Nagareda on the public policy issues raised by the settlement of mass tort claims.
For attorneys who have been retained to provide their clients with a second opinion, Professor Cohen's presentation will be a useful addition to their own research and independent conclusions. Attorney Andy Birchfield -- the only forum speaker with first hand knowledge of the negotiations leading to the settlement proposal -- may be of the greatest interest as he walks counsel for Plaintiffs through the structure, purpose and effect of the proposed settlement program.
Speakers in this forum include:
Mark modestly fails to mention in his Blog post concerning this video that he is one of the speakers on this panel.
Herrmann discusses the following questions:
- did Merck's settlement strategy make sense; and,
- will this settlement buy Merck peace.
Professor Cohen not only concludes that attorneys recommending this proposal to their clients are violating professional ethics, but asserts that it constitutes an illegal antitrust "conspiracy" as well.
Professor Nagareda discusses the settlement from a dispute resolution public policy standpoint.
As a contract between Merck on the one hand and the "lawyers who have a large market share" on the other, Professor Nagareda suggests that the settlement proposal is more an artifact of the law flowing from the Supreme Court's AmChem opinion than of any legal "connivance" among the Plaintiffs' attorneys or between them and Merck.
This settlement proposal, he says, is a valuable and creative peace-making transaction for mass claims.
Andrew Birchfield, an attorney at Beasley Allen and co-lead counsel on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the federal Vioxx litigation addresses the negotiations themselves and the structure of the settlement.
Andy says that in approaching settlement Merck required global peace -- that there couldn't be a "second round" because Merck had seen how disastrous open-ended liabilities could be for a corporation.
The plaintiffs' attorneys, says Birchfield, negotiated a settlement agreement designed to serve the best interests of each individual client no matter how strong or weak each of their cases might be.
Attorney Ted Frank of the American Enterprise Institute who once represented Merck in the Vioxx litgation.
Frank talks about the law and economics of the settlement proposal, focusing on the weakest link of Plaintiffs' cases -- causation.
See also the Blog of the Legal Times coverage of this forum here.