New Orleans, LA Lawyers Fighting for the Local Business
One weekend, Co-Lead Counsel, Steve Herman and Jim Roy, got an e-mail from a lawyer in Washington asking for the Class’ consent to an “amicus” (or “friend of the court”) brief to be filed in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of British Petroleum’s request to throw out its own settlement.
Class Counsel asked whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would be disclosing to the Court how many of its own members and/or Local Chamber Affiliates had claims pending in the Settlement Program against BP.
The Chamber refused to disclose that information to the Court.
The question is: Why would the U.S. Chamber of Commerce take a position against family-owned businesses here in America, in favor of a foreign oil company?
For many of us, who deal with the “tort reform” issue, this came as no surprise. These associations like the Chamber only pretend to advocate for small businessmen and businesswomen. They are controlled almost entirely by the largest insurance, tobacco, pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies.
Who, for example, sits on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board?
Who are the largest donors?
Associations like the Chamber claim that they have a lot of individual members or contributors. But where does 90% of their funding come from?
Here, in Louisiana, the litigation landscape has changed drastically in the past ten years, since Hurricane Katrina. First with Katrina and Rita, then with defective Chinese Drywall, and finally with BP, the typical plaintiff has become a home-owner, a business-owner, or both. Rather than the stereotypical Little Guy-vs.-Big Guy, Individual-vs.-Business lawsuit, Louisiana has seen hundreds of thousands of legitimate claims brought by in-state businessmen and businesswomen who have been wronged by large out-of-state – and even foreign – insurance syndicates and other Fortune 50 companies.
The Chamber has, on issue after issue, aligned itself with the Louisiana Association for Business and Industry (LABI), and other similar groups. These organizations are at best indifferent, and at worst adverse, to local, Louisiana, family-owned businesses. On issue after issue, small local businesses are thrown under the bus, for the benefit of bigger out-of-state interests and industries.
Flooded with complaints from Gulf Coast businesses and Local Chamber Affiliates, the Chamber issued a puff piece that completely misses the mark. And the Chamber has still not explained while it intentionally concealed material information from the Court. Indeed, several Local Chamber of Commerce Affiliates filed their own amicus brief on October 6, 2014, in support of the Settlement, making it clear that the U.S. Chamber was not acting in their interests, nor the interests of the businesses whom they represent. On December 5, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied BP and the U.S. Chamber’s requests to have the settlement thrown out. This is a victory for the Local Chamber Affiliates and the local, family-owned, and other businesses of the Gulf Coast. As the U.S. Chamber has told the High Court in other cases: Your word is your bond. A deal is a deal. Companies must be held to their agreements and contracts.
Associations like the Chamber and LABI are hopelessly out-of-step.
In coming to the defense of British Petroleum, AIG, the Chinese Drywall Manufacturers, and State Farm, they are hurting their own Louisiana, family-owned constituencies.