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Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin

May 1, 1973

EISEN
v.
CARLISLE & JACQUELIN, ET AL.



Author: Medina

Before: MEDINA, LUMBARD and HAYS, Circuit Judges.

MEDINA, Circuit Judge: Sufficient factual background for an understanding of the rulings we are about to make in this extraordinary "class action" is to be found in our first opinion Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 391 F.2d 555 (1968), often referred to as Eisen II. On that appeal we remanded the case to the District Court for reconsideration and for findings on specific issues and we retained jurisdiction*fn1 While entertaining grave doubts on the questions of notice and manageability, we thought the original rejection of the case as a class action had been too summary, that improper standards had been applied and inadequate consideration given to the specific requirements of amended Rule 23.

After almost five years the case is before us again. While much of the delay is not attributable to further proceedings bearing on issues arising under amended Rule 23, a very considerable amount of the time of Judge Tyler and of the lawyers for the respective parties has, in this interval of five years, been devoted to hearings, the taking of depositions, and the preparation and filing of various District Court opinions, preceded by briefs and extensive oral arguments. Much of this time was devoted to an effort by Eisen's counsel to meet the apparently insurmountable difficulties of notice and manageability by adopting the erroneous and frustrating view that some way must be found to make the case viable as a class action. In the end Judge Tyler was persuaded that the innovations described by Judge Weinstein in his speeches*fn2 and in his series of opinions in Dolgow v. Anderson, 43 F.R.D. 21 (1967); 43 F.R.D. 472 (1968); 45 F.R.D. 470 (1968); 53 F.R.D. 661 (1971); 53 F.R.D. 664 (1971), were authorized by amended Rule 23. These innovations were the preliminary mini-hearing on the merits and the "fluid recovery," both of which will be fully described in due course. It is clear to us that, with or without these innovations, the notice provided by amended Rule 23 to be given "to all members (of the class) who can be identified through reasonable effort" cannot be given, as Eisen refuses to pay or put up any bond to cover this expense, and, if defendants prevail on the merits, they will be unable to recover any amounts expended by them for this purpose. We are also of the opinion that, on the basis of the new evidence now before us, the lawsuit is unmanageable as a class action, and that no preliminary mini-hearing on the merits and no "fluid recovery" procedures are authorized by the text or by any reasonable interpretation of amended Rule 23. Accordingly, we reverse and dismiss the case as a class action. We also vacate the findings of fact and conclusions of law that were made after the preliminary mini-hearing on the merits.

I

The Decision Below - 52 F.R.D. 253 (1971)

In 1968, when the case was previously before us, it was estimated by someone that there were 3,750,000 members of the class, consisting of those who had bought or sold odd lots on the New York Stock Exchange in the period from May 1, 1962 through June 20, 1966. It was then doubtful whether any of the members of the class could be "identified through reasonable effort." Eisen's position then was and now is that, except possibly in the eventuality of the ultimate adoption of Judge Tyler's suggested plan which envisages payment by defendants of 90% of the cost of giving notice, he will not defray any of the expense of giving notice to any of the members of the class, nor will he post any bond to reimburse defendants for any of their disbursements, pursuant to any order of the District Court, made for the purpose of giving any notice.

It now appears that there are 6,000,000 members of the class and of these 2,250,000 can be easily identified*fn3 Members of the class reside in every state of the United States and most foreign countries. They speak and understand a great variety of modern languages. The damages sought to be recovered were estimated at the time we last considered the case at something between a maximum of $60,000,000 and a minimum of $22,000,000*fn4 Now the estimate has been raised by Eisen's counsel to 120 millions of dollars.

In our prior opinion we stated unequivocally that actual notice must be given to those whose identity could be ascertained with reasonable effort and that "in this type of case" plaintiff must pay the expense of giving notice to these members of the class*fn5 We further stated that if this could not be done there might be no other alternative than the dismissal of the case as a class action. For some reason not clear to us Judge Tyler disregarded these holdings and concluded that he had discretion, even with reference to those members of the class who could be easily identified, to provide for such notice as he thought to be reasonable in the light of the facts of this particular case.

Thus he directed actual notice only to "the approximately 2000 or more class members who had ten or more transactions during the relevant period" and to "5000 other class members selected at random" from the 2,500,000 class members who could easily be identified*fn6 With respect to the rest of the 6,000,000 members of the class, Judge Tyler ordered what, without reciting all the details concerning the schedule of proposed publications, we consider to be a totally inadequate compliance with the notice requirements of amended Rule 23. One of the reasons for this was perhaps because Judge Tyler thought of these first notices, by mail and by publication, as merely the first of a series of notices. Judge Tyler then deferred the question of who should pay for this first round of notices until after a "brief" preliminary hearing on the merits. This is what is called the "mini-hearing." We shall have more to say later about this preliminary mini-hearing on the merits of Eisen's triple damage antitrust claim. Accordingly, the hearing was held "on the issue of the allocation of the costs of notice" and Judge Tyler concluded that the defendants must bear 90% of these expenses.

To describe Judge Tyler's general scheme as it slowly developed in the series of his many opinions*fn7 following the remand would be too tedious. The sum and substance of it was that he at last realized that it was highly improbable that any great number of claims would, for a variety of reasons, ultimately be filed by the 6,000,000 members of the class. No claimant in the 6 years of the progress of the action had shown any interest in Eisen's claim. The average odd-lot differential on each transaction had been $5.18. The average individual class member engaging in five transactions would have paid a total odd-lot differential of $25.90. Assuming a 5% illegal overcharge the recovery is approximately $1.30, and when trebled the average class member would be entitled to damages of $3.90. As the costs of administration might run into the millions of dollars, it was not likely that a rush of claimants would eventuate no matter how extensive the publication. As he had surmised in the beginning, and as Chief Judge Lumbard stated in his dissent (Eisen II, p. 571), the class action was hopelessly unmanageable. So Judge Tyler tried to pull the case out of this morass by resorting to the "fluid recovery," which had been used as a vehicle for carrying out a voluntary settlement in the Drug Cases, State of West Virginia v. Chas. Pfizer & Co., Inc., et al., 314 F. Supp. 710 (S.D.N.Y. 1970)*fn8

The concept of this "fluid recovery" is very simple. Having decided that there is no conceivable way in which any substantial number of individual claimants can ever be paid, "the class as a whole" is substituted for the 6,000,000 claimants. Thus the first round of notices becomes relatively unimportant. The scheme adopted envisages the first round of notices as sufficient to get the ball rolling. Little is said about Step Two. This involves a trial of the case to a judge and jury on the merits - not a preliminary mini-trial this time, but a real full scale trial of the private triple damage antitrust case. In some way the damages to "the class as a whole" will be assessed and the defendants, it seems to be assumed, will promptly pay this huge sum into court. This sum is supposed to constitute the "gross damages" to "the class as a whole." With the money in hand, the case begins to resemble the Transitron and Drug Cases and from then on we are to have the real notices soliciting the filing of claims, the processing of these claims, the fixing of counsel fees and the payment of the general expenses of administration. As "the class as a whole" will include all those who had purchased or sold in the period from mid-1962 to mid-1966 and all those who, at the time of assessing the full damages, were presently purchasing or selling, and those who might in the future purchase and sell, securities in lots of less than 100 shares, it is quite apparent that some of the original 6,000,000 claimants will receive nothing, because they have never heard of the case or for other reasons have failed to file claims and have them processed, and many other new traders, who had no transactions in the period from mid-1962 to mid-1966, will receive some payments. According to Judge Tyler, at least those members of the original class of 6,000,000 who "have maintained their odd-lot activity, will reap the benefits of any recovery" (52 F.R.D. at p. 265). As far as we are aware there has never been, nor can there ever be, a reliable or even rational estimate of how many traders, whether speculators or investors, can be said to be expected to continue as such after the lapse of 10 years or so. As it is suspected that relatively few claims will be filed and the damages assessed are supposed to cover the losses of "the class as a whole," there will be a huge residue, similar to the amounts paid to various charities "to advance public health projects" in the Drug Cases, and this residue is to be used for the benefit of all odd-lot traders by reducing the odd-lot differential "in an amount determined reasonable by the court until such time as the fund is depleted." 52 F.R.D. at p. 265. We are at a loss to understand how this is to be done, but it is suggested that it "might properly be done under SEC supervision or at least with SEC approval."

Despite its early expression of doubt on the subject*fn9, and what appears at least to be de facto exercise of supervisory powers over Rules or practices on the subject of the amount and uniformity of the rate of commissions on odd-lot purchases and sales, the SEC finally did exercise such powers*fn10 and we hold that at all times the SEC possessed such powers under Sections 11(b)*fn11 and 19(b)*fn12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. No District Court has authority to decide upon the rate of such commissions to take effect until the exhaustion of any residual fund left over by application of a "fluid recovery" in a private triple damage antitrust case, after the payment of claims in a class action or otherwise. The courts may review rulings of the SEC, but they have no more power than the District Court to fix any such rates in the first place or to give directions to the SEC concerning the fixing of such rates or the time within which such rates are to be effective, as part of a judgment in a private triple damage antitrust case.

II

Disposition of Certain Contentions of the Parties

Solely for the purpose of making our holdings clear in this difficult and complicated case we think it proper first to dispose of certain contentions of the parties.

A

We must reject Eisen's claim that the fluid class recovery theory is not ripe for review. Indeed, there is no way to sidestep this issue. We specifically remanded the case for consideration of the problem of manageability. The further proceedings on the remand were necessarily concerned with ascertaining whether there was a judicially sound way effectively to administer this action. Administration, of course, includes proof of damages and the distribution of the same. As we point out later in this opinion, Eisen concedes that the action is not manageable if fluid class recovery is not permissible. We must face this issue if we are to pass on the question of manageability, which is the most important point in the case. We are no longer at the early stages of this case where it might be possible to put off to a later time the troublesome question of what to do with the damage fund if only a small number of claims are filed against the fund. See In Re Antibiotic Antitrust Actions, 333 F. Supp. 278, 281-2 (S.D.N.Y. 1971).

B

Moreover, we think the three cases cited by Judge Tyler as "respectable precedent" for fluid class recovery are all distinguishable. These three cases are: Bebchick v. Public Utilities Commission, 318 F.2d 187 (D.C. Cir. - ), cert. denied, 373 U.S. 913 (1963); the Drug Cases, 314 F. Supp. 710 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd 440 F.2d 1079 (2d Cir. 1971); ...


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