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Cassese v. Wash. Mut., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 4, 2013

DENISE CASSESE f/k/a DENISE CALIGIURI, GEORGE SCOTT RUSH, RICHARD SCHROER and WILLIAM BLOOM, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
WASHINGTON MUTUAL, INC.; THE FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE COMPANY, in its capacity as receiver for WASHINGTON MUTUAL BANK, such entity having incorporated former defendants WASHINGTON MUTUAL BANK, FA and WASHINGTON MUTUAL HOME LOANS, INC.; and WASHINGTON MUTUAL BANK, FSB, Defendants

Page 485

For Plaintiffs: Joseph S. Tusa, Esq., of Counsel, TUSA, P.C., New York, NY.

For Plaintiffs: Peter D. St. Philip, Jr., Esq., of Counsel, LOWEY DANNENBERG, BEMPORAD, SELINGER & COHEN, P.C., White Plains, NY.

For Washington Mutual Inc., Defendant: John Peter Mastando, Esq., of Counsel, WEIL, GOTSHAL & MANGES, LLP, New York, NY.

OPINION

Page 486

DECISION AND ORDER

ARTHUR D. SPATT, United States District Judge.

This case arises from approval of a settlement ending more than six years of class action litigation against the Defendant Washington Mutual, Inc. (" WMI" ) for alleged violations of federal and state law in charging pre-payment fees relating to residential mortgage and home equity loans. Familiarity with the numerous prior orders is presumed.

On February 15, 2011, a Settlement Agreement (the " Agreement" ) was filed with the Court. As part of the Agreement, the Settlement Class Members agreed to relinquish any claims against WMI. For its part, WMI agreed to deposit a Gross Settlement Fund in the amount of Thirteen Million Dollars ($13,000,000) into a Settlement Account; provide notice to class members; and implement a claims process and distribution as described in Article 6 of the Settlement Agreement. The Agreement provided that, except for limited circumstances not applicable here, the Gross Settlement Fund was not to be paid out until after the " Effective Date" of the Agreement, which could not occur until after exhaustion of any appeals.

Relevant here, Article 6 provided that " [a]ny Class Member who does not timely and validly exclude himself or herself from the Class, but does not submit a valid and timely Proof of Claim Form . . . will not be entitled to receive any proceeds from the Net Settlement Fund." (Agreement ¶ 6.2.) The Agreement defined " Net Settlement Fund" as that portion of the Gross Settlement Fund that remained after the payment of attorneys' fees and other administrative expenses.

Article 6 also required that all Proof of Claim Forms be submitted no later than fifteen days prior to the " Final Fairness Hearing." Similarly, Article 6 mandated that " [a]ny Proof of Claim Form received after such date or any Proof of Claim Form that does not satisfactorily meet the submission requirements set forth herein and in the Proof of Claim Form shall be rejected by the Settlement Administrator and Class Members submitting such forms shall not be entitled to a distribution from the Net Settlement Fund." (Id. ¶ 6.3.) Article 6 also provided that if a Disputed Claim could not be resolved by the Settlement Administrator without objection by Class Counsel or WMI Counsel, or by good faith conferrals between them, the claim could be submitted to the Court for resolution. (Id. ¶ 6.4.) In addition, the Settlement Account Agent was required to deliver Claim Payments to Claiming Class Members within 120 days of the Effective Date. Finally, Article 6 provides that any funds remaining in the " Net Settlement Fund" after Distribution of Claim Payments " shall be returned to WMI's bankruptcy estate for subsequent distribution in accordance with the Plan." (Id. ¶ 6.6.)

Page 487

On March 10, 2011, the Court (1) entered a Preliminary Order Approving the Settlement Agreement; (2) scheduled a " Final Fairness Hearing" for September 15, 2011; (3) directed Class Members to submit their Proof of Claim Forms to participate in the Settlement's financial distribution by August 31, 2011.

On September 15, 2011, the Court (1) held a " Final Fairness Hearing" ; (2) certified the proposed class for settlement purposes only; (3) overruled any objections; (4) approved the Settlement Agreement and application for attorneys' fees; (5) excluded opt-out claimants; and (6) deemed the ...


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