Wells Fargo has agreed to pay about $14.8 million to settle Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) claims over autodialed calls. An almost $1 million reduction to the preliminarily anticipated settlement fund occurred after discovery revealed that the class was smaller than originally estimated.
In late February, U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. granted preliminary approval to a proposed settlement that called for Wells Fargo Dealer Services Inc. and parent company Wells Fargo Bank NA to pay about $15.7 million to end class action litigation brought by consumer Frederick Luster in a Georgia federal court.
But the settlement amount was based on Wells Fargo’s estimate that the settlement class included nearly 3.4 million members, a number that was subject to confirmatory discovery, according to a late May joint motion to approve a revised class notice and to amend the preliminary approval order.
The deposition offered by a Wells Fargo employee during that process revealed that the actual number of affected cellphone numbers was about 3.2 million, a difference that is “attributable to additional de-duplication of the preliminary estimate to avoid double-counting unique cellular telephone numbers,” the motion said.
However, the motion noted that even though the total amount Wells Fargo is required to provide is less than originally expected, “because the settlement has always been based on a per class member amount, the value of the settlement per class member remains the same.”
The settlement provides for a payout of $4.65 per class member, but based on the expected claims rate, members of the settlement class are likely to receive between $20 and $50, depending on the total number of approved claims. Luster is slated to get up to $20,000 as an incentive award and class counsel can request up to nearly $4.5 million in fees and costs. The consumer filed suit in April 2015, alleging that Wells Fargo had made autodialed calls to his cellphone number in the previous four years, trying to collect debts apparently owed by two people he didn’t even know.
After mediation, the parties reached a settlement that they asked Judge Thrash to approve in late February. The motion asking for approval said the settlement provided for a $15.7 million settlement fund to compensate the estimated 3.39 million members of the proposed class.
The class would include anyone with a cellphone number to which Wells Fargo Dealer Services made a collection call about an auto retail installment sale contract with an autodialer from April 2011 to March 2016. Judge Thrash granted preliminary approval and conditionally certified the settlement class soon thereafter.
However, after confirmatory discovery revealed that the class was smaller than originally estimated, on May 24 the parties asked the judge to approve a revised class notice that reflects the final settlement amount and to extend some case deadlines. Judge Thrash granted the request on June 9. A final settlement approval hearing is slated for Nov. 2.
Luster is represented by lawyers from Burke Law Offices LLC, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, Skaar & Feagle LLP, Meyer Wilson Co. LPA, Law Offices of Douglas J. Campion APC, Keogh Law Ltd., Greenwald Davidson Radbil PLLC, Kazerouni Law Group APC and Hyde & Swigart. The case is Luster v. Wells Fargo Dealer Services Inc., (case number 1:15-cv-01058), in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.