- Written by Yuma News Now Yuma News Now
- Published: 05 June 2021 05 June 2021
Phoenix, Arizona - Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Thursday that the Ninth Circuit reversed a Wesson Oil class action settlement where the majority of the money went to attorneys and not to consumers.
Plaintiffs alleged that the company, Conagra, made misleading claims that its Wesson cooking oil products were “100% Natural” when they were not. Consumers filed a putative class-action lawsuit in 2011. A settlement was reached that gave plaintiffs’ attorneys close to $7 million and less than $1 million to class members.
“Plaintiff’s attorneys should not settle class action lawsuits to simply enrich themselves at the expense of those who have actually been harmed,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “I applaud the court for rejecting this misguided settlement and shifting the focus back to protecting consumers.”
On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit rejected the Wesson Oil settlement. In a win for consumers, the Ninth Circuit recognized several “red flags of potential collusion” in the settlement, and sent the case back to the district court to “give a hard look at the settlement agreement to ensure that the parties have not colluded at class members’ expense.”
In April 2020, General Brnovich led a 13-state coalition of state attorneys general urging the Ninth Circuit to reverse the class action settlement. In addition to providing very little monetary relief to the class, the settlement contained valueless injunctive relief. It required Conagra to change its labeling and marketing practices, but only in the event that Conagra ever bought back the Wesson Oil brand—a brand it sold prior to the settlement. The Ninth Circuit agreed with the coalition of attorneys general, holding that “the district court erred by placing even ‘some value’ on the injunction because it was, and is, virtually worthless,” and that “Conagra thus essentially agreed not to do something over which it lacks the power to do.”
Copy of AGO Amicus brief here.
Copy of opinion here.
Attorney General Brnovich continues to lead bipartisan efforts to protect consumers from unfair and imbalanced class action settlements. Since 2015, the Arizona Attorney General's Office (AGO) has filed briefs in courts across the country raising concerns about class action settlements where consumers were not adequately compensated. AGO efforts have produced meaningful results for consumers, including improved settlement terms that ensured consumers received the real benefits from settlements.