This is a very odd case.
Persons who worked for ZipRealty from May 4, 2003 - Sept 30, 2005 were invited to join a class action lawsuit against the company to recover lost commissions and other unreimbursed expenses. The case ended when parties involved settled for $3.55 million. After court costs and fees, the shared settlement amount was reduced to $2.525 million to be shared among just under 1,000 parties.
A few people received settlement checks. Most didn't. I'm sure that many of you who were among those who were awaiting your portion have been making many fruitless phone calls to receive your settlement. It would have made a very nice Christmas present.
Then the letter of explanation came. Sandeep Baweja of the Baweja law group wrote that he had "invested" the settlement funds in an online trading account. From April to December of last year he had managed to lose all but $54K.
He filed a motion to withdraw as counsel in the case and has informed the state bar of his actions. This he explained via a Christmas Eve mea culpa letter that he sent to the parties involved.
If you are among those who have received this letter, you may want to read the following news reports and blogs.
Russell Shaw (via Bloodhound Blog): Unzipped?
Orange Country Register: Irvine attorney admits burning through $2.6 million in fund
Further OC Register Report: Lawyer who misspent $2 million quits Irvine public schools foundation
Wage Law Weblog: He Did WHAT With The Settlement Money?
From this information there appears to be at least two threads to pursue:
- Check with the State Bar of California. If the attorney is disbarred (which seems highly likely) there might be settlement funds available. (I'm not an attorney- I'm simply passing on information I've read).
- A comment in the Bloodhound Blog revealed this, "lawyers for Mr. Hoven Garoyan filed a class action against Sandeep Baweja and Ernest J. Franchesi, Jr. and The Garden City Group, Inc. for their failure to distribute to their clients, about 600 former ZipRealty real estate agents, $2.6 millions obtained via a court settlement with ZipRealty for unpaid commissions." The attorneys involved are James Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org and Luan Tran at email@example.com (213-612-3737). Their complaint may be downloaded here.
I'm hoping this post may be grabbed by the power of the search engines and reach anyone who has been searching the net for solutions to recovering their portion of the settlement. If you want to re-blog or offer further links that may help the affected parties, please feel to post to the comment section.
On Jan. 26 there will be a hearing before the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, at which time, Judge Otero will be asked to formally remove Baweja as lead lawyer on the class-action case.