On the same day that they were pink-slipping people at Paramount and Nickelodeon, the Sumner Redstone-controlled Viacom was putting a price tag on how much it will shell out to make their interns lawsuit go away. That will be $7,212,500 to be exact in a gross settlement amount revealed yesterday to end the class action litigation first filed by ex-MTV intern Casey Ojeda in August 2013 (read it here). With a motion for preliminary approval formally filed in federal court Wednesday, the long-in-the-works settlement tops the $6.4 million NBCUniversal paid out last October in a lawsuit from a former Saturday Night Live intern and the $5.85 million that Condé Nast handed out in a deal last November.
“A trial would be lengthy and complex and would consume tremendous time and resources for the parties and the court,” said documents filed in U.S. District Court in New York on March 11. “The settlement, on the other hand, makes monetary relief available to class members in a prompt and efficient manner.” There are a few more hearings hurdles for everyone to jump through, but this deal, announced in principal on New Year’s Eve, is pretty much done. The deal encompasses interns who worked from August 2007 to June 2013 in the company’s NYC offices and in its California locations from September 2010 to June 2013. “The settlement was reached only after substantial motion practice and a prolonged period of negotiation,” said a memo the lawyers filed. “The parties devoted the better part of nine months attempting to settle this action.”
And they will be paid well for that work — as in previous settlements, the real winner moneywise is the lawyers. In this case, the plaintiffs’ NYC-based firm of Virginia & Ambinder LLP and attorneys at Leeds Brown Law P.C. They will get $900,000 or around 12.5% of the settlement. To readers who have been following our coverage of interns’ class actions, the name of Virginia & Ambinder may be familiar. They were the lawyers in the very short-lived David Letterman intern action against CBS and his Worldwide Pants company last year. They also are reps in the class action against CBS and CBS Radio by a former intern in late January and the similar suit against Lionsgate and The Wendy Williams Show.
On average, the 12,500 class members of the Viacom suit will get $505 for each academic semester in which that were an intern at Viacom to a total of no more than $1,010. Named plaintiffs Ojeda and Karina Reynaga are set to get $5,000 for essentially taking the initial plunge on the case. Other early plaintiffs Nicole Rosinsky and Nikhil Kasbekar will get $2,500 and $1,500 each.
As these settlements happen, the suit that started it all continues in the courts. Launched in late 2011, the game changing Black Swan case is before the Court of Appeals with Fox Entertainment Group not indicating in any way it is looking to settle.
In the Viacom case now over for the most part, Lyle Zuckerman and Michael Goettig of NYC’s Davis Wright Tremaine LLP represented the media giant.