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Executive Letter: Your Judicial Advocate

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

As I’ve discussed in past issues of the Executive Letter (view here, here, and here), several Wisconsin financial institutions are fighting class action lawsuits on the issue of represented items and fees. These lawsuits are occurring across the country against banks and credit unions and appear to be generated from a few class action law firms.

WBA does not normally get involved in bank litigation until it reaches an appellate level. In these cases, however, it is helpful for WBA to know whether your bank is involved in such litigation, so we can help share what we know about others facing the same class action suit. There is value in similarly situated banks, along with their legal counsel, talking with others so they can help each other respond in these cases. For example, WBA just became aware of a case in Dane County that was successfully dismissed, in favor of the bank, on a motion to dismiss. Due to lookback periods, WBA believes these representment class action suits will continue to be filed against banks for at least the next year and then will start to diminish. The goal, of course, is to force a settlement which is occurring in Wisconsin and around the country.

WBA will collect bank name and contact information, venue, issue at hand, and the name and contact information for bank’s counsel involved in the matter. WBA will share the collected information with member banks requesting the information; this information will not be published. My hope is to help connect banks, and their counsels, with each other to discuss experiences and help find resolutions.

In addition to serving as a central repository of these class action suits against banks, as mentioned above, WBA does get involved as a friend of the court in cases at an appellate level where a bank is involved as a party. WBA may get involved as a friend of the court in cases of widespread importance to Wisconsin banks generally and where the banking industry is in general agreement on the issues. If requested by a member to participate, the facts of the case are defensible, and WBA’s counsel believes a reasonable chance of being persuasive exists, a recommendation is made to the WBA Board of Directors for their approval of involvement. If approved, WBA will collaborate with its outside counsel to get involved as a friend of the court. WBA will not participate in cases involving two or more member banks as opposing parties.

If your bank is facing a suit, please assist WBA in assisting other Wisconsin banks facing similar cases by letting me or WBA’s VP – Legal Heather MacKinnon know.