If You Are Or Were An Owner Of Real Property In New Jersey On Which A Tax Sale Certificate Was Sold At A Public Auction Between January 1, 1998 And February 28, 2009
You May Have a Claim in Proposed Class Action Settlements
Settlement Update [as of 11/4/2019]
On November 4, 2019, the Court granted plaintiffs’ motion for authorization to distribute the settlement funds to class members. Class Counsel is now working with the settlement administrator to mail checks to all eligible class members. It is expected that the checks will be mailed by the end of November 2019. Thank you for patience during this process.
Settlement Update [as of 7/25/19]
On July 18, 2019, Class Counsel filed with the Court a motion to authorize distribution of the settlement funds. The papers associated with that filing are available for viewing on this website under the “case documents” tab. Class Counsel has no control over when the Court will decide this motion. But, as soon as it is decided, and assuming the Court authorizes the settlement funds to be distributed, Class Counsel and the Claims Administrator can then proceed to distribute the settlement funds to valid claimants. We will update this website with any further new developments.
Thank you for your continued patience.
Settlement Update [as of 5/31/19]
We are now nearing the final step of the claims administration process. It is anticipated that by the end of the week of June 3, 2019, the claims administrator will send out what is expected to be its final round of deficiency letters to those whose claims were incomplete or suffered from some other deficiency but could otherwise be eligible. It is anticipated that class members will be given about 2 weeks to respond to the claims administrator’s deficiency notices. If such claimant is unable to cure the deficiency in its claim, it is likely that such claim will be rejected. As we noted in our last update dated 4/12/19, some of the invalid claims are quite large and, if approved, would greatly dilute the recovery of those claimants who possess valid claims. Therefore, it is important that the claims administrator determine, as best it can, the validity of these claims and others. Once this final round of deficiency notices is completed, class counsel will file a motion with the Court seeking the Court’s approval to distribute the settlement monies to each valid claim. Currently, class counsel anticipates filing this motion by the end of June 2019. This motion will also detail the efforts of class counsel and the claims administrator in the claims process, and the numerous steps taken to ensure that invalid claims are eliminated. Class counsel feel it is important to set forth the extensive efforts taken to eliminate invalid claims, because class counsel are acutely aware that claimants eagerly await the receipt of their settlement checks. Please know, as eager as claimants are to receive their settlement checks, class counsel is as eager to send such checks out. But, class counsel’s eagerness must be subordinate to their fidelity to the class and claimants to ensure invalid claims are not being paid thereby diluting the settlement pool for valid claimants. As always, we thank you for your patience and understanding.
Settlement Update [As of 4/12/19]
The claims administration process continues. We have identified many claims that are incomplete, contain inaccuracies, and in some cases, appear to be invalid claims. Some of these claims are quite large and, if approved, would have greatly diluted the recovery of those class members who possess valid claims. Therefore, the claims administrator is sending out a second round of deficiency notices to each of these claimants we have identified as being potentially invalid to provide them with a second chance to validate their claims. We anticipate that process will take approximately one more month, and, shortly after the conclusion of that process, class counsel then intend to file a motion with the court for permission to distribute the funds to all class members. The method of calculating each class member’s share of the settlement proceeds is set forth in the notice that was sent to all class members, and which can be located in the “case documents” portion of this website, in the link titled “Notice.” In the notice, the method of calculation of each class member’s share of the settlement can be found on page 8, under the section titled “Plan of Distribution.” Please know that class counsel is eager to distribute the settlement monies to the class. However, as eager as class counsel is to do that, class counsel also has a duty to each class member to ensure that invalid claims are not paid and their share of the settlement is not diluted. We thank you for your patience and understanding.
On September 30, 2016, Judge Michael Shipp, United States District Court Judge, for the District of New Jersey, granted final approval to all of the settlements in this matter, determining that the settlements were fair, reasonable and adequate under the law. In doing so, he overruled the objections to the settlement made by one class member, Ms. Arlene Davies, finding her objections to be without merit. A copy of the order approving the settlements, as well as other relevant case documents, can be found under the “Case Documents” link on this website.
Twenty proposed settlements totaling $9,585,000 (the “Proposed Settlements”) have been preliminarily approved in a putative class action lawsuit (the “Lawsuit”) brought on behalf of New Jersey real property owners who had a tax sale certificate (“TSC”) issued with respect to their real property that was also purchased by a Defendant at a public auction in New Jersey at an interest rate above 0% (“Plaintiffs,” or the “Class”) from January 1, 1998 through February 28, 2009 (the “Class Period”). TSCs are certificates acquired by a purchaser at a public auction and represent that purchaser’s right to collect a delinquent property tax or other municipal charge, including water or sewer charges, from an owner of property in New Jersey, along with associated interest and fees.
Defendants are individuals and entities who purchased TSCs at public municipal auctions during the Class Period.
What is the Lawsuit About?
Plaintiffs allege violations of federal antitrust laws in connection with the purchase and sale of TSCs. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants conspired to fix, raise, maintain or stabilize the interest rates of the TSCs. Plaintiffs allege that this conspiracy resulted in overcharges to real property owners who had a TSC issued for their property and sold at auction.
Defendants have denied any liability and all allegations of misconduct. All Defendants have agreed to settle. The Court has preliminarily approved the Proposed Settlements and certified the Settlement Class for settlement purposes only.
Who Is Included in the Proposed Settlements?
You are a member of the Settlement Class if you owned real property in New Jersey and had a TSC issued with respect to your property that was purchased by a Defendant between January 1, 1998 and February 28, 2009 at an interest rate above 0%.
What Do the Proposed Settlements Provide?
The Defendants have agreed to pay a total of $9,585,000 (the “Settlement Fund”), which will cover payments to Settlement Class members. Additionally, and subject to certain exceptions, Class members who had a TSC purchased during the Class Period by a Defendant, which is still held by a Defendant, and which has an interest rate greater than 0%, will be offered up to a 15% discount off of the amount owed. If you are eligible for a discount, you either have already been contacted, or will be contacted separately. Copies of the Settlement Agreements, as well as a more detailed notice, are available at www.njtaxliensettlements.com.
How Can I Get Benefits?
If you are a member of the Settlement Class and wish to recover benefits from the Proposed Settlements, you must submit a timely and valid claim form by June 17, 2016. Claim forms are available at www.njtaxliensettlements.com and may be submitted online or mailed to New Jersey Tax Liens Claims Administrator, P.O. Box 8060 San Rafael, CA 94912-8060. The amount of each Settlement Class Member’s benefits will be determined by the court-approved plan of distribution, which is described in the detailed notice available at www.njtaxliensettlements.com. The court must grant final approval of the Proposed Settlements in order for settlement benefits to be paid.
Your Other Rights
If you do not want to be legally bound by one or more of the Proposed Settlements, you must exclude yourself, in writing, by identifying each Proposed Settlement for which you seek exclusion. The exclusion deadline is March 14, 2016. If you exclude yourself, you will not receive any cash benefit from the Proposed Settlement but will keep the right to bring your own lawsuit regarding the claims alleged in this action.
If you stay in a settlement (i.e., do not exclude yourself), you cannot bring your claims in another lawsuit; you may, however, object to the Proposed Settlement by submitting an objection by March 14, 2016. The detailed notice, available at www.njtaxliensettlements.com, explains how to object.
The Court will hold a hearing on April 25, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. to consider whether to grant final approval of the Proposed Settlements. You may attend the hearing, though it is not necessary.
Who Represents Me?
The Court has appointed Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Hausfeld LLP as Class Counsel to represent you at no charge to you. Class Counsel, who have yet to be compensated for any work related to the investigation and litigation of the Lawsuit, intend to seek fees of up to 33% of the Settlement Fund, as well as reimbursement of expenses. You may hire your own lawyer at your own cost.
Objection Deadline: March 14, 2016
Opt-Out Deadline: March 14, 2016
Claim Filing Deadline: June 17, 2016
Final Approval Hearing: April 25, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.