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 1/24/17]
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.
On October 26, 2016, the objector, Ms. Davies, filed a notice of appeal with respect to Judge Shipp’s September 30 order approving the settlements. That appeal is being made to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The appeal is captioned In re New Jersey Tax Sales Certificates Antitrust Litigation, 16-3965. The class plaintiffs have moved to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that, among other things, Ms. Davies does not have standing to bring her appeal. Ms. Davies has opposed the motion to dismiss. The motion is fully briefed and the parties await a decision from the Court of Appeals.
In the meantime, because of the appeal, the settlement monies cannot be distributed, and will not be distributed until the appeal is resolved. Further, the discount offers that certain settling defendants agreed to as part of their settlement, also cannot be provided until the appeal is resolved. Once the appeal is resolved, the settlement monies can be distributed. It is difficult to predict when the appeal will be resolved. If the appeal is dismissed, that will substantially speed up the distribution of the settlement monies. If the motion to dismiss is denied, it is unlikely that the settlement monies can be distributed and the discount offers extended, during this calendar year.
Please check back for periodic updates.
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.