Say What? A Lack of Communication

I’ve been attempting to provide updates as to the status of a possible settlement with the Heller Ehrman LLP estate and the Class Action suit but despite my best efforts, communication seems to be a one-way street as of late.

I just want to say that I am as frustrated as the next ex-Hellerite with the lack of information available especially from Blum Collins which is purporting to represent the best interests of the ex-Heller employees.  I think it is time that I call them out on their recent behavior.

First, ever since the supposed settlement in late October, the lines of communication seem to have shut down.  Now, granted, it may have been due to confidentiality issues related to the settlement but even emailing Blum Collins and asking for an update would be met with silence.

In early January, I and several of the named plainitiffs told Blum Collins that we were not happy with the level of communication and we basically “called them out” on it in private. Despite our best efforts, what appears to be stone-walling continues.

At this point, I really can’t offer much for this site to readers who email me and ask, “what’s going on with the Heller situation?”  I no longer have a PACER connection (someone who could check the docket every few days and send me the filings) but if someone would like to step in I’d appreciate it.  I think we seem to be left to our own devices for getting information.

Why does this matter?  Here’s why:

  • I’ve heard from several ex-Hellerites who are desperate for money to the point where they want to settle individually with the Heller Ehrman LLP estate.  I really don’t blame them.
  • How would you feel if you worked closely with a firm for several months – even to the derision of your former colleagues who said we didn’t need someone to represent us – and once a settlement was announced (with a big fat attorneys fee included), you can’t even get a response to an email?
  • The longer there is silence – especially here on the blog – the more folks think this process has stalled or even worse just imploded like Heller did.  People forget.  The go on with their lives.  They figure they’ll never get the wages and monies that were taken from them.

For all the times that Blum Collins has told me that this blog is a great idea in terms of communication, I keep telling myself, “they just don’t get it.”  Having a blog is one thing.  Using a blog effectively is another.  I signed on with a firm that wants a big chunk of money.  For what?  So I can scramble to get my own info about the status of court proceedings?

At this point, I am not willing to support the current settlement or the representation of Blum Collins any further.  I can’t speak for you as a former ex-Hellerite – each person needs to make their own decision.  You’d think I’d have learned with the Heller implosion not to bend over and get f*cked by attorneys or to trust them again.  I guess I was stupid twice.  Not a third time however.

I’ll probably end up settling for much less than I had expected but I’ve moved on with my life.  I have a new career in a new field with my own company.  I need to keep looking at the glass as half-full but not in a Pollyanna manner.  I don’t have time or resources to waste especially when I feel like I am talking to a wall.

* * *

So there you have it.  I’d appreciate readers’ thoughts in the Comments section.

Over and out.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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23 Responses to “Say What? A Lack of Communication”


  1. 1 P-OWED 3 February 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Thomas,

    Wow. Of all the people they’ve chosen to ignore….you’d think they would realize that you are THE crucial link through which information is disseminated to ex-Hellerites. If anything, you make their lives easier! What gives?!

    I’m sure we’re all thinking the same thing: NOW WHAT?!

    P-OWED

  2. 2 Very PO-d in Seattle 3 February 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I have never sent a comment throughout this whole time but I want to say now that what you have been doing Thomas has been wonderful and I thank you. To think they are just going to ignore you speaks volumes of what they think of the rest of us. This just royally stinks. Guess we’re all on our own.

  3. 3 Ex-Associate 3 February 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Well said, Thomas. The attorneys at Blum Collins should be ashamed of themselves. In fact, it seems that the lack of client communication may be border line unethical. This is precisely the type of behavior that causes such distrust against attorneys.

  4. 4 SFSecretary 3 February 2010 at 6:43 pm

    The Ex-Associate’s comment is true. Blum Collins please respond to Heller Highwater right away!

  5. 5 Thomas MacEntee 3 February 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Folks, I have had to totally disconnect for a while from this process – this includes email and phone. I’ve had several people try to reach me and to be honest, I just deleted the voicemails, that’s how pissed off I am. I’ll probably be available next week when I am back from a much needed vacation.

    In the meantime, here’s a novel idea: there has to be a way for the attorneys at Blum Collins to at least address this issue here in the comments on a very basic level. The concept is dialog and speaking with your clients – novel, don’t you think?

    Thomas

  6. 6 Former SF Assoc 3 February 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Thomas, if what you say is true (and I have absolutely no reason to think otherwise) I would let them know that you are considering filing a complaint with the California State Bar, and with the Court. Communication with clients is one of the most basic of ethical obligations for lawyers, and there is no excuse for this lack of communication. Shame on them, especially when so many people are so desperate for money that they worked so hard for to be paid to them by the Heller estate.

  7. 7 Former Secretary 3 February 2010 at 10:42 pm

    If someone could keep this blog updated as to the latest filings,that would be helpful. Think back to cases where you were in the thick of it and no time to answer every call and email. Blum Collins isn’t that big of an outfit is it, so they’re probably just trying to keep up with their work.

  8. 8 Anon2 4 February 2010 at 12:47 am

    To Former Secretary,

    You’re way too kind. Blum Collins has what, 200 or 300 Heller Ehrman clients, and is getting a check for $950,000. What could be more important than that? Seriously….

  9. 9 Doug Thorpe 4 February 2010 at 1:28 am

    I’m Of Counsel to Blum Collins and have been involved in recent events regarding the claims against Heller and its constituents on behalf of the employees of Heller. I think it appropriate for me to comment on this posting about our work on your behalf.

    We have had several conference calls scheduled during the past two weeks to bring the committee up to date. Those calls have been postponed for a variety of reasons (illness, travel schedules, etc.) but on January 29 the call was rescheduled to this coming Saturday, at which time the Committee will get a full update.

    In late December and early January, Thomas and I worked together to develop the posting related to the amended Schedule E that Heller filed. Since then, Craig, Steven and I have been in contact with lawyers representing the various interests in the bankruptcy (the Heller estate – both bankruptcy counsel and employment counsel, the Creditors Committee, and the former partners) in an effort to wrap up open issues. There are many, many moving parts to the settlement, and all parties are working hard to resolve the minute details that will bring this to a satisfactory conclusion.

    We know that all of our clients would like to have their money sooner rather than later. The nature of the process, especially in a bankruptcy proceeding where there are so many divergent interests and so many i’s to dot and t’s to cross, makes it very difficult to move quickly. In addition, in response to the first settlement document, Judge Montali sent the lawyers back to the drawing board to work on the nits and nats of a final settlement and plan of reorganization that will pass his muster. None of this is a surprise. Those of us who spend our professional lives dealing with dispute resolution are accustomed to having to respond to the unexpected. We clearly did not meet Thomas’ expectations regarding updates as this process evolved, but we believed that status reports were happening and would happen in the future during our conference calls.

    Thomas has done a truly spectacular job in running this blog. My regret is that we have not met his expectations and that he found it necessary to air his issues with us in this forum.

  10. 10 Former Heller Secretary 4 February 2010 at 2:14 am

    Thank you Thomas for everything you have done to keep so many ex-Hellerites informed. I’m sorry it has come to this. I too have lost my admiration of and trust in law firms as employers — and “big” law firms in general. I understand a little bit better now why the payscale for legal secretaries is so much higher than other industries. I didn’t use to feel this way, but, just like everybody else in this country, I guess I’m just in it for the money now and not for the satisfacion it used to bring. It used to mean something to me, but not anymore. I love the attorneys I work for, but “law firms” have changed their focus too much toward the bottom line rather than the practice of law, and THAT! I do not like.

    It’s been so long sine Heller’s demise that, at this point, I don’t even care if I get the money I’m due. Like you, I just want to move forward with my life. It won’t be long before I too have another job in another field. It’s time.

    But, as I originally began to say, I thank you Thomas for all of the time and work you put into keeping us informed. I hope you never again have to face this kind of situation in the future.

    To all of us a better future! It was good while it lasted, but the future is still wide open. Best of luck to you and all of my ex-Heller colleagues.

  11. 11 Travis Bickle 4 February 2010 at 2:17 am

    Doug,

    Thanks for ending the radio silence.
    Please tell us what the next step (including dates/timing) will be in the process so we can all adjust our expectations accordingly.

  12. 12 Former Heller Secretary 4 February 2010 at 2:18 am

    Yes, Doug, why don’t you do that for us.

  13. 13 Observer 4 February 2010 at 2:43 am

    I understand Thomas’s dissatisfaction that Blum Collins has not communicated better with their clients.

    I also appreciate Doug Thorpe’s update as to the process.

    I’m told that the Creditors’ Committee finally has an ex-employee member. (Minnie Loo filled a couple of vacancies, and one new appointment is an ex-attorney).

    It’s my impression that the Creditors’ Committee counsel has been focused on seeking settlment commitments from various groups of former shareholders (several of these groupings have their own bankruptcy counsel). Settlements with some of these groupings could provide additional funds to continue the efforts against the former senior shareholders, who drove the ship onto the rocks and (allegedly) overpaid themselves while the ship was sinking.

    I think I would suggest that people try not to get so frustrated that they lose interest in this process. A perfect result there will never be, but something useful to all of us ex-employees may yet result.

  14. 14 John 4 February 2010 at 6:57 am

    I know people are frustrated with the speed of the process, but it took ex-Brobeck associates just over two years before they got a check in the mail. There’s no reason the Heller bankruptcy should take any less, or more, time.

  15. 15 Doug Thorpe 4 February 2010 at 11:12 am

    After our conference call on Saturday with the Committee, we will post a further update. At the present time, however, it is impossible to predict a schedule with any level of confidence because the timing of events is out of our control and in the hands of the Creditors’ Committee, which maintains a high level of confidentiality over its plans in order not to tip the persons from whom they are trying to collect money. At last report, all scheduled court dates were vacated at the request of the mediator who is working with the Creditors’ Committee, various debtors and the former shareholders to bring about an overall settlement. Our deal is not holding up the process for a minute.

  16. 16 P-OWED 4 February 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Doug – is there an update regarding the validity of Bank of America’s security interest (which they got paid on) or has that issue fallen to the side?

  17. 17 Former Associate 4 February 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Doug,

    With all due respect, I think your points underscore to us former employees (or, at least, to me) the fact that your firm is seeking an enormous payday for essentially waiting in the wings while the creditors committee–who we are also paying via reduction in the estate’s available assets–does the heavy lifting. To me, that doesn’t justify a $1 million windfall to BlumCollins.

    The lack of communication (until now) is just icing on the cake.

  18. 18 P-OWED 4 February 2010 at 2:23 pm

    If there was no class action, would ex-Hellerites get the same via this settlement PLUS an extra $950,000 now allocated to BC for their fees?

  19. 19 Observer 4 February 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Doug Thorpe said:

    “At last report, all scheduled court dates were vacated at the request of the mediator who is working with the Creditors’ Committee, various debtors and the former shareholders to bring about an overall settlement. Our deal is not holding up the process for a minute.”

    That doesn’t sound quite right to me, as a current status. The mediator had asked for a brief standstill last November, while mediation sessions with shareholder groups took place in the following couple of weeks. I’m not aware of any longer term request from the mediator to slow the process down. The reality, I believe, is that the Creditors’ Committee has been in active discussions with various shareholder groups. I don’t know where Blum Collins has been in terms of their discussions on a possible class action settlement, on the same or revised terms from before.

    I hope that Blum Collins will provide more information on the status of the process after the plaintiff committee meeting scheduled for this Saturday.

  20. 20 Observer 4 February 2010 at 5:33 pm

    P-Owed: It’s not that simple. The $950,000 would go back into the pot. But that sum would not necessarily be dedicated to ex-employee claims; it could be shared with the entire unsecured creditor class. Then it would make for a much smaller gain on any one ex-employee claim.

    The main difference the proposed settlement via Blum Collins was supposed to be accomplishing was getting us more on WARN claims than the debtor or Creditors’ Committee would otherwise have been willing to agree to. Vacation claims would, as I recall, have been treated the same with or without a class action settlement.

    (Somebody please correct me if I have misunderstood anything in this post.)

  21. 21 devilishlydumb 9 February 2010 at 12:37 pm

    What I do not understand is why the preferred claims of employees isn’t paid out straight away. There is no issue with these relatively small amounts, so the delay is unnecessary. What I am particularly concerned by is the attorney fees/costs that are being paid out of the estate, to the tune of several million per month. The real risk is that by the time a payment is authorized to former employees, there won’t be enough in the pot to pay us.

  22. 22 devilishlydumb 9 February 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Just one more comment — there is no excuse for a lawyer failing to communicate with his clients. As a lawyer I make it my practice to return calls/emails absolutely no later than 24 hours after getting them. Going incommunicado with clients (let alone the NAMED PLAINTIFFS in a lawsuit) for weeks is absolutely unacceptable.

  23. 23 P-OWED 9 February 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Devilishlydumb,

    Totally agree! Maybe they figure the class has no other choice but to take the settlement so there’s no need for a lot of “hand-holding”…


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