News / USA

    Ex-Politician John Edwards Vying for Lead Role in Volkswagen Suit

    FILE - John Edwards returns to a federal courthouse  in Greensboro, N.C., May 31, 2012. Edwards, who was a trial lawyer in North Carolina before his political career, sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco last Friday, asking to be appointed to the powerful plaintiffs' steering committee.
    FILE - John Edwards returns to a federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., May 31, 2012. Edwards, who was a trial lawyer in North Carolina before his political career, sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco last Friday, asking to be appointed to the powerful plaintiffs' steering committee.
    Reuters

    Among the more than 140 plaintiffs' lawyers competing to lead private litigation against Volkswagen over its emissions cheating scandal is former U.S. Senator and Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards.

    Edwards, who was a trial lawyer in North Carolina before his political career was felled by a sex scandal, sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco last Friday, asking to be appointed to the powerful plaintiffs' steering committee.

    "This case has ingredients I've spent my life working on," Edwards told Reuters in an interview on Monday. The litigation against Volkswagen, he said, requires trial expertise, regulatory know-how and a global perspective.

    In his letter, Edwards highlighted his acquaintance with foreign heads of state, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. His work with international leaders, he said, gives him "a deep understanding of the global impact" of cases like Volkswagen's.

    A Volkswagen representative did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

    Plaintiffs lawyers view the Volkswagen case as a potential goldmine. The litigation in San Francisco is a consolidation of hundreds of class actions filed on behalf of more than 500,000 owners and lease-holders of Volkswagen diesel vehicles.

    Lawyers for individual car owners have said their clients expect the automaker to repurchase cars allegedly marketed with false claims about toxic emissions and fuel efficiency. They have also said they will seek punitive damages against Volkswagen, which has admitted that it installed software to allow 580,000 vehicles to emit up to 40 times legally allowable pollution.

    An appointment as lead counsel or as a member of the steering committee means the lawyer's firm will play a key strategic role in the case. Lead lawyers typically have a say in how court-awarded legal fees are divided among plaintiffs firms.

    Edwards returned to the practice of law in 2013 after a federal jury in North Carolina acquitted him of accepting illegal campaign contributions. Edwards had been charged in 2011 in connection with nearly $1 million in contributions that were allegedly intended to cover up an extramarital affair he conducted while he was running for president in 2008.

    The jury did not reach a verdict on all charges at Edwards' 2012 trial but the Justice Department dropped remaining counts.

    Edwards' firm, Edwards Kirby, has offices in North Carolina, California and Washington, D.C., and handles mostly high-profile North Carolina wrongful death lawsuits, he said.

    Edwards has been involved in a New York federal antitrust lawsuit over alleged manipulation of a benchmark for crude oil prices and was scheduled to try a 2015 bellwether case against C.R. Bard in the consolidated litigation over transvaginal mesh. That case settled before trial.

    His Volkswagen lead counsel application acknowledged his dearth of experience in running enormous class actions like this case, and noted that "other applicants have significantly more."

    Other well-known lawyers seeking to join the VW steering committee include David Boies, who has represented same-sex couples, Presidential candidate Al Gore and the now-defunct music file-sharing service Napster at the U.S.
    Supreme Court. Boies was appointed in 2015 to serve on the steering committee in litigation over General Motors' ignition switch defect and Takata Corp's allegedly defective airbags.

    Many of the lawyers who submitted applications to lead the Volkswagen litigation have previously run big-ticket cases. Among them are the chief plaintiffs' negotiator in BP PLC's $5 billion settlement of claims from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, lawyers who led a $1.1 billion case against Toyota Motor Corp over an alleged sudden acceleration defect, and plaintiffs' counsel in several antitrust class actions that have ended with settlements of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Potential goldmine

    If car owners eventually reach a global settlement with Volkswagen, the legal fees could be enormous. In litigation over Toyota's alleged sudden acceleration defect, for instance, lawyers were awarded $200 million in 2013, nearly 20 percent of the automaker's $1.1 billion settlement. Lawyers who negotiated a $5.7 billion antitrust settlement with Visa and MasterCard in 2012 are slated to receive $545 million in fees.

    Fees will be lower if Volkswagen resolves owners' claims outside of the consolidated U.S. litigation. The company has named victims compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg to create a settlement program that will operate independently from the court case. There is also a possibility that Volkswagen will try to settle claims of U.S. car owners through Dutch, German or British proceedings.

    Edwards said if he is chosen for the steering committee in the U.S. case he will fit right in, despite his celebrity. Last month, he attended the first pre-trial hearing in the case.

    "I knew a big percentage of the people in the courtroom, from my legal practice and from running for president," he said. "It was a great chance to catch up."

    Judge Breyer has scheduled a hearing on steering committee applications for Jan. 21 and said he will appoint lead lawyers as soon as possible after that.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora