The racketeering case against Best Buy and Microsoft has taken an ugly turn. An attorney for Best Buy has admitted to altering emails that were to be used as evidence in the case. If you’re new to this class action lawsuit, Microsoft is accused of paying Best Buy to collect and use customer’s credit card information without their permission, signing them up for “free trials” of MSN that they didn’t want and or weren’t aware existed. When the free trial period was up, MSN began to bill them without their knowledge or consent. A former Best Buy employee wrote in to confess to pulling this sort of scheme on customers, if you’re looking for more detail on how it all worked.
Now Best Buy’s lawyer has confessed to altering documents in the case and has been put on medical leave.
In a May 24 motion received by a San Francisco Bay Area plaintiffs lawyer involved in the case, Minnesota-based Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Cerisi says partner Timothy Block had been placed on an indefinite medical leave. The day after he stopped working, he informed the firm “that he had redacted and altered documents that he later produced to plaintiffs in this matter.”
The motion adds that the defense firm had been informed by Block’s attorney that he had self-reported his actions to the Minnesota Board of Professional Responsibility.
Richard Thomas, a partner at Minnesota’s Burke & Thomas, said Friday that he is representing Block in dealing with the state’s professional ethics board. He did not say much about his client’s actions, but did offer that “he’s being treated now for psychological conditions related to stress and depression.”
He was not aware of any wrongdoing on the part of the firm, he added.
The plaintiffs attorney in the class action, Daniel Girard of San Francisco’s Girard Gibbs, said a Washington state judge has already granted Best Buy a stay in the litigation. Robins Kaplan’s withdrawal motion will be heard June 22, he added.
The Associated Press writes:
Block reported his wrongdoing to Minnesota’s Board of Professional Responsibility as well as the three other states where he is licensed to practice, and is on medical leave for stress and depression, said his attorney, Richard Thomas.
The altered documents are limited to two e-mails and one memo, Thomas said. The documents have not been publicly released in the case.
Asked why Block falsified the documents, Thomas said, “I don’t know that even he can tell you that. … I don’t think he is going to claim his actions were motivated by Best Buy.”
But given the extent of Best Buy’s foot-dragging regarding document production in the case, Terrell and another attorney for the plaintiffs, Dan Girard of San Francisco, wondered aloud whether Block felt pressured by the company to withhold or redact documents that could prove damaging. A senior partner at Block’s firm, Elliott Kaplan, is a corporate officer and director at Best Buy.
“Best Buy has been violating court orders willfully. This is sort of the last step,” Terrell said.
This case has been hanging around since 2003 and it looks like it’s going to hang around a little longer. —MEGHANN MARCO
Firm’s Mea Culpa Adds Twist to Class Action Against Best Buy [Law] (Thanks, Tom!)
Best Buy in hot water for altering documents in class-action suit [KOMO] (Thanks, Random Majority!)