“This case is an example of a wealthy client (Facebook) and its high-powered law firm (Gibson Dunn) using delay, misdirection, and frivolous arguments to make litigation unfairly difficult and expensive for their opponents. Unfortunately, this sort of conduct is not uncommon in our court system. But it was unusually egregious and persistent here. To give just a few examples:
- The central allegation in this case is that Facebook shared the plaintiffs’ private information with other companies. But Facebook insisted that: (1) it need not disclose to the plaintiffs what information it had collected about them unless it had shared that information with third parties; and (2) the plaintiffs were required to take at face value Facebook’s assertions about what information it had shared. Merely reciting this argument shows how ridiculous it is, but Facebook and Gibson Dunn repeated it over, and over, and over again – despite the presiding magistrate judge telling them many times that it made no sense.
- In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook investigated other apps that might have misused private user information. After the magistrate judge ruled that the investigation was not privileged as a blanket matter, Facebook and Gibson Dunn insisted that non-lawyer communications created in the course of that investigation (such as internal emails between Facebook employees) need not be produced. It was obvious at the time that these documents were likely to be probative, and that view has only been confirmed now that Facebook has finally been forced to produce them. Perhaps realizing they had no real argument for withholding these documents, Facebook and Gibson Dunn contorted various statements made by opposing counsel and the magistrate judge beyond recognition, using them to argue that everyone had already agreed that Facebook need not produce the communications – even as the plaintiffs continued to demand them. And again, after being told repeatedly that these arguments made no sense, Facebook and Gibson Dunn insisted on pressing them.
- Facebook’s witnesses and lawyers deliberately prevented the plaintiffs from obtaining probative information during depositions. For example, during a deposition of one Facebook employee whom Facebook designated to testify about the company’s information-sharing practices, a Gibson Dunn lawyer instructed the witness not to answer at least 22 times, asserting that the questions were beyond the scope of the deposition notice. Many of these questions were obviously within the scope of the notice. But more to the point, as Facebook and Gibson Dunn now concede, it is improper to instruct a corporate witness not to answer a question based on scope. The witness herself emulated her lawyer’s belligerence, refusing to answer questions without even waiting for an objection. Eventually, the deposition became so hostile that the witness stated she would do her own ‘bitching and moaning’ about the plaintiffs’ questions.
- All the while, Facebook and Gibson Dunn had the audacity to accuse the plaintiffs’ lawyers of delaying the case, and to assert that the plaintiffs’ reasonable efforts to obtain obviously relevant discovery were frivolous. It’s almost as if Facebook and Gibson Dunn spent the better part of three years trying to gaslight their opponents, not to mention the Court.
“Sometimes lawyers and their clients engage in conduct of this sort because they are incompetent. Facebook and Gibson Dunn are not incompetent. Sometimes lawyers reflexively oppose the other side’s requests without giving any thought to their actions. That does not seem like Facebook and Gibson Dunn. Instead, the Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that Facebook and Gibson Dunn’s conduct reflected a sustained, concerted, bad-faith effort to throw obstacle after obstacle in front of the plaintiffs – all in an attempt to push the plaintiffs into settling the case for less than they would have gotten otherwise. The plaintiffs are entitled to recover $925,078.51 for the fees and costs they incurred responding to this misconduct. Facebook and Gibson Dunn are jointly liable for this amount.”
In re Facebook Consumer Privacy User Profile Litigation, No.18-02843, 114 Fed.R.Serv.3d (Callaghan) 1658, 2023 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 22328 (N.D.Cal. Feb. 9, 2023).