"Profiles of California's Top Labor and Employment Attorneys, Bryan Schwartz"

Labor & Employment (Supplement to the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal), July 20, 2016

Bryan J. Schwartz negotiated a $36 million settlement in a pending class action on behalf of a group of residential real estate appraisers who alleged that Bank of America Corp. improperly classified them as exempt from overtime pay and other labor protections. The settlement agreement came days before trial was set to begin last year in Santa Ana. Boyd v. Bank of America Corp., 8:13-cv-0561 (C.D. Cal., filed April 9, 2013)

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter gave final approval of the settlement on Jan. 19, 2016. "I'm very proud of this result," Schwartz said, "because it makes great law for people who work long hours and because the class members get almost $100,000 each — and that's almost unheard of. And now everyone working there in that job is reclassified."

Carter gave Schwartz unusually warm congratulations at the close of the settlement hearing, when the judge explained why he was upping the class counsel fee from the standard 25 percent to one-third of the $36 million common fund. Carter called it "a case in which counsel pursued a misclassification legal theory, unproven as to real estate staff appraisers, [that] produced exceptionally positive results," according to a transcript.

"The reason we got such a great result," Schwartz said, "is because rather than settling early, we pursued the case a long way." He had some wind at his back because he had attained certification of a smaller class of review appraisers in 2014. But the defense was pressing for decertification and planning to appeal in that case. Schwartz said he wasn't sure why the defense pushed so hard. "It may have had more to do with the business aspects of the case than with the legal aspects." The bank was trying to sell its appraisal management company, known as LandSafe Appraisal Services Inc. where the class members worked, to property information and analytics firm CoreLogic Inc. in late 2015. The settlement dynamic turned on money and the uncertainty of the defendant's appeal, Schwartz said. "Our full damages estimate was astronomical, but their 9th Circuit appeal helped them in negotiations," he said. "Total victory would almost never be my strategy. I'm a pragmatic guy."

The settlement has led to similar reclassification results in other industries, Schwartz said. "We're currently suing other companies that didn't get the message. We're making sure that they do."

— John Roemer