Class-action shareholder lawsuits are at an all-time high, but most companies will never see a piece of the final settlement, but Claims Compensation Bureau helps people get what is rightfully theirs.
Often, they don’t think they can find related records, or they just don’t understand the process, but Claims Compensation Bureau helps make the process easier to understand.
That’s where Claims Compensation Bureau Inc. comes in. Founded in 1996 with $10,000 in startup capital, the four-person company’s revenue has grown exponentially, from $96,000 in 1998 to $10.3 million last year. Given recent trends in securities class-action suits, its revenue likely will continue to grow.
During the early 1990s, settlements usually ran in the $10 million to $20 million range, but since have expanded to Cendant Corp.’s $3 billion settlement and the $1 billion the Nasdaq stock exchange paid.
“There’s nobody else that does what I’m doing,” said CEO Brad Heffler, a certified public accountant, for Claims Compensation Bureau.
That may be good, old corporate PR-speak, but Heffler obviously knows his stuff.
While processing class-action claims for 15 years, Heffler noticed that 75 percent of shareholders and traders who could file claims didn’t.
“I look at it like a tax return,” Heffler said. “Anyone can file a tax return, but people hire a CPA because not everyone does it the right way.”
Sometimes, Heffler faces resistance from would-be clients.
“Some companies immediately say, `We don’t want to be bothered with this,’” Heffler said. “I say, `If there was a million dollars in the street and someone said they’d pick it up for you for a small percentage, would you do it?’ They say, `Sure.’” Heffler estimates his clients wouldn’t have recovered more than 90 percent of the $50 million in claims obtained for them since 1998 without Claims Compensation Bureau’s services.
He can expect more big settlements. As of August, a record number of class-action lawsuits had been filed for the year alleging securities fraud: 263 cases, compared to 201 class actions filed in all of 2000, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, which tracks the litigation.
Heffler administered class-action cases as an accountant at his family’s firm, Heffler & Co., now Heffler, Radetich & Saitta, based in Philadelphia. He started there in 1981 and was involved in class actions from the beginning.
His first major case involved administrating a class-action fund related to the 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.
Heffler had $25 million to distribute to those evacuated from a 25-mile radius of the plant.
During the five-year project, Heffler’s team evaluated people’s expenses. He also worked on home devaluation issues and wage reimbursement for 15,000 claims. His department collected records from 1,500 businesses to determine how much money they lost due to the evacuation.
Heffler later administrated more than 200 of the largest securities cases, including those involving Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken and consumer electronics company Crazy Eddie, among others.
Not everyone was behind Heffler’s decision to start Claims Compensation Bureau.
“Half the people thought I was crazy, and I got a lot of funny looks from family and friends,” said Heffler, who had three young children at the time.
“I worked for a very successful family firm and (was) giving it all up for something very speculative. It was the biggest risk I ever took, but it was the best move I ever made in my life.”
Heffler brought on board Norm Jung from his old firm and recruited former Times Mirror International Publishing executive Marc Gluckman to handle Claims Compensation’s marketing.
It’s difficult to monitor the hundreds of class-action cases, all at various stages in the courts, Heffler said. His firm uses a database that includes clients’ records of their 3,300 holdings, covering as many trading years as possible.
The firm then can compare a client’s records to a related class-action lawsuit. A second database tracks all current class-action settlements.
“Most people who file do it on a haphazard basis, and there’s no one who’s monitoring all of the different class actions from all of the different sources,” Heffler said.
Heffler not only provides a service that does that, he also keeps an eye on the regulations — and regulators.
For example, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule established a formula this year to pay settlement funds. Heffler found a flaw in the formula, convinced the SEC it was wrong, and obtained $600,000 for clients.
Heffler sees potential for plenty of growth ahead.
“Even though we are very successful in recovering money, we are only scratching the surface,” he said.
Along those lines, he is in negotiations with hedge funds, or private funds that invest in a number of securities, and plans to target pension funds as clients.
“Those are big enough that if we stay focused on these claims, we’ll be very happy with the results,” Heffler said.