Price Is Right for Credit Union to Join Target Data Breach Lawsuits
The price was right for one New Mexico credit union to join the lawsuits filed against Target over the massive Target card breach.
The $2 billion Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union is one of the six credit unions, 10 banks and roughly 75 individuals waiting to find out if their cases against Target and its massive cards breach will be consolidated and moved for trial to Minnesota.
Robert Chavez, the new CEO of Sandia Laboratory FCU, said his credit union felt it owed its members the attempt to get them back at least some of the money it lost in the breach.
Better yet, Sandia Laboratory had been approached by a plaintiff attorney to join the class action at no charge.
“That was just a no-brainer,” Chavez said. “We had to at least try and get back some of the money we had to spend.”
Also filing complaints in federal courts against Target were the $216 million Alabama State Employees Credit Union in Montgomery, Ala.; the $38 million First Choice Federal Credit Union in New Castle, Pa.; the $30 million North Districts Community Credit Union in Gibsonia, Pa.; the $30 million Employees Credit Union in Nashville, Tenn.; and the $62 million Tuscaloosa Credit Union in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The credit unions and other plaintiffs brought suit against the giant retail chain after it revealed a computer breach in late 2013 that resulted in the compromise of tens of millions of credit and debit card accounts. Losses to financial institution in card replacement and other costs have been estimated in the hundreds of millions.
Because the cases are fairly similar and in many different parts of the country, many of the plaintiffs have asked the seven-judge Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to move their cases to Minnesota, where Target is headquartered.
Five of the plaintiff banks are in Minnesota and collectively wrote to the panel that the move would be appropriate geographically and because the judge assigned to the 19 actions in Minnesota already is experienced in similar cases and the docket there can handle a large, complex class action. Other plaintiffs have filed similar briefs.
The panel comprises seven federal judges appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The multidistrict litigation statute provides that no two panel members may be from the same federal judicial circuit.
One of the attorneys representing a plaintiff credit union said the panel is expected to meet this week and announce its decision.
Larry Golston, representing Alabama State Employees CU, xplained that while plaintiffs have asked for the venue to be moved to Minnesota and while Target has not objected to that move, the judicial panel will do whatever it wants.
“We don't have any say over where it goes and frankly it doesn't mean anything to me either way. I am just interested in moving forward on behalf of our clients,” Golston said.
The judicial panel has a lot of authority in this situation, Golston explained, deciding not only where the trial will be held and who the judge will be, but also which of the many participating law firms will be placed on a steering committee to guide the case for the plaintiffs.
“We will probably apply to be on the committee,” Golston said, “but even if we are not chosen, we will still keep control of our cases and move with our client's best interest in mind.”
He added that once the judicial panel moves the venue, it is unlikely that any other credit unions will sign on to the case, meaning that these six credit unions are likely the only ones in the industry to turn to litigation to recoup some of their damages from the Target breach.
Greg Smith, CEO of the $4.1 billion Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union, declined to speculate too widely about why relatively few credit unions have filed complaints after the Target debacle, but he acknowledged that some degree of doubt about the usefulness of litigation might have set in.
PSECU has been a leader in credit unions trying to recoup damages after card data breaches, having brought cases against BJ's Wholesale Club after that retailer's 2004 breach and Heartland Payment Systems after the processor's early 2009 breach. The latter case, Smith pointed out, is still wending its way through the appeals courts.
“Overall, I suppose the BJ's case was pretty unsatisfying,” Smith said. “I am not even sure how it ultimately came out, but it wasn't as we would have wanted.”