ince 1997, we were involved in approximately 100 class actions in various matters, including securities, banking, corporations, anti-trust, consumer protection and environmental. The area of class actions is relatively new and still evolving and therefore demanding expertise and a great deal of work. Because of our broad experience and success, we were hired to represent both plaintiff and defendants as well.
In the past, our office took part in several class actions in the U.S. against Israeli companies traded on NASDAQ, in conjunction with U.S. law firms. Some of these lawsuits have already ended in compromise arrangements of quite high figures.
We believe that the filing of class actions is also a public calling and a paramount tool in private enforcement where the public authorities reveal impotence or the criminal law provides no adequate answer. For this reason, we have also filed several “non-economic” class actions with the aim of redressing wrongs committed against the consumer public as well as wrongs committed in the environmental realm.
In one of these lawsuits, we represented, pro bono, the Israel Consumers’ Board in a class action against a company that had defrauded the consumers. In another case, we represented the Green Party Organization in a class action against the Yarkon River Authority as well as local authorities concerning the river’s pollution. Also in this case, work was done for no consideration and as a service for the public.
Recently, we achieved a settlement agreement in a class action against the biggest banks in Israel. The lawsuit has been filed due to allegations against the banks claiming they coordinated their service fees (this is forbidden according to anti-trust legislation). The settlement agreement determined that the banks will return 35 Million NIS to their clients.
Thanks to a claim we filed against the First International Bank of Israel concerning the unlawful change in the “Libor” interest rate of foreign currency loans, clients of the bank received NIS 15 million in refunds.
Another lawsuit against the HMO (health maintenance organization)”Maccabi” group had to refund the sum total of 6.4 million NIS, a claim against DMV (department of motor vehicle) led to refunds of 7.5 million NIS licensing fee and future savings of 22 million NIS. A number of other claims filed against the authorities brought to a successful end when the Authority has announced it will no longer charge a fee or tax collected overly and thus save substantial amounts of future payments.
Not always, the procedure is ended with a payment to the plaintiffs. Defendants investing time and efforts that cause prolongation of discussions over many years and the courts does not make it easy for plaintiffs as well. Sometimes the achievement is deterrent, declarative or any change in the defendant’s attitude. These can be considered as achievement for the consumers not less than refund or compensation.
For example, we filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of tiles convicted of running cartel (in contradiction with anti-trust laws), we arrived after years of legal battle to a settlement. According to this agreement consumers compensated by way of discounts for a specific period.
We had also filed a lawsuit against one of the municipalities regarding collection of sewage tax. We succeeded to bring changes in the wording of the bills sent to consumers and to the publications in the municipality website.
It is not always possible to obtain financial compensation and in each case, there are legal and typical factual issues. However, we believe that such settlements has deterrent and first-class educational effects.
By law, the court should award the lead plaintiff and the lead counsel a special compensation and attorneys’ fees in respect of the efforts invested and the special risk undertaken for they represented. The courts in Israel do not rule high sums for plaintiffs and lawyers in class actions. The difference compared to the same legal field in the US is enormous, both in amounts to the plaintiffs and fees. However, when such claims are rejected – substantial amounts of expenses can be ruled against the plaintiffs.
This approach discourages potential claims and greatly reduces the attractiveness of such claims. Despite this, the class actions led to more awareness of consumer rights both among consumers themselves and among the largest corporations and authorities that maintain and develop greater caution in their actions with consumers and in this lies the great achievement of the class actions.
Mr. Ram Dekel is a senior member of the Committee for class actions in the Israeli Bar Association.
Another legal area that is a bit similar to the class actions, is the derivative action. This allows a minor shares holder to try and force a public company for example – to file a complaint against its directors. We have filed several derivatives actions applications in behalf of shares holders in public companies – against the directors in cases of personal responsibility towards the company.
Currently, we are managing a derivative action in behalf of “Discount Investments” shareholders against its directors for their negligence and recklessness failing in a deal of purchasing the newspaper “Ma’ariv”. Their decision caused the company a loss of nearly 400 million NIS within a year.
e represent various companies and businesses on a regular basis, in which framework we provide advice on various legal problems generally encountered by a commercial company. This includes giving an expert opinion, commercial contracts, conducting negotiations, resolving business disputes, collection proceedings and various lawsuits, licensing procedures, administrative petitions and High Court of Justice petitions, contacts with the authorities, the purchase and sale of shares, partnerships, labor agreements and the like, and everything involved in the legal aspects of the regular, day-to-day conduct of a commercial business.
or many years our office has been specializing in the representation of clients in confrontations and negotiations with banks. Our clients include large and middle-sized entities, companies and private individuals, local authorities, kibbutzim, enterprises and businesses of various sizes, which we represent in diverse disputes vis-a-vis the banks.
We have handled hundreds of such cases involving a variety of legal proceedings, including financial claims filed by the banks against those same clients or by the clients against the banks, liquidation cases, bankruptcy cases, realization of mortgages, various guarantees, etc.
We have extensive experience in working with liquidators, accountants, auditors, controllers, banking experts, particularly with the company Sagi Interest Computations, which provides professional opinions on banking matters.
In the framework of the legal proceedings we have conducted against banks, our clients have won millions of shekels in reimbursements. Some of the claims filed have also been conducted as class actions on behalf of a large public of clients, a point that is further elaborated in the section pertaining to class actions.
e believe that the environmental issue is one of paramount importance. Therefore, we work extensively on behalf of this cause, independently. Such activity is done entirely on a pro bono basis, and we see this as a service for the public good. Also in this matter (as in banking and class actions), we are operating vis-a-vis the powerful authorities and large organizations, and see in this a great challenge.
For several years, we have been representing the Green Party Organization in the Tel Aviv Municipality. Besides the ongoing activities on behalf of environmental matters, we have also submitted in the name of the Green Party Organization two petitions to the High Court of Justice concerning the radiation from cellular antennas and regarding the restriction of TV commercials encouraging minors to use cell phones.
Likewise, we have filed claims against the “Egged” and “Dan” bus companies with respect to air pollution, a class action against the Yarkon River Authority and 12 local authorities bordering the river, in the matter of the Yarkon River’s pollution, and more. In the summer of 2012, we filed a class action against Natania Municipality based on charging visitors entrance fees at Poleg Beach. We reached a settlement agreement in which the municipality was forced to build an alternative parking area free of charge for all visitors. This case was our self-initiative with main objective – to repair this continuous injustice.
We continue to take action against the harm done to the environment, the quality of the air and water, and most recently, also against the “psychological pollution” – the massive assault of billboard advertising, which is proliferating uncontrolled and reaching monstrous proportions.
part from the intensive activity in the areas mentioned above, the office also deals with many other, varied legal domains, including specific matters in individual special cases, such as commercial disputes within the family, arrangements with creditors, bankruptcy and liquidation, special issues of property law and more.