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In re Prudential Ins. Co. of America Sales Practices Litigation

July 23, 1998

RICHARD P. KRELL, MDL TRANSFER, N.D. OHIO, DNJ CIVIL ACTION NO. 95-6062
v.
PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA RICHARD P. KRELL, AS WELL AS OBJECTORS ELIZABETH BAJEK, AMANDA BAJEK, HELEN BARTSCH, MARK CICONTE, RAYMOND DOLCE, MARGARET DOLICE, LOUISE DUGGAN, PETER DUGGAN, CHARLES DUNCAN, MARY HOWE, MARY KRELL, WILLIAM MORRIS, DIANA RACER, THOMAS RACER, GWENETH REIDEL, THE ESTATE OF CARL J. SCALZO, MARIE SCALZO, TERRY SLIGAR, ALICE SMITH, JERRY SMITH, AND WILLIAM WALTON, APPELLANTS AT NOS. 97-5155/5156/5312 RICHARD JOHNSON, INTERVENOR-PLAINTIFF IN DISTRICT COURT RICHARD E. JOHNSON, APPELLANT AT NO. 97-5217



(D.C. Civil Action No. 95-cv-04704)

Before: Scirica, Roth and Rendell, Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scirica, Circuit Judge.

IN RE: PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY AMERICA SALES PRACTICE LITIGATION AGENT ACTIONS

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey

Argued January 26, 1998

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from the approval of the settlement of a nationwide class action lawsuit against Prudential Life Insurance Company alleging deceptive sales practices affecting over 8 million claimants throughout the fifty states and the District of Columbia.

The class is comprised of Prudential policyholders who allegedly were the victims of fraudulent and misleading sales practices employed by Prudential's sales force. The challenged sales practices consisted primarily of churning, vanishing premiums and fraudulent investment plans, and each cause of action is based on fraud or deceptive conduct. There are no allegations of personal injury; there are no futures classes. The settlement creates an alternative dispute resolution mechanism and establishes protocols to determine the kind and amount of relief to be granted. The relief awarded includes full compensatory damages consisting of what plaintiffs thought they were purchasing from the insurance agent. There is no cap on the amount of compensatory damages for those who qualify, and although punitive damages are not included in the settlement, Prudential has agreed to pay an additional remediation amount in addition to the payments made through dispute resolution process.

The case involves five consolidated appeals from the judgments of the District Court for the District of New Jersey approving the settlement and awarding attorneys' fees to class counsel. Appellants, members of the certified class who object to the settlement, challenge the district court's jurisdiction, the certification of the settlement class, the fairness of the settlement itself, the award of attorneys' fees, and the district court's refusal to disqualify itself.

We hold the district court properly exercised jurisdiction. Federal subject matter jurisdiction is properly grounded on the alleged violations of the federal securities laws. Although most of the claims implicate state law, supplemental jurisdiction is proper because all of the claims arise out of a common nucleus of operative fact. The district court had personal jurisdiction over the class because actual notice was given to each of the 8 million policyholders by direct mail, and disseminated through television, radio and print advertising throughout the fifty states and the District of Columbia. We also hold there was no reason for the district court to recuse itself from these proceedings.

The district court properly certified a national class under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). The court assessed the numerosity and commonality of the asserted claims, the typicality of those claims, and the adequacy of representation provided by the named plaintiffs and class counsel, and found they satisfied the certification standards. The court also concluded the proposed class action was the superior means of addressing plaintiffs' claims of widespread sales abuse, and the issues common to all members of the class predominated over individual issues related to the members of the class.

We hold the district court properly evaluated the settlement, finding it fair, reasonable and adequate. Prudential's deceptive practices occurred nationwide. It may be argued that problems national in scope deserve the attention of national courts when there is appropriate federal jurisdiction. Because of the extraordinary number of claims, fairness counsels that plaintiffs similarly injured by the same course of deceptive conduct should receive similar results with respect to liability and damages. The proposed class settlement offers plaintiffs several advantages, including full compensation for their injuries, no obligation to pay attorneys' fees, and a relatively speedy resolution of their claims. The alternative dispute resolution process is sensible and provides adequate safeguards for individual treatment of claims, including appeals. We will affirm the district court's approval of the class certification and the settlement.

The district court awarded $90 million in attorneys' fees as a percentage of a common fund created under the settlement. We will vacate and remand the fee award and ask the district court to recalculate the fee to account for work done by the multi-state task force whose efforts served as a basis for the final settlement in this case. Furthermore, we question the multiplier employed in the lodestar analysis used by the court to cross check the size of the fee award. Although granting discovery on fee applications is within the sound discretion of the district court, we will ask the district court to reconsider whether it should grant limited discovery to the objectors on the fee application.

I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case began in early 1994, when the first of many individual and class action lawsuits alleging improper sales and marketing practices was filed against Prudential, the nation's largest life insurer. As lawsuits began to accumulate, the New Jersey Insurance Commissioner sought to organize a group to investigate the allegations against Prudential.*fn1 The resulting investigation into market conduct sought to determine the scope of any improper sales practices, and to develop a remedial plan designed to compensate injured policyholders, to prevent future violations, and to restore public confidence in the insurance industry. Report of The Multi-State Life Insurance Task Force and Multi-State Market Conduct Examination of The Prudential Insurance Company of America at 2 ("Task Force Report"). While the Task Force proceeded with its investigation, federal and state court actions alleging sales practice abuses by Prudential continued to accumulate. Although our primary concern is the outcome of the federal litigation, the history of both the Multi-State Life Insurance Task Force's investigation and the various lawsuits filed against Prudential overlap to a certain degree, and thus warrant Discussion.

A. The Multi-State Life Insurance Task Force

At the instigation of the New Jersey Insurance Commissioner, the Multi-State Life Insurance Task Force was formed on April 25, 1995, with the stated goal of conducting a thorough and extensive examination of Prudential's sales practices during the period from 1985 until 1995. In all, thirty states and jurisdictions elected to participate.*fn2 The Task Force interviewed 283 agents and 27 sales management executives, and reviewed voluminous materials provided by Prudential. Among those materials were internal computer data bases reflecting complaints, policy transactions, and agent discipline. The Task Force also reviewed market conduct reports prepared by other states which had examined Prudential's business practices, and examined the historical developments which affected sales practices in the insurance industry.*fn3

In July 1996, the Task Force issued its final report, citing widespread evidence of fraudulent sales practices and inadequate supervision by Prudential's management. It explained that Prudential's records revealed the company "knew of cases of alleged misrepresentation and other improper sales practices by its agents, and in many instances failed to adequately investigate and impose effective discipline." Task Force Report at 15. According to the report, interviews with Prudential agents revealed "little if any consistency in agent training and agent awareness of company and regulatory guidelines." Id. at 16. While the Task Force concluded that not all of the sales during the time period investigated were fraudulent or improper, it recognized the difficulty in ascertaining precisely which policyholders had been harmed,*fn4 and therefore recommended the implementation of a remediation plan which would "reach out to all potentially affected policyholders." Id. at 17-18. Under the plan, which was developed with Prudential's input and cooperation, policyholders were given the option of pursuing claims in an Alternative Dispute Resolution process ("ADR") or through a "no-fault" remedy known as Basic Claim Relief.*fn5

As part of the Task Force Plan, Prudential agreed to conduct an extensive outreach program, including individual notice to all persons who purchased a policy between 1982 and December 31, 1995. Those electing the ADR process could submit their claim for evaluation. The remediation plan addressed four categories of claims: financed or replacement sales; sales involving abbreviated payment plans; life insurance sold as an investment; and other claims "falling outside of the first three categories." Id. at 19. Those electing Basic Claim Relief would be eligible for preferred-rate loans or the opportunity to purchase discounted policies.

Forty-three states and the District of Columbia signed a Consent Order adopting the Task Force Plan, with the understanding that if the pending class action achieved a better result, the Task Force and the states could join in the improved plan. The Task Force also recommended a separate $35 million fine to be divided among the states and the District of Columbia.

B. The Federal Class Action

While the Task Force was conducting its investigation, parties continued to file individual claims and class actions against Prudential in both state and federal court. On February 6, 1995, named plaintiff Nicholson filed a class action in Illinois state court which was removed one month later to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The Kuchas plaintiffs filed their federal class action on February 28, 1995 in the District of Connecticut. Four other federal class actions were filed in the District of New Jersey in early 1995. Appellant Krell filed his class complaint in Ohio state court in June 1995.

On April 26, 1995, Prudential moved to consolidate the various federal actions in the District of New Jersey. On August 3, 1995, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation granted Prudential's motion and transferred several actions to the District of New Jersey.*fn6 Prudential then removed the various state actions to federal court, including the Krell action, and requested these additional cases be consolidated in New Jersey. The MDL Panel granted that request as well.*fn7

In October 1995, the district court appointed Melvin Weiss of Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach and Michael B. Hyman of Much, Shelist, Freed, Deneberg, Ament, Bell & Rubenstein as Co-Lead Counsel for plaintiffs, and ordered plaintiffs to file a consolidated complaint. On October 24, 1995, plaintiffs filed the First Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint.

The named plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of all persons who purchased new or additional life insurance policies between January 1, 1980 and the time of the complaint as a result of Prudential's alleged fraudulent scheme. *fn8 They alleged that Prudential management developed and implemented a fraudulent scheme to sell life insurance policies through a variety of deceptive sales practices, including "churning," "vanishing premium," and "investment plan" sales tactics. Plaintiffs also challenged Prudential's dividend practices, among them the so-called "investment generation approach," and "Prudential's deceptive administration of class members' policies to conceal fraudulent sales and effectuate the scheme, including Prudential's use of unauthorized policy loans and similar contrivances to deplete policyholders' cash values." Lead Counsel Brief at 5. The Complaint alleged violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, common law fraud, breach of contract, bad faith, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, unjust enrichment, and breach of state consumer fraud statutes.

On December 26, 1995, Prudential moved to dismiss the complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). At the same time, Prudential approached Lead Counsel to discuss a possible settlement. Those Discussions ended, however, when Lead Counsel indicated they would not settle the case without significant discovery. The parties renewed their settlement discussions in early 1996, after Prudential agreed to provide discovery, but once again failed to reach an agreement. When the talks ceased, Prudential stopped its production of documents. Lead Counsel nevertheless pursued its own investigation, interviewing approximately thirty former Prudential agents and customers, and reviewing the limited array of documents provided by Prudential.

The district court granted Prudential's motion in part on May 10, 1996, dismissing without prejudice all claims of three of the five named plaintiffs, and several claims of the remaining two. It also noted that plaintiffs would not likely prevail on many of their claims at trial. The district court then ordered Prudential to provide plaintiffs with copies of the substantial discovery materials already provided to the Task Force.

Following the issuance of the Task Force Report in July 1996, Lead Counsel and Prudential once again entered settlement negotiations, and again Prudential agreed to Lead Counsel's demands for discovery.*fn9 By August 8, 1996, Prudential had provided plaintiffs with over 70 boxes of documents in response to Lead Counsel's requests.

On September 19, 1996, plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Consolidated Complaint. The Second Amended Consolidated Complaint contained essentially the same claims as the first, alleging Prudential implemented a systematic fraudulent marketing scheme which made use of false and misleading sales presentations, policy illustrations, and marketing materials. Once again, the Complaint specifically referred to Prudential's "churning," "vanishing premium," and "investment plan" sales tactics.*fn10 Each of the named plaintiffs claimed to have been injured by this common scheme, and alleged one or more of the specified sales practices.*fn11 Plaintiffs also sued several persons in their individual capacities: Robert A. Beck, Prudential President from 1972 until 1979 and Chairman from 1978 until 1987; Ronald D. Barbaro, Prudential's President from 1990 until 1992; and Robert C. Winters, Chairman and CEO from 1987 until 1994, and President from 1993 until 1994.

According to the Second Amended Consolidated Complaint, Prudential was aware of these fraudulent sales practices as early as 1982, when internal investigations discovered patterns of abuse involving financed insurance. Plaintiffs alleged that Prudential failed to take serious steps to combat the abuses, focusing instead on "damage control" and warning internal auditors not to "rock the boat." For example, when Prudential's auditing department tested a new computer system to detect churning in its Minneapolis office, sales dropped off sharply. Instead of addressing the concerns raised by the audit department, Prudential merely referred the matters to the "marketing" group, which took no steps to stop the fraudulent activities. Second Am. Cons. Compl. ¶ 86.

Three days after the filing of the Second Amended Consolidated Complaint, Prudential and class counsel entered into a settlement agreement. There were three preconditions to the agreement. First, those states which had adopted the Task Force Remediation Plan through the execution of the Consent Order had to agree to modify the Consent Order to conform to the Settlement Agreement. Second, the final Stipulation of Settlement had to be executed by October 28, 1996. Lastly, the parties reserved the right to modify the Stipulation of Settlement to reflect any new information revealed by class counsel's ongoing discovery.*fn12 The Settlement Agreement did not address attorneys' fees.*fn13

On October 28, 1996, the parties filed a final Stipulation of Settlement. At that time, the district court issued an order conditionally certifying a national settlement class, directing issuance of class notice, issuing an injunction,*fn14 and scheduling a fairness hearing for January 21, 1997. The notice was sent to each of the more than 8 million class members by first class mail on or before November 4, 1996, and gave them until December 19, 1996 to file objections or opt out of the class.*fn15

1. The Proposed Settlement

The proposed settlement was largely based on the Task Force Report and its proposed remediation plan. Like the Task Force plan, the settlement proposed a remediation scheme by which class members had the option of either pursuing their claims through an Alternate Dispute Resolution procedure or electing Basic Claim Relief. The proposed settlement class included all persons who owned one or more Prudential insurance policies between January 1, 1982 and December 31, 1995, with certain exceptions.*fn16 The class included approximately eight million Prudential policyholders who own or owned approximately 10.7 million policies.

a. The Alternative Dispute Resolution process

Under the ADR process contained in the proposed settlement, class members who believed they had been misled could submit a claim to Prudential. The claim form provided to all potential class members contained both narrowly drawn questions designed to elicit information relating to specific evidentiary scoring criteria established under the settlement, as well as more open-ended questions allowing claimants to explain the exact nature of their claims. Claimants were also asked to submit any supporting documents in their possession. Prudential established a toll-free hotline to allow claimants to speak to a Claimant Support team, whose members are specially trained to answer policyholder inquiries, assist with filling out claim forms, and advise them with respect to the collection of supporting documents. Once the claim form was submitted, Prudential was obligated to locate all of its records pertaining to the claim and submit them for consideration.

Once a claim has been filed and all the relevant materials gathered, the claim is subject to a four tier review process. At the first level, the claim would be examined by a member of the Claim Evaluation Staff, who will apply a set of specific criteria for each of four general categories of sales complaints: (1) financed insurance (taking a loan against an existing policy in order to pay the premiums on a new policy); (2) abbreviated payment plans (using dividends from a policy to pay the premiums on that policy); (3) life insurance sold as an investment; and (4) other improper sales practices.*fn17 Based on the application of the established criteria, the reviewers then assign a score from zero to 3 to each claim.*fn18 The Claim Evaluation Staff is comprised of specially trained Prudential employees who are not associated with Prudential's individual life insurance sales force.

Any claim not receiving a score of "3" will automatically be reviewed by a team of independent claim evaluators who are selected by class counsel and representatives of the state regulators. This team will apply the same criteria as the Claim Evaluation Staff, and make a written recommendation if it believes the claimant's score should be adjusted.

That recommendation is then examined by a member of the Claim Review Staff, which is comprised of Prudential employees who have not worked as or had supervisory authority over Prudential sales agents. The determination of the Claim Review Staff may not be appealed by Prudential. The claimant, however, may appeal the decision to the fourth level of review, the Appeals Committee. The Appeals Committee is selected by class counsel and representatives of the state regulators from a list agreed upon by class counsel, the state regulators, and Prudential. While the Appeals Committee must apply the same criteria, its review of the claim is de novo.*fn19

The relief afforded a claimant varies depending on the final score he or she is awarded. Those obtaining a score of zero are afforded no relief. Those with a score of"1" may obtain relief only through Basic Claim Relief. Those with scores of "2" or "3" are entitled to compensatory relief.*fn20

b. Basic Claim Relief

Basic Claim Relief allows the class member to obtain one or more forms of relief without having to demonstrate liability on Prudential's part. The available forms of Basic Claim Relief include: (1) low interest loans to help policy holders make premium payments on existing policies; (2) enhanced value policies which allow members to purchase new policies with additional coverage paid for by Prudential; (3) deferred annuities enhanced by contributions from Prudential; and (4) the opportunity to purchase shares in designated mutual funds enhanced by a contribution from Prudential.

c. Enhancements To the Task Force Plan

The district court found the settlement improved upon the Task Force's remediation plan in several ways. Fairness Opinion, 962 F. Supp. at 492-95. First, the court found that the settlement improved the structure of the ADR process by including class counsel and their representatives in the monitoring process, and improving the claim scoring criteria*fn21 and evidentiary factors used to analyze ADR claims.*fn22 It also enhanced the remedies available through both the ADR process and Basic Claim Relief,*fn23 and provided for a blanket waiver of statute of limitations and other defenses which Prudential might otherwise have.

Second, it provided minimum financial guarantees which were not contained in the Task Force plan. In addition to the uncapped relief provided under both the Task Force plan and the proposed settlement, Prudential guaranteed to pay at least $260 million for each 110,000 claims remedied (up to 330,000), with a minimum payment of $410 million regardless of the number of claims remedied. Prudential also agreed to pay an additional remediation amount based on a sliding scale from $50 to $300 million, depending on the number of claims remedied. This amount was to be allocated by the district court.

Finally, the district court noted the "Proposed Settlement establishe[d] an unparalleled outreach program to ensure that class members are adequately informed." Fairness Opinion, 962 F. Supp. at 492. This included mailing individual notice to over 8 million current and former policyholders, and publishing summary notices in the national editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The Newark Star Ledger. The summary notice was also published in the largest newspaper in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In addition, the Stipulation of Settlement provided that, following final approval of the settlement, post-settlement notice would be (a) mailed to each class member, (b) published in the national editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Newark Star Ledger, and other regional newspapers, and (c) disseminated through television and radio advertising "on stations having representative regional coverage." Stipulation of Settlement at 27-29. Finally, the outreach program established a six-day-a-week toll-free "800" number, staffed by specially trained personnel, to answer class member questions.*fn24 The Task Force plan did not describe how its outreach program would be implemented. Fairness Opinion, 962 F. Supp. at 494.

2. The Fairness Hearing

The district court held the fairness hearing on February 24, 1997.*fn25 At that time the court heard oral argument from all parties who requested the opportunity to speak, including objectors. The district court also permitted appearances by several states and allowed the California Insurance Commissioner and the Florida Insurance Commissioner to appear as amicus curiae. The court allowed the Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner, the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Texas Insurance Commissioner to intervene under Rule 24(b). The New Jersey Department of Insurance appeared informally as amicus curiae, on its own behalf and on behalf of the Multi-State Life Insurance Task Force. 961Before the fairness hearing, Prudential reached

agreements with the remaining state objectors - California, Florida, Texas and Massachusetts - whereby several enhancements were made to the Proposed Settlement. Among those were an automatic score of "3" where a claimant had a life insurance application containing an unauthorized signature, and consideration as one of the scoring criteria the fact that a claimant was over the age of sixty at the time of sale.*fn26 These enhancements were subsequently incorporated into the settlement and made available to all claimants. Fairness Opinion, 962 F. Supp. at 473.*fn27 The district court also took notice that these four states received, in addition to the negotiated enhancements, additional fines and penalties from Prudential which were paid to the states, and not to aggrieved policyholders.

On March 7, 1997 the able district court issued a summary Memorandum Opinion and Order certifying the class and approving the settlement as fair and reasonable, and ten days later filed a lengthy (almost 250 pages) and thorough opinion explaining its decision.

II. ISSUES RAISED ON APPEAL AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW

Appellants principally challenge five distinct elements of the settlement. First, they raise the threshold issue whether the district court had jurisdiction over this class action. Second, they challenge the court's certification of the settlement class. Third, they contest the district court's order approving the proposed settlement as fair and reasonable. Fourth, appellants take issue with the district court's $90 million award of attorneys' fees. Finally, they once more take aim at the district court's handling of this case, appealing the denial of their motion to disqualify under 28 U.S.C. §§ 455(a), 455(b)(1) and 455(b)(5)(iv).

"The decision of whether to approve a proposed settlement of a class action is left to the sound discretion of the district court." Girsh v. Jepson, 521 F.2d 153, 156 (3d Cir. 1975). Consequently, we will reverse the district court "for a clear abuse of discretion." Id. at 156 n.7. In addition, the certification of a class and the award of reasonable attorneys' fees are also subject to an abuse of discretion standard. In re General Motors Corp. Pick-Up Truck Fuel Tank Prods. Liab. Litig., 55 F.3d 768, 782 (3d Cir. 1995) ("G.M. Trucks"). "An appellate court may find an abuse of discretion where the `district court's decision rests upon a clearly erroneous finding of fact, an errant conclusion of law or an improper application of law to fact.' " Id. at 783 (quoting International Union, UAW v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 820 F.2d 91, 95 (3d Cir. 1987)). Our review of jurisdictional issues, however, is plenary. Anthuis v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 971 F.2d 999, 1002 (3d Cir. 1992).

III. JURISDICTION

The Krell and Johnson appellants contend the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over most of the class, including objectors. Additionally, they contend that there is no Article III "case or controversy" with respect to the class claims, and that the court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction was improper.

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

As an initial matter, the district court found it had subject matter jurisdiction over the named plaintiffs in this class action. In particular, the court found it had both federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction over the class, as well as supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Fairness Opinion, 962 F. Supp. at 500.

The district court found exclusive federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 based on the claims of named plaintiff Dorfner. Dorfner alleged violations of the federal securities laws, in particular Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act, and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder. In addition, approximately 30% of the policies at issue were registered securities, and thus fell within the court's federal question jurisdiction. The district court also found it had diversity jurisdiction over each of the named plaintiffs under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. All named plaintiffs were residents of different states from the defendants named in the complaint. Additionally, the named plaintiffs have each alleged more than $50,000 in losses as a result of Prudential's fraudulent scheme, and thus meet the "amount-in-controversy" requirement in effect at the time the complaint was filed.*fn28

The primary jurisdictional objection raised on appeal relates to the district court's assertion of supplemental jurisdiction over the absentee class members on the basis of 28 U.S.C. § 1367. The court found that all of the class claims are "inextricably factually intertwined" because they are all "premised upon a common course of conduct by Prudential . . . relat[ing] to the same alleged company wide development and implementation of the patently fraudulent sales techniques." Fairness Opinion, 962 F. Supp. at 501. Noting that § 1367 applies to both pendent parties and pendent claims, the district court concluded it had the discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the entire dispute and the proposed settlement on the basis of its initial federal question jurisdiction. The court also found it could exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims on the basis of its diversity jurisdiction. Id. at 505.

Appellants dispute both of these asserted grounds for supplemental jurisdiction. They contend the federal claims of plaintiff Dorfner, the claims of persons with purely state law claims, and the panoply of "other" sales claims do not derive from a common nucleus of operative fact, and thus the district court cannot exercise supplemental jurisdiction based on its jurisdiction over plaintiffs' federal securities claims.*fn29 Johnson Brief at 4. Appellants also contest the district court's assertion of supplemental jurisdiction based on its initial diversity jurisdiction. They contend that, in order for the district court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, each putative class member must meet the amount-in-controversy requirement of § 1332. Johnson Brief at 7-8 (citing Zahn v. International Paper Co., 414 U.S. 291 (1973)). Finally, appellants argue the district court's application of 28 U.S.C. § 1367 to assert jurisdiction over the proposed class violates Article III.

The settling parties respond with two arguments. First, they claim the district court correctly exercised supplemental jurisdiction based on its original federal question jurisdiction because all class members' claims arise from the same case or controversy. Thus there is no need to address the question of the district court's diversity jurisdiction. In the alternative, they argue that appellants' reliance on Zahn is misplaced, and that§ 1367 overruled Zahn's requirement that all class members meet the amount-in-controversy requirement of § 1332. Consequently, the court could properly exercise supplemental jurisdiction based on its original diversity jurisdiction.

1. Federal Question Jurisdiction as a Basis of r Supplemental Jurisdiction

None of the parties contest the district court's assertion of federal question jurisdiction "over [plaintiff] Dorfner's federal securities claims, and the federal securities claims of other similarly situated plaintiffs." Fairness Opinion, 962 F. Supp. at 500. Instead they focus their arguments on the court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction.

Before enactment of § 1367, a district court could only exercise jurisdiction over claims which did not satisfy the requirements of §§ 1331 and 1332 by applying the principles of ancillary or pendent jurisdiction. The concept of pendent jurisdiction, as explained by the Supreme Court in United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715 (1966), allowed a court to hear non-federal claims over which it did not have diversity jurisdiction provided those claims shared a "common nucleus of operative fact" with the claims that supported the court's original jurisdiction. But this extension of jurisdiction was permitted only when it would promote "judicial economy, convenience and fairness to litigants." 383 U.S. at 726.

While pendent jurisdiction allowed district courts to hear additional, non-federal claims which were part of the same "case" as those claims within the court's original jurisdiction, the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction allowed courts to hear claims brought against additional parties. Ancillary jurisdiction, however, was more limited than its counterpart. In Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365 (1978), the Court held ancillary jurisdiction could not be asserted when to do so was contrary to the rule of complete diversity. Further, the Court found the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction did not allow the addition of parties who were not within the court's original jurisdiction, even in cases in which the district court had exclusive federal jurisdiction. Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545 (1989). But the Finley Court noted the cases addressing the scope of ancillary and pendent jurisdiction were not entirely consistent, and offered the possibility that "[w]hatever we say regarding the scope of jurisdiction conferred by a particular statute can of course be changed by Congress." Id. at 556.

Congress responded by passing the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990, which added § 1367 to the jurisdictional arsenal of the federal courts and essentially overruled Finley. Section 1367 combined the two concepts of pendent and ancillary jurisdiction under the rubric of "supplemental" jurisdiction, providing for jurisdiction "in any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction" over "all other claims that are so related . . . that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III." 28 U.S.C. 1367(a). The statute explicitly included "claims that involve the joinder or intervention of additional parties." Id.

The enactment of § 1367 has elicited a strong reaction from legal scholars. Some have argued that Congress intended § 1367 to be interpreted broadly, and hoped to encourage the federal courts to hear claims which might otherwise have fallen outside of their reach. See John B. Oakley, Recent Statutory Changes in the Law of Federal Jurisdiction and Venue: The Judicial Improvements Acts of 1988 and 1990, 24 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 735, 766 (Spring 1991) ("By the juxtaposition of sections 1367(a) and 1367(c) Congress appears to have created a strong presumption in favor of the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction."); 2 Herbert B. Newberg and Alba Conte, Newberg on Class Actions, § 6.11, at 6-45 (3d ed. 1992) ("[T]here are multiple reasons to expect that the rulings of Zahn v. International Paper Co., requiring allegations that each class member satisfied jurisdictional amount requirements in diversity actions, have been legislatively bypassed."). Others have felt that § 1367 is constrained by prior Supreme Court decisions, and does not expand the courts' jurisdictional grant. Thomas D. Rowe, Jr., Stephen B. Burbank & Thomas M. Mengler, Compounding or Creating Confusion About Supplemental Jurisdiction? A Reply to Professor Freer, 40 Emory L.J. 943, 960 n.90 (Fall 1991) (acknowledging that while a facial construction of § 1367 would appear to overrule Zahn, "the legislative history was an attempt to correct the oversight"); Denis F. McLaughlin, The Federal Supplemental Jurisdiction Statute - A Constitutional And Statutory Analysis, 24 Ariz. St. L.J. 849, 973 (Fall 1992)("[Section] 1367 should be interpreted as effecting no change in the prior practice and continuing undisturbed the rule of Zahn."). Regardless of Congress's intent with respect to Zahn, it is clear that § 1367 does not abrogate the rule of law established in Gibbs, and thus any exercise of supplemental jurisdiction must meet the requirements of Article III's "case or controversy" standard. See H.R. Rep. No. 101-734 at n.15 (1990), reprinted in 1990 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6860, 6875 n.15 (stating that § 1367(a) "codifies the scope of supplemental jurisdiction first articulated by the Supreme Court in United Mine Workers v. Gibbs"); New Rock Asset Partners, L.P. v. Preferred Entity Advancements, Inc., 101 F.3d 1492, 1505 (3d Cir. 1996) ("The Supreme Court delineated the modern constitutional bounds of pendent [now referred to as supplemental] jurisdiction in United Mine Workers v. Gibbs."); Oakley, 24 U.C. Davis L. Rev. at 764 (noting that under § 1367, the district court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction "extends to the limits of Article III, thus ratifying and incorporating the constitutional analysis of United Mine Workers v. Gibbs").

There is no dispute the district court had jurisdiction over the federal securities claims alleged in the Second Amended Consolidated Complaint. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987) (citing Gully v. First National Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 112-113 (1936)) ("The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the `well-pleaded complaint rule,' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff 's properly pleaded complaint."). It is equally clear that, under § 1367, the district court could exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any claims which were part of the same Article III "case or controversy" as the federal securities claims. Consequently, our analysis turns on whether the claims asserted in the Second Amended Consolidated Complaint meet the standard established in Gibbs.

Under Gibbs, three requirements must be met for a court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction:

The federal claims must have substance sufficient to confer subject matter jurisdiction on the court. The state and federal claims must derive from a common nucleus of operative fact. But if considered without regard to their state or federal character, a plaintiff 's claims are such that he would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding, then, assuming substantiality of the federal issues, there is power in the federal courts to hear the whole.

383 U.S. at 725 (emphasis omitted) (footnote and internal citation omitted).

A district court may not assert supplemental jurisdiction over state claims that are totally unrelated to the federal claims that form the basis of the court's jurisdiction. Lyon v. Whisman, 45 F.3d 758, 761 (3d Cir. 1995). In Lyon, the district court had original jurisdiction to hear claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and elected to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state contract and tort claims. The federal claim involved the employer's failure to pay overtime wages, while the state claims related to a failure to pay certain bonuses. This Court ruled that the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction was inappropriate, because the only nexus between the state and federal claims was the employer/employee relationship, rather than the conduct underlying the claims.*fn30 Id. at 764.

The Second Amended Consolidated Complaint alleges that Prudential engaged in a widespread scheme to defraud customers. As part of that scheme, Prudential allegedly used "false and misleading sales presentations, policy illustrations, marketing materials, and other information approved, prepared and disseminated by Prudential to its nationwide sales force. Second Amended Consolidated Complaint at 3. According to plaintiffs, certain actions taken by Prudential in furtherance of that scheme violated § 10(b)*fn31 and § 20(a)*fn32 of the Securities and ExchangeAct. As noted, the district court agreed with the settling parties, finding that all of the class claims were "inextricably intertwined" because there was a common scheme to defraud.*fn33

We agree. The Second Amended Consolidated Complaint clearly alleges that Prudential engaged in a common scheme to defraud. Each category of claims raised in the Complaint relied on the implementation of that scheme, the training of Prudential's agents in conformity with it, and the use of pre-approved materials to support it. While only one category of claims alleged in the Complaint involved violations of the federal securities laws, all of the claims derive from the same common scheme, and thus from the same "nucleus of operative fact." That implementation of Prudential's scheme resulted in a variety of unlawful transactions does not negate the common basis they all shared. We recognize the need to scrutinize assertions of federal subject matter jurisdiction in these kinds of class actions where there are significant state law claims. But we believe the nexus between the federal and state claims is so close here that federal jurisdiction is appropriate. Consequently, we hold the district court properly exercised supplemental jurisdiction over the class members' state claims based on its federal question jurisdiction.

Of course, § 1367 does not permit courts to take jurisdiction over tangentially related claims. The issue is whether there is a "common nucleus of operative fact" and whether the claims are part of the "same case or controversy under Article III." Here the facts underlying the investment deception are so intertwined with the other misrepresentations and frauds that, given the allegations of the overall scheme, they have the same factual predicate, making extension of federal jurisdiction appropriate.

2. Diversity Jurisdiction as a Basis for Supplemen tal Jurisdiction

The district court also found that it had supplemental jurisdiction under § 1367 based on its original diversity jurisdiction over named plaintiffs' claims under§ 1332. As noted, the named plaintiffs satisfy the prerequisites for diversity jurisdiction. None of the named plaintiffs is a citizen of the same state as any defendant, satisfying the complete diversity requirement, and each of the named plaintiffs has alleged damages in excess of $50,000, satisfying the amount in-controversy requirement. The more perplexing question is whether the remaining class members must also satisfy the requirements of diversity jurisdiction in order for the court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over their claims.

Before enactment of § 1367, absentee class members seeking to establish the court's subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship were not subject to the same requirements as the class representatives. According to the Supreme Court, the complete diversity requirement did not apply to absentee class members, but was satisfied so long as the named plaintiffs were completely diverse from defendants. Supreme Tribe of Ben Hur v. Cauble, 255 U.S. 356, 365-67 (1921). But the absentee class members were each subject to the same amount-in-controversy requirement as the named plaintiffs, and could not aggregate their claims in order to satisfy § 1332. Zahn, 414 U.S. at 301.

Although the complete diversity rule of Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur remains intact, the passage of § 1367 has raised serious questions about the continuing viability of Zahn. On the one hand, it is generally conceded that the plain language of § 1367 states a different amount-in-controversy rule from that set forth in Zahn.*fn34 See, e.g., Russ v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 961 F. Supp. 808, 817-20 (E.D. Pa. 1997). Section 1367(a) gives courts discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction in all cases where the original claim supporting federal jurisdiction and the additional claim are part of the same Article III case or controversy, including those additional claims involving the joinder of parties. At the same time, § 1367(b) establishes certain exceptions to this permissive rule in cases where the court's original jurisdiction is based solely on diversity. In particular, § 1367(b) prohibits federal courts from exercising supplemental jurisdiction over persons made parties under Rules 14, 19, 20, and 24, unless those additional claims independently satisfy § 1332. Under the principle of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, Congress's failure to include Rule 23 among the restrictions in subsection (b) would seem to indicate Congress did not intend to restrict the district court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction in class actions. In addition, Zahn's critics contend that, from a policy standpoint, the decision runs counter to Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur. They argue that while the complete diversity requirement upholds the very essence of diversity jurisdiction, the amount-in-controversy requirement is merely an administrative concept designed to limit the caseload of the federal judiciary. Consequently, they contend it would make little sense to create an exception to complete diversity in the context of class actions but to continue requiring all class members to meet the amount-in-controversy requirement. See Zahn, 414 U.S. at 309 (Brennan, J. Dissenting) ("Particularly in view of the constitutional background on which the statutory diversity requirements are written, it is difficult to understand why the practical approach the Court took in Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur must be abandoned where the purely statutory `matter in controversy' requirement is concerned.").*fn35 By contrast, others contend § 1367 was never intended to eliminate the amount-in-controversy requirement for 661absentee class members established in Zahn. This argument relies heavily on the legislative history of the statute, in particular the House Judicial Committee Report that explicitly states § 1367 "is not intended to affect the jurisdictional requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1332 in diversity-only class actions, as those requirements were interpreted prior to Finley." H.R. Rep. No. 101-734 at 29 (1990), reprinted in 1990 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6860, 6875 (footnote omitted). The footnote to this section of the Report specifically refers to Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur and Zahn, and supports the argument that the complete diversity and amount-in-jurisdiction rules of those cases survive the enactment of § 1367. Additionally, the Report of the Federal Courts Study Committee urges Congress to "expressly authorize federal courts to hear any claim arising out of the same `transaction or occurrence' as a claim within federal jurisdiction, including claims, within federal question jurisdiction, that require the joinder of additional parties, namely, defendants against whom that plaintiff has a closely related state claim." Report of the Federal Courts Study Committee 47 (1990) (quoted in Russ, 961 F. Supp. at 815). The limited scope of the Committee's suggestion can be read as support for upholding the restrictions of Zahn.*fn36

The cases addressing this issue reflect this difference of opinion. The only two appellate courts to examine this question have both found the language of the statute controlling, and concluded that § 1367 overrules Zahn. See In re Abbott Laboratories, 51 F.3d 524, 528 (5th Cir. 1995); Stromberg Metal Works v. Press Mechanical, Inc., 77 F.3d 928, 930 (7th Cir. 1996). The Abbott Laboratories court reasoned that it could not "search legislative history for congressional intent unless [it found] the statute unclear or ambiguous," and that in the absence of such ambiguity "the statute is the sole repository of congressional intent." 51 F.3d at 528-9 (citing United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U.S. 64, 68-71 (1994); West Virginia Univ. Hosps., Inc. v. Casey, 499 U.S. 83, 99-100 (1991)). Because it found the plain language of the statute unambiguous, the court concluded that "under § 1367 a district court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over members of a class, although they did not meet the amount-in-controversy requirement, as did the class representatives." Id. at 529.

Unlike the class action facing the court in Abbott Laboratories, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit addressed this question in the context of two plaintiffs seeking to join an additional claim that did not meet the amount-in-controversy requirement. Stromberg, 77 F.3d at 930. The Stromberg court also reasoned that "[w]hen text and legislative history disagree, the text controls," and allowed the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction in that instance. 77 F.3d at 931 (citing In re Sinclair, 870 F.2d 1340 (7th Cir. 1989)).

Most of the district courts that have addressed this issue have concluded otherwise. These courts have relied primarily on the legislative history to find that Zahn is still good law. See, e.g., Russ, 961 F. Supp. at 817-20; Crosby v. America Online, Inc., 967 F. Supp. 257, 263-64 (N.D. Ohio 1997); Griffin v. Dana Point Condominium Ass'n, 768 F. Supp. 1299, 1301-02 (N.D. Ill. 1991). Judge Louis Pollak's opinion in Russ, while conceding that the plain language of the statute would appear to overrule Zahn, presents a persuasive analysis of the legislative history and the policy reasons supporting his Conclusion that Zahn is unaffected by the enactment of the supplemental jurisdiction statute.

The district court here followed the reasoning of Abbott Laboratories and concluded the plain language of § 1367 overruled Zahn. Consequently, the district court found it also had supplemental jurisdiction over the non-federal claims of absentee class members based on its diversity jurisdiction over the claims of the named plaintiffs.

The question is by no means an easy one. From a policy standpoint, it can be argued that national (interstate) class actions are the paradigm for federal diversity jurisdiction because, in a constitutional sense, they implicate interstate commerce, foreclose discrimination by a local state, and tend to guard against any bias against interstate enterprises. Yet there are strong countervailing arguments that, at least under the current jurisdictional statutes, such class actions may be beyond the reach of the federal courts.

Regardless of the relative strength of the competing arguments over Zahn's continued viability, we need not enter the fray. Because we have found that the district court properly exercised supplemental jurisdiction over class members' non-federal claims based on its original federal question jurisdiction, we need not decide whether the district court properly found it had supplemental jurisdiction based on its exercise of diversity jurisdiction over the claims of the named plaintiffs. The continued viability of Zahn and its effect on class actions will undoubtedly be addressed in the near future, either by the Supreme Court or by Congress, and at present we need not resolve the issue.

B. Personal Jurisdiction

The district court also found it had personal jurisdiction over all members of the proposed class. We agree. In the class action context, the district court obtains personal jurisdiction over the absentee class members by providing proper notice of the impending class action and providing the absentees with the opportunity to be heard or the opportunity to exclude themselves from the class. Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts, 472 U.S. 797, 811-12 (1985). The combination of reasonable notice, the opportunity to be heard and the opportunity to withdraw from the class satisfy the due process requirements of the Fifth Amendment. Consequently, silence on the part of those receiving notice is construed as tacit consent to the court's jurisdiction. Id.; see also Carlough v. Amchem Prods., Inc., 10 F.3d 189, 199 (3d Cir. 1993).

The district court here directed that notice of the class action be sent to all persons who owned one or more Prudential insurance policies between 1982 and the present. Initially, we note the provision of individual notice to each class member is by no means typical of the notice provided in most class actions, and certainly qualifies as unprecedented. The notice provided here met the requirements for personal jurisdiction. It explained that each individual receiving notice was a member of the proposed class, and clearly set forth the procedure for opting out of the class. The notice also contained the proposed release, which explained that all claims would be waived if the individual did not elect to opt out of the class. Consequently, we find the members of the proposed class were adequately informed of their potential claims against Prudential, and the district court had personal jurisdiction over those members of the putative class who did not timely opt out.*fn37

C. Article III

Appellants also dispute the district court's finding that this case qualified as a "case or controversy" under Article III. Fairness Opinion, 962 F. Supp. at 505-6. Appellants contend that, "whether analyzed under the feigned case doctrine or as a failure of Article III standing," the inclusion of both injured and uninjured policyholders in the certified class violates the case or controversy requirement of Article III because the parties have not suffered an "injury in fact." Public Citizen Brief at 16. Appellants also contend the inclusion and release of claims arising out of not only the three primary activities complained of, but also based on "other improper sales practices," disqualifies the action as a case or controversy under Article III. Id. at 16-17. Amicus curiae Public Citizen further argues that the record is devoid of information concerning these other improper sales practices, that no plaintiff has claimed an injury as a result of them, and that there was never an intent to litigate them. Consequently, "there never has been any live controversy between Prudential and the `other improper sales practices' class." Id. at 17. The district court addressed appellants' contentions and found them to be without merit. Fairness Opinion, 962 F. Supp. at 506.

We agree with the district court. Article III requires that federal courts may only adjudicate an actual "case or controversy." As the district court noted, whether an action presents a "case or controversy" under Article III is determined vis-a-vis the named parties. Id. at 506 (citing Allee v. Medrano, 416 U.S. 802 (1974)). "Once threshold individual standing by the class representative is met, a proper party to raise a particular issue is before the court, and there remains no further separate class standing requirement in the constitutional sense."1 Newberg on Class Actions § 2.05 at 2-29 (3d Ed. 1992). The record in this case is replete with examples of the adversarial nature of these proceedings, and it is clear that all of the named representatives have a valid "case or controversy" with respect to Prudential's alleged fraudulent sales scheme. There is also ample evidence that each named party has suffered an "injury in fact" as a result of Prudential's sales practices and therefore has standing to bring suit. Thus, the named plaintiffs satisfy Article III. The absentee class members are not required to make a similar showing, because once the named parties have demonstrated they are properly before the court, "the issue [becomes] one of compliance with the provisions of Rule 23, not one of Article III standing." Goodman v. Lukens Steel Co., 777 F.2d 113, 122 (3d Cir. 1985), aff'd, 482 U.S. 656 (1987).

We also note that, with respect to appellants' "feigned case" argument, the notice and the ADR process here were designed to determine which members of the class could demonstrate a compensable injury as a result of Prudential's allegedly deceptive practices. To require the named plaintiffs to determine beforehand which of the 8 million policyholders were deceived and provide notice to only those persons would eliminate the viability of the class action device.

We also disagree that the parties never intended to litigate the "other sales practices" claims. As discussed, those claims, along with the three categories of specific violations, were all intertwined as part of the common scheme allegedly employed by Prudential. If the parties litigated the churning, vanishing premium and investment plan claims, they would have litigated their "other sales practice" claims as well.

Based on the foregoing, we will affirm the district court's exercise of jurisdiction.

IV. CLASS CERTIFICATION

A. Settlement-Only Class ...


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