SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) – Consumer advocates held a news conference in Santa Monica Monday to urge the Mayor of Los Angeles and the city attorney to renegotiate the proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The proposed settlement promises to pay back DWP customers who were overcharged.

Under the agreement, each customer’s case will have independent oversight, said Tom Merriman, an attorney in the class-action lawsuit.  “It is 100 percent recovery of every penny you’ve been overcharged,” he said.

But Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said the proposed settlement would not be fair to ratepayers because it would allow the utility to decide the refund amounts, and customers would be asked to give up their right to sue. “To turn over all the power to the DWP is a real shame,” Court said.

“It is an inside job between the LADWP and an attorney who doesn’t truly represent the interest of the community,” according to a letter signed by Court and consumer advocate Liza Tucker.

DWP officials and the City Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to the Consumer Watchdog group’s letter.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge is expected to decide on Tuesday whether to accept the proposed settlement. Consumer advocates and lawyers for some members of the class-action lawsuit want what they call the “fatal flaws” fixed before agreeing to the settlement.

Attorney Jack Landskroner, who negotiated the settlement deal, defended the terms,  saying it would “not only return 100 percent of the overcharges LADWP billed to customers,” but that the amounts would be “verified by an independent court-appointed monitor.”

Landskroner said he sympathizes with the consumer advocacy group’s “distrust of LADWP based on past history,” but thinks the “well-intended grassroots group may have been manipulated and misinformed by trial lawyers, who have a personal financial interest in obstructing the settlement.”

But Landskroneris is accused of drafting a deal that would be financially lucrative for him. He stands to earn $13 million in legal fees under the settlement for having done “87 days of work,” according to Consumer Watchdog.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he won’t get in the middle of the fight, but will support the customers. “We need to make sure that those folks who are DWP customers get their money back. They deserve it. And I’m going to make sure it happens,” the mayor said.

 

 

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