LOS ANGELES, November 10, 2015 - Whistleblower attorneys Stephen Hasegawa and Edward Arens of Phillips & Cohen LLP were among the finalists for the Consumer Attorneys Of California "2015 Consumer Attorney of the Year" award, which was announced on Saturday.
Hasegawa and Arens were recognized for their work on a whistleblower case against Office Depot that recovered $68.5 million in January for more than 1,000 California public entities, including cities, counties, and schools. David Sherwin, a former Office Depot employee, alleged that those government entities were systematically and knowingly overcharged for office supplies despite Office Depot promising them the "best prices" possible.
"Had it not been for this whistleblower suit, these cash-strapped entities likely would not have known they had been overcharged," the CAOC said in a statement. "The case vividly demonstrates how the civil justice system works to halt corporate fraud and advance the public good."
As a result of the settlement, Hasegawa said, "We got to write checks to over 1,000 California government entities that really needed the money."
The recovery helped in big and small ways. For instance, Hasegawa said, "The Fresno Unified School District was able to use the settlement money that we could provide them to give 150 extra dollars to every teacher in the district to spend on school supplies. So we were able to directly affect the education of students in the Fresno Unified School District."
Despite repeated attempts by Office Depot to dismiss the claims by Sherwin and the local government agencies and to discredit Sherwin as a "disgruntled ex-employee," Phillips & Cohen successfully navigated the complicated case working with its co-counsel, Leiff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. Phillips & Cohen coordinated the strategy and discovery among the whistleblower, numerous local government agencies and thousands of non-party government victims of Office Depot's alleged misconduct.
"It's a wonderful feeling to be able to speak to people who have been overcharged and to tell them, 'We're going to be able to give you your money back,'" Hasegawa said.
See the CAOC video about the case here.