Steve Berman represents consumers, investors and employees in large, complex litigation held in state and federal courts. Steve's trial experience has earned him significant recognition and led The National Law Journal to name him one of the 100 most powerful lawyers in the nation, and to repeatedly name Hagens Berman one of the top 10 plaintiffs’ firms in the country. He was named an MVP of the Year by Law360 in class-action litigation and received the 2017, 2021 and 2022 Trailblazer award. Law360 also named him a Titan of the Plaintiffs Bar every eligible year, and his cases have received the American Antitrust Institute’s Honoree for Outstanding Antitrust Litigation Achievement in Private Law Practice recognition three times just since 2018. Steve was also recognized for the sixth year as an Elite Trial Lawyer by The National Law Journal, and BestLawyers named him to its 2023 list of Best Lawyers in America in plaintiffs litigation.
Steve co-founded Hagens Berman in 1993 after his prior firm refused to represent several young children who consumed fast food contaminated with E. coli—Steve knew he had to help. In that case, Steve proved that the poisoning was the result of Jack in the Box’s cost cutting measures along with gross negligence. He was further inspired to build a firm that vociferously fought for the rights of those unable to fight for themselves. Berman’s innovative approach, tenacious conviction and impeccable track record have earned him an excellent reputation and numerous historic legal victories. He is considered one of the nation’s most successful class-action attorneys, and has been praised for securing record-breaking settlements and tangible benefits for class members. Steve is particularly known for his tenacity in forging consumer settlements that return a high percentage of recovery to class members.
- Managing Partner of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Co-Managing Director of Hagens Berman EMEA LLP (UK)
- State Tobacco Litigation — $260 billion
Special assistant attorney general for the states of Washington, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Alaska, Idaho, Ohio, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Vermont and Rhode Island in prosecuting major actions against the tobacco industry. In November 1998, the initial proposed settlement led to a multi-state settlement requiring the tobacco companies to pay the states $260 billion and to submit to broad advertising and marketing restrictions – the largest civil settlement in history.
- Visa MasterCard ATM Antitrust Litigation — $23 billion
Co-lead counsel in what was then the largest antitrust settlement in history: a class-action lawsuit alleging that Visa and MasterCard, together with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo, violated federal antitrust laws by establishing uniform agreements with U.S. banks, preventing ATM operators from setting ATM access fees below the level of the fees charged on Visa’s and MasterCard’s networks.
- Toyota Sudden, Unintended Acceleration — $1.6 billion
Hagens Berman was co-lead counsel in this massive MDL alleging that Toyota vehicles contained a defect causing sudden, unintended acceleration (SUA). It was the largest automotive settlement in history at the time, valued at up to $1.6 billion. The firm did not initially seek to lead the litigation, but was sought out by the judge for its wealth of experience in managing very complex class-action MDLs. Hagens Berman and managing partner Steve Berman agreed to take on the role of co-lead counsel for the economic loss class and head the plaintiffs’ steering committee.
- NCAA Grants-in-Aid Scholarships Litigation (aka “Alston case,” in the press) — $208 million settlement, and permanent injunction upheld by the Supreme Court
Led the firm's antitrust class action against the NCAA on behalf of college athletes, claiming that the NCAA had violated the law when it kept the class from being able to receive compensation provided by schools or conferences for athletic services other than cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses. The Supreme Court upheld the favorable opinion of the Ninth Circuit in a 9-0 ruling. Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion further underscored the massive win for plaintiffs and the ruling’s ongoing effects: “The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA's business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” pushing for further scrutiny of the NCAA’s regulations. Steve’s antitrust case against the NCAA involving rights of college athletes to receive grant-in-aid scholarships saw a unanimous Supreme Court victory, in what media called a “major ruling” (ABC World News Tonight), that “will change the game” (ABC Good Morning America), and leaves the NCAA “more vulnerable than ever” (AP).
Steve also leads the firm’s NCAA Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) Litigation, in which current or former NCAA college athletes, using the Alston precedent, have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the NCAA, Pacific-12 Conference, the Big Ten Conference, the Big Twelve Conference, Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference of illegally limiting the compensation that Division I college athletes may receive for the use of their names, images, likenesses and athletic reputations. Thousands of college athletes have taken advantage of the NIL opportunities opened by the Alston case to the tune of multimillion-dollar deals now available to them since the NCAA loosened its restrictions on July 1, 2021.
- Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) — $700 million settlement
Represented bondholders and the bondholder trustee in a class-action lawsuit stemming from the failure of two WPPSS nuclear projects. The case was one of the most complex and lengthy securities fraud cases ever filed. The default was one of the largest municipal bond defaults in history. After years of litigation, plaintiffs were awarded a $700 million settlement agreement brought against more than 200 defendants.
- E-books Antitrust Litigation — $616 million settlement
Fought against Apple and five of the nation’s top publishers for colluding to raise the price of e-books, resulting in recovery equal to twice consumers' actual damages. The firm recovered an initial settlement of more than $160 million with defendant publishing companies in conjunction with several states attorneys general. Steve then led the firm to pursue Apple for its involvement in the e-book price hike. Apple took the case to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that Apple had conspired to raise prices, and the firm achieved an additional $450 million settlement for consumers.
- Enron Pension Protection Litigation — $250 million settlement
Led the class-action litigation on behalf of Enron employees and retirees alleging that Enron leadership, including CEO Ken Lay, had a responsibility to protect the interests of those invested in the 401(k) program, an obligation they abrogated. The court selected Steve to co-lead the case against Enron and the other defendants.
- Charles Schwab Securities Litigation — $235 million settlement
Led the firm to file the first class-action lawsuit against Charles Schwab on Mar 18, 2008, alleging that Schwab deceived investors about the underlying risk in its Schwab YieldPlus Funds Investor Shares and Schwab YieldPlus Funds Select Shares.
- JPMorgan Madoff Lawsuit — $218 million settlement
Represented Bernard L. Madoff investors in a suit filed against JPMorgan Chase Bank, one of the largest banks in the world.
- NCAA Grants-in-Aid Scholarships Lawsuit — $208 million settlement, and permanent injunction upheld by the Supreme Court
Led the firm's tenacious antitrust class action against the NCAA on behalf of college athletes, claiming that the NCAA had violated the law when it kept the class from being able to receive compensation provided by schools or conferences for athletic services other than cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses. The Supreme Court upheld the favorable opinion of the Ninth Circuit in a 9-0 ruling. Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion further underscored the massive win for plaintiffs and the ruling’s ongoing effects: “The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA's business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” pushing for further scrutiny of the NCAA’s regulations.
- Boeing Securities Litigation — $92.5 million settlement
Represented a class of tens of thousands of shareholders against Boeing, culminating in a proposed settlement that was the second-largest awarded in the Northwest.
- NCAA Concussions — $75 million settlement, and 50-year medical monitoring fund
Led the firm's pioneering NCAA concussions suit that culminated in a proposed settlement that will provide a 50-year medical-monitoring program for student-athletes to screen for and track head injuries; make sweeping changes to the NCAA’s approach to concussion treatment and prevention; and establish a $5 million fund for concussion research, preliminarily approved by the court.
- Antitrust Litigation
Corporate fraud has many faces, and Steve has taken on some of the largest perpetrators through antitrust law. Steve has helped lead the firm’s efforts taking on price-fixing in the agricultural industry, holding food conglomerates accountable for fixing the prices of beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Across those matters, the firm has so far achieved multiple icebreaker settlements and looks forward to returning additional funds to millions of consumers who unknowingly overpaid for basic kitchen staples. In its wage-fixing antitrust against poultry processors, Steve has helped the firm to secure a combined total of $180.1 million in settlements, bringing relief to non-supervisory production and maintenance employees at chicken processing plants. In that case, the Department of Justice has taken note, announcing a restitution clause that orders these companies to provide payment – either through an approved settlement in the class-action litigation brought by Hagens Berman or, only in the alternative, directly to the DOJ. The firm has brought similar claims against major red meat processing companies.
In 2014 Steve was quoted in Vanity Fair in an article about his e-books case vs. Apple and the big five publishing companies, which had just gone to the Supreme Court where he won against Apple in a combined $560 million settlement with all defendants. Steve said then, as he looked from his Seattle office to Amazon’s HQ, “I'd love to sue Amazon. It's the only big company I haven't sued.” Steve stuck to his word, and now his firm has several active cases against Amazon, most of which are antitrust cases alleging billions of dollars in price-fixing damages. The cases range from price-fixing affecting the cost of iPhones and iPads, e-books and retail bookstores to wider claims involving Amazon’s third-party Marketplace, multi-seller listings and more. Amazon itself has stated the current Amazon price-fixing cases are the largest in U.S. history.
In another antitrust win in a technology-focused issue, Steve led the firm to two back-to-back settlements against Apple and Google involving anticompetitive policies and practices in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. In those lawsuits, the firm accused the tech giants of monopolizing against U.S. developers of iOS and Android apps, cheating them out of profits through antitrust violations. In both Apple’s $100 million settlement and Google’s $90 million settlement, the companies were forced to make sweeping changes to their practices, allowing small app developers in the U.S. to finally receive their just rewards for their work. Plaintiffs in those cases went on to receive settlement checks for upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, some higher. Hagens Berman is now seeking to represent a class of France-based iOS developers against Apple for the same behavior.
- Emissions Litigation
Steve has pioneered pursuing car manufacturers who have been violating emissions standards, including: Mercedes BlueTEC vehicles, GM Chevy Cruze, Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks, Dodge Ram 1500 and Jeep Cherokee EcoDiesel vehicles, Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra as well as other models made by Ford, Audi and BMW. Steve and the firm’s unmatched work in emissions-cheating investigations is often ahead of the EPA and government regulators.
- Opioids — Orange County and Santa Clara County, Seattle, and the States of Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas
Steve has been retained by various municipalities, including the states of Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas, Orange County, as well as the city of Seattle to serve as trial counsel in a recently filed state suit against five manufacturers of opioids seeking to recover public costs resulting from the opioid manufacturer’s deceptive marketing.
- Consumer Protection
Steve is a leader in protecting millions of consumers in large-scale cases that challenge unfair, deceptive and fraudulent practices, and the firm’s automotive litigation practice area bolsters that mission. The firm is currently pursuing multiple automotive defect cases against Hyundai and Kia in which millions of vehicles are affected and prone to spontaneous fires. Those class actions accuse the automakers of knowingly selling vehicles with a series of defects affecting engines and the hydraulic and electronic control unit. The firm has settled two of these cases resulting in over ten million cars eligible for repair and consumers entitled to additional benefits. Judge Josephine Staton called the most recent settlement comprehensive and able to protect against future harms, noting that the deal is substantially similar to the settlement Hagens Berman finalized in May 2021 in In Re: Hyundai and Kia Engine Litigation, which was valued at $1.3 billion.
In another active defect case against Hyundai and Kia, the firm represents consumers who own certain model vehicles manufactured and sold by the automakers without an immobilizer, leaving them vulnerable to theft, and often leaving owners with repair bills in excess of $10,000. The firm in 2023 secured a settlement valued at more than $200 million to bring swift remedy to those facing this issue affecting more than 8 million vehicles.
Hundreds of thousands of consumers are also affected by the firm’s multiple cases pertaining to defective CP4 fuel pumps manufactured by Bosch. The affected vehicles’ fuel pumps wear down quickly due to the lack of lubrication in U.S. diesel fuel. Having only been manufactured to handle other grades of diesel, the CP4 pumps erode, causing metal shavings to leak into the fuel system, leading to sudden engine failure. The defect manifests as early as mile one, and because no fix for the defect exists, owners of affected vehicles are left paying high prices for costly replacement CP4 pumps and engine failures, only to repeat the problem. Hagens Berman is currently pursuing litigation against the Big Three automakers, Ford, GM and Stellantis/Fiat Chrysler, as well as a more recently filed CP4 defect case against Nissan.
- Volkswagen Franchise Dealerships – $1.6 billion settlement
Lead counsel for VW franchise dealers’ suit, in which a settlement of $1.6 billion has received final approval, and represents a substantial recovery for the class.
- Stericycle Sterisafe Contract Litigation – $295 million settlement
Hagens Berman’s team, led by Steve Berman, filed a class-action lawsuit against Stericycle, a massive medical waste disposal company and achieved a sizable settlement for hundreds of thousands of its small business customers.
- NCAA Grant in Aid Scholarships – $208 million settlement
Served as co-lead counsel in the Alston case that successfully challenged the NCAA’s limitations on the benefits college athletes can receive as part of a scholarship, culminating in a $208 million settlement and injunction upheld by the Supreme Court. The recovery amounts to 100 percent of single damages in an exceptional result in an antitrust case. Steve also co-led the 2018 trial on the injunctive aspect of the case which resulted in a change of NCAA rules limiting the financial treatment of athletes. The injunction, which was upheld in a unanimous Supreme Court decision in June 2021, prohibits the NCAA from enforcing any rules that fix or limit compensation provided to college athletes by schools or conferences in consideration for their athletic services other than cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses. According to the Ninth Circuit, the NCAA is “permanently restrained and enjoined from agreeing to fix or limit compensation or benefits related to education” that conferences may make available. In the Supreme Court’s 9‑0, Justice Kavanaugh stated, “The NCAA is not above the law.”
- Hyundai/Kia Engine Fire Defect – Settlements yet to be totaled, with one estimated relief valued at up to $1.3 billion
In 2023, the court preliminarily approved a settlement that will benefit more than 2.1 million Hyundai and Kia owners suffering from a serious defect that can cause spontaneous fires and engine failure. The defect affected multiple engines, and spurred two settling cases. In May 2021, Hagens Berman achieved a settlement offering relief valued at up to $1.3 billion for the owners of Hyundai and Kia vehicles equipped with Theta II GDI engines, and this newest settlement brings relief to owners of vehicles with Gamma GDI and Nu GDI engines as well as Theta II MPI engines.
- Hyundai/Kia Theft Defect – $200 million settlement
The firm achieved swift relief in this class action stemming from Hyundai and Kia’s failure to equip nearly nine million 2011-2022 models with an immobilizer, a common antitheft device in modern cars which prevents most vehicles from being started unless a code is transmitted from the vehicle’s smart key. The lack of immobilizer in affected vehicles spawned viral “Kia Challenge” TikTok videos demonstrating simple measures “Kia Boys” take to steal affected Hyundai and Kia vehicles using only a common USB charging cord or similar metal object to start the engine, allowing thieves to steal them in less than 90 seconds.
- In April of 2021, the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) launched the Kathy and Steve Berman Western Forest and Fire Initiative with a philanthropic gift from Steve (BS ’76) and his wife, Kathy. The program will improve society’s ability to manage western forests to mitigate the risks of large wildfires, revitalize human communities and adapt to climate change.
Steve studied at the School of Natural Resources (now SEAS) and volunteered as a firefighter due to his focus on environmental stewardship. more »
- In 2003, the University of Washington announced the establishment of the Kathy and Steve Berman Environmental Law Clinic. The Berman Environmental Law Clinic draws on UW's environmental law faculty and extensive cross-campus expertise in fields such as Zoology, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Forest Resources, Environmental Health and more. In addition to representing clients in court, the clinic has become a definitive information resource on contemporary environmental law and policy, with special focus on the Pacific Northwest.
- Lawyer of the Year, Litigation - Securities, 2024
- Best Lawyers in America in Litigation, Securities and Product Liability Litigation, Plaintiffs and Other Areas of Note 2023
- Washington Super Lawyers, 1999-2023
- Titan of the Plaintiffs Bar, Law360, 2018, 2020, 2022
- Leading Commercial Litigators, The Daily Journal, 2022
- Hall of Fame, Lawdragon, 2022
- Plaintiffs' Attorneys Trailblazer, The National Law Journal, 2017, 2022
- Sports & Entertainment Law Trailblazer, The National Law Journal, 2021
- Honoree for Outstanding Antitrust Litigation Achievement in Private Law Practice, American Antitrust Institute, 2021, 2019, 2018
- Class Action MVP of the Year, Law360, 2016-2020
- Elite Trial Lawyers, The National Law Journal, 2014-2016, 2018-2019
- Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America, Plaintiff Financial Lawyers, 2019-2023
- Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America, 2014-2019
- State Executive Committee member, The National Trial Lawyers, 2018
- Class Actions (Plaintiff) Law Firm of the Year in California, Global Law Experts, 2017
- Finalist for Trial Lawyer of the Year, Public Justice, 2014
- One of the 100 most influential attorneys in America, The National Law Journal, 2013
- Most powerful lawyer in the state of Washington, The National Law Journal, 2000
- One of the top 10 plaintiffs’ firms in the country, The National Law Journal
Other Notable Cases
- VW Emissions Litigation — $14.7 billion settlement
Steve served as a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee representing owners of Volkswagen CleanDiesel vehicles that were installed with emissions-cheating software.
- Exxon Mobile Oil Spill — $700 million settlement
Steve represented clients against Exxon Mobil affected by the 10 million gallons of oil spilled off the coast of Alaska by the Exxon Valdez (multimillion dollar award).
- McKesson Drug Class Litigation — $350 million settlement
Lead counsel in an action that led to a rollback of benchmark prices of hundreds of brand name drugs, and relief for third-party payers and insurers. His discovery of the McKesson scheme led to follow up lawsuits by governmental entities and recovery in total of over $600 million.
- Average Wholesale Price Litigation — $338 million settlement
Steve served as lead trial counsel, securing trial verdicts against three drug companies that paved the way for settlement.
- DRAM Memory Antitrust — $345 million settlement
Forged a class-action suit against leading DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) manufacturers, claiming the companies secretly agreed to reduce the supply of DRAM in order to artificially raise prices.
- Stericycle Sterisafe Contract Litigation — $295 million settlement
Hagens Berman’s team, led by Steve Berman, filed a class-action lawsuit against Stericycle, a massive medical waste disposal company, and achieved a sizable settlement for hundreds of thousands of its small business customers.
- Hyundai / Kia Fuel Efficiency — $255 million settlement
Led the firm’s aggressive fight against Hyundai and Kia on behalf of defrauded consumers who alleged the automakers had misrepresented fuel economies in vehicles, securing what was believed to then be the second-largest automotive settlement in history.
- Bextra/Celebrex Marketing and Products Liability Litigation — $89 million settlement
Served as court-appointed member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee and represented nationwide consumers and third-party payers who paid for Celebrex and Bextra. The firm was praised by the court for its "unstinting" efforts on behalf of the class.
- McKesson Governmental Entity Class Litigation — $82 million settlement
Steve was lead counsel for a nationwide class of local governments that resulted in a settlement for drug price-fixing claims.
- NCAA/Electronic Arts Name and Likeness — $60 million settlement
Represented current and former student-athletes against the NCAA and Electronic Arts concerning illegal use of college football and basketball players' names and likenesses in video games without permission or consent from the players.
- Dairy Price-Fixing — $52 million settlement
This antitrust suit's filing unearthed a massive collusion between the biggest dairy producers in the country, responsible for almost 70 percent of the nation’s milk. Not only was the price of milk artificially inflated, but this scheme ultimately also cost 500,000 young cows their lives.
- State and Governmental Drug Litigation
Steve served as outside counsel for the state of New York for its Vioxx claims, several states for AWP claims and several states for claims against McKesson. In each representation, Steve recovered far more than the states in the NAAG multi-state settlements.
Steve is a frequent public speaker and has been a guest lecturer at Stanford University, University of Washington, University of Michigan and Seattle University Law School.
Steve was a high school and college soccer player and coach. Now that his daughter’s soccer skills exceed his, he is relegated to being a certified soccer referee and spends weekends being yelled at by parents, players and coaches (as opposed to being yelled at by judges during the week). Steve is also an avid cyclist and is heavily involved in working with young riders on the international Hagens Berman Axeon cycling team.