New Jersey Tax Sale Certificates
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Hausfeld LLP Announce Proposed Settlement of New Jersey Tax Sales Certificates Antitrust Litigation
20 proposed settlements totaling $9,585,000 have been preliminarily approved.
If you are a member of the class and wish to recover benefits from the proposed settlements, you must submit a timely and valid claim form by June 17, 2016. Claim forms are available at www.njtaxliensettlements.com and may be submitted online or mailed to New Jersey Tax Liens Claims Administrator, P.O. Box 8060 San Rafael, CA 94912-8060. The court must grant final approval of the Proposed Settlements in order for settlement benefits to be paid.
Hagens Berman is interim class counsel in a class-action lawsuit alleging that a group of investors and investment companies conspired to fix the interest rates paid by thousands of New Jersey property owners on unpaid property taxes.
The suit, filed in March 2012, in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleges that a group of investors and investment companies exploited a bidding process under which municipalities in the state auction off delinquent property tax obligations of property owners. Under state law, the property owners’ tax obligation is sold to the bidder who agrees to accept the lowest interest rate on the debt. The bidding at the auction opens at 18 percent interest and is then bid down by each subsequent bidder, and in many cases to zero percent interest, according to the complaint. The system is designed so that the interest rate will be as low as possible for property owners.
However, the complaint alleges that a group of investors conspired to split the market and made agreements not to bid against one another. The agreements resulted in many tax obligations auctioned off with only one bid, according to the suit, meaning that interest rates on the debt were set at the statutory maximum of 18 percent, the lawsuit states.
“New Jersey designed this system to benefit property owners and make sure they get the lowest interest rates supported by the market,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “The defendants turned that system on its head, agreeing not to compete with one another so that property owners, including both families and businesses, would be forced to pay interest rates on their unpaid taxes far above a reasonable market rate.”
On Oct. 22, 2012, U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp appointed Hagens Berman and Hausfeld LLP as interim class counsel and Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC as interim liaison counsel in the case, which will now move forward to discovery, and ultimately, trial.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and New Jersey state law and asks the court to award damages to property owners who were damaged as a result of the alleged scheme.
According to the complaint, the Department of Justice is continuing to investigate this matter and at least 10 defendants have already plead guilty to criminal charges.
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