Tomorrow is the day Meta has been waiting for to finally end her Cambridge Analytica woes. That’s when a US district court in California is scheduled to preliminarily approve a $725 million settlement agreement that Meta believed would release the company from all related claims.
However, just days before Meta reached that apparent finish line, the state of New Mexico moved to intervene. In court yesterday, New Mexico argued that Meta may be misinterpreting the settlement agreement and argued that, for the citizens of New Mexico, the Cambridge Analytica scandal is far from resolved.
To clarify whether Meta’s settlement waives New Mexico’s and others’ claims and to ensure that the California court does not “inadvertently or otherwise disclose the claims” raised in the parallel New Mexico action still pending against Meta, New Mexico’s lawyers asked to be admitted to a hearing. in short” at tomorrow’s hearing.
The state’s confusion stems from how the settlement agreement currently defines “exempt claims” as applicable to members of the settlement class, which covers all Facebook users during the class action’s designated period. Because New Mexico is arguing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Facebook users in New Mexico, the state says the agreement could be read — as Meta reads it — as rejecting the state’s claims. But the lawsuit was brought by the state itself, which is not a Facebook user, so lawyers said the agreement, as written, may be too narrow to release Meta from New Mexico’s claims.
Ars could not immediately reach Meta or the state of New Mexico for comment. (Modernize: A Meta spokesperson told Ars, “The attorneys representing New Mexico misrepresented our position, which we will explain to the Court.”)
New Mexico is fighting to keep Meta on the hook
In the motion to intervene, New Mexico lawyers wrote that Meta never notified the state when the settlement agreement was reached last December and instead ignored weeks of inquiries sent by the state to clarify whether Meta interpreted the agreement as a release of New Mexico’s claims. of Mexico. The state learned of Meta’s position only this week, rushing yesterday to respond before the court begins tomorrow to approve the settlement agreement.
“The State of New Mexico has no interest in overturning the carefully negotiated proposed settlement,” state attorneys wrote in the motion. “However, earlier today, Facebook for the first time expressly took the position that certain claims raised in the State’s lawsuit pending in a New Mexico court” would be released from the class action settlement agreement.
According to lawyers for the state, Meta’s interpretation of the settlement agreement is too broad and would require “extraordinary circumstances” to have the effect Meta wants: relief from claims in all other courts and preventing future litigation.
“There are no extraordinary circumstances to justify the elimination of the state’s claims pending in other courts through the release in the Settlement Agreement in this case,” state attorneys wrote. “Facebook’s position is also contrary to the law in this District, where courts have often rejected attempts to read settlement agreement language broadly.”
The New Mexico lawsuit against Meta was filed in January 2021, alleging that Meta’s business practices exposed through the Cambridge Analytica scandal violated New Mexico’s Unfair Practices Act. That claim was never raised in the current class action. The state has asked a California court to hear its arguments against releasing claims in that lawsuit tomorrow — before Meta can share the terms of the settlement agreement with millions of Facebook users, including Facebook users in New Mexico.
This notice could potentially confuse New Mexico citizens about their rights in pending litigation brought by the state, which is not a class member and, therefore, a non-party to the class action settlement .
“Because the State is a non-party, it clearly must be allowed to intervene to be heard because the terms of the Settlement Agreement should not be construed as one of the parties, the defendant Facebook, would read it, i.e., defeat certain claims or forms relief exercised by the state in another jurisdiction without its consent,” the state wrote.