We intend to continue our coverage well into the future. The consolidated federal litigation, based in St. Louis, Missouri, might be drawing to a close -- although it still must be approved by a judge. But Ashley Madison still is doing business -- and the social, psychological, and familial ramifications raised by the breach will be ongoing, likely for years.
The settlement story has another Alabama angle to it. One of the three primary law firms representing plaintiffs in the case is Birmingham's Heninger Garrison Davis LLC.
From a CNBC report about the preliminary settlement, which was announced last Friday:
The owner of the Ashley Madison adultery website said on Friday it will pay $11.2 million to settle U.S. litigation brought on behalf of roughly 37 million users whose personal details were exposed in a July 2015 data breach.
Ruby Corp, formerly known as Avid Life Media Inc, denied wrongdoing in agreeing to the preliminary class-action settlement, which requires approval by a federal judge in St. Louis.
Ashley Madison marketed itself as a means to help people, primarily men, cheat on their spouses, and was known for its slogan "Life is short. Have an affair."
But the breach cost privately held Ruby more than a quarter of its revenue, and prompted the Toronto-based company to spend millions of dollars to improve security and user privacy.
The hits Ashley Madison has taken go beyond federal litigation in St. Louis. From CNBC:
Last December, Ruby agreed to pay $1.66 million to settle a probe by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and several states into lax data security and deceptive practices, also without admitting liability.
As for the settlement, users can recover up to $3,500, but it sounds like the process to collect will be cumbersome. Lawyers -- surprise, surprise -- likely will be the financial winners in the whole deal:
Layn Phillips, a former federal judge who mediated the settlement, said in a court filing that the accord offered "a valuable recovery for the class in the face of many obstacles," including Ruby's preference that victims arbitrate their claims.
Lawyers for Ashley Madison users may receive up to one-third of the $11.2 million payout to cover legal fees, court papers show.
Does anyone seriously believe a shabby outfit like Ashley Madison is going to provide customers with genuine security? I don't, and I would not be surprised if there is another data hack -- probably inside of a year. Anyone dumb enough to still be using the site likely deserves whatever might be coming down the road. That the company refuses to admit wrongdoing suggests -- at least to me -- that it isn't serious about data security. Also, the company's press release about the settlement includes language that points to major ass covering -- still. Consider these words:
While ruby denies any wrongdoing, the parties have agreed to the proposed settlement in order to avoid the uncertainty, expense, and inconvenience associated with continued litigation, and believe that the proposed settlement agreement is in the best interest of ruby and its customers. In 2015, hackers gained access to ruby's computer networks and published certain personal information contained in Ashley Madison accounts. Account credentials were not verified for accuracy during this time frame and accounts may have been created using other individuals' information. Therefore, ruby wishes to clarify that merely because a person's name or other information appears to have been released in the data breach does not mean that person actually was a member of Ashley Madison.
If a mechanic quoted the automotive equivalent of such words to you, would you want to do business with him? Would you want him anywhere near the engine compartment under the hood of your car? I sure as hell wouldn't. As for Birmingham connections, this is from the first paragraph of the Ruby Corp. release:
TORONTO, July 14, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Ruby Corp. and Ruby Life Inc. (ruby), and a proposed class of plaintiffs, co-led by Dowd and Dowd, P.C., The Driscoll Firm, P.C., and Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC, have reached a proposed settlement agreement resolving the class action lawsuits that were filed beginning July 2015 following a data breach of ruby's computer network and subsequent release of certain personal information of customers of Ashley Madison, an online dating website owned and operated by Ruby Life Inc. (formerly Avid Dating Life Inc.) The lawsuits, alleging inadequate data security practices and misrepresentations regarding Ashley Madison, have been consolidated in a multi-district litigation pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Yep, Heninger Garrison Davis, on 1st Avenue North in downtown Birmingham, has been in the middle of the Ashley Madison story for some time. It apparently will be involved in the process of doling out cash for AM customers who can prove they have a legitimate claim.