Following a fairness hearing on June 30 in New York, Judge William Pauley III has granted final approval to a class action settlement of claims brought by authors against Harlequin alleging improper e-book royalty payments.
The final approval brings the long-running suit to a close, and paves the way for just over $3 million to be paid to aggrieved authors, from a roughly $4.1 million settlement fund (with just over $1 million going to pay attorney fees and other costs). In agreeing to the settlement, Harlequin did not admit to any wrongdoing.
First filed in 2012 by three Harlequin authors (Barbara Keiler, Mona Gay Thomas, and Linda Barrett), the suit alleged that Harlequin authors’ e-book royalties were being improperly calculated based on a licensing clause in their original contract agreements. In April of 2013, Judge Harold Baer granted summary judgment to Harlequin, dismissing all four of the authors’ claims. In 2014, an appeals court upheld the district court on three claims, but reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings on the fourth claim of unjust enrichment. After a period of mediation, the parties agreed to settle in March of 2016. Pauley granted preliminary approval to the settlement this April.
Notably, HarperCollins announced its acquisition of Harlequin in March of 2014, although liability for this suit remained with Harlequin’s previous ownership.