The infamous bar review company, Barbri, has gotten itself in trouble out in California. People in California could actually get a refund from Barbri for Barbri’s alleged monopoly of the bar review market (or, at least, to the extent that it allegedly made a deal with Kaplan, that other test prep organization, to squeeze anyone else from entering the test prep industry – as if Kaplan’s this poor helpless organization):

Central District of California complaint states that the alleged agreement between Kaplan and BAR/BRI amounts to a per se unlawful market division to preserve BAR/BRI’s alleged monopoly on full-service bar review courses. The named plaintiffs, Ryan Rodriguez and Reena B. Frailich, are both Los Angeles lawyers. The lawsuit claims BAR/BRI students were overcharged about $300 million since August 1997, and seeks treble damages. Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corp., No. CV 053222R (NCx).

After Kaplan withdrew the offer to purchase West Bar Review, West Publishing sold West Bar’s assets to BAR/BRI. Then BAR/BRI was able to raise the price of its courses substantially, according to the complaint. In 2001, West Publishing re-entered the bar review business by purchasing BAR/BRI.

A spokesperson for West Publishing says the case is without merit, and the communications director of Kaplan Inc. made a similar statement.

Information for the complaint came from people then associated with both companies, says the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Eliot G. Disner.

“There are a lot of eyes and ears in the bar-review business—spurned suitors, former employees, competitors,” says Disner, who practices in Santa Monica, Calif. “I’m not going to say who told me everything, but it’s fair to say it’s a combination of people who put this together.”

If the case is successful, Disner estimates plaintiffs will receive approximately $1,000 apiece, depending on how much they paid for the BAR/BRI course.

“My goal is to get the [BAR/BRI] company broken up,” Disner says. “Over the years, there’s been a number of people interested in the bar business—it’s very lucrative—but BAR/BRI has done a very good job at keeping them out, I think illegally at some times.”

The lawsuit marks the second time Disner has filed a case against BAR/BRI. Previously he represented Bar Passers, a California business that was ultimately acquired by West.

“A pattern, on BAR/BRI’s part, is doing whatever it takes to keep control of the bar review market,” he says.

Others aren’t so sure.

“The sort of thing alleged here is textbook per se illegal stuff,” says J. Manly Parks, a Philadelphia antitrust lawyer. Plaintiffs’ witnesses, he adds, may have some baggage, but he doesn’t see that as a hurdle.

“If they’ve got a witness saying there was such an agreement, and the other side says, ‘No, there wasn’t,’ if that’s the key issue in the case, it’s going to trial.”

The government or competitors, not consumers, usually challenge such mergers, says Washington, D.C., lawyer Joel A. Christie.

“They’re basically asking for the court to order the creation of a separate and independent competitor, and I would characterize that as a very big stretch,” says Christie, who previously worked in the Justice Department’s antitrust division.


Today’s “Doonesbury” – May 16, 2005 – slight error by Garry Trudeau!
The character B.D., the veteran of the War in Iraq and who lost his leg, tells his daughter that he has to return to the hospital to check out his new prosthetic leg.

“You’re going back to the hospital again, Daddy?”
“Last time. At least, I hope so, Alex,” says B.D.

Umm, B.D. – I could have sworn that your daughter’s Sam (as in Samantha). 😉 “Alex” is the name of Mike Doonesbury’s daughter and she’s currently being recruited by the US Army for the war (much against Doonesbury’s stern objections).

Ah, that Trudeau. He’s quite a prolific cartoonist – years and years of “Doonesbury”‘s – and he forgets a character’s name… oops… 😉 Well, lots of characters, so it’s hard to keep track. Plus, it can get confusing, as B.D. and Mike both have daughters. But, really, Trudeau. Did the office intern/penciller mess it up this time? We Doonesbury readers deserve an apology! (tee-hee). Nah. Catching such a mistake was a laugh.

NBC previews next season – “Scrubs” is put off until mid-season?! Jerks!

Until tomorrow…

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