Guin, Stokes & Evans, LLC
321 S. Plymouth Ct., Ste. 1250
Chicago, IL 60604
Chuck Watkins entered private practice in 1980 following a clerkship in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. He has represented plaintiffs (and defendants) in complex and class action lawsuits throughout the United States continuously since then. He is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court, six United States Courts of Appeals and many District Courts, and is a member of the Trial Bar of the Northern District of Illinois. In recent years, he has devoted much of his practice to representing participant plaintiffs in ERISA pension and benefits cases.
Mr. Watkins was co-lead counsel in In re Xerox Corporation ERISA Litigation, Civ. No. 3:02 cv 01138 (D. Conn.), a “company stock” case which settled in 2009 for $51 million after seven years of litigation. Almost a dozen other ERISA cases in which Mr. Watkins played a leadership role have resulted in recoveries of more than $100 million for tens of thousands of retirement and benefit plan participants. See Kiefer v. Ceridian Corp., 976 F. Supp. 829 (D. Minn. 1997) ($51 million settlement in an ERISA benefit error class action reached three weeks before trial); Carter v. Ret. Plan of Texaco, Inc., No. 99-0114 (S.D.N.Y.) ($10 million settlement of ERISA class action on behalf of 10,000 plan participants); Nelson v. Brinson Partners Inc., No. 03 C 6446, 2004 WL 178180 (N.D. Ill.) ($7 million settlement of claims involving retirement plan investment in Enron notes); Steiner v. Control Data Sys., Inc., No. 98-1489 (D. Minn.) (represented plaintiffs in a $4.25 million ERISA class action settlement affecting some 700 plan members); Babcock v. Computer Assocs. Int’l, No. 00-1648 (E.D.N.Y.) (represented 770 participants in employee stock ownership plan; case settled after eight years of litigation for more than $2 million in 2008); Shrader v. BP Corp., 02-8668 (N.D. Ill. 2002) ($2.3 million benefit error settlement); Scott v. Washington Nat’l Ins. Co., No. 96-3828 (N.D. Ill.) (Mr. Watkins was lead counsel in ERISA welfare benefits class action settled by employer’s agreement to provide back benefits and lifetime retiree health care); Watkins v. York International, No. 4:04-cv-40377 (E.D. Mich.) (under-seal settlement of benefits error class action); In re Household Int’l, Inc., ERISA Litig., No. 02-7921 (N.D. Ill.); (liaison counsel in case alleging plan fiduciaries engaged in imprudent investment of plan assets; settled for $45 million); In re Sears Retiree Group Life Ins. Litig., No. 97-7453 (N.D. Ill.) (Class action on behalf of 80,000 Sears retirees; settlement conferring between $30 million and $200 million in benefits). In his first major ERISA case, Mr. Watkins argued Gluck v. Unisys Corp., 960 F.2d 1168 (3d Cir. 1992), which resulted in reversal of the District Court’s dismissal and established a widely cited precedent on the statute of limitations under ERISA.
Mr. Watkins has also prosecuted a variety of other significant cases, including, most notably, securities class actions. In re Bank One Secs. Litig., No. 00 CV 00767 (N.D. Ill.), an action under Sections 11 and 12 of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 14 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, resulted in a settlement of $120 million for shareholders, at the time the second-largest securities settlement ever in the Seventh Circuit.
Mr. Watkins has played a leadership role in consumer class actions, including Foster v. ABTCo., Inc., No. 9 CV-95-151 M (Choctaw County, Ala.), where he is co-lead counsel in a nationwide class action settlement involving allegedly defective hardboard siding. To date, class member homeowners from all fifty states have received benefits under the settlement totaling more than $50 million.
Mr. Watkins has represented plaintiffs in false claim or qui tam suits, including U.S. ex rel. Reppine v. University of Chicago, 96-8273 (N.D. Ill.) ($10 million settlement involving hospital “upcoding” and alleged overbilling of Medicaid), as well as antitrust matters. See Alexander v. Phoenix Bond & Indem. Co., 149 F. Supp. 2d 989, 1010 (N.D. Ill. 2001) (real estate tax auction price fixing case under Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act on behalf of 28,000 Cook County property owners settled in 2002 for approximately $2 million). Mr. Watkins’ practice has included many corporate governance and breach of corporate fiduciary duty cases, including O’Malley v. Boris, 742 A.2d 845 (Del. Supr. 1999) (Class action involving breach of investment broker’s fiduciary duties to 269,000 clients. Case settled on day of trial following Delaware Supreme Court’s reversal of Chancery Court’s dismissal of suit.) See 2002 WL 453928 (Del. Ch.) (Granting summary judgment); 2001 WL 50204 (Del. Ch.) (granting class certification), and Mayfield v. WWC License Holding, No. 18743 (Del. Ch. 2002); Mayfield v. Western Wireless Corp., No. 18717 (Del. Ch. 2002) (class actions on behalf of shareholders of cellular telephone license holders alleging unfair squeeze-out mergers; cases settled for $2 million), Ravenswood v. Peerless Weighing & Vending Mach. Co., No. 95-5885 (Cir. Ct. Cook County, Ch. Div.) (lead counsel in novel class and derivative settlement totaling $3 million) and Malone v. Brincat, 722 A.2d 5 (Del. Supr. 1998) (resulted in landmark decision allowing non-purchaser stockholders of Mercury Finance Company to bring action for breach of fiduciary duty of disclosure; $12 million partial settlement achieved in related bankruptcy proceedings).
Other cases in which Mr. Watkins has played a substantial role include: Harris v. R.B. Asset Inc., Index No. 02/602944 (N.Y. Super. Ct.) (Lead Counsel in class action over payment of liquidation dividend; recovery of $3.5 million); In re Nat’l Auto Credit Inc. Sec. Litig., 98-0264 (N.D. Ohio) (Executive Committee member in $6 million settlement of class action securities claims); In re W.R. Grace Sec. Litig., No. 95-9003 (S.D.N.Y.) ($28 million settlement of securities class action); In re Phar-Mor, Inc., Sec. Litig., No. MDL 959 (W.D. Pa.) (Represented institutional investors in multi-district case involving federal and state claims arising out of massive accounting fraud; settlement under seal); In re NationsMart Corp. Sec. Litig., No. 94-2182 (E.D. Mo.) (Co-Lead counsel in securities class action settled for $2.4 million); Peregrine Options, Inc. v. Farley, Inc., No. 90-0285 (N.D. Ill. 1995) (securities class action settled for $10 million); In re Gould Inc. Secs. Litig., No. 86-3598 (N.D. Ill.) ($10,300,000 recovery); In re Int’l Tech. Secs. Litig. (C.D. Cal.) ($12 million settlement); In re Flight Transp. Secs. Litig., MDL 517 (D. Minn.) (Recovery of approximately $55 million); In re GM THM 200 Transmission Litig., No. 80-215 (N.D. Ill.) (Recovery of approximately $20 million for nearly four million car owners).
Mr. Watkins writes and speaks on issues related to class actions in general and securities and ERISA class actions in particular and has often been quoted in publications such as The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of the Illinois Institute of Continuing Education chapter on Settlement and Discretionary Notices Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)-23(e) (2010) and spoke on the effects of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 at the Chicago Bar Association Securities Law Institute (2004 and 2005). In December 2008, Mr. Watkins presented a Continuing Legal Education course to the Chicago Bar Association’s Class Action Committee entitled “ERISA Class Action Litigation: Perspectives and Developments,” focusing on fee litigation issues. He served on the editorial board of Class Action Reports for many years.
Class Action Litigation
Pension and Benefits Litigation (ERISA)
B.A., High Honors, Michigan State University, 1975
J.D., cum laude, University of Michigan Law School, 1978
Shareholder, Futterman Howard Watkins Wylie & Ashley, Chtd.
Partner, Susman & Watkins and before that Susman, Watkins & Wylie
Equity Shareholder, Sachnoff & Weaver, Ltd., now Reed Smith LLP
Law Clerk, Honorable John Feikens, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan