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Kaye Scholer Helps Secure Settlement in Indian Worker Labor Trafficking Case

July 21, 2015

As part of its historic collaboration with nearly a dozen of the nation’s top law firms and civil rights organizations, Kaye Scholer has helped secure a settlement with Signal International Inc. in one of the largest series of labor trafficking cases in US history. The July 12 settlement, which is valued at more than $20 million and includes an apology from Signal, was achieved as part of Signal’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing.

The labor trafficking litigation, first filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 2008, involved a number of lawsuits representing more than 200 Indian guest workers, who were defrauded and exploited in a labor trafficking scheme engaged in by Signal International, a Gulf Coast marine services company. In cooperation with an immigration lawyer and an Indian labor recruiter, Signal lured hundreds of workers to Mississippi and Texas shipyards with false promises of permanent US residency.

The lawsuits were filed after a judge did not grant class action status, which would have allowed the suit to benefit most of Signal’s guest workers. The SPLC coordinated an unprecedented legal collaboration that brought together nearly a dozen of the nation’s top law firms and civil rights organizations to represent, on a pro bono basis, hundreds of workers excluded from the original SPLC suit by the denial of class action status. 

In August 2014, Kaye Scholer attorneys, along with the SPLC as co-counsel, filed a complaint against Signal and several other defendants in the Eastern District of Louisiana, becoming the eleventh action filed against Signal. Kaye Scholer represents 30 individuals who had been human trafficked and worked at Signal’s facilities in Pascagoula, Mississippi and Orange, Texas. Along with human trafficking claims, Kaye Scholer alleged RICO violations, fraud and breach of contract, and successfully represented the clients in association with Signal’s bankruptcy filing.  

New York-based Litigation Associate Mike Bullerman led the pro bono  team, which also included Associates Tricia Beckles, Yonina Rosenbaum and Tom Szivos; Special Counsel Michael Blechman, Jane Parver and Randy Sherman; and Business Reorganization Partner Benjamin Mintz.

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