Cry Me A River: On MSNBC, Dominion Lawyer Claims $788 Million Settlement 'Bittersweet!'

April 24th, 2023 8:23 AM

Katie Phang Stephen Shackelford MSNBC The Katie Phang Show 4-22-23 Cry me a river—788 million miles long!

On Katie Phang's Saturday show on MSNBC, Stephen Shackelford, a lead lawyer for Dominion Voting Systems, echoed the claim by the company's CEO that the settlement payment of $787.5 million from Fox News was "bittersweet."

In a New York Times op-ed, the CEO, John Poulos, in addition to calling the settlement "bittersweet," actually wrote: 

"If we could, we would trade it all in a heartbeat to go back in time to get our reputation back. "

Riight. The entire company was most recently valued at $226 million. The $778 million settlement thus represents more than three times that valuation!  And as for CEO Poulos wanting to get Dominion's reputation back, the company got untold millions in free publicity supporting its reputation. This will turn out to be a windfall for Dominion that goes beyond the huge settlement.

Moreover, the majority owner of Dominion is Staple Street, a private equity firm. They're in the business of making money, not of serving as social-justice warriors. Odds they would have traded $788 million for a more profound apology from Fox News? Precisely zero.

Shackelford added to the farce by saying that the $788 million settlement represented "some measure of compensation" for Dominion. Some?

And then there's the "measure of compensation" for Shackelford and the other Dominion trial lawyers on the case. According to this Bloomberg article, "Fox Settlement Deal Is Big Win for Dominion’s Trial Lawyers," although the precise terms of their compensation have not been disclosed, it was speculated that the lawyers were paid on a mixed-fee basis, a combination of a contingency fee along with an hourly rate. As the article mentioned, "contingency fees can reach one-third or more of a judgment or settlement."  

It's fair to assume that the lawyers will receive tens of millions in compensation. Hopefully, that will be sufficient to assauge poor Shackelford's "bittersweet" feelings. 

On Katie Phang's MSNBC show, Dominion lawyer Stephen Shackelford claiming the record-setting $787.5 million settlement from Fox News was "definitely bittersweet" for him was sponsored in part by Flonase, Dr. Scholl's, and Verizon

Here's the transcript.

The Katie Phang Show
8:28 am EDT

KATIE PHANG: Joining me now for more is Steven Shackleford, one of the lead attorneys for Dominion. Steven, I just saw you a couple of days ago in Wilmington. I do want to say congratulations again on the outcome.

But look, for a few days out now from the settlements. And there has been criticism over not going forward with the trial to verdict. Some outlets calling it a split decision, a win for Rupert Murdoch, one headline saying Fox News lost the lawsuits, but won the war.

But let's be clear, I'm a former trial lawyer as well. You were in the trenches for this legal battle from the very beginning. So, what's your response to those critics?

STEPHEN SHACKELFORD: Look, I understand people's disappointment that we didn'have a trial, that we were all preparing to go through. But I think, what I hope people understand, and when they sit back and think about this is, Dominion and Dominion's owners, including John Poulos and Staple Street --they wanted accountability and they wanted justice for the company. And they didn't settle this case last year.That was very important to them. They weren't ready to settle this case last year.

What they wanted was to get the truth out.  

. . . 

We were not intending, I was not intending, to settle this case on the eve of trial. I intended to do my opening statement that day, and to move forward. But both goals, Dominion accomplished both goals. They got accountability through the, through getting those documents out into public record. And they got justice and some measure of compensation for the company in the largest known defamation settlement in American history

PHANG: And I can vouch, Stephen. You were wired up and ready to go. You were miked up, and you were about to do the opening statements.

But let's stick, for one more question, about this issue o fthe settlement. We don't have an on-air apology from Fox News for its dissemination and endorsement of these false election claims. But the network did issue a written statement that read, in part, "We acknowledge the court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false." This next sentence drives me nut: "The settlement reflects Fox's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards."

Putting aside that second sentence, though, Stephen. To your point, strategically, Dominion didn't settle before those documents. That, that evidence that was released for public consumption, until we got that order on those motions for summary judgment, clearly stating, or Judge Davis said, it's crystal clear that what was said about Dominion was false.

Does the fact that that written statement from Fox, combined with that $787.5 million-dollar settlement, achieve the accountability your client was seeking? I know the CEO of Dominion wrote an op-ed for the New York Times saying it's still kind of bittersweet for him.

SHACKELFORD: It's definitely bittersweet. It accomplished the goal, Katie. When we talk about an apology, getting an apology for a settlement. You know this, having been a trial lawyer. An apology forced to a settlement is hollow. It's, it's pretty meaningless. So that was not, at least in my view, an important part of this.