"Hey, Sharon, want to file a lawsuit against Facebook?"
We imagine that a conversation that included that line might have taken place last week between former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods and his executive assistant, Sharon Beatty.
Beatty, we've come to find out, is the Scottsdale woman acting as a plaintiff in one of several federal complaints filed this week against Facebook. And Woods, her boss, is her attorney in the case.
The complaints allege that Facebook owes users money after sneakily obtaining Web browsing histories while users were logged off the social media site. Facebook claims the data collection was a glitch.
Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes writes to New Times today, "We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously."
Sleazy and cheesy are the first two words that came to mind after we confirmed this one. A man who answered the phone at Woods' law firm this morning told us that, yes, Beatty is Woods secretary, and, yes, she's the client in the Facebook lawsuit.
Now, we have no idea if Woods solicited his secretary for this job. If he did, and did it to make money, he could arguably have been in violation of an ethical rule that prevents lawyers from doing things like that. (See Ethical Rule 7.3 on the State Bar's website).
Woods wants a judge to deem this a class-action suit, with 150 million Facebook users as plaintiffs. Assuming this and similar lawsuits move forward all the way to settlement, it's unlikely that each offended Facebook user would get more than a few bucks each.
The lawyers in the cases, however, might stand to gain tens of thousands of bucks each in a settlement. Would Beatty get a cut of that? If so, that would be another likely ethical violation: Lawyers aren't allowed to share their fees with clients.
Now, we're not sure of any possible ethical violations if Beatty simply said, "You know, Grant, I'm mighty ticked off at Facebook over this cookie thing, and you're a lawyer -- want to help me sue?" Then, again, our suspicious mind still would wonder if any under-the-table deal has been made.
We left a message for Woods last week, on the day we published the post about his Facebook lawsuit. He didn't return the call. Today, we sent him an e-mail to ask about Beatty.
Beatty replied by e-mail that Woods is on a plane to Chicago today and can't be reached. We replied to her, asking if she made any deals with Woods on the Facebook site. No reply from her yet.
It appears the allegations against Facebook have sparked a veritable feeding frenzy on the part of lawyers nationwide.
The plaintiff in the same type of case in Kansas is a lawyer. Same goes for another Facebook-cookie lawsuit filed this week in Alabama.
In Louisiana, former state Attorney General Richard leyoub filed a similar Facebook lawsuit on behalf of client Janet Seamon. When we called his law firm, he was out -- so we asked if Seamon was there.
"No," said a secretary.
"Does she work there?" we pressed.
"No comment," the woman said, chuckling.
In full wise-acre mode, we called a few minutes later and asked if we could speak to Seamon.
"No," said a different receptionist.
"How about her voice-mail?"
"Is she in now?"
"I'm not going to answer any more questions," the woman said.
Sounds like Woods and Beatty are in good company.