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Doctored e-mails and memos may turn the tide in sweeping class-action suit

A Minneapolis lawyer has admitted that he altered e-mails and a memo while representing Best Buy in a pending class action suit.

The Minnesota-based electronics retailer stands accused of enrolling at least 100,000 consumers in MSN's Internet access service, in many cases without the subscriber's knowledge.

The 2003 lawsuit charges that both Best Buy and Microsoft perpetrated a scam beginning in 1999 by fraudulently converting customers from free trial accounts to costly MSN subscriptions, without getting the customers' consent.

The complaint states that free trial CDs were included with PCs sold at the retailer. The MSN CDs were scanned at the time of sale, purportedly for "inventory" purposes. However, the companies allegedly conspired to attach the consumers' credit card information to the free accounts, allowing MSN to begin charging consumers as soon as their trial periods expired.

The Associated Press now reports that one of the lawyers representing Best Buy in the multimillion-dollar lawsuit -- Timothy block of the prominent Minneapolis firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi -- falsified documents in the case, though his motives are still unclear. The law firm, which includes Best Buy board member Elliott Kaplan as one of its senior partners, has filed a motion to withdraw from the case. A hearing on the matter has been set for June 22.

Block's attorney said the lawyer is on medical leave while he seeks treatment for stress and depression.





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