*Earlier today Last Friday, October 8, a group of plaintiffs led by Henry Gifford filed a class action lawsuit against USGBC in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suit alleges violations of the Sherman and Lanham Acts for “deceiving users” of the LEED system about “whether LEED buildings use less energy than conventionally-built buildings.” We will have much more to say about the suit here at GRELJ as further details emerge, but in the interim here’s a copy of the complaint. The Southern District’s docket numer is 1:10 CV-7747.
Some reactions are already beginning to trickle in:
- Henry Gifford Sues USGBC (Real Life Leed)
- Is Henry Gifford Rosa Parks? (Green Building Law Blog)
- USGBC, LEED Targeted by Class Action Suit (Building Green.com, with quotes from Gifford and USGBC)
- $100 Million Class Action Filed Against LEED & USGBC (Treehugger; Lloyd Alter writes that Gifford “is hurting himself and green building in general. I think he’s nuts.”)
From Tristan Robert’s piece at Building Green.com:
Asked by EBN why he was motivated to go to court, Gifford said, “I’m afraid that in a few years somebody really evil will publicize the fact that green buildings don’t save energy and argue that the only solution [to resource constraints] is more guns to shoot at the people who have oil underneath their sand.” In other words, he says he’s hoping to make the green building movement more honest so that it’s not embarrassed down the road.
USGBC told EBN that it was reviewing the litigation and would respond in due course. In addition to USGBC, other named defendants are David Gottfried, a USGBC founder; Rob Watson, who helped start LEED in the 1990s while working for the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Rick Fedrizzi, a co-founder and currently CEO. Responding to EBN’s request for comment, Watson said, “I can’t comment on ongoing litigation except to say that USGBC is examining the complaint. USGBC has confidence in LEED and in our role in stimulating positive market change.”
Michael Italiano, the only key USGBC founder not named as a defendant, told EBN that while he hadn’t reviewed the case, “To me it sounds frivolous and it doesn’t have much chance.” He noted, “LEED doesn’t guarantee anything, and I think LEED gives people the tools to understand that.” Owners who want to verify performance can enroll in LEED for Existing Buildings, monitor their energy bills, and take other actions, he noted. A lawyer and currently CEO of Market Transformation to Sustainability, a nonprofit behind green standards, Italiano said that lawsuits targeting standards that have allegedly constrained trade typically focus on lack of a bona fide consensus process of standard-setting. In the case of LEED, he said, a broad array of stakeholders has been involved in writing and reviewing LEED standards.
*Updated Thursday, October 14