'Minneapolis Star Tribune' Settles Advertiser Lawsuit

Agrees To Pay $55,000 To Plaintiffs That Accused Paper of Inflating Circulation

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Score one for the publishers in the circulation wars. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has settled for $55,000 a lawsuit from several advertisers charging it inflated its circulation, and the attorney that represented the advertisers is saying additional suits may be coming.

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'Minneapolis Star-Tribune' Sued by Advertisers
Plaintiffs Allege Newspaper Overstated Paid Circulation

Denies wrongdoing
The settlement includes no acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the paper and the paper has vigorously denied wrongdoing.

An Audit Bureau of Circulations audit didn't find evidence of wrong circulation numbers at the paper. While The Star Tribune agreed to fork over some money, the settlement represents a win compared with the outcomes of other circulation battles. Newsday and Hoy, for instance, admitted that they inflated circulation, established a $90 million restitution program for tens of thousands of advertisers and saw several former employees arrested over the scandal.

The Star Tribune vigorously denied the suit's allegations and also said that its advertising rates aren't directly linked to circulation.

'Not signing off'
Joe Snodgrass, the Minneapolis attorney who represented Masterson Personnel and Alternative Staffing, the two remaining plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in June, said he is not disparaging the paper, but "I am not signing off on the conduct." He said he is in contact with other potential plaintiffs.

Masterson Personnel and Alternative Staffing, which agreed to settle for $15,000 in advertising credits and $40,000 in legal fees, had charged that both the Star Tribune and its parent, McClatchy Co., inflated circulation using a variety of schemes, including requiring distributors to deliver papers to residents and business who didn't buy the paper, requiring distributors to "dump" unsold papers and manipulating circulation. The suit charged the result was higher advertising rates. Two additional plaintiffs had dropped out of the suit.

'Nuisance settlement'
Star Tribune officials didn't immediately return calls for comment. However, in a statement included in a press release, Keith Moyer, president and publisher of the Star Tribune, said, "When the plaintiffs approached us to settle the suit, we felt an obligation to explore a way to end this matter that we have said from the outset had no merit. This nuisance settlement allows us all to move forward."

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