Instead of taking PG&E to court in full view of the public, Brockovich’s firm convinced the residents of Hinkley to settle through private arbitration, where everything would be secret and the lawyers were basically accountable to nobody. After settling on the $333 million, the money wasn’t given to the townspeople to pay for their medical bills until six months later. That’s how long Erin’s firm held onto the cash, giving the lawyers just enough time to have their way with each and every $100 bill.
When Hinkley’s residents contacted Erin about their concerns (“concerns” is a term that here means “money for our cancer bills”), they found that their one-time advocate was now unreachable. Once they finally received the money, they noticed that it was far less than they expected. That’s because the law firm, wanting more than the agreed-upon 40 percent of the settlement ($133 million), took an extra $10 million for “expenses.”
Then, in an act that would make Satan himself issue a public apology, Brockovich’s firm screwed the kids with cancer by taking a third of their settlements, even though it’s an extraordinarily unusual and universally frowned upon practice to take more than 25 percent. Hinkley’s residents also noticed that there was no rationale behind how much money each resident received, but the rules of private arbitration prevented them from finding out the formula used to determine the settlements.
In the meantime, Brockovich has used the movie’s portrayal of herself to launch successful careers as an environmental activist and motivational speaker, although we’re assuming she leaves the whole “ripping off cancer patients” thing out.