LOS ANGELES — Five years ago, California lawmakers debated a bill aimed at limiting the ability of consumers to win damages because of so-called unfair business practices and fraudulent advertising. Auto dealers across the state backed the measure, saying it would discourage frivolous lawsuits.
Peter Hoffman, president of Sierra Autocars Inc., a six-dealership group in suburban Los Angeles, offered more than rhetorical support. He personally negotiated with lawmakers on the bill. A lawyer himself, Hoffman argued, "How unproductive is it to have lawsuits brought by the lawyer for the lawyer?"
The bill died in the Legislature. But Hoffman then worked to place it before California voters as a ballot proposal. In 2004, voters approved the measure.
Today, Hoffman, 57, downplays his role in the ballot campaign, saying he was "part of a coalition." But Peter Welch, president of the California New Car Dealers Association, says Hoffman's advocacy was essential.
Hoffman was "tireless in time and energy," Welch says. "He went to numerous meetings to try to forge a compromise."
Colleagues cite Hoffman's training as a lawyer and an engineer as well as a dealer. That background, they say, makes him uniquely innovative in shaping public policy for the auto industry — on political, business and environmental issues.