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Category: Bankruptcy Fees / Expenses

NALFA Announces The Nation’s Top Attorney Fee Experts of 2019

August 20, 2019

NALFA, a non-profit group, has a network of attorney fee expertise. Our network includes members, faculty, and fellows with expertise on the reasonableness of attorney fees.  We help organize and recognize qualified attorney fee experts from across the U.S. and around the globe.  Our attorney fee experts include court adjuncts such as bankruptcy fee examiners, special fee masters, and fee dispute neutrals.

Every year, we announce the nation's top attorney fee experts.  Attorney fee experts are retained by fee-seeking or fee-challenging parties in litigation to independently prove reasonable attorney fees and expenses.  The following NALFA profile quotes are based on bio, CV, case summaries and case materials submitted and verified by us.  Here are the nation's top attorney fee experts of 2019:

"The Nation's Top Attorney Fee Expert"
John D. O'Connor
O'Connor & Associates
San Francisco, CA
"Over 30 Years of Legal Fee Audit Expertise"
Andre E. Jardini
KPC Legal Audit Services, Inc.
Glendale, CA
"Outstanding Skills Assessing Reasonable Attorney Fees in Class Actions"
Stephen J. Herman
Herman Herman & Katz LLC
New Orleans, LA

"The Nation's Top Bankruptcy Fee Examiner"
Robert M. Fishman
Fox Rothschild LLP
Chicago, IL

"Widely Respected as an Attorney Fee Expert"
Elise S. Frejka
Frejka PLLC
New York, NY
"Experienced on Analyzing Fees, Billing Entries for Fee Awards"
Robert L. Kaufman
Woodruff Spradlin & Smart
Costa Mesa, CA

"Highly Skilled on a Range of Fee and Billing Issues"
Daniel M. White
White Amundson APC
San Diego, CA
"Strong on Fee and Billing Issues in Mass Torts"
Craig W. Smith
Robbins Arroyo LLP
San Diego, CA
"Highly Experienced in Dealing with Fee Issues Arising in Complex Litigation"
Marc M. Seltzer
Susman Godfrey LLP
Los Angeles, CA

"Total Mastery in Resolving Complex Attorney Fee Disputes"
Peter K. Rosen
Los Angeles, CA
"Understands Fees, Funding, and Billing Issues in Cross Borders Matters"
Glenn Newberry
Eversheds Sutherland
London, UK
"Solid Expertise with Fee and Billing Matters in Complex Litigation"
Bruce C. Fox
Obermayer Rebmann LLP
Pittsburgh, PA
"Excellent on Attorney Fee Issues in Florida"
Debra L. Feit
Stratford Law Group LLC
Fort Lauderdale, FL
"Nation's Top Scholar on Attorney Fees in Class Actions"
Brian T. Fitzpatrick
Vanderbilt Law School
Nashville, TN
"Great Leader in Analyzing Legal Bills for Insurers"
Richard Zujac
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Philadelphia, PA

Kirkland Secures $56M in Fees in Toys R Us Bankruptcy

June 10, 2019

A recent the American Lawyer story by Samantha Stokes, “Kirkland Secures $56M in Fees in Toys R Us Bankruptcy,” reports that more than 100 Kirkland & Ellis partners, and about 240 firm lawyers overall, billed time in the Toys R Us bankruptcy proceedings, netting the law firm more than $50 million.  A judge approved $56.2 million in fees requested by Kirkland, according to an order filed in the Eastern District of Virginia. Kirkland billed for 57,237.30 hours of work as debtor’s counsel over nearly a year and a half in the toy retailer’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy in September 2017, marking the latest in a string of brick-and-mortar retail failures in the online shopping era.  The company retained Kirkland to restructure its nearly $5 billion in debt, as previously reported by The American Lawyer.  Kutak Rock, Goodmans and Munger, Tolles & Olson landed roles in the case.  In all, 105 partners, 131 associates and two of counsel from Kirkland billed time on the case between the September 2017 bankruptcy filing and Dec. 17, 2018.  Its partner billing rates for the work ranged from $565 an hour to $1,795, according to the firm’s final fee application.

Seven partners and five associates billed more than $1 million each, and two partners in the restructuring department—Emily Elizabeth Geier and Josh Sussberg—each billed for more than $3 million.  Of everyone working on the case, Geier billed the most hours—3,194—and ran up the highest fees—$3,302,795.  She also put in nearly 135 hours working on the case as an associate, billing an additional $135,000.

Despite Kirkland’s hefty fee award, the firm’s final tally came in far below the $79 million to $88 million it said it budgeted for the matter, according to court documents.  Kutak Rock was also granted its fee application for its role working as local counsel with Kirkland, to the tune of $1.4 million.

Professional Fees in Puerto Rico Bankruptcy Pass $400M

June 5, 2019

A recent Bloomberg Law story by Daniel Gill, “Professional Fees in Puerto Rico Restructuring Pass $400 Million,” reports that attorneys and financial advisers employed in Puerto Rico’s epic bankruptcy-like restructuring have billed more than $400 million in less than two years since the proceedings began, according to a court-appointed fee examiner.  More than 50 firms have sought compensation in the case, Brady C. Williamson, the fee examiner appointed to review and make recommendations regarding professionals’ applications for compensation, said in his report June 5.

Proskauer Rose LLP, which represents the federal board created to oversee the restructuring, the Financial Oversight and Management Board, submitted a bill totaling about $20 million for services rendered from June 1, 2018 through Jan. 31.  For the same time period, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, counsel for the AAFAF, a Spanish acronym for Puerto Rico’s fiscal authority, is charging about $17 million.  Paul Hastings LLP, counsel for the unsecured creditors committee, seeks $3.6 million.  Other firms with a bill exceeding $1 million include Greenberg Traurig LLP, Brown Rudnick LLP, and Jenner & Block LLP.

The fee applications, which are public documents, don’t face any objections, Williamson said.  He recommended that some of the bills from Oct. 1, 2018 to Jan. 31 be approved.  He asked the court to defer ruling on other bills until a hearing on July 24.

Professional fees will likely continue to rise due to increased litigation and contested settlements, Williamson said.  The oversight board recently filed more than 200 lawsuits, and a proposed settlement of Puerto Rico’s electric utility PREPA’s debts is being contested.  Williamson said he “remains concerned about the potential for inefficiency and duplication of efforts in the management” of lawsuits, noting the many firms pursuing claims.

US Trustee: You Can’t Seal Attorney Fees in Chapter 11

April 24, 2019

A recent Law.com by Rose Krebs, “US Trustee Says White Eagle Can’t Keep Fee Bids Sealed,” reports that the Office of the U.S. Trustee told the Delaware bankruptcy court that insurance policy investor White Eagle Asset Portfolio LP should not be allowed to file under seal the fees to be paid to a special litigator the company wants to retain in its Chapter 11 to handle some insurance disputes.  The trustee asserts White Eagle has failed to show that information relating to compensation to proposed special counsel Reed Smith LLP is “protected as confidential commercial information” under bankruptcy code and should not be made public so that "creditors and other parties of interest" can review the fees.

“If such relief is granted, it would effectively mean that almost any objection a creditor or other party in interest may have to Reed Smith’s compensation would have to be made now, as an objection to the retention application, rather than upon review of Reed Smith’s fee applications,” the objection said.  And objecting to the fees is not possible now because the fees are unknown since they were filed under seal, the trustee asserted.  “Retention applications of all kinds, with all sorts of financial arrangements, are routinely filed in bankruptcy cases without any portion of them being sealed.  There is no reason to make an exception in this instance,” the objection said.

Last month, in a motion that was redacted in parts, White Eagle said it wanted to hire Reed Smith as special litigation counsel as the firm represents White Eagle’s nondebtor parent Emergent Capital Inc. in some insurance disputes and “may represent the debtors to the extent they have any claims.”  Compensation information was redacted in the motion, and White Eagle filed a separate motion asking the court to keep under seal terms of Reed Smith’s proposed deal claiming they include “sensitive commercial information” that is protected from having to be released per bankruptcy code.

“In light of the contentious nature of the litigation disputes the firm is handling, it is of critical importance to the debtors that the details of the fee structures set forth in the application be kept confidential so that other parties in the litigation disputes may not use the information contained therein to gain a strategic advantage over the debtors and other parties,” White Eagle asserted.

The trustee countered that White Eagle has not shown that the information should remain under seal.  The trustee cited case law findings that during Chapter 11 proceedings “a debtor’s affairs are an open book and the debtor operates in a fishbowl.”  In an objection filed last month, White Eagle’s lender LNV Corp. and its agent CLMG Corp. argued the proposal to hire Reed Smith as special counsel is an attempt by nondebtor parent Emergent to “transfer obligations from itself to the debtors without any commensurate benefit to the debtors’ estates.”

The case is In re: White Eagle Asset Portfolio LP, case number 1:18-bk-12808, in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

PG&E Legal Bills Already Top $84M in Chapter 11 Case

April 2, 2019

A recent The Recorder story by Xiumei Dong, “PG&E Legal Bills Already Top $84M for Chapter 11 Case,” reports that four outside law firms have billed Pacific Gas and Electric Co. at least $84 million for legal services related to the company’s January bankruptcy filing.  The utility company disclosed its legal spend in a series of court filings last month, as it sought approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali to continue employing the law firms.  PG&E is seeking to retain Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Jenner & Block; and Keller & Benvenutti as its legal advisers for the Chapter 11 proceedings.

PG&E listed more than $50 billion in estimated liabilities when it filed for Chapter 11 protection.  According to the court docket, Montali is scheduled to consider PG&E and the firms’ motions at a hearing April 9.  The utility giant said it has paid Cravath, which is PG&E’s lead coordinating counsel in wildfire-related matters, roughly $75.7 million leading up to the bankruptcy filing.  According to court papers, PG&E’s payments to Cravath included a $10 million retainer from which the firm had drawn only about $3 million.

The firm intends to apply the rest of the retainer to any outstanding amounts for PG&E-related costs that it did not bill for before the filing, or as credit toward any services arising after the filing, the filing said.  In addition to representing PG&E in Chapter 11 proceedings, Cravath has advised the utility for over a year on corporate governance, strategic transaction and financing matters, court documents said.

Last year, PG&E hired a team from Cravath, including chairman Evan Chesler and litigation partners Timothy Cameron, Kevin Orsini and Damaris Hernández, as defense counsel in 200-plus suits stemming from fires in Northern California.  The company also turned to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to handle those cases.

Cravath worked closely with Weil on PG&E restructuring alternatives, but Weil billed far less.  According to another court filing, Weil received over $4.7 million from PG&E in the 90 days leading up to the company’s bankruptcy filing, and also has a remaining balance of $1.5 million on a fee advance from PG&E, which the firm said it will use to pay for the outstanding amounts that it did not bill for before the filing.

PG&E has hired Chicago-based Jenner & Block as special corporate defense counsel for state and federal regulatory matters during the Chapter 11 proceedings.  Jenner & Block is also handling a criminal case involving PG&E, connected to a natural gas explosion that occurred in the city of San Bruno, California, in September 2010.  According to the court filing, PG&E has paid the firm $3.57 million during the year leading up to the Chapter 11 filing.

San Francisco based Keller & Benvenutti is also representing PG&E in bankruptcy court.  Since May 2018, the firm has advised PG&E on legal and financial matters regarding potential liabilities resulting from 2017 and 2018 Northern California wildfires.  Court papers said the firm has received $383,635 in the 90 days before the Chapter 11 filing.

In separate court documents supporting PG&E’s motion, the court papers also revealed the hourly rate of the four firms.  Cravath attorneys are charging at rates of $415 to $1,500 per hour, while Weil attorneys charge $560 to $1,600 per hour.  Jenner & Block attorneys charge PG&E at hourly rates ranging from $400 to $982 and Keller & Benvenutti attorneys are charging at $400 to $800 per hour.