January 24, 2020
A recent Law 360 story by Mike LaSusa, “Home Depot Breach Class Attys Score $15.2M After Fee Fight,” reports that attorneys representing banks and other financial institutions that sued over Home Depot's 2014 data breach won a $15.2 million fee award after the Eleventh Circuit nixed an earlier award and asked the Georgia federal court that handled the case to take another look. U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. awarded the attorneys $14.5 million in fees and just over $730,000 in expenses, rejecting Home Depot’s contention that the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling limited the Georgia federal court’s latitude in deciding the fee issue.
The appeals court ruled in July that the lower court had erred in applying a multiplier of 1.3 to an $11.773 million lodestar, leading to a $15.3 million award. Home Depot said that decision triggered a clause in its settlement with the financial institutions under which Home Depot would only be responsible for the lower amount if the attorney fees were reduced on appeal. But Judge Thrash pointed out that the Eleventh Circuit left it up to him to determine the best way to decide the attorney fees.
“If the Eleventh Circuit had intended that this court simply enter an order awarding class counsel $11.773 million plus interest, as Home Depot contends, this court believes the appellate court would have said so explicitly,” the judge said. “The Eleventh Circuit did not reduce the amount of the award; rather, the appellate court reversed the award and remanded for reconsideration.”
Rather than use the lodestar method that had yielded the earlier fee award, Judge Thrash instead calculated the new award based on a percentage of the benefit to the class. Calculating the benefit to the class to be $42.5 million, the judge ruled that one-third of that amount would be appropriate, and added on interest as specified in the settlement agreement.
The attorneys asked for $18 million in late August, contending that their work had resulted in not only the $27.25 million settlement, but also pushed the retailer to offer some of the country's biggest banks $14.5 million to release their claims.