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Law Firms Awarded $10M in Fees After More Detailed Billing Entries

November 21, 2019 | Posted in : Billing Record / Entries, Expenses / Costs, Fee Award, Fee Request, Hourly Rates / Hourly Billing

A recent Law 360 story by Hannah Albarazi, “Hagens Berman, Cohen Milstein Get $10M Fees on 2nd Try,” reports that a California federal judge approved $10 million in attorney fees sought by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC for securing a $50 million settlement over electronics industry price-fixing, saying they'd resolved concerns about "insufficient" billing explanations he'd raised earlier.  "Round two," U.S. District Judge James Donato said at the beginning of the hearing, referring to his fiery September order in which he ripped into the plaintiffs' attorneys, saying that no paying client would stand for their failure to explain their billing in a $10 million fee bid.

Compare with the first round, the second round went much more smoothly for counsel representing the direct purchasers.  Judge Donato said they had fixed the issues with their previous bid, which he had described as "a disservice to the class and the court."  Judge Donato granted final approval of the $50 million deal, the $10 million in attorney fees as well as $1.8 million in expenses, settling direct purchasers' allegations that Panasonic and three other electronics companies colluded for over a decade to artificially inflate prices of linear resistors.

In his September order, Judge Donato wrote that the firms' billing charts provided only an attorney's name and an associated billing amount, leaving out any explanation on how the billed time helped the proposed class members.  "The court will not award millions of dollars based on counsel's and the named plaintiff's say-so, especially when that money will be taken directly out of the hands of class members," Judge Donato said in September.  Judge Donato also tore into a proposed order submitted by the firms, in which they described their results as "exceptional."  The judge called the proposed order's "self-congratulatory" language "unwarranted and unhelpful."

"Statements like these are better suited for firm marketing materials than they are for orders proposed for the court's issuance," he said.  The firms initially requested a $25,000 bonus for the sole named plaintiff, Schuten Electronics, but Judge Donato blasted the bonus in September, saying it "equates to an eye-watering hourly rate of $455 for Schuten, which vastly exceeds anything the court has ever been asked to consider for a named plaintiff."