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Yahoo Class Counsel Seek $30M in Fees in Data Breach Case

February 6, 2020 | Posted in : Class Action / MDL, Contingency Fees / POF, Expenses / Costs, Fee Award Factors, Fee Request

A recent Law 360 story by Allison Grande, “Yahoo Breach Class Attys Seek Final Deal Nod, $30M in Fees,” reports that class counsel who secured a $117.5 million deal to resolve sprawling litigation over multiple data breaches at Yahoo are asking U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh for her final stamp of approval and to award them $30 million in fees, according to new documents filed in California federal court.

The requests came as part of a flurry of motions filed in support of the deal, which if approved would end multidistrict litigation in California federal court and parallel state court proceedings over Yahoo's alleged data security failings between 2012 and 2016.  During those four years, the company had annual attacks that potentially impacted millions of U.S. and Israeli account holders, exposing some of their logins, passwords, emails, dates of birth, and answers to security questions to hackers, according to the users.

Judge Koh preliminarily signed off on the proposed deal in July, after rejecting a previous version of the settlement for being too vague and inadequately describing the breaches at issue.  Counsel for the account holders continued to tout the strength of the deal — which they said "provides the second largest common fund recovery ever obtained in a data breach case" — in asking the judge for her final sign-off.

"This Settlement provides a fair and just mechanism for relief to the Class.  It is certain and provides long overdue monetary and non-monetary compensation," plaintiffs' counsel wrote, adding that it "compares favorably in nearly every pertinent way" to the $115 million deal that Judge Koh approved in 2018 to resolve similar claims over a massive data breach at health insurer Anthem.

The deal under consideration in the Yahoo case would provide all of the projected 194 million class members with either two years of comprehensive credit monitoring or alternative compensation of an estimated $100 for those that already have credit monitoring; would allow class members with out-of-pocket costs such as fraud losses to claim compensation; and would permit small businesses and other users that paid for ad-free or premium email services to recoup up to 25% of their expenditure.

This relief should be deemed "reasonable and adequate, particularly in light of the risks and delay trial and associated appeals would wreak," according to class counsel.  "At bottom, Plaintiffs built a strong case for liability, but the real issue, the real risk in the case, was the viability of Plaintiffs’ damages models and concomitant ability to certify a damages class using them," the attorneys wrote.  The settlement class counsel also asked Judge Koh to award them $30 million, or 25.5% of the total $117.5 million cash fund they had achieved, "in compensation for their efforts."

They argued that the plaintiffs' attorneys who worked on both the federal and parallel state court litigation "worked diligently" in prosecuting and settling the case.  This work included defending against two rounds of dismissal motions, reviewing over 9 million pages of documents, defending nine named plaintiff depositions, filing a motion for class certification and drafting two rounds of settlement proposals, according to their motion for attorney fees.  The attorneys are also requesting nearly $1.5 million in litigation costs and service awards ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 for each of the settlement class representatives, depending on their involvement in the case.