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Archive: 2014

NALFA's Top 10 Attorney Fee Headlines of 2014

December 29, 2014

Here are the top 10 attorney fee headlines of 2014:

  1.  Survey: Gender Disparity in Billing Rates
  2.  Over $1 Billion in Fees in Madoff Recovery
  3.  $544.8M Fee Award in Historic Antitrust Settlement
  4.  Lawyers Seek $195M in Fees in LBO Collusion Settlement
  5.  Texas Moves Towards Fee-Shifting Model in Torts
  6.  Lawyers Seek $52.4M in Ed O’Bannon NCAA Antitrust Litigation
  7.  Judge Laments Lack of Counterbalance in FLSA Fee Awards
  8.  $91M Fee Award in Pfizer Neurontin MDL
  9.  Lawyers Settle $62M Fee Allocation Dispute
  10.  Lodestar vs. Percentage Method in Prius Class Action

NALFA Year in Review: Top 10 NALFA Stories of 2014

December 26, 2014

Here are the top 10 NALFA headlines of 2014:

1.  Nation’s Most Important Attorney Fee Rulings of 2014

2.  NALFA to Rate Legal Bill Auditing Programs

3.  NALFA Bankruptcy Fee Examiners Filing Amicus Brief in Asarco Case

4.  Use a NALFA Fee Dispute Clause in Your Fee Agreement

5.  NALFA Goes International

6.  NALFA Recognizes Nation’s Most Influential Attorney Fee Scholarship

7.  The New Case Against Professional Class Action Objectors

8.  Solo Methodology vs. Professional Methodology in Legal Fee Analysis

9.  Meet the Nation’s Top Rated Attorney Fee Experts

10. NALFA’s Organizational CV

Nation's Most Important Attorney Fee Rulings of 2014

December 24, 2014

NALFA tracks important attorney fee rulings in state and federal courts throughout the U.S.  These fee rulings impact the body of law related to attorney fees.  NALFA has ranked the most important attorney fee ruling of 2014.  The following cases are the most significant attorney fee rulings of 2014, and their holdings (one yet to be decided) will have an impact for years to come:

  1. Octane Fitness v. Icon Health & Fitness is one of two rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding patent litigation fee-shifting (the other case being Hallmark v. Allcare Health).  Section 285 of the Patent Act authorizes a district court to award attorney's fees in patent litigation in "exceptional cases" – that is, cases which stand out from the others with respect to the substantive strength of a party’s litigating position or the unreasonable manner in which the case was litigated. District courts should determine whether a case is exceptional “in the case-by-case exercise of their discretion, considering the totality of the circumstances.” The Federal Circuit’s Brooks Furniture Mfg. v. Dutailier framework, pursuant to which a case is “exceptional” only if the district court finds either litigation-related misconduct of an independently sanctionable magnitude or determines that the litigation was both “brought in subjective bad faith” and “objectively baseless,” superimposes an inflexible framework onto statutory text that is inherently flexible.
  2. ATP Tour Inc. v. Deutscher Tennis Bund in the Delaware Supreme Court held that a bylaw shifting attorney fees and expenses to the losing party in an intra-corporate litigation can be valid and enforceable under Delaware law.  Many corporations are incorporated in Delaware and this ruling allows them to get around the American Rule, where both parties are responsible for their own litigation costs.
  3. At issue in Baker Botts LLP v. Asarco LLC, before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether Section 330(a) of the Bankruptcy Code grants bankruptcy judges discretion to award compensation for the defense of a fee application (i.e. fees for fees).
  4. In a question of first impression, in Holland v. Jachmann, a Massachusetts appellate court held that trial judges have discretion to award attorney fees for work performed by in-house counsel for claims brought under the state’s unfair trade practices law.  The court held that in-house fees were just as “incurred” as fees paid/owed by a company to outside counsel.

Over $1 Billion in Fees in Madoff Recovery

December 23, 2014

The liquidation of the Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC (BLMIS) has not come to an end, but the legal and professional fees of trustee Irving H. Picard of Baker & Hostetler in New York have top the $1 billion mark.  Bloomberg reports in a November 2014 court filing Picard stated that the trustee’s total fees for liquidating the Madoff firm distributing the over $10 billion in assets recovered to date have now hit the ten-digit mark.

Picard’s fees are not paid out of the recovery fund, but are paid separately by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).  The fees include a 10 percent public interest discount the SIPA Trustee, his counsel and special consultants have adopted since the beginning of the BLMIS liquidation in late 2008.  All of the fees to date have been approved by the Bankruptcy Court as customary and in line with competitive fees and expenses.

“At NALFA, we’re checking, but this may be the largest attorney fees and expenses for a single case in U.S. history,” said Terry Jesse, Executive Director of NALFA.  NALFA also reported on this case in “NALFA Attorney Fee Scoreboard: The Madoff Case” and “$34.6M More in Interim Attorney Fees in Madoff Case”

For more on the Madoff case visit http://www.madofftrustee.com/

Judge Trims Attorney Fees Citing Billing Deficiencies

December 22, 2014

A recent Courthouse New Service, “Judge Slashes ‘Eye Catching’ Attorney Fees” reports that a federal judge trimmed a $4.5 million fee request from a merger dispute, citing block billing, excessive time claims and other deficiencies.  Volcano Corporation requested $3,557,034 in attorney fees and $1,023,995 in expenses for a total of $4,581,030 after being granted summary judgment in a dispute over a merger agreement.

Volcano, a medical device maker, acquired CardioSpectra in 2007 in a $25.2 million merger that promised an additional $38 million in “milestone” payments to former Cardio shareholders.  The company’s milestones were based on regulator approval of CardioSpectra’s optical coherence tomography system for high-resolution imaging of coronary arteries.  Volcano made its first milestone payment of $11 million, but did not follow through with subsequent payments after failing to acquire further regulatory approval, resulting in a shareholder lawsuit.

Lead plaintiff Christopher Banas sued Volcano in 2012, claiming Volcano breached its contractual obligation to use “good faith and reasonable commercial efforts to achieve Milestone 2 and that Volcano failed to pay shareholders after Milestone 3 and 4 were satisfied,” according to U.S. District Judge William Orrick’s summary of the proceedings.

Orrick on Dec. 12 granted Volcano’s motion for summary judgment and denied Banas’ cross motion for summary judgment, citing, in part, misrepresentation of the merger agreement.  Orrick said, however, that Volcano’s subsequent request for attorneys’ fees were excessive.

“Volcano seeks s staggering amount for a breach of contract case, which was resolved in summary judgment,” Orrick wrote.  “It’s documentation of those fees and costs, however, was remarkably deficient.”  Orrick cited “block-billing” as one deficiency.

“There is no way to determine whether the time claimed for any particular task is reasonable because Volcano did not identify the fees of time associated with these tasks individually,” Orrick wrote.  “I am reducing Volcano’s bill by 20 percent for block billing.” 

Orrick added that while he agrees with “some” of the plaintiffs’ criticisms of Volcano’s documentation, he did not agree with them all of them.  “The rates requested by Volcano, while high, are within the prevailing market rates for similar cases in the Northern District,” Orrick wrote.  He awarded Volcano $2,586,963 in fees and $937,503 in expenses for a total of $3,524,466.