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Attorneys Seek $3.6M in $14M John Hancock ERISA Settlement

August 26, 2021 | Posted in : Contingency Fees / POF, Expenses / Costs, Fee Allocation / Fee Apportionment, Fee Award Factors, Fee Request, Practice Area: Class Action / Mass Tort / MDL, Settlement Data / Terms

A recent Law 360 story by Rachel Stone, “Lawyers Seek $3.6M Cut of $14M John Hancock 401(K) Deal,” reports that attorneys from Nichols Kaster and Block & Leviton have asked a Massachusetts federal judge to award them $3.6 million for their work securing a $14 million settlement for John Hancock Life Insurance workers who said the company steered their retirement savings into shoddy proprietary funds.  Named plaintiffs Jennifer Baker and Jean Greenberg filed a memorandum that said a $3.5 million fee request, which represents a quarter of the settlement value, was less than class counsel typically get in similar Employee Retirement Income Security Act cases.

"The requested fee of 25% of the settlement is not only reasonable, but substantially less than the one-third fee award consistently granted in ERISA cases," according to the memorandum.  In addition to $3.5 million in attorney fees, the memorandum asked the court for nearly $39,000 in costs and more than $85,000 in expenses incurred while litigating the case.

The settlement agreement, which the parties struck in June, resolved claims alleging the insurer packed its 401(k) plan with proprietary funds and siphoned inflated administrative costs from its employees who only had the option of investing in John Hancock funds.

The class representatives emphasized that their counsel worked through 5,000 documents produced by John Hancock and its benefits committee as well as forking over 4,000 documents of their own during the pre-settlement discovery process.  "Class counsel have expended significant time and effort prosecuting this action and achieving the settlement on behalf of the class," the memorandum said, adding that ERISA class actions are complex and the plaintiffs' lawyers had worked on a contingent fee basis.