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Category: Fees for Fees / Fees on Fees

Insurer Ordered to Pay Casino’s 'Fees for Fees'

January 30, 2024

A recent Law 360 story by Alexa Scherzinger, “Insurer Ordered To Pay Casino $55K in Attorney Fees”, reports that an insurer must pay a Las Vegas casino and resort more than $55,000 in attorney fees after a Nevada federal judge sanctioned the carrier in September, ruling that the insurer failed to produce relevant portions of its claims manual during a COVID-19 coverage dispute.  In an order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elayna J. Youchah ordered Affiliated FM Insurance Co. to pay Treasure Island LLC the fees within a month, exercising her discretion and awarding the resort "fees on fees" in addition to traditional fees for hours billed by counsel.

Neither Affiliated nor Judge Youchah objected to the rates charged by Treasure Island's counsel, according to the order, so the court was tasked with deciding whether the hours billed were reasonable and whether the casino was entitled to recover additional attorney fees incurred from the preparation of its memorandum seeking fees.

Judge Youchah reduced the total amount billed for preparing the motion for sanctions, reviewing the opposition and preparing the reply from nearly 90 hours to just over 67, reducing the fees by about 25% from $55,000 to $42,000.  However, the judge said, in the absence of an award for fees incurred in preparing the memorandum, the court would effectively reduce the award by another 30%, undermining the intent of the fee award granted.

Accordingly, Judge Youchah awarded Treasure Island $13,000 in fees-on-fees, bringing the total award back up to just over $55,000. In September, Affiliated was ordered to pay the fees and costs associated with the motion for sanctions, but not for past motions by the resort seeking to compel production of the insurer's claims procedures.

Treasure Island originally sued Affiliated in May 2020, alleging that the insurer wrongfully denied coverage for its pandemic losses and claiming that it was entitled to recover more than $1 billion in damages from the "communicable disease" under its all-risk policy.  The court's ruling on sanctions barred Affiliated from arguing that physical loss or damage can't be caused by a communicable disease, according to the order.

Former Twitter Executives Seek Coverage of Legal Expenses

August 22, 2023

A recent Law 360 story by Rose Krebs, “X Corp. Accused of ‘Shirking’ Its Obligations in Legal Fee Row”, reports that three former top Twitter executives continue to urge the Delaware Chancery Court to order the Elon Musk-owned social media giant, now called X Corp., to reimburse them for at least $1.1 million in legal costs, accusing the company of "perpetually making excuses" for not meeting its obligations.  In a brief, former Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, former Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde and former Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal told the court that the company is "gaining a well-earned reputation for shirking its commitments."

They took aim at a cross-motion for summary judgment and accompanying brief X Corp. filed last month, after Agrawal, Gadde and Segal had already sought to have Chancellor Kathaleen St. J. McCormick summarily order the company to pay legal fees they have incurred in connection with Twitter-focused lawsuits and regulatory inquiries.

The three assert that, in their summary judgment bid, they established "beyond any doubt that Twitter has breached its advancement obligations."  "From the beginning of this dispute, plaintiffs have operated by the book — making timely demands for advancement, providing undertakings, and submitting good faith certifications from counsel attesting to the reasonableness of plaintiffs' attorneys' fees," their brief said.  "Plaintiffs have done everything prescribed by Delaware law to obtain advancement from Twitter."

They accuse the company of causing months of delays and "perpetually making excuses for its failure to meet its advancement obligations."  "Although Twitter would like to pretend it is a party that dutifully pays its contractual obligations as they come due, it is in fact perpetually delinquent and is gaining a well-earned reputation for shirking its commitments," they contend.

In a filing last month, they said the social media giant had advanced them roughly $575,000 for their legal costs, but is still "wrongfully" withholding about $1.1 million owed, along with roughly $270,000 in interest and "fees-on-fees" for having to litigate the Chancery suit.  The three sued the social media giant in Chancery Court in April, saying they incurred significant expenses after becoming involved in several legal proceedings because of their former roles as Twitter executives.

They contend that per company bylaws and indemnification agreements, X Corp., as Twitter's successor, is obligated to advance their legal expenses.  Musk fired the three when he took ownership and control of the business in October 2022.  Indemnification agreements covering them, however, remain in effect for proceedings related to their former position as officers, the complaint said.  In a filing last month, the three argued: "Put simply, the world's richest person does not pay his bills."

But, its own filing, X Corp. has called into question the reasonableness of fees related to Gadde's appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform during the committee's investigation into the influence of social media on U.S. elections.  In its own summary judgment filing last month, X Corp. called Gadde's request for fees excessive.

"Unlike many advancement actions, here, X Corp. does not challenge Gadde's entitlement to advancement of reasonable expenses — the company does not dispute that her testimony was required by reason of Gadde's role as former CLO of Twitter," the filing said. "Rather, the company here is challenging only the reasonableness of the fees for which Gadde seeks advancement with respect to the Congressional Inquiry."

X Corp. said Gadde is asking the company to advance "over $1.1 million" for fees incurred by her counsel, Sidley Austin LLP, "in connection with testifying for a single day."  That amount is "nearly 1,100%" what was incurred by two other former Twitter executives who also testified at the same hearing and were "similarly situated witnesses," X Corp. contended.

"The extreme delta between Gadde's legal fees and those of not one, but two separately represented, similarly situated, former Twitter executives who engaged similarly reputable law firms, is on its own sufficiently shocking to require that the reasonableness of Gadde's fees be thoroughly addressed now," the company argues.

X Corp. asked the court to "reduce any advancement award related to Gadde's representation in the congressional inquiry from $1,153,540.81 to $106,203.28 because Gadde failed to prove that all the fees and expenses were reasonably incurred."

But, ina filing, Gadde, Agrawal and Segal fired back.  "Twitter's challenge to these fees is particularly troubling given that Twitter's owner, Elon Musk, contributed to the exposure and complexity of the oversight inquiry when he publicly and repeatedly focused on Gadde and personally toured Capitol Hill to incite Republican lawmakers leading the oversight inquiry," their filing said.  They argued that "the record demonstrates that Gadde's fees incurred in the oversight inquiry are reasonable."

The three criticized the company for venting "invective at Gadde's counsel," including asserting that it engaged in "over-lawyering" and "extensive duplication of effort."  Gadde’s attorneys spent many hours prepping her for the committee’s questions, using five partners with hourly rates from $1,300 to $1,825, two associates charging more than $1,200 an hour and non-lawyer “policy adviser” Tracey LaTurner, who billed at $665 an hour.

"Aside from its invective, the only basis for Twitter's cross-motion is a false comparison between Gadde's attorneys' fees and the attorneys' fees of two other witnesses who testified in the same oversight inquiry," they said.

Construction Firm Challenges Utah’s Attorney Fee Request

October 31, 2022

A recent Law 360 story by Caleb Symons, “Utah’s $100K Atty Fee Bid Excessive Construction Co. Says” reports that one of the federal contractors working on a Colorado gold mine when it ruptured in 2015 denies owing the state of Utah more than $100,000 in attorney fees for mishandling certain records, calling the request "unreasonable" because it avoided a harsher punishment for that infraction.  The sanctions dispute — part of multidistrict litigation over the Gold King Mine blowout, which released 3 million gallons of toxic waste — centers around Utah officials' claim that Harrison Western Construction Co. withheld documents detailing its construction plans at the mine.

U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson ruled earlier this year that Harrison Western must pay the state's attorney fees in those proceedings, but the company now seeks to substantially reduce an estimate of its obligation.  Noting that the judge declined to issue a more severe punishment, the Denver-based construction firm said last week that Utah should not be allowed to recoup its full legal bill after achieving only "relatively minimal success" on its March 7 sanctions request.

Rather than covering more than $100,000 in attorney fees — which includes Utah's estimate of future expenses in the ongoing spat — Harrison Western proposed paying the state less than $29,000 for those costs.  "Given Utah did not prevail on the two primary sanctions it sought, it should not be awarded fees on fees," the company said.  "At most, it should be awarded only one-third of the attorney fees and costs sought for preparation of its fee request, as it prevailed on only one of three sanctions sought."

State authorities asked Judge Johnson in early October to approve their $105,578 sanctions bill, claiming that Harrison Western "refused to participate in a good-faith effort to resolve this motion for an award of attorneys' fees without requiring judicial intervention."  The company responded that Utah is entitled to only a fraction of that sum because the judge had approved only the "least severe" of its sanction requests.

Moreover, the state's compensation formula — based on an hourly fee of $795 for partners and $550 for associates — is well above the typical rate in both New Mexico, where the MDL is located, and the Rocky Mountain region, according to Harrison Western.  Nor has Utah shared enough information about the hours worked by its King & Spalding LLP lawyers to prove an accurate accounting, the company added.

Quinn Emanuel Client Hit With Attorney Fees in IP Action

May 5, 2022

A recent Law 360 story by Andrew Karpan, “Quinn Emanuel Client Hit With $160K In Fees In IP Fight” reports that a China-based client of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP was ordered to cough up over $160,000 in legal fees after its defense in a copyright case ran afoul of California's anti-SLAPP statute.  The amount that Northern District of California Judge Edward Chen ultimately arrived at was about $12,000 less than the final fee request from lawyers at the small San Francisco firm Tyz Law Group PC after they beat a dismissal bid in a copyright suit they leveled on behalf of Moonbug Entertainment. Moonbug is the company behind the children's educational brand CoComelon, which runs popular shows on YouTube and Netflix.

The suit accuses a Fuzhou City-based company called BabyBus (Fujian) Network Technology Co. Ltd. of building "its Super JoJo YouTube business by blatantly copying CoComelon."  BabyBus' lawyers at Quinn Emanuel responded last September with allegations that Moonbug's lawyers had been "using baseless [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] notices to effectively shut down BabyBus' lawful, competitive business."  DMCA notices are sent to companies like YouTube to ask them to take down content that infringes someone's copyright.

The legal fight is ongoing.  But Judge Chen had rejected outright BabyBus' contention that the way Moonbug pursued its case against BabyBus violated certain state laws, such as Section 17200 of the California Business & Professions Code.  This defense was legally hopeless, Judge Chen wrote last year: "No amendment can cure the fact that the state law counterclaims are preempted by the Copyright Act."

"Moonbug estimated it spent 'roughly' 324 hours in total, accounting for both compensable and non-compensable time spent on the joint motions to dismiss and strike," Judge Chen wrote.  According to the decision, the Moonbug lawyers had initially offered to settle the dispute over their legal bills for the whole effort for $96,152. BabyBus offered to pay just $15,580 instead.

The Moonbug lawyers then asked the court for $155,620 in fees but, in a later filing in the matter last year,  they beefed the number up to $173,553.  The new figure included an additional $17,933 in what the company's lawyers called "reasonable fees-on-fees" that were "not accounted for in its original fees-on-fees request," referring to legal work done in connection with the fee motion.  Judge Chen told BayBus to pay out $161,683.

"Moonbug's request for fees on fees is not unreasonable," Judge Chen decided.  He also rejected an argument from the BabyBus team that Tyz Law had deliberately overstaffed its legal response in order to collect more in fees.  "Moonbug's use of five attorneys of various levels of experience on its anti-SLAPP motions is nothing out of the ordinary," the ruling read.  The ruling did, however, trim out a little over 10 hours of work that Tyz Law had attached to the motion "for unnecessary work on a reply brief."

Judge Wants Skadden Affidavit on Fees and Billing Practices

March 4, 2021

A recent Law 360 story by Jeff Montgomery, “Chancery Wants Skadden Affidavit in TransPerfect Fee Fight,” reports that Delaware's chancellor ordered Skadden to submit an affidavit attesting to the accuracy and reasonableness of custodian fees recently charged to TransPerfect Global Inc., saying it was in the interest of ending billing battles stemming from a rancorous court-ordered sale of the business.  Chancellor Andre G. Bouchard gave Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP and custodian Robert B. Pincus a week to submit the information after a half-day argument on three pending issues in the case.  Among them was a motion by Pincus for a discharge from his custodian's role with indemnification and nondisparagement protections, among other terms, opposed by TransPerfect and co-founder Philip R. Shawe.

Also at issue were claims by TransPerfect that Skadden had charged excessive and unsupportable fees on a range of matters, including "fees on fees" billings for Pincus' and Skadden's defense against fee claims, as well as a TransPerfect motion to block Pincus and Skadden from recovering fees for a contempt action.  While taking the overall issues, including Pincus' discharge, under advisement, the chancellor also directed Skadden to provide support in its affidavit for more than $200,000 in billings for what were alleged by TransPerfect to be "the administrative work" of sending a bill.

"Is it typical? I'm not aware of it happening," the chancellor said.  "I'm talking about [billing for] the actual generation of an invoice and, if you will, running that bill.  Give it thought.  If it's your position that it's ordinary and that it would be billed to a client ordinarily and permissibly, so attest" in the affidavit.  "If you want to carve that out. It might be prudent to do so."

Pincus was appointed custodian of TransPerfect after its two co-founders, Shawe and Elizabeth Elting, had a falling-out and could not agree on how to manage the company.  In May 2018, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor's February 2018 ruling that allowed Shawe to buy Elting's 50% stake in the company.  Chancellor Bouchard had also determined that Pincus' impartiality wasn't compromised by threats of litigation made against him by Elting or by Shawe's alleged interference in the sale process.

During the arguments, Jennifer C. Voss of Skadden, counsel to Pincus, said the expenses had been prompted by TransPerfect's and Shawe's actions, and were handled with the same diligence and efficiency as that given to all of Skadden's clients, at rates consistent with its practice.  "Mr. Shawe is an adjudicated serial litigator," Voss told the court while arguing for Pincus' discharge.  "Now, years out from closing [on the TransPerfect sale], he has filed a barrage of baseless, unprovoked attacks against Mr. Pincus and Skadden.  These attacks are meant to coerce Mr. Pincus. He has not succeeded, but they're also meant to harass him and his advisers."

Voss said TransPerfect and Shawe "weaponized access to billing statements" for a "punitive and protracted campaign of fee warfare," despite Pincus' right to recover costs as custodian and for litigation in disputes with TransPerfect and Shawe in the years after the sale.  Much of the dispute related to the custodian's authority to bill TransPerfect for the costs of responses to or defenses for challenges raised by the company and Shawe.

During the hearing, David B. Goldstein of Rabinowitz Boudin Standard Krinsky & Lieberman PC, counsel to Shawe, described the billing arrangements as a "fee merry-go-round," with filings by TransPerfect and Shawe generating billings from the custodian, objections to the bills and new bills for addressing the objections.  "The sale of TransPerfect Global closed almost three years ago," Goldstein said.  "At that point, TransPerfect had already been ordered to pay Skadden almost $13 million, and another $31 million to [Pincus'] handpicked advisers."

Fee and other disputes since then have pushed the total to $14 million for Skadden and $45 million for advisers, Goldstein said, with additional billings pending.  "Our position is these fees are really excessive," Goldstein said, arguing that the process appeared to have become a "billing frenzy" without end.  "I'm not telling the court or suggesting that Skadden should get zero," he said.  But "if they got nothing else, they would have gotten far more than a reasonable amount of fees."

Voss disputed TransPerfect's calculations of the billings and costs of the case, and said expenses had been driven by TransPerfect's and Shawe's frivolous arguments, haphazard and mistaken filings, and pressures for expedited court proceedings.  One billing alone, Voss noted, was answered with 100 pages of objections.