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Category: Expenses / Costs

Class Counsel Earn $3.6M in Fees in CBS #MeToo Case

November 14, 2022

A recent Law 360 story by Katryna Perera, “CBS Investors Attys Get $3.6M in Moonves #MeToo Case” reports that counsel from Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP have been awarded $3.6 million for their work securing a $14.7 million settlement for a class of CBS Corp. investors who claimed the company's former CEO Les Moonves' alleged sexual misconduct tanked the broadcasting giant's shares.  U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni issued an order granting the attorney fee request along with $354,000 in litigation expenses.  However, she declined to award fees or expenses to Johnson Fistel LLP, which she noted did not appear as counsel to any plaintiff in the instant case or in a related matter.

Judge Caproni also granted a $2,250 service award to lead plaintiff, the Construction Laborers Pension Trust for Southern California, but declined to grant a request for $20,000 in legal fees for the lead plaintiff's outside counsel, which the order does not identify.  In awarding Robbins Geller $3.6 million in fees, the judge said the attorneys devoted more than 5,000 hours to the case, with a lodestar value of $4.6 million.  She also noted that class members filed no objections to the fees or expenses.

The $14.7 million settlement between the class and CBS was reached in April.  Investors argued that the deal was a "very good" one given that it represents between 7% and 9% of their estimated reasonably recoverable damages.  The investors alleged in their August 2018 suit that a statement Moonves made at the Variety Innovate Summit industry event in late 2017 kept CBS' share price artificially inflated until explosive July 2018 news reports detailed his alleged history of workplace sexual harassment.

Attorneys Seek $11.5M in Fees in Veteran Home COVID Case

November 9, 2022

A recent Law 360 story by Chris Villani, “Attys Want $11M for $58M Vets’ Home COVID Outbreak Deal” reports that attorneys who led a class of veterans and their families to a nearly $58 million settlement with the state of Massachusetts following a deadly COVID-19 outbreak at a veterans' home asked a judge to approve their $11.5 million fee request.  Lawyers from the western Massachusetts firm of Lesser Newman Aleo & Nasser LLP told U.S. District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni that their fee request, which is unopposed by the commonwealth, is on the low end among similar settlements in the First Circuit.

The $11,512,500 request is just under 20% of the $57,912,500 legislative appropriation that covers veterans who became ill or died of COVID-19 at Holyoke Soldiers' Home between March 1, 2020, and June 23, 2020.  None of the 164 members of the settlement class have objected to the fee request, the lawyers said.  "Bringing a lawsuit of this nature is a daunting task," the memorandum states.  "It should be rewarded with a full attorney fee award, particularly in this case, where the requested fee is on the low end of the range of attorney fee awards recoveries in common fund class actions in the First Circuit and a full attorney fee award will not decrease the amounts to be received by the class members."

The settlement for the class members and the fee award were also negotiated separately in this case, the attorneys said, with just over $46 million set aside for the individual victims and their families.  Their awards, therefore, would not be reduced by the fee request, according to the memorandum.  The class lawyers also argued that awarding a lower fee could provide a disincentive for the commonwealth to settle future similar cases or take steps to prevent such tragedies from happening in the first place.  The fee award would also encourage lawyers to tackle tough cases when people are harmed by state action, the attorneys argued.

"In taking this case on, counsel was aware that the likelihood of prevailing at trial and actually recovering a judgment was, at best, difficult, [and] numerous other attorneys had declined to represent the veterans who had died of COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home," the document states.  "And, if the case went to trial, the firm would end up spending several million dollars' worth of billable hours, as well as incurring a minimum of $500,000 in expert fees."

Chancery Ponders $5.3M Fee Request in $21.6M Class Settlement

November 7, 2022

A recent Law 360 story by Jeff Montgomery, “Chancery Delay $21.6M Class Deal, Fee OK in Presidio Suit” reports that a Delaware vice chancellor put off final approval of a $21.6 million settlement for a class challenge to the sale of tech services provider Presidio Inc., agreeing with the deal but ordering clarifications and saying he wanted to ponder a proposed $5.3 million attorney fee.  Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster said class attorneys had achieved "a very good result" after more than 2½ years of litigation over the company's $2.1 billion sale to an affiliate of private equity firm BC Partners.

The suit accused Presidio of snubbing a competing offer under pressure from BC Partners and controlling shareholder Apollo Global Management Inc.  The Firefighters' Pension System of the City of Kansas City, Missouri Trust agreed to the settlement after mediation and a recommendation from the mediator.  "I'm going to go ahead and approve the settlement" pending "tweaks" of the agreement, the vice chancellor said.  "I'm going to think more about the attorney fee issue and put a number in when I get the final order."

At issue were sections of the settlement that the vice chancellor viewed as redundant, murky or unnecessary and — in the case of the fee — a question of "how good is good" when considering an award that amounted to about 25% of the total settlement.  The share would stand near the upper end of Chancery Court awards for settlements before trial but after extensive litigation.

J. Daniel Albert of Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP, counsel to the class, told the vice chancellor that the court has approved a 25% fee for cases "procedurally less developed" than the Presidio action, and said that "for policy reasons, the court should want to incentivize these types of results."  The fee reflected about 9,250 hours of attorney work that involved nearly $233,000 in expenses, with a fee translating into a $578-per-hour rate "well below" that seen in similar litigation, Albert said.

The lawsuit initially named the board members, outside directors and Apollo as defendants, but in January 2021 Vice Chancellor Laster dismissed them from the suit.  "I do understand your argument that when you get up to 100% or more of the [potential] trial result you should get the high end" of fee award ranges, he said, adding that he also understood the potential for expenses lost to "front end" books and records demand litigation in support of the case.

The fee, Albert argued, exceeded what the settlement motion described as the "likely provable damages under plaintiff's primary theory of liability against the defendants: that the auction between BCP and CD&R was tainted by the alleged tip-off of CD&R's offer price to BCP by LionTree."

Groupon Settlement Merits $4.5M in Attorney Fees

November 1, 2022

A recent Law 360 story by Katryna Perera, “Attorneys in Groupon Settlement Secure $4.5M in Feesreports that lawyers representing a class of Groupon investors will receive $4.5 million in attorney fees from a $13.5 million settlement resolving allegations that Groupon misled investors about its financial health before ending its sale of physical goods and announcing the departure of two top executives.  U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly issued an order approving class counsel's fee requests along with $250,000 in litigation costs and a $5,000 service award to lead plaintiff Fadi Rahal.  The Illinois federal judge also granted final approval to the deal.

Judge Kennelly said class counsel from Glancy Prongay & Murray LLP and Kirby McInerney LLP devoted more than 4,000 hours to the case with a lodestar value of approximately $2.9 million.  Additionally, the judge said there were significant risks with continued litigation, and that the requested fee award is consistent with similar, complex class actions.

"The stakes in the action were extremely high given, among other things, the amount of money at issue, and the large size of the settlement class," the order states.   Plaintiff's counsel conducted the litigation and achieved the settlement with skill, perseverance and diligent advocacy, and they are highly experienced in the field of securities class action litigation."  Groupon and the investor class told the court in June they had reached the deal, which represents a recovery of 9.6% of the total maximum damages potentially available to shareholders. A best-case scenario would have resulted in a $140 million recovery, Rahal said at the time.

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.