A recent Law 360 story by Jon Hill, “NY Judge Cuts ‘Excessive’ Atty Fee Sanction For UBS Investor” reports that a New York state judge ordered a UBS investor to pay $30,000 in legal costs over a rejected effort to revive his derivative suit against the bank's top officials, saying his opponents' original request for him to pay more than double that to their counsel at Sullivan & Cromwell was "excessive." In an order, Manhattan County Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter declined to grant the full fee award submitted by the UBS Group AG defendants in the case, whose Sullivan & Cromwell LLP attorneys wanted a total of more than $61,000 from plaintiff Ezra Cattan.
Their request came after the judge sanctioned Cattan last month for making what she deemed an ill-conceived motion to re-argue his case, ruling that he would have to cover his opponents' legal bills for fighting his motion. In response, UBS' Sullivan & Cromwell team requested $45,000 for its work opposing the motion and another roughly $16,000 for its time spent preparing the fee award application. But Justice Schecter concluded that this $61,000 total was too much.
Although Sullivan & Cromwell's opposition to Cattan's motion had been "understandably thorough" given the circumstances and "notwithstanding the quality of defense counsel's work and the reasonable though expensive hourly rates they charge, spending more than 60 hours on the opposition papers and this fee application was excessive," Justice Schecter wrote. Cattan, for his part, had objected to the UBS defendants' $61,000 fee award request as unreasonable and urged that it be slashed to about $25,000, if not less.
Instead, Justice Schecter said that a total award of $30,000 "would be reasonable ... for having to oppose plaintiff's frivolous motion for re-argument and renewal." Cattan's motion sought to reopen his derivative suit against top officials at UBS. Filed in 2020, the case pinned blame on the bank's leaders — including then-CEO Sergio Ermotti — for what Cattan, a shareholder, claimed has been an "endless train" of damaging scandals, investigations and lawsuits for the bank going back more than a decade.
Justice Schecter threw out the case in December, ruling that Cattan's claims were covered by a forum selection clause in the bank's corporate charter that designated Switzerland as the proper venue. But Cattan subsequently moved to keep the case alive by filing both a notice of appeal and a motion for re-argument. In that February motion, he contended that the judge lacked the power to dismiss his suit on "forum non conveniens" grounds and should grant a do-over.
That challenged was slapped down last month by Justice Schecter, who said that it misconstrued her dismissal reasoning and "should never have been made." At the same time, the judge granted a request by the UBS defendants to impose sanctions on Cattan for what they called his "frivolous" motion. "Plaintiff shall therefore reimburse defendants for the reasonable costs and attorneys' fees incurred in opposing this motion," Justice Schecter ordered last month.