Lawyers who won the massive $10.03 billion class-action settlement from Volkswagen Group over software that cheated on emissions tests now want their own payday: $175 million.
The extraordinary sum requires extraordinary justification, and lead plaintiffs’ counsel Elizabeth Cabraser hopes her firm’s motion (PDF) on the matter, filed late last night with the judge, will do the trick. “The aggregate fees and costs award… is the equivalent of less than 2 percent of the monetary benefit provided to the Class, far below the benchmark in this Circuit and well below the average award in ‘super-mega-fund’ settlements exceeding $1 billion,” writes Cabraser. She added that the requested fees “are the lowest ever sought in a multi-billion dollar case.”
Volkswagen was charged by regulators for creating software that would rig emissions tests, and a massive class-action suit on behalf of car owners soon followed. The company settled the case in June, agreeing to pay more than $10 billion to members of the class, which consists of people who bought 2.0L diesel cars from Volkswagen and Audi. Volkswagen, which ended FTC charges in the same settlement, will also pay $2.7 billion in fines to the EPA. The company will also be required to invest $2 billion in clean emissions research. The $175 million payment, which includes $167 million in attorneys’ fees and $8 million in costs, won’t come out of any of those pots of money.
The settlement was reached in June, and US District Judge Charles Breyer approved it in October. The $175 million fee request by plaintiffs’ lawyers, which was first reported by the National Law Journal, won’t get paid without Breyer’s stamp of approval as well.
An earlier suggestion that plaintiffs’ lawyers may have asked for up to $324 million in fees was dropped.
In addition to typical litigation work such as drafting complaints and working with experts, the attorneys pointed out that their completed tasks included “reviewing, analyzing, and coding over 12 million pages of documents produced by Volkswagen, many of which were highly technical in nature and required German translation.”
There are 21 attorneys on the fee request, including lead counsel Cabraser. Another law firm has filed a separate fee request for $155,000.