Thursday, March 02, 2006

Eagle Eye on Expenses

The $31.5 million settlement's done and the 25% fee has been awarded. Now we'll just be needin' our out-of-pockets reimbursed and we'll be on our way. Yep, we'll make like a tree -- and get outta here. You won't find us hangin' around, no sir. Well, it's not going to be that easy my friend, not if you are in Senior Judge William T. Hart's (N.D. Ill.) courtroom in the Van Kampen action. You see, Judge Hart observed "two problems with the reimbursement request for expert fees."

"The first is that some of the fees that Lead Counsel has labeled as expert fees are actually payments for work more properly characterized as work that should be charged as attorney fees." For example, "Lead Counsel seek reimbursement for fees paid to Joel Seligman, the then-dean of the Washington University School of Law whom Lead Counsel describe as 'among the nation's foremost experts on securities law.' An expert on the law is an attorney. Had this case gone to trial, the court would have instructed the jury as to securities law and no witness, expert or otherwise, would have been permitted to testify as to the state of applicable securities law. The advice received from Seligman, as helpful as it may have been to counsel, is properly characterized as legal fee work. Lead Counsel will not be separately reimbursed for fees charged by Seligman."

"A second issue is the rates charged by the experts. Allen charged $ 375.00 per hour for most work and $ 625.00 per hour for deposition testimony. Michael Barclay, Ph.D., a professor of finance at the Simon School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester, charged $ 450.00 per hour. He was plaintiffs' damages expert." "Lead Counsel have not established that the requested reimbursements are based on customary and reasonable hourly rates. The reimbursements will be based on $ 350.00 per hour for all work of Allen and Barclay, including deposition testimony."

Oh, and here's the best one (all-right, all-right, the Nugget below is better): "$350.00 for pro hac vice fees will not be reimbursed. It is the attorney's choice as to where to seek admission and where to practice. For $100.00, the attorney could be permanently admitted to this court instead of paying $ 50.00 per case. A client should not be charged for the cost of the attorney being admitted to practice."

You can read Abrams v. Van Kampen Funds, issued February 21, 2006, at 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6778.

Nugget: "It is noted, though, that charges for accessing this court's electronic filing system (CM/ECF) might properly be categorized as unreimbursable firm overhead. However, the charge will be allowed because it is only $16.29."

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