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Bandas Law Firm Holds Hagens Berman Accountable for Overcharging Clients

On September 9, 2021, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg awarded objector Conner Erwin's legal counsel, including Bandas Law Firm, $1.5 million in attorney fees. This ruling comes after the objector’s counsel convinced the Ninth Circuit to rule against Hagens Berman’s outrageously high $52.8 million attorney fee and expense award in the optical disk drive price-fixing settlements.

Judge Seeborg further stated that the $1.5 million attorney fee award would be deducted from Hagens Berman's remaining $31 million fee award. This allows the class settlement fund to remain untouched by any attorney fee awards for Bandas Law Firm.

The $1.5 million award is just 7% of the $21.8 million increase in the class settlement fund that, according to the judge’s six-page order, came about after Bandas Law Firm partner Robert Clore challenged Hagens Berman's initial $52.8 million fee and expense award before the Ninth Circuit.

Attorney Clore told Law360 that Erwin and the rest of his counsel (including Christopher A. Bandas of Bandas Law Firm) are pleased with the ruling, particularly as it “validates the important role of dissenting class members and their counsel in the class action settlement process.”

About the Case

The $1.5 million fee ruling is the latest development in the Optical Disk Drive Products Antitrust Litigation (Case No. 3:10-md-02143) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In this multidistrict litigation (MDL), class members alleged that Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Toshiba Corp., and other disk drive makers participated in a conspiracy to fix optical disk drive prices across the industry.

This MDL dates back to 2010, when former federal Judge Vaughn Walker appointed Hagens Berman as lead class counsel. A different federal judge, Judge Seeborg, then took over the case after Judge Walker retired. Beginning in 2016, Hagens Berman struck numerous multimillion-dollar deals to resolve the litigation. Judge Seeborg then awarded the law firm $52.8 million in attorney fees and expenses for securing these settlements.

In 2019 and 2020, Attorney Clore argued before the Ninth Circuit that this attorney’s fee award for Hagens Berman was erroneous, in part because it totaled nearly 25% of the total settlements rather than the 12% the firm had initially proposed in its bid to become lead class counsel. In May 2020, the Ninth Circuit sided with Erwin and his counsel, as it could not find a good reason as to why the firm had almost doubled its fees. Additionally, according to Law360, the Ninth Circuit further stated that Hagens Berman “inexcusably failed to call attention” to its initial proposal to forgo expense reimbursements.

Hagens Berman requested the same $47.8 million in legal fees (less $5 million in expenses) on remand, but to no avail: Judge Seeborg found that there was no reason to allow fees of nearly twice what Hagens Berman bid before a different judge at the outset. The result was an additional $21.8 million returned to the class members.

We at Bandas Law Firm are very glad that Judge Seeborg ruled to have our “relatively modest” fees paid from the amount already allocated for attorneys’ fees, rather than the monies allotted for class members. We aim to help our clients maximize their compensation; and fight to make sure the overreaching attorneys, and not their clients, pay our fees. Unlike other law firms, we put our clients above our paychecks.

Our qualified Corpus Christi trial attorneys are proud to help clients navigate mass torts. For a free consultation with an award-winning attorney who will put you first, contact Bandas Law Firm online or at (361) 238-2789.