(Reuters) - It’s always notable when a federal judge presiding over a big class action slashes a fee request by millions of dollars - but I think there’s another story lurking beneath the dollar signs in an opinion issued Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of San Jose.
Three plaintiffs' firms that obtained nearly $170 million for artists and engineers whose job prospects suffered under an alleged no-poaching agreement among animation studios asked Judge Koh to award them $31.5 million for squeezing a $150 million settlement from Disney and Dreamworks. The judge instead granted them $13.8 million. She previously awarded $4.7 million in fees for a smaller classwide settlement, bringing the total fees for plaintiffs' lawyers from Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and Susman Godfrey to about $18.5 million.
Notably, Judge Koh’s award was based not on the recovery the firms won for class members but on their hourly billings. The firms wanted the judge to grant them 21 percent of the class recovery, which, they argued, is less than the 25 percent benchmark established by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Judge Koh, however, applied the alternative lodestar approach.