Saturday, December 20, 2014

Main Line lawyers to split $285M fee

Kessler Topaz and Prickett Jones will likely face an appeal of their $35,000 an hour "Christmas gift", as Delaware struggles to hold onto its corporate-law-center status

Main Line lawyers to split $285M fee

Two law firms that won a big plaintiffs' judgement in a Mexican copper company shareholder dispute in Delaware's business-friendly Court of Chancery will split a giant $285 million fee.

That works out to $35,000 an hour for work done by law firms Kessler, Topaz, Meltzer & Check LLP of Radnor, and Prickett Jones & Elliott of Wilmington. 
"It is believed to be the biggest fee award ever" by Delaware's Court of Chancery, "one of the busiest venues in the United States for commercial litigation," writes Reuters here. 

"The firms had requested $428.2 million in fees. The defense attorneys for Southern Copper (Corp.) and its board of directors had suggested a fee of less than $14 million." Chief Chancery judge Leo Strine, who approved the fee, said the lawyers worked hard and deserved their money. He expects the defense will appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court.

Adds Reuters: "The award ranks among the largest in securities litigation. Plaintiffs' attorneys in lawsuits involving the collapse of Enron Corp got $688 million in fees, while lawyers for plaintiffs in Tyco International Ltd litigation were awarded $492 million." Both worked out to under $2,500 an hour, Southern Copper lawyers argued in opposing the fee award.

In the lawsuit, a derivative action filed in the company's own name, the suit accused Grupo Mexico's board of overpaying for its own affiliate, Minera Mexico, when the group's Southern Copper division paid $3.75 billion in stock for the company in 2004. (Such suits are common in Delaware. The folks at Harleysville Mutual tell me they are difficult to win under Pennsylvania law.) 

In October Strine ordered Grupo Mexico to repay Southern Copper $1.9 billion in stock. 

"The Kessler firm specializes in bringing large securities cases. The 29-partner firm last cracked the top five plaintiffs firms in securities class-action settlements in 2008, when as Barroway Topaz Kessler Meltzer & Check it won $536 million that year for its clients, according to RiskMetrics Group's annual rankings. Prickett Jones, with 11 directors, specializes in corporate litigation in Delaware."

"A lot of folks in Delaware... are happily expecting this decision to encourage plaintiffs to come back to Delaware," writes UCLA Law Prof. Stephen Bainbridge here.

That's after two British law profs and one from Northwestern U's Kellogg law school found Delaware has been losing its corporate-lawsuit market share, read a summary here. 

"Someone got an early Christmas gift," writes Delaware corporate lawyer Francis Pileggi here. 
Case is In Re: Southern Peru Copper Corp. Shareholders Derivative Litigation, Delaware Chancery Court, No. 961.

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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