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.