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Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses in Class Action Settlements: 1993-2008


Theodore Eisenberg


Cornell University - Law School

Geoffrey P. Miller


New York University School of Law

October 30, 2009

NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 09-50
Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1497224

Abstract:     
We report on a comprehensive data base of eighteen years of published opinions (1993-2008, inclusive) on settlements in class action and shareholder derivative cases in both state and federal courts. An earlier study, covering 1993-2002, revealed a remarkable relationship between attorneys’ fees and the size of class recovery: regardless of the methodology for calculating fees ostensibly employed by the courts, the overwhelmingly important determinant of the fee was simply the size of the recovery obtained by the class. The present study, which nearly doubles the number of cases in the data base, powerfully confirms that relationship. Fees display the same relationship to class recoveries in both data sets and neither fees nor recoveries materially increased over time. Although the size of the class recovery dwarfs other influences, significant associations exist between the fee amount and both the fee method used and the riskiness of the case. We found no robust evidence of significant differences between federal and state courts. The strong association between fee and class recovery persists in cases with recoveries of $100 million or more, as do the significant associations between fee level and fee method and risk. Fees were not significantly affected by the existence of a settlement class, the presence of objectors, or opt outs from the class. Courts granted the requested fee in over 70% of the cases, with the Second Circuit granting the requested amount least often. In cases in which the requested fee was not awarded, the mean fee was 68% of the requested amount. Fees and costs exhibit scale effects with the percent of each decreasing as the class recovery amount increased. Costs are strongly associated with hours expended on the case.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 35

Keywords: Attorney Fees, Class Actions, Litigation

JEL Classification: K10, K22, K40, K41

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Date posted: October 31, 2009 ; Last revised: January 7, 2010

Suggested Citation

Eisenberg, Theodore and Miller, Geoffrey P., Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses in Class Action Settlements: 1993-2008 (October 30, 2009). NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 09-50; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1497224. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1497224 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1497224

Contact Information

Theodore Eisenberg
Cornell University - Law School ( email )
524 College Ave
Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-6477 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)
Geoffrey P. Miller (Contact Author)
New York University School of Law ( email )
Center for the Study of Central Banks
40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
212-998-6329 (Phone)
212-995-4590 (Fax)
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