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$38 Million in Attorneys’ Fees Awarded

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge awarded $38 million in fees to attorneys for 36 firms who represented direct purchasers of cathode ray tubes in an eight-year-long antitrust lawsuit against electronics giants.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar called the fee award - 30 percent of the $127 million settlement fund - fair and reasonable.

Cathode ray tubes, or CRTs, are vacuum tubes that shoot rays onto screens to form images, as in classic televisions. They became obsolete as new technology paved the way for flat screen televisions and other devices.

More than 30 complaints were filed against CRT manufacturers within six months of the Nov. 8, 2007, announcement from the European Commission of a worldwide antitrust investigation of CRT pricing.

Direct purchasers of the CRTs accused several large companies - including Samsung, Toshiba and LG - of conspiring to fix prices in the CRT industry when it was worth $19 billion between 1995 and 2007.

The companies have separately settled claims against them for varying amounts: Chunghwa and Philips for $10 million and $15 million, respectively; Panasonic for $17.5 million; LG for $25 million; Toshiba for $13.5 million; and Hitachi and Samsung SDI for $13.5 million and $33 million respectively.

Attorneys for the direct purchasers sought $38.2 million in fees, split among 36 law firms.

Although the Ninth Circuit's benchmark percentage for attorney fees in a class action is 25 percent, such a benchmark "is of little use" in a settlement of this size, Tigar said. He said the record in this case supports the heightened award.

"First, counsel here has expanded far more work - over 95,000 hours - and taken upon themselves more risk - spanning eight years of litigation - than is present in a normal class action suit," Tigar wrote in his Jan. 14 order.

No class member has objected to the proposed settlement or fee award, and a fee award of this size is consistent with decisions in a similar multidistrict litigation case, the judge said.

A cross-check of the 30 percent award against the attorneys' anticipated lodestar calculation of $43.3 million also supports the amount, Tigar said.

Tigar granted the attorneys $2.86 million in expenses - already paid from the settlement fund - but reduced their request for an additional $1.92 million by nearly $500,000.

The reduction was for what Tigar called inappropriate travel and meal costs, including first-class flights, expensive meals and wine, drinks with co-counsel, and hotel rooms costing more than $3,500 per night.

"The court expressed its unwillingness to approve these expenses, which one plaintiff's lawyer correctly described as 'pure nonsense.' The court further noted its reluctance to again spend time poring over now-largely suspect meal and travel requests and gave counsel an opportunity to submit a revised request," Tigar wrote.

The attorneys withdrew their request for the meal and travel expenses, leaving them with an additional cost award of $1.53 million.

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