In Sprint settlement battle, Lakin lawyer calls Weiss team 'free riders'

Steve Korris Oct. 29, 2009, 10:00am


NEWARK, N.J. – Paul Weiss of Chicago believes his legal team deserves almost $6 million for settling a class action against Sprint telephone company, but his former teammate Brad Lakin believes Weiss and his team don't deserve a penny.

On Oct. 19, Lakin asked U.S. District Judge Jose Linares of Newark to deny any fee award to Weiss and seven other firms.

"Parasitic behavior should be condemned, not rewarded with a 33 percent fee award," wrote Lakin's New Jersey lawyer, Anthony Coviello.

Coviello wrote that "fees were not earned in this case."

Judge Linares presides over a claim that Sprint charged improper fees for early termination of service contracts.

For a year Lakin has protested that he would have secured a better settlement in a Madison County suit that Weiss helped him file before their partnership ended.

Both suits allege that Sprint charged improper fees for early termination of contracts.

According to Lakin, Weiss and former Lakin lawyer Richard Burke ran a "reverse auction," by bargaining settlement terms downward.

"Larson counsel have now become 'settlement magnets' for the entire cell phone industry," Coviello wrote.

"Larson class counsel had everything to gain and nothing to lose," he wrote.

"They agreed to release $3 billion in claims for less than half a penny on the dollar and now they ask this court to reward them with nearly $6 million in windfall attorney's fees," he wrote.

They admitted that they based their negotiations and decision on work that others performed, he wrote.

"Nevertheless, Larson class counsel wish to be paid as if they did all the work," he wrote.

They didn't serve a discovery request, file a brief on class certification, take depositions, retain experts, or litigate a motion relating to the merits of the claim, he wrote.

He called them free riders.

He mentioned that in a separate case, Linares recently denied more than $40,000 in expenses that Weiss failed to substantiate.

He wrote that seven other firms would share the fee in the Sprint case, without any explanation except that they didn't object to the settlement.

Lakin's client in the Madison County case, Jessica Hall of Pontoon Beach, continues to object to the settlement.

A motion to approve the settlement remains pending before Linares.

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