Last year’s class-action settlement against Mastercard, Visa, and several banks over the fees they charged customers who traveled abroad came up to about $336 million, and of that, 31 law firms are claiming a total of about $86 million for fees. The federal judge responsible for determining how much they get paid wants to know why.
“Can you explain to me why 31 law firms had to be involved with the plaintiffs?” Judge Pauley asked, adding that he “found a disconnect” between the number of the different groups of plaintiffs and the number of law firms. Ms. Sweeney [of Coughlin Stoia] explained that the “bulk of the work” – 84.7% – was done only by just six firms. Among those six firms are Ms. Sweeney’s firm as well as the Philadelphia-based firms of Berger & Montague and Kohn Swift & Graf.
One sticking point yesterday involved a separate $32 million legal fee award that the card issuers had agreed to pay Coughlin Stoia and three other firms. The fee came in a similar lawsuit brought in California that was dismissed on appeal.
A lawyer who was objecting to the settlement, Irving Bizar, yesterday advised Judge Pauley to take those $32 million away from the law firms and add it to settlement pool.
Well, at least they brought the companies to justice for cheating their customers out of so much money—oh, wait, one lawyer on the case said that the $336 million represents only “between 9% and 42% of the fees that the card issuers had wrongfully charged.” What’s more, the current average payment for most class members (the ones who didn’t send in itemized requests) will be about $25. Sometimes justice doesn’t feel very satisfying.
“Judge Asks Why So Many Law Firms Seek Fees in Suits” [The New York Sun]
“Reclaim Unnecessary Credit Cards’ Unnecessary Foreign Transaction Fees”