It’s hard to believe that multiple millionaire lawyers from multiple law firms all asked the court to apply the wrong legal standard for deciding a dispute over a consent decree accidentally. I’ll take it as a good sign that they didn’t think they could win if the court applied the correct legal standard and that their only hope was to obfuscate. It is of some concern that lawyers think they can obfuscate like that and get away with it without getting sanctioned.
What is most remarkable is the shamelessness of the contrasting claims by NVIDIA and Milberg. When asking the court to disregard objections to the settlement, the settling parties argued that there would be hundreds of thousands of claims worth at least tens (and probably hundreds) of millions of dollars. (Milberg actually argued that there would be “exponentially” more than hundreds of thousands of claims, but I presume that was because they don’t know what “exponentially” means rather than because they were arguing that there would be tens of billions of claims.)
But push has come to shove, and only 30 thousand class members have taken the preliminary steps of asking for relief—and the Settling Parties have the gall to argue that this response rate (which will correspond to less than $10 million of class benefit, less than the $13 million attorney fee) demonstrates the popularity of the settlement administration, because one couldn’t reasonably expect any more claims than that. We didn’t even ask for those numbers: NVIDIA shamelessly volunteered them as evidence of the success of the settlement.
This case is a poster child for why courts should not award attorneys’ fees until after the claims period has ended. If we hadn’t intervened in this case, no one would have ever disclosed that Milberg exaggerated class recovery twenty- to fifty-fold, and this would be recorded in some empirical study as evidence of attorneys generously restricting themselves to fees of less than 10% of class recovery, rather than 130% of class recovery.
Update: Court rules for NVIDIA. If you’re a class member with questions about the case, and why your attorneys argued against your own recovery, you need to talk to your attorneys at Milberg; I cannot help you.