Jon Campisi Nov. 14, 2012, 8:26am

The federal judge in Philadelphia who is overseeing the Processed Egg Products Antitrust

Litigation has granted a plaintiffs’ motion seeking $7.5 million in lawyers’ fees and nearly a half-million dollars in costs and expenses tied to the multi-district, class action litigation.

In a Nov. 9 memorandum and order, U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter, sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, awarded counsel representing the direct purchaser plaintiffs in the case $7.5 million along with accrued interest, and also awarded the reimbursement of expenses in the amount of $443,944.79, along with accrued interest.

The attorneys’ fees represent 30 percent of the common fund created by the settlement agreement between the direct purchaser plaintiffs and defendants Moark, LLC, Norco Ranch Inc. and Land O’Lakes, Inc.

The plaintiffs in the litigation, director purchasers such as grocery stores, commercial food manufacturers, restaurants and other food service providers, alleged a conspiracy among egg producers and trade groups to manipulate the supply of egg products, thereby affecting the domestic prices of those goods.

Background information on the case shows that defendant Moark and the plaintiffs began to engage in settlement negotiations back in March 2010.

Final approval of the settlement was given by the court about four months later, with the agreement providing $25 million in monetary relief to class members, and obligating Moark to cooperate with the plaintiffs’ preparation for and prosecution of their case, the judicial memorandum states.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers filed their motion for attorneys’ fees and expense reimbursements from the fund created by the Moark Settlement in mid April of last year.

The motion requested that the court award $7.5 million in attorneys’ fees, an amount equal to 30 percent of the settlement fund, and that it allow interim co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs to control distribution of the fees.

The plaintiffs’ motion also initially sought $487,720.30 in litigation expenses, however, Judge Pratter ultimately ruled that only nontaxable costs in the amount of $434,944.79 could be awarded to the plaintiffs’ counsel.

The judicial ruling states that the antitrust litigation has been exceedingly complex, expensive and lengthy.

By the time the court had granted final approval to the Moark settlement, the parties had already engaged in more than three years of consolidated multi-district litigation.

The memorandum states that the court determined that lawyers with 35 different firms spent a collective 22,772.81 hours working on the litigation through Feb. 28, 2011, which was the day the court held a final fairness hearing on the Moark settlement.

“Given the complexity that necessarily accompanies consolidated antitrust litigation and the duration of the case, the Court finds that this factor favors granting the motion,” for attorneys’ fees, the judge wrote. “The amount of time spent on this case prior to final approval of the settlement most likely reflects the complexity of the Plaintiffs’ claims, not the inefficiency of their counsel.

“Presumably, the thousands of hours counsel spent working on this matter prevented those individuals from litigating other cases,” the judge continued. “This factor thus strongly favors granting the motion for attorneys’ fees.”

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