Last week, a tentative settlement agreement for $25 million was reportedly reached between Harvey Weinstein and more than 30 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. If approved by the court, the deal would bring an end to the majority of lawsuits pending against the disgraced Hollywood mogul.
Now that the details have come out, however, several of the women are objecting to attorney’s fees, which in some cases would hand the lawyers more than 10 times more than some of the accusers, according to The Guardian.
Should we file this under ‘that’s how class-action lawsuits work’ or are the attorneys asking too much after two years of negotiations?
Elizabeth Fegan, the lead attorney representing the women who are part of the original class action lawsuit and all future claimants who choose to join it, could receive up to 25% of the payout if the settlement goes ahead, legal observers said. They pointed out that sum could end up being 10 times or more the payment to individual victims, especially if more join the case and dilute the amount of the awards.
Lawyer Douglas Wigdor says this is one of the grounds upon which he intends to fight the proposed settlement on behalf of two of his clients who have announced they will object.
He says Fegan’s fee “could end up being significantly more than 10 times the amount” that individual plaintiffs will receive.
“She stands to make millions of dollars in attorney fees if it settles and if it doesn’t, then she’s out of luck.” –The Guardian
The proposed settlement with accusers is just one component of a $47 million deal which would also pay the Weinstein Company’s debts. Of it, $6.2 million would go to 18 accusers in the US, Canada and UK, while around $18.5 million would be set aside for class action participants – with more expected to join.
Over a quarter of the overall settlement package, $12m, will go towards the legal costs of Weinstein, his brother Bob, and former members of the company’s board if the agreement goes ahead.
According to attorney John Clune, who has advised several dissatisfied Weinstein accusers, “It certainly doesn’t seem fair that lawyers could be getting more than their clients … This is one of the things that I think the judge is going to have to take a close look at.”
Fegan told The Guardian, “As in all class actions, attorneys’ fees are ultimately determined by the judge, who must evaluate and approve the percentage. If the court awards them 25% for fees, the attorneys will receive less than the value of time spent on the case using industry standard defined billing rates.”
According to the report, New Zealand model Zoe Brock says she intends to file an objection to the proposed settlement – the fourth accuser to publicly say she will do so, adding that she feels “hopeless and defeated” by the proposed terms under which Weinstein wouldn’t be required to personally pay his accusers or admit any wrongdoing.
Instead, the settlement would be paid by insurance companies representing the Weinstein Company.
Brock, who was part of the original class action filed against Weinstein in November 2017, says she feels her hands are tied. “Even if I walk away I can’t take another suit against Harvey, or anyone connected to him, because the class action has already been filed,” she said.
“I have been dealing behind the scenes with the weight of this negotiation for months and I have been very vocal about how unhappy I am about it with my legal team,” she told New Zealand radio station, Stuff.
“They have been very careful in every email and every interview to say that no one is being forced into this settlement but I feel forced … I don’t feel like I have a choice.”
Brock is among the Weinstein accusers who have sought outside advice from lawyers not involved in the settlement negotiations. –The Guardian
Another Weinstein accuser who says she was sexually assaulted by the mogul in 2010, Dominique Huett, says she is also considering filing an objection, however she’s worried that if the settlement is not passed, nobody will be compensated.
“I’m not sure I want to sign up to this,” she said, “but I feel I need to do what’s best for the collective and don’t want to get in the way of other women who feel this is their only option.”
“It has been a very disturbing process. He [Weinstein] is still holding all of the power and all of the cards.”
Meanwhile, Weinstein’s criminal trial is scheduled to begin January 6 in Manhattan, while he may also face charges in Los Angeles.