Apple Questions Attorneys’ Fee Request in $100M Developer Antitrust Suit Settlement

In a court filing submitted on Monday, Apple Inc. responded to plaintiff counsel’s request for 30.5% of the $100 million settlement to compensate them for both expenses and legal fees in the case. Apple argues that the expenses and service awards are reasonable, but the request for 27% attorneys’ fee may be too high based on the standards applied in the Ninth Circuit and in the Northern District of California.

The case dates back to 2019, when mobile app developers sued Apple for antitrust violations, contending that the company acquired and maintained monopoly power by refusing to allow iOS device users to purchase iOS apps and in-app products other than through its own App Store. The parties reached a settlement during class certification briefing and presented it to the court in August. In November, the court granted preliminary approval.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers opined that the agreement, which provides for both monetary relief and “structural changes that will benefit all developers worldwide for at least three years after final approval” was fair. In that order, the court reminded plaintiffs’ counsel that a 33% award was atypical in such cases and “any request for the same will need to be accompanied by detailed time records.”

Apple responded to the motion for attorneys’ fees by acknowledging that “[c]lass counsel are entitled to be paid for their efforts in litigating this action. The question is how much.” The thrust of the company’s argument centered on both the benefit for the developer class as well as Ninth Circuit precedent dictating that “class counsel should be awarded 25 percent of the ascertainable value of a settlement as attorney’s fees.”

In this case, the ascertainable amount of the settlement is the monetary value, $100 million, Apple said. While the structural changes ostensibly benefit the developer community, quantifying that benefit is difficult, the response remarked.

The filing also noted that counsel seeks $27 million, a figure equating to almost two-and-a-half times their Lodestar fees, which total about $11 million. “On its face, that request raises questions regarding overcompensation,” Apple commented. The company said that while not controlling, the Ninth Circuit has made clear that Lodestar multipliers must be considered in attorneys’ fee awards.

The fee award hearing is scheduled for June 7 in Oakland, California. Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is interim lead class counsel while  Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP represents Apple in the matter.