Ninth Circuit Trims Attorneys’ Fees in Optical Disk Drive Antitrust Case

Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit issued a non-published opinion concerning an attorneys’ fee award of $31 million to Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP (HB), class counsel for buyers of optical disk drive (ODD) products in a suit against electronic manufacturers including Samsung, Toshiba, NEC, and Panasonic. Monday’s opinion addressed and partly agreed with arguments lodged by an objector who claimed that HB was overpaid for its services.

According to the official settlement website, plaintiffs from two dozen states filed the antitrust class action lawsuit claiming that they overpaid for ODDs. Specifically, they alleged a conspiracy by nearly a dozen Asian electronics manufacturers to stabilize the prices of ODDs at artificially high levels in violation of federal and state antitrust laws. 

A number of the defendants settled claims that they colluded to fix prices between 2003 and 2008, but admitted no fault. Consumers who purchased impacted ODDs and who submitted valid claims  are expected to obtain their share of the $205 million settlement this month.

With regard to the instant dispute, the appellate panel noted that it previously vacated the district court’s decision awarding a total of $52.78 million in attorneys’ fees and expenses to HB and remanded for the recalculation of the award. The second time, the district court awarded HB just over $31 million in attorneys’ fees, which the objector unsuccessfully sought to unwind.

This week’s opinion explained that the objector made several arguments on appeal, including that the district court miscalculated the award. Indeed, the panel found fault with the trial court’s calculation because it failed to properly account for the numbers underlying HB’s fee structure proposal, a component of its bid to become lead counsel.

Specifically, the decision found that HB’s bid “incorporated marginal rates rather than fixed rates in its fee structure,” and as such the court’s starting point of $25.86 million was too high. The panel’s interpretation of HB’s bid required it to remand the case for recalculation using the proper starting point of $22.2 million.

The Ninth Circuit ordered each party to bear its own costs on appeal. 

The objector is represented by the Bandas Law Firm P.C.