The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLACK
By orders dated August 1, 1997 this Court finally approved the terms of the settlement, between plaintiffs and the Polaris Defendants,
which is embodied in the Stipulation of Settlement With Polaris Defendants (the "Settlement"), dated April 22, 1997. The Settlement provided, among other things, that the Polaris Defendants would pay $ 22,500,000 into a settlement fund for the benefit of the PAIF Subclass (the "Class"). The Class was certified by court order dated June 5, 1997.
The Preliminary Approval Order scheduled a hearing to finally determine the fairness, reasonableness and adequacy of the Settlement as well as an award of attorneys' fees and reimbursement of expenses to Class Counsel and directed the manner by which notice of the Settlement and Fairness Hearing was to be provided to the Class. After notice to Class members, on August 1, 1997 a Fairness Hearing was held. There were no objections filed with the Court nor did any Class member appear at the Fairness Hearing to object to the Settlement or to counsel's fee application. After hearing and deliberation, the Settlement was approved and reduced to judgment. However, the Court deferred consideration of Class Counsels' joint petition for attorneys' fees and expenses (the "Fee Petition") until closer to the time that the Claims Administrator, the Garden City Group, will be distributing proceeds of the Settlement to Class members.
Class Counsel now report that the Garden City Group expects to be able to distribute funds to Class members in January, 1998. Prior to calculating each Class member's share of the common fund it is necessary to determine the amount that will be withdrawn from the fund to compensate counsel. Thus, the Court now considers the Fee Petition.
In support of the Fee Petition Class Counsel presented the following:
1. Joint Affidavit of Melvyn I. Weiss and Lawrence A. Sucharow in Support of Approval of Polaris Partial Class Action Settlement and Plan of Allocation and in Support of the Joint Petition for an Award of Attorneys' Fees and Litigation Expenses (the "Weiss/Sucharow Affidavit");
2. Compendium to the Weiss/Sucharow Affidavit (the "Compendium");
3. Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Support of Request for Final Approval of Partial Class Action Settlement and Plan of Allocation and in Support of the Joint Petition for an Award of Attorneys' Fees and Litigation Expenses ("Plaintiffs' Memorandum"); and
4. Supplemental Affidavit of Joel H. Bernstein in Support of Request for Final Approval of Partial Class Action Settlement and Plan of Allocation and in Support of the Joint Petition for an Award of Attorneys' Fees and Litigation Expenses ("Supplemental Affidavit").
The Fee Petition requests an award of $ 6,750,000 in attorneys' fees and $ 1,038,879.77 in reimbursement of expenses from October 1, 1995 to the present.
Class Counsel's efforts have resulted in the establishment of a $ 22,500,000 common fund for the benefit of the Class. Class Counsel also request that they be paid accrued interest on such portion of the common fund that will be awarded to them from the date of deposit until the date of payment.
APPOINTMENT AND ORGANIZATION OF CLASS COUNSEL
On May 19, 1994, this Court entered Order No. 1, later superseded by Order No. 2 on June 27, 1994, which consolidated the Constituent Actions for pre-trial purposes, designated an Executive Committee of Plaintiffs' Counsel and designated Melvyn I. Weiss, Lawrence A. Sucharow and H. Sullivan Bunch of the firms of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, Goodkind Labaton Rudoff & Sucharow LLP and Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint P.C. respectively as Liaison Counsel of the Executive Committee. Later, the Executive Committee appointed Messrs. Weiss and Sucharow as Co-Chairmen. Plaintiffs' Executive Committee was authorized to assign tasks to other counsel who had appeared for various plaintiffs in the lawsuits making up the Constituent Actions. As specific needs arose, the Executive Committee formed other sub-committees to deal with the ongoing prosecution of the case and settlement negotiations.
In the Compendium, plaintiffs' counsel have filed affidavits from each of the law firms that are requesting the award of counsel fees. An attachment to each affidavit sets forth the number of attorney and paralegal hours expended on this litigation by each individual at the firm involved, as well as the current non-contingent hourly rates charged by the firm for such services.
Services Rendered by Plaintiffs' Counsel
Class Counsel collectively have performed nearly 18,100 hours of thus far uncompensated legal work in pursuit of factual investigation, drafting of legal documents, brief writing, document analysis, depositions, trial preparation and settlement negotiation.
The services rendered were coordinated by members of a litigation committee chaired by Joel H. Bernstein of Goodkind Labaton Rudoff & Sucharow LLP so as to avoid duplication and efficiently prosecute the claims. The primary areas of responsibility of the litigation committee members were as follows:
1. Kevin Roddy of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP was in charge of legal analysis including legal research with respect to issues briefed, analysis of admissibility of evidence, preparation of motions in limine, jury instructions and damage theories.
2. Denise Schwartzman of Chimicles Jacobson & Tikellis was in charge of analyzing Polaris and General Electric ("G.E.") financial statements
to determine whether they contained hidden evidence of fraud. This included analysis of the critical "residual values" of the PAIFs' aircraft so that Class Counsel could develop the evidence to show the trier of fact that Polaris treated the aircraft leased by the PAIFs in a manner that was different from what was originally represented to investors.
3. H. Sullivan Bunch of Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint, P.C. was in charge of marshalling evidence concerning what investors were told about these Partnerships from their brokers, how the information provided to investors was different from the truth and investigating and discovering the facts from which Class Counsel could present evidence that the uniform sales pitch that investors were provided with actually came from Polaris as opposed to brokerage firms such as PSI and Kidder Peabody.