Negotiated Fees

Does the PSLRA require courts to find the attorneys’ fees agreed upon by the lead plaintiff presumptively reasonable? In In re Nortel Networks Corp. Sec. Litig., 2008 WL 3840916 (2d Cir. Aug. 19, 2008), the lead counsel made this argument on appeal after the district court reduced its fee request from the negotiated 8.5% of the settlement amount to 3% of the settlement amount. The Second Circuit found that the lead counsel had waived the argument, which was based on Third Circuit precedent, by failing to raise it before the district court. The appellate court nevertheless made it clear that while district courts should give “serious consideration” to negotiated fee arrangements, “the only PSLRA provision related to attorneys’ fees places an obligation on district courts to ensure independently that fees are reasonable.” As for the 3% fee award (resulting in a 2.04 lodestar multiplier), the appellate court found that it was “toward the lower end of reasonable fee awards,” but the district court had not abused its discretion in setting the award at that level.

Holding: Fee award affirmed.

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