United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
IN RE ANADARKO BASIN OIL AND GAS LEASE ANTITRUST LITIGATION
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR
ATTORNEYS' FEES, REIMBURSEMENT OF EXPENSES, AND INCENTIVE
HEATON CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on Plaintiffs' Motion for
Attorneys' Fees, Reimbursement of Expenses, and Incentive
Awards. The court has considered (1) the Settlement
Agreement, dated August 30, 2018 [Doc. #220-2]; (b) the
court's December 18, 2018, Preliminary Approval Order
[Doc. #231]; (c) Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys'
Fees, Reimbursement of Expenses, and Incentive Awards [Doc.
#237] and supporting documents; and (d) the Declaration of
Warren T. Burns on Behalf of Class Counsel in Support of
Plaintiffs' Motion for Final Approval of Class Settlement
and Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees,
Reimbursement of Expenses, and Incentive Awards [Doc. #238-1]
and related exhibits. Additionally, on April 25, 2019, the
court held a Fairness Hearing regarding the parties'
Settlement Agreement. Upon considering all of the submissions
and arguments with respect to the Settlement, and upon full
information and for good cause shown the court finds and
concludes as follows:
review of the record, the court concludes that Class
Counsel's requested award of attorneys' fees in the
amount of one-third of the $6.95 million cash value of the
Settlement (the “Settlement Fund”) after
deduction of expenses and incentive awards, $2, 316, 666.67,
is within the applicable range of reasonable attorneys'
fees percentage-of-recovery awards established by relevant
percentage-of-recovery method of calculating attorneys'
fee awards is appropriate in this action. See, e.g., In
re Sandridge Energy, Inc., 2015 WL 11921422, at *2 (W.D.
Okla. Dec. 22, 2015), aff'd sub nom. In re SandRidge
Energy, Inc., 875 F.3d 1297 (10th Cir. 2017); Shaw
v. Interthinx, Inc., 2015 WL 1867861, at *5 (D. Colo.
Apr. 22, 2015).
relevant factors used to determine whether a common fund fee
is reasonable, as articulated by the Tenth Circuit in
Johnson v. Georgia Hwy. Expr., Inc., 488 F.2d 714
(5th Cir. 1974), support a conclusion that the requested fee
is reasonable. These factors are:
(1) the time and labor involved; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite to
perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of
other employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the
case; (5) the customary fee; (6) any prearranged fee. . .;
(7) time limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results
obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the
attorneys; (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the
nature and length of the professional relationship with the
client; and (12) awards in similar cases.
See Brown v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 838 F.2d 451,
454-55 (10th Cir. 1988) (citing Johnson, 488 F.2d at
time and labor spent by Class Counsel support the requested
action has spanned three years and has required Counsel to
engage in motion practice, substantial fact discovery, expert
analysis, multiple days of mediation, and ongoing arms-length
settlement negotiations. Counsel filed motions and pleadings,
conducted and defended depositions, interviewed witnesses,
reviewed millions of pages of documents, and served and
responded to numerous requests for written and documentary
discovery. See [Doc. #238-1] at ¶ 25. The time
and effort spent by Class Counsel on this matter was both
substantial and appropriate in light of the circumstances of
fee's reasonableness is further illustrated by a lodestar
crosscheck, which indicates that Plaintiffs' requested
fee award represents a negative multiplier on Class
Counsel's lodestar amount. See [Doc. #28-1] at
¶ 30. Accordingly, this factor supports the requested
award in the amount of one-third of the Settlement Fund.
matter included numerous factual and legal challenges,
requiring Class Counsel to exercise skill and expertise to
effectively pursue Plaintiffs' claims on behalf of the
Class. By their nature, conspiracies such as that alleged by
Plaintiffs are difficult to prove. See, e.g., Hamilton v.
Arnold, 29 Fed.Appx. 614, 616 (1st Cir. 2002) (observing
“the sine qua non of a conspiracy, the
agreement, is exceedingly difficult to prove
directly”). The specific facts of this case, which left
Plaintiffs with only circumstantial evidence of
Defendants' alleged conspiracy, made that particularly
Plaintiff faced significant evidentiary challenges had this
matter proceeded to class certification, summary judgment,
and ultimately, trial. These included an alleged
co-conspirator's failure to maintain an electronic
database containing information at the heart of
Plaintiffs' claims; that same co-conspirator's
bankruptcy, which removed that alleged co-conspirator from
the case and made it more difficult for Plaintiffs to obtain
documents and testimony; and the death of Defendant
Chesapeake's CEO and founder, who was a central figure in
Plaintiffs' allegations. A number of potential Class
members with strong claims against Defendants entered into
individual settlements and releases with Defendants, creating
additional evidentiary hurdles.
Defendant Chesapeake's admission to a limited number of
anticompetitive agreements in response to an investigation by
the Department of Justice created a further challenge for the
prosecution of Plaintiffs' claims. Having admitted to ten
isolated anticompetitive transactions, Chesapeake maintained
its wrongdoing was limited to solely the ten agreements
uncovered in the DOJ investigation, and that no broader
wrongdoing occurred and no broader class-wide injury exists.
See, e.g., [Doc. #181] at ¶¶ 1-4.
of the forgoing circumstances posed difficulties requiring
the skill of ...