US: Law firm seeks nearly $700 mil for Enron pacts

The law firm that helped win $7.2 billion
in settlements for Enron investors is seeking nearly $700 million in
legal fees for itself and other attorneys who handled the case,
according to court documents.

The payout to the firm -- now called Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman &
Robbins LLP after the departure of founder William Lerach -- would, if
approved by a federal judge, be the biggest amount ever in a
securities fraud case.

A top partner at the firm, meanwhile, disputed a report in the online
edition of the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that said that Lerach,
who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a criminal case, is in line to
recover as much as $50 million personally from the proposed fee

Lerach retired in
August. He is considered the chief architect of the Enron settlements
reached with Citigroup Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co. and other
defendants accused of helping Enron hide financial

Any set fee amount that Lerach would receive from the Enron
settlements is speculative, said Patrick Coughlin, a co-founder of the
San Diego-based law practice.

"The judge has to approve any fee in the case, then we have to
pay out all of our counsel and other obligations before any
distributions are made, so any set amount is purely speculative,"
Coughlin said.

According to a filing with the U.S. District Court in Houston,
Coughlin Stoia is seeking about 9.5 percent of the total settlement
amount, which would equal nearly $700 million. The firm is requesting
a court hearing on the fee request.

Lerach has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to
participating in a kickbacks scheme at his former law firm, Milberg
Weiss LLP, which also is facing criminal charges and has pleaded not
guilty. Coughlin Stoia does not face charges in the case.

Lerach, who awaits sentencing, could not immediately be reached for

Recently, a group of
plaintiffs firms sought about $460 million in fees following
settlements in a securities fraud case against Tyco International Ltd.
That request is awaiting court approval.
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