Nichols Kaster Earns $6.57M in ERISA Settlement Attorney Fees
Originally published; March 7, 2019 | LIT Republished June 12, 2020
Nichols Kaster, a Minneapolis-based firm focused on employment law and consumer rights, has secured $6.57 million in attorney fees, plus nearly $1 million more in litigation and administrative expenses, following a nearly $22 million ERISA class action settlement with Deutsche Bank in Manhattan federal court.
U.S District Judge Lorna Schofield of the Southern District of New York approved the settlement March 1 between the international bank and a class of plaintiffs invested in the Deutsche Bank Matched Savings Plan.
Led by lead plaintiff Ramon Moreno, the class accused Deutsche Bank of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 through self-dealing that hurt the performance of the savings plan participants. The bank allegedly charged fees to the savings plan that were at times more than 10 times those of similar funds, even while Deutsche Bank’s own funds were performing poorly by comparison.
On the eve of trial, the parties engaged in mediation and reached a settlement-in-principle in July 2018. The class is estimated to contain 34,700 members who will be eligible for the $21.9 million settlement. Deutsche Bank also agreed to independent oversight and review of its practices related to the investment fund.
Schofield approved class counsel’s request for a 30 percent rate, which was slightly higher than the 27 percent baseline fee for similarly sized ERISA case. The judge found that given the substantial nonmonetary benefits achieved in the settlement, “an upward adjustment to the baseline” was warranted.
Schofield also approved more than $759,000 worth of litigation expenses related to experts, travel, mediation and depositions, as well as approximately $106,500 in settlement administration expenses. Each of the five named plaintiffs were additionally awarded $10,000 in incentive awards.
The Nichols Kaster team was led by Kai Richter, alongside firm name attorney James Kaster. Richter said the firm would not be commenting.
Deutsche Bank was represented by Goodwin Procter partner and chair of the firm’s ERISA practice James Fleckner. He did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for the bank likewise declined to comment.
Moreno v. Deutsche Bank Americas Holding Corp., 15 Civ. 9936 (LGS) (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 7, 2019)
Who is Jamie Fleckner, Goodwin Procter, LLP?
Jamie Fleckner is a partner in Goodwin’s Financial Industry practice and Chair of its ERISA Litigation practice. Mr. Fleckner represents clients in a wide array of complex commercial litigation, with a focus on financial services and products, including investment management. He regularly litigates class and derivative actions under ERISA, the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and related federal and state laws. His practice also focuses on regulatory investigations and governmental proceedings, and has represented clients before the U.S. Department of Labor, Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and state authorities.
Mr. Fleckner’s success in litigating cutting edge legal issues has been profiled in The American Lawyer’s Big Suits and Litigator of the Week features. According to Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business where Mr. Fleckner has been selected for inclusion since 2014, Mr. Fleckner is “at the top of his game,” and is “a rare thought leader” on ERISA litigation. Since 2015, he has been recognized as a leading lawyer in the list of Who’s Who Legal: Pensions and Benefits.
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