LFG National Capital has been trying unsuccessfully to get its hands on Joseph Alioto’s $28 million fee in an antitrust case, for his representation of a class of indirect purchasers of LCD-Flat Panels.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston refused to release the money from an escrow account in the LCD case Wednesday to LFG National, which has said Alioto owes it the money.
Back in July LFG filed a breach of contract claim against Alioto in San Francisco Superior Court and a judge in that court granted LFG’s application for a writ to take possession of the money.
It took an 11-month battle by antitrust lawyers to gain the $1.1 billion in 10 separate all-cash settlements of price-fixing claims against makers of liquid crystal displays (LCDs), used in laptop computers, TVs and computer monitors.
Once the deals were inked for consumers, then the battling really started for the fees.
Illston allocated $47 million in fees to Alioto and his firm, as co-lead counsel for the consumer class, known as in-direct purchasers of LCDs.
Delaware-based LFG National Capital has accused Alioto of failing to repay an alleged $18.3 million loan from LFG affiliate, LawFinance Group, to help finance the long-running antitrust case. The balance is now up to $28.2 million, according to LFG in a federal lawsuit.
Alioto denies he is indebted to LFG and, anyway, it’s between his firm and LFG. The issue is not before the court, according to Alioto.
LFG went to Illston asking for the money to be released from escrow. But she turned them down.
Several individuals objected to the settlement of the flat panel display antitrust case, particularly to the award of Alioto’s fees, alleging he had an improper free-splitting agreement with LFG. They want the fee cut drastically to limit Alioto’s share to a period for his work on the case prior to May 2009.
The objectors have appealed the settlement deal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to resolve the issue. But LFG went to Illston asking that she release the $28 million held in escrow so the sheriff can levy the account.
Illston said she lacks jurisdiction to grant LFG’s request while the matter is pending in the 9th Circuit.
“The validity of the attorneys’ fees award is directly attacked on appeal,” she said. “This court may not take any action that would alter the questions currently before the Ninth Circuit,” Illston concluded.
Case: In re: TFT-LCD Antitrust Litigation, No. M07-1827SL