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Fifteen law firms have billed the Lehman Brothers estate more than $300 million in total fees and expenses since Lehman filed for bankruptcy in September 2008. By almost any standard, that’s a lot of money. But the cash pouring in hasn’t stopped the key firms involved from protesting aggressively when the fee committee monitoring the case moves to slash their bills, even if the proposed cuts amount to a fraction of a percent of the firms’ total requested fees.

The fees dispute gained momentum earlier this week, when three firms — Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, Jones Day and Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle — filed papers protesting the Lehman fee committee’s reductions of their bills for the period of June 1, 2009, through the end of September 2009. The cuts are small in the context of the total billings to date in the Lehman matter. In the case of Curtis Mallet, for instance, the committee, headed by Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration’s bailout pay czar, slashed the firm’s $4.8 million bill for that four-month period by about $178,000. The firm protested, saying the cuts were too large, and Feinberg agreed to put about $29,000 back onto the firm’s bill, court records show.

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