In the latest—and last—fee request submitted in connection with its work on the largest Chapter 11 case in U.S. history, Weil, Gotshal & Manges says it has racked up roughly $442 million in fees and expenses representing the bankrupt estate of Lehman Brothers over the past three-and-a-half years.
The firm filed its final fee application in the Lehman case Tuesday. The nine-page document—submitted to the court by Weil bankruptcy practice founder Harvey Miller and business finance and restructuring partner Lori Fife—shows that the firm has sought nearly $431.6 million in fees for professional services rendered and $11.1 million in expenses for its efforts during the massive Chapter 11 case.
Those amounts represent the cumulative totals of sums previously detailed by Weil in monthly and interim fee applications filed over the course of the lengthy proceedings. ( The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of Weil’s final fee application on Thursday.)
In its final request for compensation, Weil claims that “professionals in each of [the firm's] twenty domestic and international offices were called upon to represent the interests of the Debtors,” as well as various affiliates, noting that without the “judgment, diligence, creativity, and tireless effort‚” of the firm’s employees, it would have been nearly impossible to resolve in “little more than three years‚” the large and “incredibly complex” Lehman cases.
The filing further states that Weil lawyers and staffers combined to bill a total of more than 747,000 hours on the Lehman bankruptcy and related matters, and adds that while the firm’s results were “extraordinary and present a foundation for fee enhancement, Weil has determined to forego any such request.”
Weil also claims that as a result of its work as lead debtor’s counsel on the Lehman cases, “projected recoveries for holders of allowed claims are expected to exceed $70 billion,” while the firm managed to reduce total claims against the bankrupt estate from $1.2 trillion to less than $500 million.
Before its collapse in the fall of 2008, Lehman was one of Weil’s largest clients. (The firm collected $51.8 million in fees from the New York–based financial services giant in the year prior to its bankruptcy filing, according to our previous reports.) Weil then famously helped Lehman prepare for its ignominious end in record time amid the onset of the global financial crisis.
The Lehman case concluded in March, with Weil’s Miller and Fife working on the case until the end. By then, as The Am Law Daily reported, Weil’s tab for its work on the case stood at nearly $383 million in fees and expenses. Only restructuring and turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal has reaped more in Lehman-related fees.
As spelled out in monthly operating reports that Lehman has filed with the SEC, Weil is one of many professional services firms that have benefited from managing the wind-down of Lehman and its affiliates. Among law firms specifically, Weil was undoubtedly the top earner, and its Lehman-related work gave the firm’s bottom line a significant boost in recent years.
According to data compiled by The American Lawyer for its annual Am Law 100 surveys, Weil took in roughly $3.6 billion in gross revenue between 2009 and 2011. That means the firm’s fees and expenses on the Lehman case accounted for about 10 to 12 percent of that total. (Missing from the equation: fees earned by Weil for its work on Lehman-related matters in the last three months of 2008 and the first several months of this year.)
While the Lehman case draws to a close, Weil has other jewels in its bankruptcy crown to keep it busy. The firm has billed the bankrupt parent of American Airlines nearly $23 million for its services since the start of the airlines’ Chapter 11 case last November, according to a recent report by the Tulsa World.
Of course, Weil wasn’t the only firm counting its earnings for work on Lehman-related legal matters this week. Plaintiffs’ firms Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann and Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check were awarded $56.7 million in class action fees for their roles winning $516 million in settlements for Lehman investors last year, according to a report by sibling publication The Am Law Litigation Daily.
U.S. district court judge Lewis Kaplan, who also awarded the firms $1.7 million in expenses, had previously rejected the same firms’ request for nearly $83 million in fees for their work on the case.