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A federal judge has approved a $50 million settlement in the long-running Comcast antitrust class action, carving out $15 million of that total for attorney fees.
U.S. District Judge John R. Padova of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania signed off on the settlement, capping a class action that had seen three trips to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and one to the U.S. Supreme Court since its initiation in 2003.
The plaintiffs in the case, representing roughly 800,000 current and former Comcast cable subscribers from Philadelphia and the four surrounding suburban counties, alleged the company monopolized the regional cable market by “swapping” customers from other providers and “clustering” them in certain geographic areas that allowed the company to raise prices and limit customer choice.
The settlement is broken down into a cash component of $16.7 million and a services component valued at $33.3 million. The $15 million in attorney fees will come from the cash component. Those fees are broken down into $6.4 million for attorney compensation and $8.6 million in expenses.
M. Norman Goldberger, a Ballard Spahr attorney representing Comcast, did not return a call seeking comment.
Representing the class members were 17 firms from across the country, which had requested a combined sum of nearly $25 million in fees and costs. While Padova’s opinion did not list the breakdown of each firm’s share of the $15 million in fees and costs he ultimately awarded, three firms had requested compensation over the million-dollar mark.
Minneapolis-based firm Heins Mills & Olson, which performed 33,145 hours of work in the litigation, initially requested roughly $13 million. Following Heins Mills, Houston-based Susman Godfrey put in 11,807 hours of work and requested $5.6 million, while Bolognese & Associates in Philadelphia put in 2,564 hours of work and requested just over $1 million.
David Woodward of Heins Mills did not return a call seeking comment.
In total, attorneys for the class members worked for a total of 65,511 hours. According to Padova, the attorneys asserted their requested fees were well below those awarded in similar antitrust cases.
As for the class members, Padova wrote in his opinion that current Comcast subscribers have two compensatory routes to choose from: They can take a one-time $15 credit to their bill or select from a series of Comcast services, including six pay-per-view movies, valued at $35.94; four months of upgraded Internet service, an estimated $40 value; or a two-month subscription to The Movie Channel, valued at $43.90. Former subscribers will receive a cash payment of $15.
If the payout obligation exceeds the amount in the cash component, Padova said Comcast has agreed to contribute additional money to the settlement fund. If there is any left over, Comcast will apply the remaining cash as a one-time credit off subscribers’ bills.
Out of the entire class, there were only three members who objected to the terms of the settlement, and Padova ultimately overruled their objections.
Padova said the time was right for settlement.
“Class counsel note that this litigation is of long duration, involved extensive discovery, motion practice, multiple trips through appellate courts, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on class certification issues, 47 depositions, the review of millions of pages of party and third-party documents, and the retention of multiple experts by the parties, who issued reports and almost all of whom were deposed,” Padova said. “Based upon the voluminous record, the court previously found ‘that the level to which this case was litigated supports a conclusion that the settlement was reached with full appreciation by counsel of the merits of the case.’”
(Copies of the 25-page opinion in Glaberson v. Comcast, PICS No. 15-1473, are available from The Legal Intelligencer. Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 800-276-PICS to order or for information.) •