MIAMI – Two Miami law firms were awarded more than $300 million Thursday in standard attorneys fees for their work in a 15-year legal battle involving Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and thousands of service station dealers who sued the company.
U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold gave the two law firms about 30 percent of the total settlement of $1.075 billion agreement awarded to the plaintiffs, amounting to about $320 million, The Miami Herald reported on its Web site. A 30 percent fee is reasonable for contingency cases, according to the ABA and Federal Trade Commission, as law firms face the risk of no compensation at all if they lose at trial or on appeal.
The case against Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. began in 1991 when the service stations accused the company of failing to provide promised discounts for wholesale motor fuel and fraudulently hiding its failure to pay.
A jury found in favor of the dealers in 2001 and ordered Exxon to pay $500 million, but the company appealed that verdict. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Exxon's last appeal this past June, by which time the payment had increased to more than $1 billion with interest.
The settlement comes as a court-appointed official assesses the claims of the more than 10,000 service station owners involved in the suit.
The Miami firm Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson will receive about $247.3 million, while the firm of Pertnoy, Solowsky and Allen will get about $53.2 million. Three other law firms in the case were awarded a total of about $8.6 million.
In his order Gold dismissed protests about the amount of the fees noting the length of the firms' involvement in the case, the extensive appeals and the risk the firms faced if they lost at trial or on appeal.
Exxon and Mobil corporations merged in 1999 and have become the world's largest publicly traded oil company. Exxon announced that its 2005 profit topped $36 billion — the highest ever for a U.S. company.