NATIONAL TAXPAYER GROUP SUPPORTS HOUSE BILL TO LIMIT LEGAL FEES IN TOBACCO SETTLEMENT

For Immediate Release Contact: Jim Campi
November 7, 1997/2:30 p.m. (202) 467-5300

 

(Washington, D.C.) – At a Capitol Hill news conference today, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) joined House members in support of the Tobacco Attorney Fee Limitation Bill (H.R. 2740), a proposal that would restrict the amount of money private attorneys can collect from the recent tobacco settlement. 

“Class action lawsuits are supposed to benefit the victims,” said CCAGW President Thomas A. Schatz.  “Plaintiffs’ lawyers have been known to sit around and talk about which industry to take on in order to obtain the biggest benefit for themselves.  Unfortunately, the lawsuits usually provide the lawyers with windfall profits while the plaintiffs get almost nothing.  The same is true of the recent tobacco settlement – 140 law firms are drooling over the prospect of splitting up a $14 billion jackpot.  That comes to $800 million per firm.  This is unacceptable and this legislation is needed to stop it.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) and co-sponsored by Reps. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) and Paul McHale (D-Pa.), would severely limit the fees that class action plaintiff lawyers can collect from the $368.5 billion tobacco settlement to a maximum of $150 per hour.  It would also restrict total fees to either .01 percent of the total settlement or $35 million, whichever is less.  The bill also requires law firms to submit a detailed accounting of time spent on the settlement to Congress, as well as disclosure of that information to the public.

 “The stated objective of the tobacco settlement was to improve public health,” Schatz said.  “If that is true, why should the lawyers involved get away with as much as $14 billion.  CCAGW conducted a mail campaign calling for the same limitation levels spelled out in the bill.  Thousands of outraged members responded to the campaign calling for a limit in legal fees.  It is CCAGW’s hope that Congress takes a serious look at the settlement and passes this legislation in order to provide taxpayers, not lawyers, with the lion’s share of the settlement.”

  CCAGW is a 600,000 member lobbying organization dedicated to seeking enactment of legislation to eliminate waste, inefficiency, mismanagement and abuse in the federal government.

 

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