08:23, March 15 693 0 abajournal.com

2017-03-15 08:23:04
Law firm reveals contract lawyer was actually disbarred; he had billed 6,900 hours in Sprint suit

A Pennsylvania law firm has suffered a second blow in a shareholder suit after a Kansas judge slashed its fee request from $4.25 million to $450,000.

The Weiser Law Firm revealed in a February letter to the judge that it had learned a contract lawyer responsible for more than a quarter of its requested legal fees was not, in fact, a lawyer, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the revelation could unravel a settlement “and provide grist for corporate groups and others that have highlighted alleged abuses in the civil-justice system, fueling current momentum for legislative change.”

The lawyer had said he worked more than 6,900 hours reviewing documents in the suit alleging that Sprint directors and officers hid problems created by a merger with Nextel. He billed, on average, for 13 hours of work per day, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Judge James Vano of Olathe, Kansas, had refused to approve the fees in a Nov. 22 opinion. “It seems that the vast amount of work performed on this case was illusory, perhaps done for the purpose of inflating billable hours,” he wrote. The Weiser firm, in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, is appealing that decision.

According to the law firm’s letter, the contract lawyer had said he was Alexander J. Silow, but he was actually named Jeffrey M. Silow, a lawyer who has been disbarred since 1987. Silow had been working as a contract lawyer for at least eight years when the law firm hired him through a lawyer staffing agency in 2008.

The law firm said it nonetheless maintains that its legal bills are accurate.

The settlement requires changes in Sprint’s corporate governance but does not provide for a clawback in profits by officers and directors who were accused in the suit of self-dealing.

Lady Justice slips on a banana peel.