Yesterday, updating a Tuesday post, I expressed some annoyance that AmLaw Daily’s coverage of the $688 million Enron fee award extensively quoted Columbia lawprof Jack Coffee in support of the fee’s fairness — even casting him as a “frequent class action critic” whose praise for the fee was more credible because “unlikely” — without informing readers that Prof. Coffee had in fact been hired by the plaintiff’s lawyers to support their fee application, a role he has served in earlier cases as well. Now the publication has “updated [the post] with new information” reflecting that relationship. Journalism professor Mark Obbie of Syracuse’s Carnegie Legal Reporting Program is kind enough to credit my criticism with making a difference.
Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, formerly of Bill Lerach fame, and other law firms sued to pin the blame on banks, auditors, and other outside deep-pocket third parties, as well as on directors; defendants collectively paid $7.2 billion. Giving the plaintiff’s lawyers $688 million of that is very “fair and reasonable” and involves no “windfall”, per U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon. (Bloomberg, Sept. 8).
More: OK, so maybe Brian Baxter of AmLaw Daily is just pursuing a reasonable news angle when he quotes the Coughlin Stoia lawyers doing a little victory lap and waving to the crowd. But if he’s going to quote Prof. John Coffee at such length as his big authority in support of the fee’s fairness, shouldn’t he go beyond identifying Coffee as “a professor at Columbia Law School and frequent class action critic” to spell out a little more explicitly that, you know, Coffee was hired by the plaintiff’s lawyers in this case to defend their fee request? Doesn’t that make it less surprising that Patrick Coughlin “welcomes the positive feedback” from these supposedly “unlikely legal circles” to support his case? (more background, yet more).
Update Thurs. a.m.: by yesterday evening American Lawyer had substantially “updated [the post] with new information” to reflect the Coffee relationship, and Prof. Obbie is kind enough to give me some credit for that happening.