Appeals Court Says Law Firm Wrongly Excluded from Bank of America Settlement

A three-judge federal panel has overturned a lower court ruling that excluded a Dayton, Ohio-based law firm from claiming $6.2 million in attorneys’ fees as part of a $2.4 billion settlement with Bank of America Corp.

Flanagan Lieberman Hoffman & Swaim had appealed the district court ruling, contending the firm was wrongly excluded from collecting its portion of $152 million in legal fees in the settlement with Bank of America in a class-action lawsuit from investors.

“We’re very pleased that the appeals panel recognized the extensive work performed by my clients,” says appellate attorney Kevin P. Parker of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston, who represented Flanagan Lieberman. “We’re now in a position to make this right for the attorneys who worked so diligently on behalf of this class.”

The $2.4 billion settlement, which included legal fees, was approved in April 2013 by Judge Kevin Castel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. However, in a separate order, Judge Castel said Flanagan Lieberman failed to show that the firm’s services “were for the benefit of the class.”

The three law firms that served as co-lead counsel in the class action against Bank of America supported Flanagan Lieberman’s fee request, which was not opposed by any party or counsel in the case.

According to Parker, his clients reviewed millions of documents and did significant work preparing for trial, including selecting expert witnesses and summarizing key depositions before the case settled in September 2012.

The class-action claim alleged that Bank of America and its top executives misled shareholders about the financial health of the bank and Merrill Lynch & Co. prior to the two entities’ merger in January 2009. The lawsuit was settled about 30 days before trial was scheduled to begin.

Judges Debra Ann Livingston, John Walker and Dennis Jacobs of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling in favor of Flanagan Lieberman on March 17 in In Re: Bank of America Corp., No. 13-2919. The case now has been sent back to the trial court.

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