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NCAA Athletes’ Lawyers Seek $45M in Fees After Winning Pay Case

March 27, 2019, 2:38 PM

The attorneys who won a major court ruling this month invalidating some caps on pay for NCAA college athletes are seeking nearly $45 million for their work on the case.

The attorneys are from the law firms Winston & Strawn, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, Pritzker Levine LLP, and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw.

The $45 million figure reflects fees of just under $30 million for hours they spent on the complex antitrust class action, multiplied by 1.5 to reflect the case’s degree of difficulty and risk, according to the fee motion filed March 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

“Plaintiffs’ fees are reasonable in light of the substantial defense resources (involving more than a dozen of the top law firms in the world) that they had to overcome, the difficulty and novelty of the many issues presented by this case, the enormous amount of factual discovery and expert work that was required to prosecute the claims, and the substantial economic value of the injunctive relief,” the motion says.

The filing comes about three weeks after Judge Claudia Wilken of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s compensation rules violate federal antitrust law. The ruling, if it stands, will let schools pay athletes for education-related expenses beyond current caps.

Wilken limited athletes’ new compensation to education-related costs, not pay for playing.

In addition to $44.9 million in fees, the plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking reimbursement for more than $1.3 million in costs they say they fronted to pay for expert witnesses.

“Groundbreaking and complex antitrust litigation always requires expensive expert testimony in order to prevail,” the motion says. “It was particularly so in this litigation.”

The filing also requests $15,000 incentive awards for each of the plaintiffs who testified at trial and $10,000 apiece for others who helped with the case.

The case is In re NCAA Grant-in-Aid Cap Antitrust Litig., N.D. Cal., No. 14-md-2541, fee motion filed 3/26/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Leonard in Washington at mleonard@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com

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