Group Targets 'Outrageous' Legal Fees in Tobacco Case
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce took aim on Wednesday at what it called ``outrageous'' legal fees in the $246 billion tobacco settlement, including what it said were rates of more than $100,000 per hour.
The chamber, one of the world's largest business interest organizations, used the Freedom of Information Act to request this information from 21 states, which were plaintiffs in class-action suits against tobacco companies.
Chamber president Thomas Donohue also called on Congress to investigate what he termed ``outrageous tobacco settlement fees'' that would bring a total of $11 billion to plaintiffs' attorneys. He said in some cases this would amount to an hourly rate of $110,000.
``If we allow these trial lawyers to collect this massive windfall, the damage could be incalculable,'' Donohue said in a statement.
``They've made no secret of the fact that a portion of those billions of dollars are earmarked for new causes of action, with numerous businesses and industries on their 'hit' list.''
All 50 states were involved in the settlement with major tobacco companies, with 46 states settling for a total of $206 billion in 1998 after four other states reached an earlier settlement total of $40 billion.