Last month, a California Federal District Court formally approved the settlement agreement reached between current and former players of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in the players’ class action lawsuit against the USSF. At the time, the judge was left to resolve one issue—the amount of attorney’s fees. Citing prior precedent from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner reduced attorney’s fees to 25% from the over 30% requested.
In October, Solo objected to the settlement agreement, noting a lack of clarity in the payout to each player. Specifically, Solo noted that the settlement agreement would allot $7.9 million to attorneys but did not detail a specific amount to each player.
Ultimately, Judge Klausner approved the settlement. As to the attorney’s fees, Judge Klausner cited In re Pacific Enterprises Security Litigation, 47 F.3d 373 (9th Cir. 1995), noting that 25% is typically the benchmark for attorney’s fees and that fees must be reasonable. Thus, Judge Klausner reduced the attorney’s fees award to $5.5 million, which is 25% of the $22 million common fund portion of the settlement.
Two noteworthy items come out of Judge Klausner’s opinion: one is that the case is nearly over. The second point is most important for attorneys—in common fund class action cases, 25% is the standard. So, keep that point in mind when negotiating settlement agreements.