Class lawyers in App Store deal will seek up to $30 mln in fees

The Apple Inc. logo is seen hanging at the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
  • Hagens Berman, said max fee was 30% of settlement, in line with other awards
  • Plaintiffs' lawyers invested more than 20,500 hours in the litigation: filing

(Reuters) - The class action plaintiffs' lawyers who reached a $100 million settlement this week with Apple Inc to end certain restrictions on its App Store will ask a California federal judge to approve up to $30 million in attorneys' fees for their work, according to terms of the proposed deal.

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, interim lead class counsel for the small software developers who are the plaintiffs, said in a court filing on Thursday announcing the deal that a $30 million fee award squared with attorney compensation in other class action settlements.

The firms Freed Kanner London & Millen; Saveri & Saveri; and Sperling & Slater are on the plaintiffs’ executive committee.

Small app developers sued Apple in 2019 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging anticompetitive practices, including the 30% commission the Cupertino, California-based company takes on the sale of apps and restrictions on direct communication between developers and their customers.

Under the deal, Apple will create a $100 million small developer fund from which class members can seek compensation. Any leftover funds will be a "cy pres" distribution to Girls Who Code, a nonprofit focused on promoting gender equality in computer science.

It also agreed to extend for three years a 15% commission adopted last year for small developers who make $1 million a year or less. The company also said it would allow developers "to communicate directly with their customers regarding alternative payment options."

Hagens Berman name partner Steve Berman did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Friday. A lawyer for Apple, Mark Perry, a Washington, D.C.-based partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, also did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

In a statement on Thursday, Apple said the proposed settlement emerged from a "productive dialogue" between the company and the plaintiffs' lawyers.

The plaintiffs' lawyers said on Thursday that they had invested more than 20,500 hours in the litigation. More than 5 million documents have been produced, the attorneys said, and Apple senior managers were among more than 50 depositions.

The class counsel pointed to a 2019 survey that showed plaintiffs' lawyers received 30% as a median fee in settlements between $100 million and $249 million in antitrust cases.

A preliminary settlement hearing is scheduled for Oct. 12 before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. The judge is weighing a separate, higher-profile antitrust case against Apple filed by Epic Games Inc, maker of the "Fortnite" game. Epic's lawsuit more broadly confronts the control Apple asserts over its App Store.

The case is Cameron v. Apple, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 4:19-cv-03074-YGR.

For the plaintiffs: Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro

For Apple: Mark Perry of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

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