Plaintiffs’ Firms in Roundup MDL Object to Allocation of Common Benefit Fees

by | Apr 2, 2024

The lead plaintiffs’ firms in the Roundup multidistrict litigation have angered other plaintiffs’ firms in the MDL by requesting over 80 percent of the common benefit fees. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs’ firms in this MDL find themselves in yet another avoidable dispute over common benefit fund fees.

Presiding judge in Roundup MDL previously reduced the scope of the common benefit fee award

In 2021, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, the judge presiding over the Roundup MDL in the Northern District of California, substantially reduced the scope of the common benefit fees from nearly $800 million, criticizing the original figure as large enough to make each of the three co-lead plaintiffs’ firm—Wagstaff Law Firm, Weitz & Luxembourg, and The Miller Firm—rich enough to “afford to buy their own island.”

In January 2024, the co-lead plaintiffs’ firms revised the scope of the common benefit fees to $20.23 million and earmarked 81 percent of the fees for themselves, with the remaining balance allocated to four other firms. The following month, at least five plaintiffs’ firms in the MDL objected to the co-lead firms’ fee allocation.

Plaintiffs’ firms argue their share of the common benefit fees fail to reflect their work in the Roundup MDL

The five plaintiffs’ firms objecting to the fee allocation included some firms that were allocated a percentage of the common benefit fees. These firms included Wisner Baum, which was allocated 10 percent of the common benefit fees despite securing the first verdict in the MDL in 2018 of $289 million and another $2 billion award in 2019. Partner R. Brent Wisner argued that his firm’s allocation discounted its role in the successes achieved in the MDL.

Another objecting firm, Moore Law Group, served as co-lead counsel with Wagstaff Law Firm in a bellwether trial in 2019 that resulted in an $80 million verdict that was unsuccessfully appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the firm was allocated only six percent of the common benefit fees. Partner Jennifer Moore contended that the allocation failed to reflect her firm’s work on that 2019 bellwether trial or the $3.4 million the firm contributed to the common benefit fund. 

The original proposed common benefit fee fund in the Roundup MDL drew many more objections, with opposing parties characterizing it as a “money grab” by the lead plaintiffs’ firms who had already made $2 billion in fees from settlements and verdicts. Recent verdicts in the Roundup MDL include a December 2023 $3.5 million verdict in state court in Philadelphia that included $3 million in punitive damages, and a February 2024 Philadelphia state court verdict of $2.25 billion that included $250 million in compensatory damages and $2 billion in punitive damages.

The objectors to the recent common benefit fee proposal contended they provided significant benefit to the MDL or that the lead plaintiffs’ firms provided little, if any, leadership and thus should not be entitled to such a significant share of the fund.

Avoiding future common benefit fund fee disputes

Although common benefit fee funds seek to equitably distribute legal fees and expenses in multidistrict litigation by compensating the attorneys who contribute most to advancing the interests of all the plaintiffs in the MDL, these funds frequently generate disputes among plaintiffs’ counsel. Defense counsel in MDLs, insurers, politicians, and tort reform supporters frequently cite common benefit fund disputes in support of their calls for tort reform, arguing that plaintiffs’ counsel who use common benefit funds to secure windfalls on top of the fees they earned through direct representation of their clients must be reined in.

Our Founder, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chairman of the Board Mark Eveland, along with Judge Marina Corodemus (Ret.), recently explained how plaintiffs’ firms can prevent common benefit fund fee disputes. Implementing standardized billing practices and requiring the regular submission of timesheets promotes transparency in the work that attorneys perform for the common benefit of the MDL plaintiffs and ensures plaintiffs’ firms in an MDL have a clear record of “who did what.” These practices can also go a long way in preventing common benefit fund fee objections based on claims that a firm isn’t being compensated for the work they did for the common benefit or that lead plaintiffs’ firms are requesting too much of a fund.

Unfortunately, until more plaintiffs’ firms adopt these billing practices, we can expect to see more common benefit fund fee disputes in high-profile mass torts and other MDLs.

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Interested in learning how Verus can assist your law firm with litigating an MDL and avoiding common benefit fund fee disputes? Contact us online, by email at, or by phone at 888.681.1129 to arrange an initial consultation.

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