Hong Kong Judge Slashes Linklaters Fee Request
A Hong Kong judge has slashed a fee request for Linklaters by almost 80 percent.
The U.K. firm had successfully won dismissal of claims against audit firm KPMG made by Artificial Life Inc., a company that invests in smartphone app development. Artificial Life had sued KPMG in 2011 for malpractice, and the former company claimed the suit led to a decline in market value exceeding $100 milion.
In a July hearing, Hong Kong High Court Judge Marlene Ng awarded KPMG costs on the basis of Hong Kong’s “loser pays” rules.
KPMG requested costs of around $241,000 for the work performed by Linklaters, with a team led by partner Melvin Sng, and barrister Charles Manzoni SC. But Judge Ng found the overall request “disproportionate” and ordered costs reduced to around $54,000.
The requested rate for Sng was around $936 per hour, with rates for associates ranging from around $285 to around $684. The judge cut Sng’s rate to around $528 with associate rates similarly slashed.
The court ruled that the time spent on many activities was “excessive.” She allowed a little under $10,000 for “attendance on client” when KPMG had requested $30,000. She also slashed the amount charged for meetings between Linklaters and the barrister, allowing only around $6,445 when over $31,000 had been requested.
The judge most drastically cut the $50,000 requested for hearing preparation. “There was only one substantive hearing attended by senior counsel since the initial call-over hearing was vacated by consent,” she wrote. “I am unable to see how such intensive preparation at a cost that was more than double senior counsel’s brief fee as claimed can be justified as being necessary or proper, or indeed proportionate.”
Judge Ng allowed a little over $2,500 for hearing preparation.
The plaintiff in the case was represented by Denis Brock of King & Wood Mallesons.
The decision highlights some of the difficulties law firms face reaping big fees in litigation in Hong Kong.