In An Empirical Study of Class Action Settlements and Their Fee Awards, Brian Fitzpatrick (Vanderbilt) reports results from a data set on "every
federal class action settlement from the years 2006 and 2007." His findings include:
* District court judges approved 688 class action settlements
over this two-year period, involving nearly $33 billion.
* Of this $33
billion, roughly $5 billion was awarded to class action lawyers, or
about 15% of the total.
* Most judges chose to award fees by using the
highly discretionary percentage-of-the-settlement method, and the fees
awarded according to this method varied over a broad range, with a mean
and median around 25%. Fee percentages were strongly and inversely
associated with the size of the settlement. The age of the case at
settlement was positively associated with fee percentages.
* Some variation in fee percentages depending on the subject matter of
the litigation and the geographic circuit in which the district court
was located, with lower percentages in securities cases and in
settlements from the Second and Ninth Circuits.
* No evidence that fee percentages were associated with whether the class action was certified as a settlement class or with the political affiliation of the judge who made the award.