The attached document obtained under public records laws represents a contract between San Francisco City and County and the plaintiffs’ law firms Sher Edling LLP and Altshuler Berzon LLP. The former of those firms, other public records also obtained by Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C., show, is actively recruiting cities to file suit against energy companies seeking an enormous settlement for having caused ‘global warming.’
Other public records just obtained suggest that sometimes the lawsuit sails in — publicly — under the flag of a non-profit environmentalist law firm, after they and Sher Edling privately pitched the putative plaintiffs, together.
Recently, San Francisco and Oakland dropped their long-time global warming plaintiffs’ attorneys, Matt Pawa and his firm Hagens Berman, in favor of Sher Edling LLP.
San Francisco provided GAO a copy of the Sher Edling contract.
Oddly, Oakland closed GAO’s Public Records Act request claiming no such record exists.
This contract, which other evidence suggests the firm(s) also entered into with other parties, provides some idea (emphases added):
4.2 Attorneys Fees
(a) If Special Counsel and the City Attorney are successful in obtaining and collecting a recovery—whether by judgment, settlement, or otherwise—Special Counsel shall be paid the following contingency fee out of such Net Monetary Recovery as defined herein:
(1) If the Net Monetary Recovery is between zero and one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000), Special Counsel shall be paid twenty-five percent (25%) of Net Monetary Recovery;
(2) If the Net Monetary Recovery is between one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000) and one hundred fifty million dollars ($150,000,000), Special Counsel shall be paid the amount set forth in subparagraph (1) above; plus fifteen percent (15%) of the amount of the Net Monetary Recovery greater than one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000).
(3) If the Net Monetary Recovery is greater than one hundred and fifty million dollars ($150,000,000), Special Counsel shall be paid the amounts set forth in subparagraph (1) and (2) above; plus seven and one-half percent (7.5%) of the amount of the Net Monetary Recovery greater than one hundred fifty million dollars ($150,000,000).
So, if the attorneys manage to settle these pursuits — it seems these suits are designed to settle, not to prevail on the merits — the following contingent windfall will come their way. As is typical if little-understood, the cost of this will be passed along to the consumers and the broader economy:
- $100 million (city by city) — lawyers receive $25 million (per city)
- $150 million (city by city) — lawyers receive $32.5 million (per city)
- $200 million (city by city) — lawyers receive $36.25 million (per city)
And so on. And as noted, this arrangement is for each settlement, city by city.
We know the baseline target for settlement overall begins at $200 billion…in 1998 dollars (the tobacco master settlement agreement, which is quite clearly this litigation industry’s template, involved a payout by tobacco companies of $206 billion over the first 25 years of the agreement, and is likely where the targeted figure comes from, as opposed to any rational and calculated basis).
Hydrocarbon energy, however, is a much bigger industry than tobacco, and 1998 dollars turn that starting figure into around $310 billion. Fun times for the plaintiffs’ bar.