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Friday, December 6, 2019

Santa Monica lawyer fighting for more than $400K from whistleblower's settlement with Bank of America

Attorneys & Judges

By Karen Kidd | Jul 10, 2019


LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – A Santa Monica law firm that represented a whistleblowing client until late in his lawsuit against Bank of America that settled last year is asking a federal judge to toss part of an arbitrator's award for its fees and costs.

Kohn Law Group and the firm's President Robert E. Kohn claims to be owed almost twice what an arbitrator awarded.

In its 25-page petition to confirm and vacate parts of an arbitration award filed July 2, Kohn Law Group asked the U.S. District Court for California's Central District to vacate in part a Los Angeles-based arbitrator's previous award to the firm of almost $220,000.

The arbitrator's award reduced Kohn Law Group's statutory fees and expenses pro rata on the basis of the hours put into the a whistleblower case that settled early last year in a Florida court, according to the petition. The award also denied Kohn Law Group's agreed hourly compensation in lieu of a contingent fee following Kohn Law Group's termination of representation late in the case, according to the petition.

The arbitrator previously awarded Kohn Law Group disputed legal fees and expenses incurred during litigation when the firm represented Florida foreclosure attorney Bruce Jacobs as co-counsel in the qui tam Jacobs v. Bank of America case in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

That case settled in January of last year when Bank of America, without admitting liability, agreed to pay $5 million to resolve Jacobs' whistleblower lawsuit that alleged False Claims Act violations. About $3.4 million of the settlement amount was to be paid to the U.S. government, about $891,000 to be paid to Jacobs and about $1.6 million to be paid for Jacobs' attorneys' fees and costs.

After settlement, a dispute arose over distribution of the amount earmarked for attorney fees and costs. In addition to Kohn Law Group, at least five other firms and their principal attorneys represented Jacobs under a co-counsel agreement, according to the petition.

Kohn Law Group's part as co-counsel for Jacobs ended less than two months before the case settled, according to the petition.

Kohn Law Group filed its petition in U.S. District Court in California claiming the court has diversity jurisdiction to confirm, vacate and/or correct the award because the firm is in Santa Monica.

Jacobs and co-respondents LS Law firm reside in Florida.

Kohn Law Group claims the arbitrator disregarded a contractual backstop provision and miscalculated how much it should receive of the fees and costs amount Bank of America agreed to pay. The arbitrator's calculation disregarded a contract provision that Jacobs must pay Kohn Law Group from his own amount recovered in the case the statutory award of fees, expenses and costs that might be less than Kohn Law Group's hourly lodestar and expenses, according to the petition.

"Jacobs still owes the difference - regardless of a pro rata allocation of the $1.6 million statutory award itself; separate from any contingency fee and separate for any reasonably hourly fee in lieu of contingent fee," the petition said.

Kohn Law Group claims in its petition that Jacobs still owes the firm almost $410,600.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Christina A Snyder.

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U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

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