Boeing Victim Family Members Express Outrage at Lawyer Fees to Secure Boeing Criminal Settlement Payment

Boeing victim families are expressing outrage at the practice of some victim lawyers taking a percentage fee when they secure the $1.45 million victim share of the $500 million that Boeing agreed to pay as a result of its deferred prosecution agreement entered into with the Department of Justice earlier this year.

“It’s outrageous that these lawyers are taking ten percent or more for doing this paperwork,” said Naoise Ryan, who lost her husband UN worker Mick Ryan when a Boeing 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia in March 2019. “My lawyer said to me from the start that he would not take a percentage of the money secured from the Justice Department criminal settlement. I can’t comprehend why some lawyers are taking a percentage and some lawyers are not. The lawyers will get a huge amount of the settlement for the civil wrongful death claims. Why do they need it from the Justice Department criminal settlement, which they didn’t do anything to secure?”

The $500 million was earmarked for victims of the two Boeing Max 8 crashes – the October 2018 crash off the coast of Indonesia that took the lives of all 189 passengers and crew and the March 2019 crash in Ethiopia that took the lives of all 157 passengers and crew.

Boeing hired Kenneth Feinberg’s law firm to distribute the $500 million.

And Camille Biros of Feinberg’s law firm said that as of today, the $1.45 million has been paid to 211 of the 346 victims’ families – or 61 percent.

Biros said that if a fee is to be charged to secure the $1.45 million, her firm recommends a ten percent fee as “reasonable.”

“Individuals who hired lawyers signed retention agreements,” Biros told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview. “Each lawyer is taking some percentage that was agreed to by the claimant and the lawyer. Some lawyers are not taking any fees. This is something that is agreed upon by the lawyers and their individual clients. It’s not unusual.”

Does the fund allow for such fees?

“Of course we allow for such fees,” Biros said. “The fee comes out of each individual payment. It is completely optional whether they hire an attorney or not.”

“You have to understand that some people are concerned about submitting any kind of paperwork that has to be signed and notarized,” Biros said. “And they feel more comfortable with an attorney. You see that with every single program we administer. It’s not unusual at all that people hire lawyers. This happens in every single case.”

Do you put limits on the fees? 

“We don’t put limits, that’s not our job. We recommend a ten percent fee, but we don’t mandate that.”

You recommend ten percent as a ceiling?

“We don’t recommend it as a ceiling or a floor. We just say that a ten percent fee is reasonable.”

Biros said that a “significant percentage” of the 346 families have contracts with lawyers who are charging a fee.

More than half?

“I’m not in front of my computer, but yes probably more than half.”

The Feinberg firm also distributed two previous Boeing crash funds – the first $50 million to the families – $144,500 per victim –  and the second $50 million to the families’ choices of charitable organizations.

Biros said a significant number of victims’ families had fee arrangements with lawyers in that first distribution of the $144,500 as well.

“I can think of two of the attorneys who are working pro bono and are not taking any fees,” Biros said. “And some other lawyers are taking fees. It’s standard practice. I know it seems to you as if it’s a simple application —  you fill it out, you know who the deceased are, you know the names, you know the families.”

“That’s all true. But there is a certain comfort level in having a lawyer when you are living in rural Indonesia and you don’t know how to do these types of things. You don’t know what banks to use. There are a whole myriad of issues that they may not feel comfortable with. It is not unusual at all for these clients to have lawyers.”

Biros said that if a victim’s family comes to the firm and asks – we don’t have a lawyer, could you help us through the process, the Feinberg firm would step in and help. And they have.

“Of course, we have several pro se families now,” Biros said. “If we need certain information, we get back to them and say – we need this, we need that. And they get it to us.”

Biros said she couldn’t say how many pro se families there are.

Why couldn’t all the families be pro se?

“Of course they could be. They all could be pro se.”

Why wouldn’t they all do that instead of paying a lawyer $145,000?

“Because I’m not going to do all the work for them. We can’t do the allocations for them and get the documentation for the personal representation. They have to submit documentation to show who the estate representatives are, who are the next of kin. And they have to submit official documents. I can help them complete the form and tell them what is missing.”

“They have a claim form. It requires certain information and documentation. They submit those, we review it and we see if everything is in order. If it is not in order and it is pro se, we say – we need the following. Mr. Jones the distribution plan is not in accordance with the intestacy laws of Indonesia. Mr. Jones it is not notarized. Mr. Jones you didn’t sign the claim form. Whatever the issue is. That’s what we do. We will reach back out to them until we have everything in order.”

“But we can’t help them get the documents. How would we tell them where to go in Indonesia to get their paperwork? It sounds easy, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.”

“I want to be certain that you understand that this is not at all unusual to be represented by lawyers in these cases,” Biros said. “For five and a half years we have been running programs for Catholic Church for sexual abuse of minors. And most of these people have lawyers. The money is not as large. And you would say to yourself – this is not that hard, why would I hire a lawyer? But some people are more comfortable with a lawyer.”

Copyright © Corporate Crime Reporter
In Print 48 Weeks A Year

Built on Notes Blog Core
Powered by WordPress