RICHMOND, Va. -– Lawyers who tried to stop Massey Energy's merger into Alpha Natural Resources didn't succeed, but they claim victory and seek a $900,000 fee.
On July 14, Robert Wilson of Washington and four others asked U. S. District Judge John Gibney to award that amount in a shareholder suit against Massey directors.
For the 729 hours they logged, the fee would equal $1,234 an hour.
No longer alleging Massey sold out too cheaply, Wilson argues he obtained information shareholders needed in order to approve the merger.
"As a result of plaintiff's prosecution of the action, defendants made nearly all of the requested disclosures, thus resulting in a substantial benefit for the class," he wrote.
"Plaintiff's efforts in this litigation caused defendants to make no fewer than nine critical disclosures of information which was already in their possession," he wrote.
"Through skillful and aggressive litigation, plaintiff was able to achieve virtually all of the benefits sought in this action early on in the legal process, and without the necessity of court intervention."
Wilson's group represents Benjamin Mostaed of California, who sued nine Massey directors and both companies four days after they announced the merger.
Mostaed claimed directors breached fiduciary duties by failing to negotiate for the highest reasonable price.
Wilson wrote that "defendants spent substantial effort tailoring the proposed acquisition to meet their own needs and those of Alpha."
He wrote that the merger would extinguish eight shareholder suits resulting from 29 deaths in last year's explosion at Upper Big Branch mine.
In April, after Massey filed a preliminary proxy statement with the Securities Exchange Commission, Mostaed added claims under securities law.
Massey amended the proxy on April 29, to Mostaed's satisfaction.
Mostaed gained further confidence when Massey produced a report that financial advisor Perella Weinberg prepared for the board.
Shareholders approved the merger on June 1.
Wilson wrote in his motion for fees that he reported an apparent settlement to Gibney by letter on June 23, but no letter appears on the docket.
"Having succeeded in the goals of the litigation –- ensuring that Massey's shareholders were able to make a fully informed decision in connection with the merger –- plaintiff now seeks an award to compensate his counsel for the time and expense incurred in connection with achieving these significant benefits for the shareholder class," he wrote.
Wilson practices at Finkelstein Thompson in Washington.
His fee request includes Frank Johnson and Shawn Fields, of Johnson and Weaver in San Diego.
It also includes Willie Briscoe and Patrick Powers of Dallas.
As of July 21, the directors had not responded.