December 12, 2002

half-hours on earth, what are they worth

the wall street journal yesterday reported on the enron bankruptcy judge's review of fees and expenses billed (through march 31, 2002) by various law firms and consultants associated with the bankruptcy. the whiteshoe firm weil, gotshal & manges rang up the largest portion of the $23.8 million in fees billed during the first 120 days of the bankruptcy proceeding, according to the journal. weil gotshal ("WG"), whose top partners charge as much as $725 an hour, had nine instances on its bills where attorneys billed between 20 and 23 hours in a single day. additionally, WG, in 120 days, expended nearly $300,000 on airfare, $135,856 on hotel charges (which included hotel bar and laundry charges), $61,626 in 'daytime' working meals, and an additional $20,518 in 'out of town' meals.

milbank tweed, another whiteshoe ny firm that represents the creditors committee, sent six partners (each billing between $575 and $725 an hour) and one associate (billing a totally outrageous $400 an hour) to the same two-day meeting in Houston.

after his review of the fee applications, the judge shaved off $834,377 in fees and $1.9 million in expenses, but the total billing in the first 120 days still amounts to "a hefty $23.3" million. this is significant as the lawyers and other consultants (whose fees and expenses are included in the $23.3 million) as well as the firm's creditors committe must be paid by enron, "thereby reducing the money left for the firm's creditors trying to recoup their losses."

as bob dylan sang "we live in a society where justice is just a game," a very expensive game, especially when the lawyers see a large payday and the ability to bill 23 of 24 hours in a day.

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