One of the law firms involved in a trove of California lawsuits targeting ExxonMobil and other energy companies is poised to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars from their climate crusades.
Sher Edling LLP could capitalize on a big payday if San Francisco’s lawsuit against the oil company, according to documents obtained Wednesday by Climate Litigation Watch. The contract between the firm, San Francisco and the county is complex and lays out a multi-tiered payment method for Sher Edling.
The California-based firm pay is dependent on the amount of the settlement. If the city secures a $100 million settlement, then Sher Edling takes roughly $25 million; if the settlement is over $100 million, then it gets $32.5 million; and the firm receives roughly $36.5 for anything above $150 million. These payments are per city, meaning the firm is looking for a big payout.
Oakland is also working with Sher Edling on a lawsuit against the Texas-based company, but refused to provide copies of its settlement, CLW noted in a press statement Wednesday. San Francisco and Oakland had previously employed Hagens Berman to represent them in their legal pursuits.
Hagens Berman’s fee was pegged at 23.5 percent of any winnings from its cases with San Francisco and Oakland before the two cities switched firms. Hagens Berman represents King County and New York City in their separate lawsuits demanding Exxon pay for its supposed role contributing to global warming.
Manufacturers’ groups have consistently criticized the lawsuits. Linda Kelly, senior vice president and general counsel for National Association of Manufacturers, blasted the settlement in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“In case anyone thought this litigation was motivated by a desire to actually address climate change, this agreement between San Francisco and its new outside counsel should put that notion to rest,” Kelly said. “It is astounding that Sher Edling managed to undercut Hagens Berman and still anticipates receiving a cut worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The contracts come shortly after TheDCNF reported in November that attorneys Vic Sher and Matt Pawa got into a multi-million-dollar legal dispute in 2014 stemming from a lawsuit they both worked on against ExxonMobil. Sher, who founded Sher Edling, alleged Pawa’s group, Pawa Law Group, failed to distribute money from a settlement in the case. Pawa, who is now with Hagens Berman, argued in a lawsuit that Sher was the one cheating him out of millions of dollars.
Sher eventually paid Pawa about $6 million for the retributions, court documents show. The disagreement stems from a lawsuit New Hampshire filed in 2013 alleging Exxon negligently contaminated the state’s waterways with 2 billion gallons of MTBE, a gas additive experts believe poisons drinking water. The intrigue comes amid growing bad blood between the two sides.
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