Northrop Grumman’s $16.8M Deal Leads to $5.6M in Attorneys’ Fees

Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...

By Carmen Castro-Pagan

Law firm Schlichter Bogard & Denton was awarded $5.58 million in attorneys’ fees following the $16.8 million deal it reached earlier this year in a case involving Northrop Grumman Corp.'s retirement plans ( Waldbuesser v. Northrop Grumman Corp. , C.D. Cal., No. 2:06-cv-06213, order granting motion for attorneys’ fees 10/24/17 ).

The “exceptional result” achieved in this case—a settlement fund that represents about 70 percent of the class’s approximately $24 million total net loss—justifies an attorneys’ fee award of one-third of the settlement fund, Judge André Birotte Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held Oct. 24. Birotte noted that the firm devoted more than 26,000 hours of attorney, paralegal, and clerk time over approximately 11 years of litigation.

The firm was also awarded $1.2 million in costs and expenses, which included $49,026 for 17 depositions, $278,764 for experts and consultants, and $330,152 for data development and document organization. The law firm reviewed more than 2.5 million pages of documents, according to court documents.

St. Louis-based Schlichter Bogard & Denton is best known for triggering the litigation frenzy over excessive fees in 401(k) plans more than 10 years ago. Since then, the firm has had numerous successes, including a worker-friendly decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 that made it harder for plan fiduciaries to have lawsuits over mutual fund fees dismissed as untimely.

The firm has also reached multimillion-dollar settlements in a dozen cases involving 401(k) fees. These settlements have led the firm to recover more than $116 million in fees in the past seven years for its work in actions against major companies including Lockheed Martin ($20.7M), Boeing ($19M), and Cigna ($11.7M), according to an analysis of Bloomberg Law dockets.

In a separate order, Birotte Oct. 24 granted final approval to the parties’ settlement, which provided relief for approximately 210,000 current and former participants in Northrop’s retirement plans. The dispute between the parties started in 2006 when the participants accused Northrop of forcing them to pay excessive administrative fees—some of which went directly to the company.

Mayer Brown LLP represented Northrop Grumman.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at

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