State of Pennsylvania & D.C. Tell Staples & Office Depot to Pay Up …..
Pennsylvania, D.C. Tell Staples and Office Depot to Pay Up After FTC Court Win
Two AG offices seek $175K in legal expenses for work in challenging merger.
By C. Ryan Barber,
The attorneys general for Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, who joined federal trade regulators in challenging the proposed merger between Staples Inc. and Office Depot Inc., want the office supply companies to reimburse them for a combined $175,000 in legal expenses.
Pennsylvania is seeking $142,548 and D.C. wants $33,547, according to documents filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A judge on May 10 blocked the proposed merger.
Lawyers for Pennsylvania and D.C., defending the request for expenses, cited their contributions to the investigation and litigation over the $6.3 billion deal, which the FTC said would harm competition in the business-to-business market.
An FTC spokeswomen declined to comment on the fee requests. Staples and Office Depot also declined to comment. The requested fees are a fraction of the $250 million breakup fee that Staples paid Office Depot after ending the merger.
The District of Columbia and Pennsylvania did not request reimbursement in a similar megamerger case last year. Along with 10 other states, Pennsylvania and D.C. joined the FTC in blocking Sysco Corp.’s proposed acquisition of U.S. Foods. But after the judge granted an injunction in that case, none of the states or the District of Columbia requested an award of attorney fees.
Jeffrey Johnson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general, said the office did not seek fees in the Sysco case because several other attorneys general were involved and Pennsylvania’s office played a less prominent role.
The District of Columbia attorney general’s office has requested fees in previous cases in which it partnered with the federal government, but never before in a merger challenge, spokesman Rob Marus said.
“This is unusual, in fact,” Marus said. “However, the reason that we sought the fee is twofold: Our reading of the statute under which we made our assertion here entitles us to the fees. It’s only about $30,000. The merger applicants have to pay $280,000 just to let the FTC know they want to merge. We’re talking small potatoes here for what was a significant amount of work.”
In the fees request, Norman Marden, a senior deputy attorney general for Pennsylvania, noted that Congress amended the Clayton Act in 1976 to allow fee awards when the “plaintiff substantially prevails.” Although Sullivan’s order earlier this month was not a final judgment, Marden contended it was the “functional equivalent” of one.
Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia calculated their respective fees using the Justice Department’s guide for determining the hourly rates for government attorneys.
Marden reported that his work accounted for about $120,000 of Pennsylvania’s request. With 11 years of experience, Marden billed at $455 per hour for the 240.7 hours of work on the case, according to Pennsylvania’s court filing.
The District’s request was based on the work of two attorneys—Assistant Attorney General Catherine Jackson and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Bennett Rushkoff.