The Firms

August 18, 2011 5:39 PM

For Howrey Estate, Latest Batch of Bills Totals $440,000

Posted by Sara Randazzo

UPDATE: 8/19/11, 3:40 P.M. EDT—The second and third paragraphs of this story have been revised to incorporate information related to a Thursday court filing by Howrey financial advisor Protiviti covering work it did on behalf of the bankrupt firm's estate in July. 

Another month, another batch of bills filed in the Howrey bankruptcy.

Three law firms and two financial consulting companies submitted statements this week in San Francisco federal bankruptcy court that detail the fees and expenses they racked up working on the defunct firm's case in July.

Financial advisor Protiviti topped the list of billers, submitting a request for roughly $279,000 in fees and expenses based on hourly rates between $160 and $560. For its part, lead Howrey bankruptcy counsel Wiley Rein is seeking slightly more than $267,000—a sum on par with one the firm presented to the court for its June work. Washington, D.C., partner Dylan Trache was the busiest member of Wiley's Howrey team, billing about 136 hours at a rate of $535 per hour. Partner H. Jason Gold billed 119 hours at $730 per hour.

The firm's detailed bill (available here) offers a rare peek at the individual expenses that pile up in the course of a bankruptcy case. One line item, for instance, details nearly $6,000 spent on airfare so that the Wiley Rein lawyers, including Gold, Trache, and partner Valerie Morrison, could attend court hearings in San Francisco. Court documents suggest that Gold spent $1,629 on a single round-trip flight in mid-July. Airfare for three other flights ranged between roughly $1,200 and $1,580 per round-trip ticket. The three partners did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment on the expenses. 

Silicon Valley bankruptcy firm Murray & Murray also submitted a billing statement in connection with the Howrey case this week. The fee request—the firm's first in the matter—covers the period from June 6, when the Howrey bankruptcy was converted from Chapter 7 to Chapter 11, through the end of July. Murray & Murray notched some $66,670 in fees and expenses over the eight-week period, with of counsel Craig Prim ($23,511) and associate Jenny Lynn Fountain ($20,895) each accounting for about one-third of the total.

Unsecured creditors committee counsel Felderstein Fitzgerald Willoughby & Pascuzzi recorded more than $86,700 in fees and expenses, with partner Thomas Willoughby accounting for more than half that sum. Financial consultants Development Specialists billed roughly $21,720 for work performed by employees being paid between $185 and $625 per hour. The Felderstein and Development Specialists statements can be seen here and here, respectively.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, one Howrey lawyer continues to engage in a public spat over an ongoing matter in upstate New York that could mean millions in fees for the bankrupt estate.

As previously reported by The Am Law Daily, Howrey attorneys, including D.C. antitrust of counsel Kenneth Anderson, are continuing their push to secure a contract worth up to $15.5 million with the fledgling North Country Power Authority. Less than a year old, the NCPA was created following a lengthy effort by residents of 24 municipalities in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties to form a public utility company.

Howrey worked on a contingency basis for the Alliance for Municipal Power, the local organization that essentially provided the foundation for the NCPA, billing nearly $3 million in the process. On Monday, NCPA chairman James Monroe, who has publicly questioned the wisdom of retaining Howrey as the agency's outside counsel going forward, told the Watertown Daily Times that the NCPA is reluctant to pay the $3 million bill until the firm provides a detailed breakdown of what went into it, something Monroe says Howrey has so far refused to do.

Anderson fired back the following day, telling the Watertown paper he has never "met anyone as impossible to deal with" as Monroe and insisting that the project cannot move forward with him as chairman.

In fact, the agency's other three members have already called on New York governor Andrew Cuomo to replace Monroe and to appoint additional members to what was envisioned as a nine-person board. Until the board has a quorum, Howrey's outstanding $3 million bill can't be paid and no action can be taken on the new contract. Repeated calls to Cuomo’s office seeking comment about the stalemate went unreturned.

Just a few months ago, all seemed rosy between Anderson and Monroe. In March, Monroe told The Am Law Daily that Howrey "did a great job" getting the NCPA legislation passed, and credited Anderson specifically for doing the bulk of the regulatory work. 

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