A couple of days after an agreement in principle was reached in the Norbourg class action suit, allowing thousands of investors to recover nearly all the money they lost in one of the biggest investment frauds in the country, a lawyer warned me that the case was far from over.
That’s because the $55 million settlement against Quebec’s securities regulator, Northern Trust Co. of Canada, Concentra Trust, accountant Rémi Deschambault and accounting firms KPMG LLP and Beaulieu Deschambault did not cover legal fees. “The judge in the case has opened a can of worms,” told me the class action specialist. “It’s unheard of to reach a settlement without agreeing to the legal fees.”
The lawyer is right. The law firms that negotiated the settlement are seeking $11-million, representing 20 per cent of the $55-million settlement, in legal fees — and the victims are not happy. Three Norbourg victims are expected to be in court today arguing that the amount is far too much, with one saying that lawyers should be receiving up to five per cent while another asserting that 6.5 per cent is reasonable. “It’s disproportionate,” said François Leblanc, an industrial relations consultant whose family lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Norbourg scandal. “In my opinion, 6.5 per cent of the settlement is a reasonable remuneration. They’re calculating $400 an hour, which would give them salaries of $700,000 a year.”
Quebec Superior Court justice André Prévost is expected to render a decision by month end. “I am conscious that the Norbourg investors have lived through difficult times,” said the judge yesterday. “The conclusion is approaching.”