Tesla Asked to Pay Unprecedented $6 Billion Legal Fee in Musk Pay Package Lawsuit


A staggering $6 billion fee request by lawyers representing a Tesla shareholder in their 2018 lawsuit over Elon Musk’s pay packet has drawn sharp criticism. With this unprecedented fee being deductible for Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer is waiting to see if the request will be approved. In a broader context, this case raises questions about lawyer compensation in an era of ballooning settlements and judgments.

Unprecedented Law Firm Fee Request In Court

The three law firms representing a Tesla shareholder stand united in their request for an unparalleled legal fee in the Delaware Court of Chancery. According to their calculations, the requested fee translates to approximately $288,888 per hour.

Strong Reactions

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, has taken to his X platform to express his outrage, criticizing the astronomical fee request as “criminal”. This move comes after the law firms vigorously fought for a reduction in his pay package, which allowed Musk to buy Tesla stock at significantly reduced prices. Correspondence directed at Tesla and Musk’s lawyers remain unanswered at the moment.

The Plaintiff

The lawsuit was initiated in 2018 by Tesla shareholder Richard Tornetta, protesting Musk’s pay package. Earlier this year, a Delaware judge supported Tornetta’s stance, setting off a series of events culminating in the current situation.

Tesla’s Benefit and Payment

The constituent law firms insist that Tesla accrued benefits from Musk’s pay reduction, saving 266 million shares in the process. Under this billable structure, the payment would only be drawn against the benefit attained, not impacting Tesla’s balance sheet. Furthermore, the lawyers insist that their fee would be tax-deductible for the electric vehicle maker.

Judicial Ruling and Objections

Overseeing Judge Kathaleen McCormick, who has already voiced her incredulity regarding Musk’s pay, is set to make her decision on the keenly debated fee. In parallel, Tesla may dispute the fee, mirroring its ongoing fee dispute in another case concerning its directors’ pay.

Precedent Settlements and the Dilemma of Legal Fees

Largest shareholder lawsuit settlements in the past have taken place in federal court, with the most substantial recorded legal fee amounting to $688 million in 2008, as part of a $7.2 billion settlement in a securities fraud case relating to the collapse of Enron Corp. As legal settlements and judgments continue to multiply, opposing voices argue for reducing lawyers’ share to prevent overcompensation. In response, the lawyers on the Tesla case insist that their fee equates to only 11% of the judgement.

Strategic Investment Insights

While the ultimate decision on the law firms’ request is critical for Tesla, investors may need to consider the potential implications for the overall stock market and the legal landscape at large. Balancing the performance of their investment portfolio in the wake of such decisions, along with keenly observing the trend of legal fees in corporate disputes, could be an astute strategy. As juggernaut corporations like Tesla continue to grow, they may increasingly find themselves entangled in legal battles with extravagant fees, creating a potentially turbulent investment atmosphere.

Legal Representation

The legal team on the case represents a trio of law firms: Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann and Friedman Oster & Tejtel, both New York-based, and Andrews & Springer of Wilmington.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2024/03/02/lawyers-who-voided-elon-musks-pay-as-excessive-want-6-bln-fee.html

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