Ohio based mass tort lawyer, Stan Chesley, has been disbarred in Kentucky (opinion here) for taking a $20 million fee in a diet drug case, in which he had minimal involvement. Two other (former) attorneys involved in the settlement, Shirley Cunningham, Jr. and William Gallion, were previously convicted for wire fraud and conspiracy for their role in taking $94 million in settlement funds. The Kentucky Supreme Court did not order restitution, as recommended by the Board of Governors of the Kentucky Bar Association, noting the matters were already subject to civil litigation. The Supreme Court wrote that the clients received a total of $46 million out of a settlement which exceed $200 million.
While particularly high profile, this disbarment for excessive fees is certainly not unique. Suspensions and disbarments regularly involve discussions of excessive fees charged, although most usually in connection with neglect of clients. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5 clearly prohibits charging excessive fees, and sets forth the balancing test for determining if a fee is reasonable.