Bush May Attempt to Reduce Attorney Fees in Tobacco Suit
President Bush may take action to reclaim or tax what he has labeled "excessive" fees awarded to attorneys who represented states in the national tobacco settlement, CongressDaily reports. Lawyers are set to receive a collective $10 billion for their work on the roughly $200 billion settlement. The president's fiscal year 2002 budget outline states: "The budget also assumes additional public health resources for the states from the president's proposal to extend fiduciary responsibilities to the representatives of states in tobacco lawsuits." CongressDaily reports that "several sources" have said that this language "appears to allude to a Bush campaign promise" to reduce these attorney fees, "either by taxing them at a high rate or forcing [the lawyers] to return the money." However, CongressDaily adds that "who [would] determine what is excessive and how the money would be distributed remains to be seen." If the administration takes action, trial lawyers and antitobacco advocates would contest the proposal. A "source close to the trial lawyers" said Bush's plan "amounts to nothing more than an 'I don't like you tax'" and was possibly unconstitutional. Edward Sweda, a senior attorney with the Tobacco Control Resource Center, conceded that a "number of [law] firms made a lot of money" but said that they took "huge risks" by suing the tobacco companies, and they "would have been paid zero" if they lost (Fulton, CongressDaily, 3/26).