NMI Fund Lawyers Looking To Collect $1.2 Million For Services

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Bankruptcy court orders legal advisors be paid

By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 14, 2012) – Former Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Assistant Attorney General Braddock Jon Huesman and other Retirement Fund lawyers who failed to convince the U.S. bankruptcy court to approve the pension agency’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition are now seeking over a million dollars in legal fees.

Huesman and Boston-based Jeremy B. Coffey and Steven D. Pohl are asking the bankruptcy court to order the Fund to deposit $1.2 million into an escrow account as their payment.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert J. Faris in a June 12 order authorized the retention of Brown Rudnick LLP, Law Office of Braddock J. Huesman, LLC and Buck Consultants, LLC.

Faris said the Fund and Brown Rudnick will abide by the requirements of the Bankruptcy Code, the Bankruptcy Rules and applicable U.S. Trustee guidelines relating to employment, compensation and conflicts in the proceedings.

"The debtor [the Fund] is authorized and empowered to take all actions necessary to implement the relief granted in this order," Faris said.

The bankruptcy judge stated in his order that the terms and conditions shall be immediately effective and enforceable.

The Fund earlier paid Brown Rudnick $250,000 in advance retainer fees covering the period between April 4 and 17.

Of this amount, Brown Rudnick forwarded $15,000 to AlixPartners LLC for communications services.

Brown Rudnick agreed to a rate of $475 per hour, which according to the Fund it had managed to bring down from the $1,000 per hour rate.

The Fund said the law firm also capped its monthly fees at $125,000.

Huesman’s hourly rate is $150, but he already received a $20,000 advance retainer.

The mounting legal fees associated with the bankruptcy filing and the imminent collapse of the Fund were the main reasons most of the retirees opposed the Chapter 11 proceedings’ move forward.

Office of the Public Auditor legal counsel George Hasselback earlier told Variety that OPA "has received complaints regarding the amounts paid by the Retirement Fund to attorneys and consultants. We are taking this matter under review, but cannot discuss the particulars of any investigation or assessment we undertake."

Last week, the governor declared a state of emergency for the Retirement Fund and transferred its responsibilities to the Department of Finance.

Bruce Jorgensen, the lawyer of anonymous retirees who want the Fund placed under federal receivership, said they will challenge the emergency declaration in court.

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