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In this article, we study attorney fees awarded in the largest securities class actions: “mega- settlements.” Consistent with prior work, we find larger fee awards but lower percentages in these cases. We also find that courts are more likely to reject or modify fee requests made in connection with the largest settlements. We conjecture that this scrutiny provides an incentive for law firms to bill more hours, not to advance the case, but to help justify large fee awards—“make work.” The results of our empirical tests are consistent with plaintiffs’ attorneys investing more time in litigation against larger companies, with the largest potential damages, particularly when there are multiple lead counsel firms. We find a similar pattern with relative efficiency, with more hours per docket entry for the largest-stake cases with multiple lead counsel firms. Overall, our results suggest that plaintiffs’ attorneys are receiving windfall fee awards in at least some mega-settlement cases at shareholders’ expense.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Choi, Stephen J., Jessica Erickson, and Adam C. Pritchard. "Working Hard or Making Work? Plaintiffs' Attorneys Fees in Securities Fraud Class Actions." J. Empirical Legal Stud. 17, no. 3 (2020): 438-65, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.