The law firm Dentons is being challenged on its practice of charging thousands of dollars for media relations services, according to The Detroit Free Press. The firm represents retirees in the city of Detroit.
The fees of the firm are paid by the city of Detroit. Dentons billed more than $27,000 per month to monitor media coverage, to respond to press reports and to create summaries of media coverage. This is according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court by Robert Fishman this week.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes appointed Fishman last year to monitor the fees that law firms and other advisers were billing the city of Detroit for help in its bankruptcy case.
In the first quarter, Detroit was billed $3.16 million by Dentons.
“The fee examiner questions the propriety of Dentons, a law firm, billing for all media activities undertaken,” Fishman said in his report. “Certain media activities fall within the scope of providing legal services, such as reviewing and advising on press reports prepared by a client, while others do not, such as drafting the entire press report and reviewing newspaper articles.”
Carole Neville, a Dentons partner, said the following about the billing:
“This is something that the mediators and the court has even encouraged us to do — to communicate with the retirees through via the media.”
Detroit previously agreed to pay the legal bills from Dentons last year despite it representing a court-appointed committee of retirees. The retirees and the city have been fighting during the bankruptcy case.
“There was a lot of information to get out about the voting because the retirees did not really understand the voting process,” Neville said.
Dentons agreed that it would cut its expenses and fees by $7,000 after they were questions by Fishman the first time. Dentons is just one of 12 law firms to advise the city of Detroit during its bankruptcy case.