Pigs Fly, Lawyers Claim Bonuses

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El Paso has been battling Asarco and its parent organization Grupo Mexico for years to clean up a century’s worth of toxic muck. When Asarco filed for bankruptcy in 2005 the sheer enormity  and complexity of the case made it seem like the embattled mining company would never emerge from the depths of bankruptcy court. Or rather it would emerge when pigs fly as the old saying goes.

Lo and behold, I was perusing the Rio Grande Guardian today and was astounded to read in an Arizona Daily Star article  that Asarco has indeed finally emerged from bankruptcy.

According to the Star, under the bankruptcy plan, Grupo Mexico will pay $2.2 billion in cash to creditors, plus about $1.4 billion held by Asarco.

This will be a swell Christmas for the army of lawyers who worked on this case “Fire up the Yacht boys! We’re going to Aruba!” Apparently, they think they did such a good job they are asking for bonuses on top of what they’ve already charged for their services.

The Houston law firm Baker Botts, which represented Asarco LLC (a group of creditors) in its battle with Grupo Mexico over ownership of the mining firm are asking for a ” fee enhancement” of $3.3 million on top of the $137 million the law firm has already made. Another San Antonio law firm also wants enhancement fees, according to the article.

“Law firm Oppenheimer, Blend, Harrison & Tate, of San Antonio, is asking for a 25 percent enhancement of its fees. If this were applied to the payments received to date, about $10 million, that would add up to about $2.5 million.

Separately, Robert Tate is requesting a “fee enhancement” of 25 percent for his role as a future-claims representative during the Asarco bankruptcy. Through October, Tate had been paid fees of $1,267,187.”

I like the sound of that. Maybe I’ll ask my boss for a  “salary enhancement” instead of a raise. (You understand, I am now completely indulging in fantasy, since I work for a nonprofit and a media one at that.)

The environmental clean up is already beginning around the old smelter in downtown El Paso. This is good news, though, the cleanup is not nearly extensive enough, according to environmental groups. Another concern is that Asarco’s tab for a century’s worth of pollution and Superfund sites across the nation is around $11 billion, according to State Senator Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, who has followed the case closely for years. That means the U.S. taxpayer is left holding the bag.

We can be sure, however, that the lawyers will get their “fee enhancements.” We should now take a moment of silence for the great forest of trees that gave their innocent lives for the 13,441 sheets of paper that were used in the Asarco bankruptcy legal filings. Undoubtedly, many more trees will die to print all the money it will take to pay the lawyers.

It appears that bankruptcy proceedings could be another cause of global warming.

 

 

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.