‘Settlement Fund no longer in imminent danger of collapse’

Judge approves increasing Tang’s hourly rate from $250 to $350

Joyce C. H. Tang

Although the Settlement Fund is far from being out of the woods, it is no longer in imminent danger of collapse today, according to the Fund’s trustee, Joyce C. H. Tang.

This comes as U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood approved Tang’s request to increase her rate from $250 per hour to $350 per hour.

In the letter to Tydingco-Gatewood dated Dec. 5, Tang informed the judge that she believes their team is achieving good results for CNMI retirees

When she was first appointed as Settlement Fund trustee in September 2013, the forecast was that the Fund would run out of money in 2017, Tang said. That catastrophe has not happened and Tang attributes this to the “good work and contributions of many people.”

She pointed out that, at that time of her appointment, her billing rate was $250 per hour, which was mid-range in the rates being charged by other attorneys in Guam with similar experience.

In the past six years, as her law firm’s overhead and operating costs have risen significantly, she has gradually increased her rates several times in Guam, but she hasn’t done so as the Fund’s trustee, Tang said.

Given the change in conditions over the past six years, she asked Tydingco-Gatewood to increase her rate from $250 an hour to $350. Tang said she has discussed this request with Betty Johnson and class’ counsel Marjorie Bronster and that the latter confirmed that Bronster does not object to the increase.

As per Tang’s request, the new rate will take effect beginning with her June 11, 2019 invoice for work performed in May 2019, and going forward.

Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood

Tydingco-Gatewood, who appointed Tang to the position of trustee of the Fund, granted Tang’s request yesterday, saying she finds the request to be reasonable, particularly because of the Fund’s positive financial status and better-than-expected investment return this fiscal year.

In granting Tang’s request, Tydingco-Gatewood said at the time of the trustee’s appointment, she approved a remuneration rate of $250 per hour, subject to future increase approved by the court upon the trustee’s petition.

Tydingco-Gatewood ordered the Settlement Fund to pay Tang the sum of $66,577, which represents 90% of the trustee’s professional fees and all expenses incurred during the months of May through September 2019, or invoices dated June to November 2019.

Tydingco-Gatewood said she has reviewed Tang’s invoices and finds the request for compensation and reimbursement of expenses to be reasonable.

She said the court is satisfied with the work performed by Tang during this timeframe.

The judge ordered the Fund to hold in trust to the credit of the trustee the sum of $7,397, which represents 10% of the trustee’s professional fees for this time period.

Tydingco-Gatewood said Tang may petition for release of the 10% retainer on a quarterly basis, subject to the court’s satisfaction of the trustee’s work and any objections to the compensation requests.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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