A fee examiner serves to assist the bankruptcy court in the review and analysis of fee requests as they are submitted by case professionals (i.e., debtors’/committee’s counsel, financial advisors, restructuring professionals, special counsel, investment bankers, ordinary course professionals when relevant, and any other case professionals retained by the debtor) to identify and quantify potentially unreasonable or unnecessary fees and costs. If you are a case professional, the following are a few tips for working with a bankruptcy fee examiner:
1. Firm Responses
Be certain to address all questions and/or concerns raised by the Fee Examiner. The request for an answer or more information was made for a reason. Also, be sure to take advantage of informal responses. If you are uncertain whether the Fee Examiner will accept an informal response, just ask. They should, as it can save a great deal of time and money.
Although procrastination or full use of a deadline is common in this profession (the author included), the process runs more smoothly if your firm turns its Firm Response around within a reasonable amount of time from receiving the Fee Examiner’s Preliminary Report. Informal Responses are a great way to speed this up. Regardless of the style of your Response, you should take into consideration the deadlines the Fee Examiner and Debtor’s Counsel still have in working through any outstanding issues, drafting the Final Report, and the timely filing of the Final Reports and delivery of Report Binders to the Court. Consideration of these deadlines will go a long way in promoting a good relationship with the Fee Examiner, as well as Debtor’s Counsel.
3. Eliminate Repeat Violations
Save time and money by avoiding repetitive Rule and Guideline violations. Try, for example, holding an in-firm training session or one-on-one discussions with the professionals who are or will be working on the Chapter 11 cases. It is especially important to educate professionals who are not normally accustomed to working on Chapter 11 cases, or having their time audited by a court-appointed Fee Examiner.
4. Confidential/Redacted Information
If your firm is forced to redact certain information from its billing records, the Fee Examiner will need the unredacted versions of those billing invoices to properly complete the required review and report. So, do not wait for the Fee Examiner to ask for documents; rather, submit a copy of the unredacted invoices with your initial submission made to the Fee Examiner. The Fee Examiner will not have a problem entering into a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement with your firm. Your consideration in the overall process will save time and money, and promote a more professional relationship with the Fee Examiner.
As in all relationships, good communication is a key factor. Thus, it is important to maintain an open line of communication with the Fee Examiner appointed to your Chapter 11 case. It will certainly build a stronger professional relationship and promote a productive dialogue when you are working through any fee and expense issues.