When the Utah Attorney General's office hires outside counsel to pursue cases, many times it's on a contingent fee where the outside group gets a portion of the money recovered. Sen. Stuart Adams wants to set some concrete guidelines for establishing, and opting out of, those contingency contracts.
SB 233 sets a limit on how much money those outside attorney's can claim of a financial settlement, starting at 25% of the first $10,000,000 recovered, and it tiers down from there with an ultimate cap of $50,000,000.
Adams says the $50 million cap seems like a lot of money, but it makes sense.
"This simply sets some parameters when they decide to go outside their office," says Adams. "Sometimes they hire outside attorneys on a fee basis, sometimes it's on a contingency basis."
Another provision in the bill sets rules for when the AG's office needs to go above the 25% cap. In that case, the AG needs to make their case to a committee consisting of the Attorney General, State Treasurer and State Auditor. A simple majority vote among those three is all that's required to move above those caps.
"A reason they could opt out from the caps is it's a small case and they need to promise a higher percentage of the money recovered to outside counsel," explains Adams. "It may be a case involving multiple other states. If there's a rational reason for opting out of the caps, this gives them a basis for their decision making."
Adams says including the treasurer and auditor in the committee deciding on the caps makes sense because they understand the financial implications for the state.
"It's just good policy. If the opt-out is justified, the AG only needs to convince one other person. This makes the process transparent."