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Date of Issue: February 20, 2008

Law firm forces $550,000 settlement from Byrne, GSR targets

Federal bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May approved a $550,000 “compromise controversy” settlement Feb. 12 in “adversarial proceedings” against GSR principal Robert Byrne and other “targets” involved in the GSR bankruptcy.

Included was a compensation order of 33.33 percent for the Tampa law firm of Gray-Robinson, the attorneys who represented the special litigation trustee against Byrne and the targets, and who also represent the unsecured creditor’s committee.

Attorney and Island resident John Anthony of Gray-Robinson PA, said the result of the settlement was a “goal that otherwise would not have been in the cards,” if the targets were not pursued through adversarial proceedings in bankruptcy court.

Claims against GSR principal Steve Noriega and a man known as Thomas Coelho of Sarasota are still pending, Anthony said.

He also noted that Gray-Robinson pursued the adversarial proceedings with “no assurances of success or compensation.” The case was on a contingency fee approved by the bankruptcy court before the proceedings began.

The $550,000 was $100,000 more than the malpractice insurance carried by the two “targets” in the case who were attorneys in their own firm, Anthony added.

With nearly $6 million in unsecured creditor claims against GSR, Anthony said, “We only wish, for many obvious reasons, that the defendants had carried more insurance coverage or had more assets to support a larger award.” The original demand in the case was for $3.3 million.

After attorney fees and other costs are deducted from the settlement, the remaining money will be disbursed to the unsecured creditors of GSR.

Gray-Robinson also succeeded last year in obtaining a $750,000 settlement for the creditor’s committee from Bon Eau Enterprises LLC of Sarasota, a company that was involved in the “adversarial proceedings” until its settlement offer to the creditor’s committee was accepted by May. Of that amount, Bon Eau has allocated $500,000 toward payment of the professionals involved in the case, while $250,000 is to be divided among the unsecured claimants.

Anthony said his firm is “proud of our work” in obtaining these settlements and Gray-Robinson “has clearly earned all that it will be paid for this representation.” No one objected to the fee payment schedule that was approved by May when the firm took on the adversarial proceedings against Byrne and the “targets,” he noted.

Anthony did accept that a lot of “time and money” was wasted in trying to sell off GSR’s real estate assets as a means of realizing larger share of the assets for the unsecured creditors. The properties were “overly leveraged assets in a declining economy” and none were ever sold.

“No law firm or court can warrant an economic result,” Anthony observed, “and, in many respects, this case as a whole has been shaped by the real estate market on the Island so many of us call home.”

He cautioned that the conclusion of the adversarial proceedings does not affect “any future issues or events that are planned,” but said he could not be more specific at this time.

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