Testimony in Support of Assembly Bill 27

WMC appreciates the opportunity to provide input on Assembly Bill 27, which would create a formal process for the state to select outside legal counsel for use on a contingency fee basis.

WMC is the state’s largest business trade association, with over 3,500 members in the manufacturing, service, health care, retail, energy, banking and insurance sectors of our economy.  WMC is dedicated to making Wisconsin the most competitive state in the nation to do business, and toward that end, we support legislation encouraging a legal environment that provides fairness under the law and the application of reasonable and clear standards.  With those principles in mind, we respectfully request your support of Assembly Bill 27.

The state of Wisconsin presently has no formal process for selecting outside legal counsel used on a contingency fee basis.  Assembly Bill 27 would establish a robust process for selecting private attorneys under this basis and also place reasonable limits on these arrangements.

Under Assembly Bill 27, the Governor would need to make a written determination on the need for the state to retain outside counsel on a contingency fee basis.  Such a determination would need to prove that such a contract would be cost-effective for the taxpayer and be in the public interest.

For any contingency fee arraignment entered into, state attorneys would maintain control of the litigation.  This would include state attorneys participating in any settlement conferences.

The legislation also calls for tiered limits on the amount of contingency fees that could be paid, based on the amount of the recovery.  The maximum contingency fee paid would be capped at $30 million.

The bill provides transparency by requiring a copy of the contingency fee contract and the amount of any contingency fees paid to be posted to the Governor’s website. 

Lastly, the Governor is required to submit to the Legislature an annual report of all contingency fee contracts entered into by the state, the attorneys and firm with whom the contracts have been signed, and information on the legal matter under contract.

Assembly Bill 27 will extend Wisconsin’s culture of open governance into an area that has eluded transparency in the past.  Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of our support for Assembly Bill 27.