Crypto Bankruptcies Have No Winners — Except Their Lawyers

Bankruptcy proceedings aren’t cheap, and you can bet they’re not particularly cheerful, either


Several top law firms are reportedly banking millions in legal fees over bankruptcy proceedings instigated by former crypto lending giants earlier this year.

Kirkland & Ellis, White & Case and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan are charging as much as $2,130 per hour to represent parties involved in Voyager Digital’s and Celsius Network’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. The three law firms are ranked by American Lawyer, which first reported the news, as among the top 50 by revenue. 

Several other US-headquartered firms are also involved in both cases, which have global implications. 

Kirkland has billed Voyager $6.5 million in compensation and expense reimbursements, while also charging Celsius $7.1 million, according to American Lawyer. 

The steep fees provide a glimpse into just how much attorneys stand to make from the restructuring of now-defunct crypto companies, including Voyager and Celsius, which both filed for bankruptcy in July

Sam Bankman-Fried’s former FTX empire is also seeking bankruptcy protection. And, with considerably more money at stake, those proceedings could up the ante on legal fees. 

In all instances, millions of dollars of customers’ digital assets have been frozen on the platforms while proceedings play out.

Voyager fees start in the hundreds, eclipse $1,000 per hour

Kirkland, for instance, is charging Voyager between $1,135 and $1,995 an hour for partners, as well as $650 and $1,245 for associates.

Kirkland generally increases its hourly rate twice a year, depending how a case progresses.

Quinn Emanuel, also representing Voyager, has already billed the defunct company $2.5 million. 

Kirkland is acting as Voyager’s general counsel, while Quinn Emanuel has a more-defined responsibility as part of its so-called special committee. The committee’s primary role is to investigate Voyager’s historical transactions, public reports and regulatory issues.

Quinn Emanuel is raking in $1,246 to $1,917 an hour for its partners. Associates are charging $747 to $1,183, and paralegals clock in between $432 and $603. 

Quinn Emanuel is also advising FTX’s sister trading firm, the insolvent Alameda Research — which was dragged down by the exchange’s collapse. 

Chicago-based McDermott Will & Emer, meanwhile, is laying claim to $2.3 million in legal fees and is expecting an additional $63,000 of expenses.

Celsius’ fees mount, too

The three law firms assisting Celsius have likewise racked up millions of dollars in fees and expenses.

Kirkland & Ellis is general counsel, while Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and Latham & Watkins are advising debtors in complementary capacities. 

So far, Celsius has been billed $7.1 million by Kirkland, $1.4 million by Akin Gump, and $1.7 million by Latham & Watkins.

New York-based law firm White & Case, meanwhile, says it is owed $5.9 million for representing unsecured creditors of the former crypto lending giant Celsius from July 29 to Sept. 30.

Representatives for all of the law firms did not immediately return requests for comment.

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