650 Fifth Avenue (Americasroof/wikipedia)
A federal judge in New York has approved more than $500 million in claims against a forfeited office building whose partial owners are accused of violating the Iranian trade embargo. U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest had ruled ­earlier that the majority interest held by Assa Corp. and its partner, the Alavi Foundation, under the name 650 Fifth Ave. Co. was a front for Iran’s Bank Melli and the Iranian government. Creditors also seek to recover against seven additional ­properties in five states and three bank accounts.
LAW FIRM MERGERS STEADY
Law firm mergers continued at a fast pace during in 2014, with smaller acquisitions ­dominating the market, according to legal consultancy Altman Weil. Of the 22 deals announced thus far this year, approximately 82 percent involved firms with fewer than 15 lawyers. The largest merger so far was Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s mid-March tie-up with Florida’s Fowler White Boggs to create a 530-lawyer firm. Altman Weil principal Ward Bower said smaller mergers are “just easier to do, and many of the megamerger prospects aren’t out there.”
JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE PANEL
A New Jersey task force on judicial independence — formed last year by the State Bar Association to address perceived threats to the autonomy of state judges by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration — is kicking into high gear. The bar association cited Christie’s 2010 decision not to reappoint state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace Jr., explicitly because he said he ­disagreed with Wallace’s judicial philosophy and wanted to build a more conservative court. Christie later announced that he would not nominate Justice Helen Hoens for lifetime tenure.
Virtu Financial Inc. — a high-speed electronic trading firm headed by former Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison partner Douglas Cifu — has pushed back a planned initial public offering. Bloomberg News and The New York Times linked the delay to the fallout generated by Michael Lewis’ new book, “Flash Boys.” Lewis argues that, as the Times put it, “the stock market is rigged in favor of high-frequency traders, who use computer algorithms to buy and sell shares in milliseconds.”
APPLE AND SAMSUNG, AGAIN
A trial opened on April 1 between Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. over more recent versions of their smartphones and tablets. In 2012, a jury awarded Apple more than $1 billion on similar claims. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh is hearing the case in San Jose. Apple is asking for $2 billion this time, but Samsung seeks only about $7 million in its own patent infringement case against Apple. “That is what the follower wants you to believe — patents are not worth much,” Apple lawyer William Lee of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr argued. True innovators, he said, “know what an invention is and they know what the value of a patent is.”
A survey of attorneys who participated in the lateral market among large U.S. law firms were by and large satisfied with the process, according to a survey by legal consultancy Major, Lindsey & Africa. Fifty-two percent of respondants said they were very satisfied; 31 percent were somewhat satisfied; and 80 percent would join the same firms if they had to do it all over again. But only 36.6 percent said they reviewed their new firms’ financial statements and 40 percent said they hadn’t read their new partnership agreements.
‘PIRATE OF PRAGUE’
A New York court can recognize a judgment from a Czech criminal court against a notorious ­financier who cheated Czech investors out of about $410 million because the judgment is civil in nature, a unanimous New York state appeals court has ruled, reversing a lower court judge. The case arose from a judgment against Viktor Kozený, popularly known as the “pirate of Prague” for the massive fraud he committed against Czech investors during the 1990s.