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SEC announces new policies, and a new GC The Securities and Exchange Commission announced a new policy last week on how it will levy corporate fines and exercise authority. The new policy, agreed to unanimously by the five-member commission, aims at levying fines in a clearer, more predictable and more consistent manner, said SEC Chairman Christopher Cox at a briefing to unveil the policy framework. Under the new policy guidelines, the SEC said it will focus on whether a company receives any direct benefit from a violation, and the degree to which any penalty will help or harm injured shareholders. In related news, the SEC announced last week that securities lawyer Brian Cartwright will take up the post of general counsel on Jan. 23. Cartwright succeeds Giovanni Prezioso, who said he plans to return to the private sector. Cartwright, 58, is a partner in Latham & Watkins’ Los Angeles office, where he chaired the firm’s public company practice and was one of five partners responsible for managing the firm. He joined Latham & Watkins in 1982. Carol Corrigan officially on California’s high court The California Supreme Court, absent one justice for more than half a year, is whole once again. On Jan. 4, Chief Justice Ronald George administered the oath of office to Carol Corrigan, making the long-time 1st District Court of Appeal justice the 112th person-and only the fifth woman-to grace the high court bench. Corrigan, 57, replaces the more conservative Janice Rogers Brown, who left on June 30 to join the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. George and the two other members of the Commission on Judicial Appointments-state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and 2d District Court of Appeal Justice Joan Dempsey Klein-confirmed Corrigan unanimously. Lockyer and Klein are Democrats, while George is a Republican. Corrigan, a former Democrat, said she converted to the Republican Party about 10 years ago. Conflict review asked in Milberg Weiss case Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have asked a judge to look into whether a possible conflict of interest exists in a criminal case alleging that the former law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach paid kickbacks to named plaintiffs in its million-dollar securities cases. In June, prosecutors indicted two individuals, Palm Springs, Calif., lawyer Seymour Lazar and his personal attorney, Paul Selzer. They allege that Lazar, who served as a named plaintiff in at least 50 of Milberg’s cases since the late 1970s, accepted more than $2.4 million in illegal kickbacks from the firm, and that Selzer, a former real estate partner at Best Best & Krieger, helped him conceal the kickbacks by classifying them as referral fees. (Milberg lawyers have not yet been charged.) In a recent filing, prosecutors allege that Lazar’s current attorney in the case, Thomas Bienert of Bienert & Krongold in San Clemente, Calif., may have a “serious potential for a conflict of interest” because he represented both Lazar and Selzer during much of the investigation. A ruling on the conflict issue is expected Jan. 12. Wal-Mart employees certified as a class A Philadelphia judge has certified as a class all Pennsylvania Wal-Mart employees who believe they were not compensated for rest and meal breaks they allegedly missed over the past seven years. Judge Mark I. Bernstein’s decision in Hummel v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. came just days after a California jury awarded a class with a similar claim $172 million. “We strongly deny the allegations in this lawsuit,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Thornton. “Certifying this as a class does not mean that the company has done anything wrong or improper.” D.C.’s Venable allies with minority-owned firm Venable, a Washington law firm with 441 attorneys, has created an alliance with the minority-owned Maryland law firm Brown & Sheehan. The firms will maintain separate identities but work as co-counsel on certain matters of litigation, labor and employment, public finance, transactions and real estate. Brown & Sheehan has 13 attorneys: four partners, eight associates and one of counsel. Name partner Michael Brown said the alliance provides an opportunity for minority attorneys, who traditionally go to large firms at a “risk of becoming marginalized,” or to minority firms, where they miss out on serving big clients.

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