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Securities class actions plunge in 2006-so far The number of securities class actions filed in the first half of 2006 plunged by 45%-the lowest point since 1996, the year after adoption of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, according to a report by Cornerstone Research. There were 61 typical securities class actions in the first half of the year, compared with 111 in the first half of 2005, the report states. Only three filings constituted “mega” cases of $10 billion or more. One category that did increase was cases alleging lack of accounting or internal controls, suggesting that the “litigation market is now more focused on the validity of financial results and accounting treatment,” the report states. The sample included 2,420 federal class actions filed between the start of 1996 and June 2006. Ohio high court rejects eminent domain claim The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that a Cincinnati suburb cannot take private property by eminent domain for a $125 million project of offices and shops, finding that economic development isn’t a sufficient reason under the state constitution. The case was the first challenge of property rights laws to reach a state high court since the U.S. Supreme Court last summer allowed municipalities to seize homes for use by a private developer. Alston snags outsourcing group from Pillsbury Atlanta’s Alston & Bird has raided two partners from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman to establish a global sourcing practice. But rumors that Alston might open offices in London or Germany are premature, said the firm’s managing partner, Ben F. Johnson III. Trevor W. Nagel and Lee Van Blerkom recently joined Alston as partners in its Washington office. Nagel chairs the firm’s new global sourcing practice, which complements its established outsourcing practice, also based in the Washington office and led by Christopher D. Ford. Johnson said the firm’s outsourcing practice, which helps large corporations outsource business functions, has been primarily domestic until now. Nagel and Van Blerkom were recruited because of their expertise in international outsourcing deals. Judge finds two KPMG executives were coerced U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan took another swipe last week at the government’s conduct in its prosecution of 16 former employees of accounting firm KPMG who allegedly developed illegal tax shelters for wealthy clients. Kaplan, in U.S. v. Jeffrey Stein, No. S105 Crim. 0888 (S.D.N.Y.), ruled that federal prosecutors coerced two ex-employees into giving statements at proffer sessions, and he refused to allow the government to use those statements at a trial scheduled for January. Former KPMG Vice Chairman Richard Smith and ex-partner Mark Watson testified at a suppression hearing that the company told them they would be fired unless they cooperated with the government’s probe. They argued they were compelled to waive their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. N.Y. judge’s ruling shows Milberg not through yet A New York judge has given a boost to Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman by appointing the embattled law firm co-lead counsel in a consolidated suit over stock-options backdating. Milberg Weiss’ ability to carry on with client matters has been in question since the firm and two of its name partners were indicted in May on charges they paid illegal kickbacks to class action plaintiffs. All pleaded not guilty last week in Los Angeles federal court. But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Richard Lowe said in a recent decision that the firm’s indictment had no bearing on its ability to handle derivative suits on behalf of investors in voicemail software company Comverse Technology Inc.

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