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Former stock exchange chief must repay $100M In a sternly worded decision, a New York state trial judge ordered former New York Stock Exchange chief Richard Grasso last week to pay back as much as $100 million in his contested compensation package. Grasso’s claim for another $48 million from the exchange was also rejected in the ruling. New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos also said in a partial summary judgment that he was “shocked” at one aspect of Grasso’s defense that he believed stock exchange officials were fully aware of all the elements of his compensation as they increased it annually. Bankruptcy judge’s NPR e-mail draws scrutiny A federal bankruptcy judge has caused a stir after sending National Public Radio an e-mail denouncing recently passed federal legislation that he says deprives suspected terrorists of rights. Edith Jones, chief judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said she is looking into U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Leif Clark’s comments in the e-mail message, which was read on NPR’s Morning Edition program on Oct. 6. “On the federal bench, you don’t have many situations where judges are commenting on public affairs like this . . . . Where the line is to be drawn on that, I just don’t know,” Jones said. N.J. judge orders Merck to disclose Vioxx fees A New Jersey judge has ordered Merck & Co. to release records on how much it spent on a trial involving its Vioxx painkiller. The data would provide a window into how much Merck spends on its trials, and what its legal defense costs could be. So far, Merck has reserved $970 million for legal costs. Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee’s order stems from a request from plaintiffs’ lawyers that Merck pay their legal fees and expenses of roughly $5.6 million for a trial that combined the cases of two men who suffered heart attacks while taking Vioxx. The jury found that Merck committed consumer fraud in its marketing of Vioxx, and that finding allows plaintiffs’ firms to ask for legal fees. But Merck balked at the expense level, prompting plaintiffs’ lawyers to ask how much Merck spent on the trial. Judge vacates Enron founder’s convictions A federal judge ruled last week that Enron founder Kenneth Lay’s death last summer vacated his conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges connected to the downfall of the energy company. The ruling makes it difficult for the government to seek $43.5 million from Lay’s estate. Lay was convicted on May 25 of 10 counts of fraud, conspiracy and lying to banks in two separate cases. He died of heart disease on July 5. Enron’s collapse in 2001 wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans. Lay’s attorneys argued before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of Houston that legal precedent called for his convictions to be erased and his indictment dismissed. Pay for women partners is lagging behind men’s A survey released last week by the National Association of Women Lawyers found that the average pay for women equity partners in the nation’s highest-grossing law firms is $429,169, compared with $510,375 earned by men. The survey, which included responses from more than half of the 200 highest-grossing firms in the United States, also showed that only 5% of the managing partners at those firms are women. Moreover, women make up just 16% of equity partners and 16% of governance committees, the survey found. Ninety-two percent of the firms reported that their highest-paid lawyer was a man. The survey, “Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms,” showed that women lawyers are better represented at lower levels of the profession, constituting 45% of associates, 28% of the of counsel positions and 26% of nonequity partners. The “pear-shaped” phenomenon makes it harder for women to find mentors and role models in law firms, the survey concluded. Only one firm reported a percentage of women equity partners above 25%. The survey did not identify the results of individual firms.

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