ANTITRUST

DOW HIT WITH $400 MILLION VERDICT IN PRICE-FIXING CASE

A federal jury in Kansas City, Kan., on February 20 returned a $400 million verdict against The Dow Chemical Co. in a urethane price-fixing class action. The award could be trebled to $1.2 billion under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Plaintiffs attorneys filed the case in 2004 on behalf of a class of direct purchasers of chemicals used to make polyurethane, a form of plastic. They accused four companies besides Dow, all of which settled for considerably smaller amounts before trial.

Dow claimed that there was no direct evidence of any agreement by it or the other chemical producers to fix prices for the four urethane product categories at issue.

BUSINESS LAW

FCPA CASE FAILS AGAINST ­FORMER SIEMENS EXECUTIVE

NEW YORK — A federal judge on February 20 dismissed Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges against former Siemens A.G. executive Herbert Steffen in an alleged bribery scheme in Argentina.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that Steffen’s alleged conduct was too far removed from the United States for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to establish jurisdiction.

In December 2011, the SEC sued seven former Siemens executives, including Steffen, who twice served as chief executive of Siemens’ Argentine operations, over an alleged $27 million bribe to renew a $1 billion contract to create national identity cards.

LOCKHEED LAWSUIT SURVIVES ATTACKS ON PLAINTIFFS FIRM

Lockheed Martin Corp. has reached a settlement in a securities class action over the company’s financial disclosures, lawyers at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd revealed in court papers on February 20.

The deal, which must be approved by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in New York, came after Robbins Geller survived a series of attacks by Lockheed’s lawyers over its relationship with the lead plaintiff and its use of confidential witnesses.

The plaintiffs firm originally filed suit against Lockheed in July 2011 on behalf of the City of Pontiac, Mich., General Employees’ Retirement System, alleging that Lockheed made false and misleading statements about its information systems and global software division.

CIVIL LITIGATION

LAWYER SHOULD HAVE KNOWN NOT TO TRUST HER SIBLINGS

MIAMI — A lawyer who failed to ask the right questions before accepting a multimillion-dollar settlement as her share of her mother’s estate cannot sue years later for life insurance payouts she expected to inherit, a state trial judge has ruled.

"When a party is negotiating in an adversarial environment with persons that party has accused of mistrust, she cannot rely on any of her adversary’s representations," Miami-Dade County, Fla., Circuit Judge Ellen Leesfield wrote, concluding the daughter "was aware that she was not being provided with all of the necessary information."

Miami Beach, Fla., lawyer Sara Mori­ber sued the estate of her mother and its personal representatives, her brother and sister, in October 2009 after being told the insurance policies had lapsed. That suit came after previous litigation against her mother and siblings and 10 drafts of the proposed settlement.

CRIMINAL LAW

SUPREMACIST SENTENCED FOR MENACING JURY FOREMAN

CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge on February 21 sentenced a white supremacist from Virginia to 3 1/2 years in prison for soliciting violence against the foreman of a jury on his extremist website.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman sentenced William White to 42 months in prison. White was accused of posting the address, phone number and other personal details about a jury foreman in the 2004 trial of another white supremacist, Matthew Hale. The foreman’s jury convicted Hale of soliciting the murder of a federal judge. He is serving a 40-year sentence.

"No doubt the experience was extremely frightening for the juror," said Adelman, of Milwaukee, who was assigned to preside over the case in Chi­cago. Prosecutors had said White’s threats against the juror had struck at the heart of the U.S. justice system.

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

TRANSOCEAN’S DEAL OK’D IN DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER

A federal judge has approved a consent decree through which a Transocean Ltd. subsidiary will pay the U.S. government $1 billion in civil penalties for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on February 19 approved the deal between the U.S. Department of Justice and Transocean Deepwater Inc., Trans­ocean Ocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. and Triton Asset Leasing GmbH.

The pact is part of a $1.4 billion settlement in which the Transocean Deepwater pleaded guilty on January 3 to one misdemeanor count of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act. Transocean will pay an additional $400 million in criminal penalties.

EVIDENCE

CRIME-FRAUD EXCEPTION CITED IN PIERCING PRIVILEGE

NEW YORK — A state trial judge has ordered the disclosure of communications between attorneys and a New York businessman facing a civil suit alleging that he and others misappropriated $13 million in a real estate deal.

Communications between defendant Moses Stern and attorneys at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney; Herrick, Feinstein; and Hoffinger Stern & Ross "are deemed unprotected" by the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein ruled.

Gorenstein concluded that the communications were "in furtherance of a crime or fraud." Disclosing communications under the crime-fraud exception is "unusual generally and particularly rare in civil cases," said Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law.

CELLPHONE USERS SHOULD KNOW THEY CAN BE TRACKED

ALBANY, N.Y. — A cellphone user has no "reasonable" expectation of privacy that the device’s built-in global positioning technology will not be used by police to locate the phone, a state trial judge has ruled.

Monroe County, N.Y., Judge John DeMarco said communications technology and the sophistication of consumers have both progressed to the point where people understand that their cellphones can accurately be tracked by satellite without their knowledge.

"People are not so oblivious that they are not aware that cell phones purchased today come with GPS technology which can pinpoint the location of the phone at any given time so long as it is turned on and the GPS technology has not been deactivated or disabled," DeMarco said.

REPORTER’S PRIVILEGE EXTENDS TO DOCUMENTARY OUTTAKES

NEW YORK — Outtakes from a documentary about five men who are suing the city claiming they were wrongfully imprisoned for the 1989 Central Park jogger attack are protected by the reporter’s qualified privilege under federal common law, a judge ruled on February 19.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis rejected New York City’s attempt to obtain outtakes from The Central Park Five in a $250 million civil rights lawsuit brought by the five men who claim that as teens they were railroaded into giving confessions implicating them in the brutal attack on jogger Patricia Meili.

The film — by Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon — asserts that the five were coerced into giving confessions, and that overzealous police and prosecutors overlooked inconsistencies in the confessions and evidence.

LEGAL PROFESSION

KAYE SCHOLER TO RETURN PART OF FEE FOR DISCLOSURE FAILURES

NEW YORK — Kaye Scholer has agreed to return nearly one-third of the $5 million it earned for the 2010 bankruptcy of investment firm GSC Group Inc.

The settlement resolved claims brought by the U.S. Trustee’s office that the firm omitted key details when it applied to work on the case.

The trustee’s office argued Kaye Scholer and GSC financial adviser Capstone Advisory Group had failed to disclose that an employee listed on Capstone’s application was actually a contractor using a type of fee-sharing agreement barred by the bankruptcy code. The office also faulted Kaye Scholer for failing to disclose that it had previously done work for other ventures owned by the contractor.