Award Request Slashed
NEW YORK — A judge has awarded law firms Boies, Schiller & Flexner; Susman Godfrey; and Hausfeld a fraction of the $15 million in attorney fees and costs they were seeking for winning a jury verdict in a price-fixing case against Chinese vitamin C manufacturers.
In a ruling issued on Dec. 30, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan granted the firms $4.1 million in attorney fees and no costs. Cogan credited them for the “high quality” of their work, but he determined that all of the lawyers’ costs and a large part of their fees had already been covered by earlier settlements with co-defendants.
In March, North China Pharmaceutical Group Ltd. and a related company were hit with a $162 million verdict. Cogan later reduced the verdict to $153 million.
Sanctions Motion Nixed
NEW YORK — UBS AG has failed to win sanctions against U.S. Bank N.A., one of the many trustees asserting “put back” claims on behalf of investors in mortgage-backed securities.
U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. ruled on Dec. 27 that U.S. Bank should not be sanctioned over its document retention policy. UBS’ lawyers argued that U.S. Bank kept in place an email deletion policy, despite being on notice of potential litigation against UBS and other banks. In affirming a magistrate’s decision in the matter, Baer wrote that if and when the case goes to trial he’ll consider instructing jurors that they can infer that destroyed documents would have undermined U.S. Bank’s case.
U.S. Bank sued UBS in September 2012, alleging that the bank misrepresented the riskiness of the home loans propping up four MBS securitizations. Investors argue that UBS is required to repurchase, or put back, the underlying home loans.
Countrywide Pays $17M
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has reached a $17.3 million settlement with Countrywide Securities Corp. over the company’s residential mortgage securitization practices.
The deal brings total settlements with Attorney General Martha Coakley from similar investigations and lawsuits against banks to $301.8 million since 2009.
Coakley announced the deal with Countrywide, now part of Bank of America Corp., on Dec. 30. Of the total, $11.3 million will go to the state pension fund, the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board. The remaining $6 million will be paid to state coffers.
Macy’s, Stewart Settle
NEW YORK (AP) — Macy’s Inc. and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. said they settled a breach-of-contract lawsuit involving J.C. Penney.
Macy’s and Martha Stewart Living announced on Jan. 2 that their settlement terms were confidential and not material to their businesses. Both companies said that they look forward to “a continued, successful partnership together.”
Macy’s has had an exclusive merchandising contract with Martha Stewart since 2006, including items such as bedding and bath products. Stewart’s company and J.C. Penney Corp. Inc. signed a merchandising deal in December 2011 to develop mini Martha Stewart shops. That prompted Macy’s to sue both companies for violating its exclusive agreement with Martha Stewart.
Judge Retains Lawsuits
NEW YORK — A federal judge ruled on Dec. 30 that she has jurisdiction over two high-profile investor lawsuits filed against banks that set the London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald refused to remand to state court a fraud case brought on behalf of Salix Capital U.S. Inc. against banks including Bank of America Corp., Credit Suisse Group AG and Deutsche Bank AG. In the same decision, Buchwald refused to let go of a similar case filed by plaintiff Charles Schwab Corp. Siding with the banks, Buchwald ruled that a statute called the Edge Act gives federal courts jurisdiction over Salix and Schwab’s claims.
The ruling may be a win for the banks, since Buchwald gutted LIBOR class action litigation back in March.
Bail Set for Monsignor
PHILADELPHIA — A trial judge on Dec. 30 set bail for Monsignor William J. Lynn at $250,000, pending the state’s appeal of the reversal of his conviction for endangering the welfare of a child.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said at a hearing that Lynn, who is currently in prison in Waymart, Pa., and did not attend, will need to appear before her at another hearing before he can be released.
A Philadelphia jury found Lynn guilty in June 2012 of endangering the welfare of a child who was allegedly abused by another priest. On Dec. 26, a unanimous three-judge Superior Court panel reversed the conviction and ordered that Lynn be “discharged forthwith.”
Two Fugitives Get Life
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Two fugitive alleged crime bosses have been jailed for life in Macedonia on charges of attempted murder and extortion, following a police crackdown on illegal gambling.
Court officials in the capital Skopje said 13 other alleged members of the criminal organization, who were present at the trial, also received sentences of between 15 months and 14 years and six months.
The convictions follow a police operation on the gang last year centered in Kocani, a town about 95 miles southeast of Skopje. Twenty people were arrested in multiple raids when police seized illegal gambling machines and firearms.
U.S. Videomaker Jailed
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A court in the United Arab Emirates sentenced eight people, including an American, to up to a year in prison on Dec. 30 after being convicted in connection to a satirical video about youth culture in Dubai.
The video they produced and uploaded to the Internet was a spoof documentary of would-be “gangsta” youth in the Gulf Arab city-state. The state-owned daily The National said they were accused of “defaming the image of United Arab Emirates society abroad.”
Shezanne Cassim, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen from Woodbury, Minn., became the public face of the defendants after his family launched an effort to publicize his months-long incarceration following his arrest in April. Cassim was sentenced to a year in prison followed by deportation and received a $2,725 fine, according to a family spokeswoman.
Google Files Claim
SAN FRANCISCO — Google Inc. has filed for declaratory judgment in the Northern District of California that its websites, software and Chrome browser don’t infringe Eolas Technologies Inc.’s patents.
The lawsuit follows cease-and-desist letters from Eolas Technologies, a licensing arm of the University of California, to some of the same companies it fought — and lost to — in a closely watched 2012 jury trial. Eolas also has asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to take another look at its patents under a provision of the 2012 America Invents Act.
Google claims that the new patents being asserted by Eolas and the Regents have already been litigated, with “every asserted claim … struck down as invalid.” The patents at issue describe “a system allowing a user of a browser program on a computer connected to an open distributed hypermedia system to access and execute an embedded program object.”
Facebook Lawsuit Filed
SAN FRANCISCO — Plaintiffs have filed a privacy class action against Facebook Inc., accusing the social-networking site of scanning the content of messages it touts as private and using the information to sell targeted ads.
The lawsuit filed on Dec. 30 claims that Facebook’s scanning of messages without users’ consent violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and California’s Invasion of Privacy Act as well as the state’s Unfair Competition Law. Plaintiffs attorneys at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein seek to represent a class of Facebook account holders who used its private messaging service and included URLs within the last two years.
Suit Against Judge Fails
A Texas state district judge has dismissed civil claims filed against his predecessor by a mother and daughter for allegedly failing to report the girl’s outcry of abuse by a registered sex offender.
The case, S.R.L. v. Terry Flenniken, was filed in a Burleson County district court on Oct. 8, 2013. In the original petition, the mother and daughter alleged that retired Judge Terry Flenniken — along with three school district employee defendants — breached their duty to the girl under Texas law, which requires “professionals” to report child abuse.
In a Dec. 16 order, Judge Carson Campbell dismissed the civil claims filed against Flenniken, with prejudice, after determining that there was no good-faith basis for the claims against the judge.