A Big Ten conference football game between the Northwestern Wildcats and the University of Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. (Photo: Keith Gillett / Icon SMI)
A National Labor Relations Board official on March 26 gave football players at Northwestern University a green light to unionize. “It is clear that the scholarships the players receive are compensation for the athletic services they perform for the employer,” regional director Peter Ohr held, noting that the football program generated $235 million in revenue from 2003 to 2012. “It cannot be said that the employer’s scholarship players are ‘primarily students.’ ” Northwestern insisted that “ our student-athletes are not employees, but students.”
$9.5 BILLION SETTLEMENT
Bank of America Corp. agreed on March 26 to pay more than $9.5 billion to settle claims by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and New York state stemming from the financial crisis. The FHFA alleged the bank falsely represented that mortgages it sold to the agency met agency standards. The bank reached a separate settlement in a 2010 lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against it and two former executives accused of misrepresenting facts to shareholders during the merger with Merrill Lynch & Co. in 2008.
ABORTION RESTRICTIONS OK’D
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on March 27 blessed a Texas law that critics warned would close one-third of the state’s clinics that perform abortions and prevent access to the procedure for thousands of women. “[W]e have to conclude that the State acted within its prerogative to regulate the medical profession by heeding these patient-centered concerns and requiring abortion ­practitioners to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital,” Judge Edith Jones wrote in an opinion joined by judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Catharina Haynes.
BITCOIN ISN’T CURRENCY
The Internal Revenue Service has declared that bitcoin and other virtual currencies are property and not currency for U.S. federal tax purposes. The IRS conceded the virtual currency operates like “real” currency in certain environments but added, “it does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction.” Wages paid to employees with bitcoin are taxable and subject to withholding and payroll taxes, as are payments to independent contractors and other service providers, the agency said.
Goldman Sachs & Co. director Rajat Gupta has lost his appeal of his 2012 insider-trading ­conviction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on March 25 rejected all of his arguments that the verdict was flawed, including his insistence that government wiretaps implicating Gupta were inadmissible hearsay. And Gupta’s plans to donate 80 percent of his wealth to charity were “irrelevant to whether Gupta had achieved (or was about to achieve) some of his wealth unlawfully,” the court said.
DEWEY GUILTY PLEA
Dewey & LeBoeuf’s former finance director quietly pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the second degree last month, according to documents unsealed on March 27. Francis Canellas is one of the seven former Dewey employees whose cases were sealed when criminal charges were announced by the New York County, N.Y., District Attorney’s Office in early March against Dewey firm leaders. In a court document, Canellas described how he, “along with others, ­provided financial statements and other information to the banks and private-placement investors that we knew to be false.”
FLAT TUITION OFFER
The University of La Verne College of Law plans what appears to be the first true flat-rate tuition system at an American Bar Association-accredited law school. Starting next fall, all La Verne law students will pay $25,000 to attend full time and $19,600 to attend part time — without the ­scholarships and discounts that many law schools have leaned on as they competed for a smaller pool of prospective students. “The time has come to tell the truth about the cost of legal education,” dean Gilbert Holmes said. The new tuition will be $14,900 less than the existing $39,900 list price.