(Reuters) – The commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission seem to think there may just be something to the latest defense arguments that its in-house administrative law judges are unconstitutional.
The military contractor Kellogg Brown & Root Services won at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, when the justices ruled unanimously in KBR v. U.S. ex rel Carter that the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act extends the time limit only for criminal fraud cases, not for civil suits under the False Claims Act. KBR lawyer John Elwood of Vinson & Elkins told my Reuters colleague Lawrence Hurley that the decision should effectively kill a 2011 whistleblower suit accusing the company of billing the U.S. government for months of water purification services in Iraq it didn’t actually provide.
Citigroup revealed last week that it has agreed to pay $394 million to settle private antitrust litigation over manipulation of a benchmark price average for trades in the foreign exchange market, bringing the total recovery for plaintiffs in the consolidated forex litigation to nearly $810 million. That number is expected to rise. Citi is the fourth bank to reach a deal in the private case – JPMorgan Chase, UBS and Bank of America have already settled – and at least two other of the eight remaining forex defendants are also reportedly in talks with plaintiffs lawyers.
The judge overseeing litigation over Target’s epic 2013 data breach has serious qualms about Target’s $19 million deal with MasterCard, which proposes to resolve claims by banks that issue MasterCard credit and debit cards. But in a ruling Thursday night, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson of St. Paul, Minnesota, said there’s nothing he can do to stop it.
(Reuters) – The plaintiffs’ firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, working with regular appellate counsel Samuel Issacharoff of New York University School of Law, submitted a compelling petition last week at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the appellate court to reconsider a three-judge panel’s ruling in Graham v. R.J. Reynolds. In that April 8 decision, the 11th Circuit held that Florida smokers’ strict liability and negligence claims against tobacco companies are implicitly preempted because Congress has imposed federal regulation on cigarettes but has not banned them. Lieff Cabraser’s brief argues not only that the 11th Circuit opinion is at odds with a previous 11th Circuit decision based on the same basic facts and case law but that it’s also contrary to U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
The well-known libel and defamation lawyer Lin Wood left Bryan Cave four years ago because he wanted to represent two whistleblowers – a doctor and nurse – who claimed that the kidney dialysis company DaVita had rigged its drug delivery protocols to overcharge Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs for unused medications. The False Claims Act whistleblowers had filed their case back in 2007 and already had lawyers, including Marlan Wilbanks of Wilbanks & Bridges. But in March 2011, the Justice Department made the decision not to intervene in the case, leaving the whistleblowers to litigate against DaVita without help from the government. Wood entered his appearance in July 2011.
(Reuters) – Cravath, Swaine & Moore learned the hard way about conflict of interest claims in hostile takeover fights. Back in 2010, a company called Airgas sued Cravath in Pennsylvania, claiming that the firm dropped Airgas as a corporate client when a rival company, Air Products, decided to use Cravath as its counsel in an unsolicited bid for Airgas. Alleging that Cravath was privy to confidential corporate information, Airgas tried to have the firm disqualified from advising Air Products in the M&A fight. To make a very long story short, the disqualification issue ended up before Chancellor William Chandler of Delaware Chancery Court, who found Cravath’s work for Airgas had been too limited to disadvantage the company if Cravath continued to represent Air Products.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s liberal quartet Wednesday in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, a decision upholding disciplinary sanctions against a Florida state judicial candidate who included a request for campaign contributions in a letter introducing herself to Hillsborough County voters. The candidate, Lanell Yulee, lost the election and ended up facing state bar allegations that she had violated a prohibition against direct fundraising by people running for judge. Yulee appealed the sanction, citing her First Amendment rights.
When Target announced earlier this month that it had reached a $19 million settlement with MasterCard to resolve data-breach-related claims by banks that issued MasterCard-branded credit and debit cards, lawyers representing a class of financial institutions suing Target put up a loud protest. The MasterCard deal purports to compensate participating banks for the costs they incurred as a result of the breach of Target’s data in 2013, both for fraudulent charges on cards compromised in the breach and for the expense of sending customers replacement cards. But the banks have to agree to drop all of their potential claims in the class action.