Alison Frankel

Marvel settlement with Kirby leaves freelancers’ rights in doubt

September 29, 2014

(Reuters) – There were at least two reasons why U.S. Supreme Court watchers were paying attention to a petition for review by Jack Kirby’s heirs. The first is obvious: Kirby was a legendary comic-book artist and writer who had a big role in the creation of the X-Men, Thor, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four – enduring characters that continue to generate big returns for Marvel Entertainment and its parent, the Walt Disney Company. The other reason why this case was notable is more abstruse, but ultimately of bigger consequence than Jack Kirby’s rights to characters he helped create: Can freelancers reclaim copyrights to work they sold before the Copyright Act of 1976 took effect?

2nd Circuit to define ‘original information’ for SEC whistleblowers

September 26, 2014

It’s been a good week for whistleblowers at the Securities and Exchange Commission. On Monday, the SEC announced a $30 million award, its biggest ever since it enacted rules in 2010 to reward whistleblowers who report securities violations. What’s more, in the order explaining the award, the SEC said that it intends to keep paying bounties to foreign whistleblowers whose information leads to an enforcement action, even though the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held last month that overseas whistleblowers aren’t entitled to protection under the anti-retaliation provisions of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act. According to the SEC, Congress had a different focus in the provisions of Dodd-Frank that shield whistleblowers from being fired than it did in the parts of the law that established rewards for whistleblowers.

How contempt sanctions could force Argentina to talk to hedge funds

September 25, 2014

(Reuters) – Argentina’s contempt for the U.S. court system is not even debatable. Argentine officials have openly jeered at court orders enjoining them from making payments to bondholders who participated in Argentine sovereign debt restructurings without also paying more than $1.5 billion to hedge funds that hold defaulted bonds. The government has run newspaper ads vowing not to capitulate, has attempted to bring an action against the United States at the International Court of Justice in The Hague and, most recently, pushed through legislation authorizing its government to replace BNY Mellon with a state-controlled bank in Buenos Aires as the exchange bond trustee, after BNY Mellon made clear that it would not process payments for fear of violating the U.S. injunctions. Contempt, as it’s ordinarily defined, practically drips from the words of Argentine politicians when they talk about U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa of Manhattan, who has presided over their standoff with the holdout hedge funds for nearly a decade.

If insider trading is a RICO scheme, who are its victims?

September 24, 2014

When SAC Capital, now known as Point72, agreed in November 2013 to plead guilty to all charges in the government’s indictment against the hedge fund, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that shutting down SAC’s outside investment business and exacting the largest-ever penalty in the history of insider trading prosecutions was an appropriate punishment for “the pervasive and unprecedented institutional misconduct that occurred here.” Shareholders in two of the companies whose stock SAC traded with the benefit of inside information – Wyeth and Elan – contend that SAC’s “institutional misconduct” amounts to a racketeering scheme. And as victims of SAC’s RICO enterprise, they said in an amended class action complaint filed earlier this month, they’re entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars in treble damages from SAC.

IndyMac MBS class action to settle for $340 mln – but SCOTUS case alive

September 23, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down an unusual order Tuesday, directing the lawyers in a case called Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi v. IndyMac to file letter briefs explaining whether a newly proposed settlement of the underlying mortgage-backed-securities class action affects the question presented to the Supreme Court. That sure caught my attention.

Did U.S. State Department hide document to protect Arab Bank?

September 22, 2014

 On Friday morning, jurors in federal court in Brooklyn began deliberating whether Jordan’s Arab Bank is responsible for financing Hamas terror attacks that killed or injured dozens of Americans in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Within hours of the jury retreating to the jury room to decide the case, plaintiffs’ lawyer Michael Elsner of Motley Rice received a response to a request for documents he filed with the U.S. State Department in 2008 under the Freedom of Information Act.

Why the Arab Bank terror-finance trial matters

September 19, 2014

Last week, on the evening of Sept. 11, a lawyer named Mark Werbner stood outside his hotel in Brooklyn and looked across the East River at the blue lights commemorating the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001. Werbner, who is from Dallas, was in New York because he represents American victims of Hamas bombings and shootings during the second Palestinian Intifada. Since early August, he and his co-counsel have been trying the victims’ claims against Jordan’s Arab Bank, which they accuse of financing the Hamas terror operations. As he looked at the blue lights, Werbner told jurors Thursday during closing arguments in the Arab Bank trial, he stepped back and asked himself whether the 10 years of work he’d put into the case had accomplished anything.

The sad tale of the contract lawyer who sued Skadden (and lost)

September 17, 2014

David Lola wanted to be a patent lawyer. He’d been a chemistry major at the University of Texas, then gone to work as a pharmaceutical researcher for Warner-Lambert. But when the company said it would pay his way through law school, he took the offer. Lola applied to only one school, the University of San Diego School of Law, because it was close by. His plan was to keep working as a scientist at Warner-Lambert until he earned his law degree, then to switch over to advising the company on patenting the drugs it developed.

Allergan restrictions on shareholders’ meetings were too tough to swallow

September 16, 2014

In the middle of a status conference Friday, Delaware Chancellor Andre Bouchard asked a blunt question of Theodore Mirvis of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Mirvis represents Allergan, the pharmaceutical company fending off a unique tag-team hostile bid by the Canadian drugmaker Valeant and the hedge fund Pershing Square. In late August, Pershing notified Allergan that it had amassed the requisite shareholder support to call for a special meeting to oust the company’s directors, despite the onerous consent procedures Allergan had adopted in a bylaw enacted earlier this year. On the same day, Pershing and Valeant sued Allergan in Delaware Chancery Court to force the company to schedule the special meeting.

DOJ dismissal motion leaves mystery in shipping magnate’s libel case

September 15, 2014

We know the U.S. government believes that it has such significant national security interests at stake in a libel suit by the Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis against the non-profit United Against Nuclear Iran that on Friday, the Justice Department invoked the state secrets privilege and asked for Restis’ suit to be dismissed. What we don’t know is why.