(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.
(Reuters) – Just about a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear a case involving a class action against a couple of Midwestern banks that didn’t post both of the required notices on its ATM machines. The banks’ petition for certiorari raised the same question that had piqued the Supreme Court’s interest in the 2011 case First American Financial v. Edwards: Can Congress confer constitutional standing on otherwise uninjured consumers by giving them a private right of action? But the justices mysteriously dismissed First American on the last day of their term in 2012 and were unwilling to revisit the tough question of Congress and consumers’ right to sue in the ATM case, prompting me to ask in a column if the Supreme Court had lost its zeal to curb consumer class actions.
In the great moral reckoning of the universe, does it make sense for the parents of an exceptional young woman cut down in a mass shooting to be on the hook to Internet ammunitions dealers for nearly a quarter of a million dollars?
(Reuters) – In successive rulings in 2013, three well-regarded federal judges in Manhattan endorsed the Justice Department’s creative adaptation of an old law from the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s to cases against banks involved in the financial crisis of the 2000s. That April, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan refused to dismiss the government’s civil suit against Bank of New York Mellon. Similar rulings followed in August from U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in the so-called “Hustle” case against Bank of America and in September from U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in a Justice Department civil suit against Wells Fargo.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of Manhattan dismissed an anonymous male student’s gender discrimination case against Columbia University and its board of trustees. The student, who was suspended for three semesters after a campus tribunal determined he had engaged in non-consensual sex with an anonymous female student, had contended that Columbia’s investigation and prosecution of the incident violated Title IX, which prohibits universities from gender discrimination. The John Doe student, who said his accuser consented to their encounter in her dorm room bathroom and even provided the condom they used, alleged he was treated unfairly because of Columbia’s atmosphere of heightened sensitivity to women complaining of sexual assault by men.
Remember Imperial Holdings, the Florida life insurance settlement company that last fall adopted a bylaw requiring shareholders to amass written consent from a minimum percentage of their fellow investors in order to sue the board? Imperial was apparently the first public corporation to impose a minimum-stake-to-sue restriction on shareholders’ right to sue, but as the company’s chairman, activist investor Phillip Goldstein, predicted at the time, other companies he controls have since adopted similar provisions. Goldstein has told me many times that the bylaws are not intended to block all shareholder suits but to weed out frivolous cases by investors (and plaintiffs’ lawyers) acting in their own interests rather than the interests of the company.
(Reuters) – Way back in October 2005, I had lunch with an entertainment lawyer named Roy Langbord and Langbord’s own lawyer, Barry Berke of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, to talk about a cache of exceedingly rare gold $20 coins known as 1933 Double Eagles. 1933 Double Eagles were minted in the midst of President Roosevelt’s gold recall, and all of them were supposed to have been melted down. A handful of the coins nevertheless disappeared from the U.S. Mint, in a theft the federal government believed to have been masterminded by Langbord’s grandfather, a Philadelphia jeweler named Israel Switt.
Some members of the National Association of Manufacturers would like to see the U.S. Supreme Court reverse the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion in Motorola v. AU Optronics, which limited the reach of U.S. antitrust laws over foreign transactions, even if the deals involved products eventually sold in the U.S. Other NAM members might like to see the 7th Circuit’s narrow interpretation prevail. But the entire U.S. manufacturing industry, according to an amicus brief NAM filed at the Supreme Court on Thursday, needs the justices to resolve the uncertainty created by a split between the 7th and 9th Circuit interpretations of how American antitrust laws apply to global supply chains.