Opinion

Stories I’d like to see

The Kennedys and Caro, Facebook IPO suits, the Edwards trial judge

Steven Brill
May 29, 2012 12:57 UTC

1. The Kennedys’ take on the Caro book:

Robert Caro’s stunning new volume on Lyndon Johnson has received enormous coverage, but one angle I haven’t seen is what the reaction to it is of John F. Kennedy family members and loyalists. Caro’s depiction of how LBJ was treated by JFK and his team (especially Robert Kennedy) during his vice-presidency and how he basically resuscitated the Kennedy administration’s domestic agenda – which seemed doomed in Congress had Kennedy lived, because of how JFK and his aides fumbled the ball on Capitol Hill – presents a pretty damning picture of the Age of Camelot. Are there any Kennedy people out there willing to argue otherwise?

2. Facebook: Race to the courthouse

The three suits claiming class action status that have been filed against Facebook, its underwriters and  Nasdaq charging various misdeeds in the run-up to its IPO would be great material for a fresh look at class action securities suits. More often than not such suits are an exercise in plaintiffs’ lawyers racing to the courthouse to file dubious claims to force defendants into making settlements that typically pay the lawyers handsomely while leaving little for their supposed clients.

The suits – one in Maryland, one in New York and a third in California – were filed within hours of news reports pinpointing Nasdaq’s screwups and the fact that analysts apparently warned some big clients, but not the rest of the buyers, that Facebook’s supplemental filing with the SEC just before the launch of the IPO might be a significant negative development. The filing noted the increasing use of mobile devices to access Facebook and explained that Facebook has so far not done well generating ad revenue from mobile traffic.

Forget the fact that anyone reading the filing would have known about Facebook’s vulnerability as its traffic moved to mobile; that’s the purpose of a public filing. Forget that brokerages and their analysts (as opposed to the company issuing the IPO) are not required to communicate their views with all clients equally. And forget that it’s probably going to be impossible to claim a legitimate “class” out of all Facebook buyers whose trades were delayed by Nasdaq’s snafus, because the facts surrounding each case (such as when they tried to buy and at what price) are, by definition, so different as to make litigating their claims as a group untenable. None of that matters. What usually matters to the lawyers is that they got to the courthouse first, which gives them a great argument for becoming the class’s lead lawyer, or at least part of the lead lawyer team – which can make them the prime recipients when the defendants pay the plaintiffs’ lawyers to go away.

So, how did these lawyers gather their clients? Why did they pick the venues they picked? Who’s likely to be competing with them with new suits in the coming days? What are the likely economics, based on past cases?

Afghan justice, Putin’s palace, and the Edwards trial

Steven Brill
Mar 13, 2012 12:57 UTC

1. International, Afghan and American law surrounding the accused soldier-murderer:

With the Afghan Parliament demanding yesterday that the American soldier accused of killing 16 civilians there be put on trial locally rather than be tried by American military courts, I’m betting that the office of State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh and others in Washington are working overtime to frame a response. How will they decide whether our army turns him over? What could their arguments be against that? What are prevailing international law and military law precedents, and how much will they matter? What are the likely ramifications for the presidential election? What position will the Republican candidates take? All parts of an important, urgent story likely to play out this week.

2. Putin’s billion-dollar palace?

Check out these two sentences embedded in a recent New York Times story about how various cronies of Russian prime minister and now president-elect Vladimir Putin have all become billionaires:

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