BP, Apple, UBS, Highland Capital, Bank of America, SocGen in Court News
BP Plc’s “controlled burns” in the Gulf of Mexico are killing endangered sea turtles trapped inside the booms the company uses to collect spilled oil, wildlife activists said in a lawsuit.
London-based BP, which is struggling to control the largest spill in U.S. history, should be forced to stop the burns or ensure no turtles are caught inside the floating “corrals” before the oil is ignited, the environmentalists said in the suit. BP’s killing of the turtles constitutes an illegal “taking” of an endangered species under environmental laws, they claim.
The plaintiffs seek a temporary order restraining BP from any activities in the Gulf of Mexico that could risk killing or injuring endangered and threatened sea turtles, William Eubanks and Jason Burge, lawyers for the environmentalists, said in papers filed in New Orleans federal court yesterday.
The case was reassigned yesterday to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who set a hearing on the request for tomorrow. Barbier already presides over 35 lawsuits claiming spill-related damages by fishing industry workers, property owners, tourism businesses and other environmental groups.
BP spokesman Tony Odone said the company had no comment on pending litigation.
The case is Animal Welfare Institute v. BP America Inc., 2:10-cv-01866, U.S. District Courts, Southern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
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Apple Sued Over New IPhone Reception Problems by Consumers
Apple Inc. was sued over reception problems with its new iPhone 4 by consumers who accused the company of unfair business practices and false and misleading advertising.
A New Jersey resident and a Massachusetts resident who had bought the new mobile phone filed separate complaints yesterday in federal court in San Francisco, each seeking to represent other iPhone buyers in a class action, or group, lawsuit.
The June 24 introduction of the iPhone 4 was marred by criticism that signal strength diminishes when users cover the bottom left corner of the phone with their palm. The iPhone, which debuted in 2007, has become Apple’s top-selling product even after users reported glitches and dropped calls with previous versions of the device.
“Apple’s sale of the iPhone with this unannounced defect, assuming Apple’s prior knowledge of the defect, constitutes misrepresentation and fraud,” Christopher Dydyk of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in his complaint. “In omitting to disclose the defect in the iPhone 4, Apple perpetrated a massive fraud upon hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting customers.”
Natalie Harrison, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California, based Apple, didn’t immediately return a call to her office or respond to an e-mailed request for comment after regular business hours.
The cases are Alan Benvenisty v. Apple, 10-2885, and Christopher Dydyk v. Apple, 10-2897, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
UBS Sues Highland Capital to Recover $686 Million
UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest lender, sued Highland Capital Management LP, claiming losses of at least $686 million over a failed collateralized debt obligation transaction.
Highland Capital, the investment firm founded by James Dondero and Mark Okada, and two affiliates “fraudulently induced” UBS to restructure the CDO in 2008, the Zurich-based bank alleged in papers filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
The new lawsuit follows a complaint filed by UBS on Feb. 24, 2009. Highland Capital won dismissal in February of this year of one of three claims in the 2009 lawsuit. UBS separately filed an amended complaint in that case on June 28, court records show.
An appeals court in Manhattan reversed an October ruling by New York State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Fried, who had refused to dismiss a claim that Highland Capital had a duty to indemnify UBS for losses incurred when the transaction failed to occur before the agreements terminated.
“We are disappointed that UBS has chosen to refile its baseless lawsuit against Highland Capital and the funds given the court’s previous dismissal of the suit’s central claim,” Nina Devlin, an outside spokeswoman for Highland Capital with Edelman in New York, said in an e-mailed statement.
The case is UBS Securities LLC v. Highland Capital Management LP, 650752/2010, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).
Illinois Accuses Countrywide of Discrimination
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against Bank of America Corp.’s Countrywide unit claiming the company discriminated against black and Latino borrowers.
The mortgage lender steered minority borrowers into risky subprime mortgages more than it did white borrowers who were similarly situated, Madigan said June 29 in a statement. Minority borrowers also paid more than other borrowers for all Countrywide mortgages, including prime loans, Madigan said.
“Countrywide’s illegal discriminatory lending practices destroyed the wealth and dreams of thousands of African American and Latino homeowners,” Madigan said in the statement. “Bank of America needs to be held accountable by taking financial responsibility for cleaning up the devastation of the predatory company that it chose to take over.”
Shirley Norton, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, didn’t immediately return an e-mail or a call to her office after regular business hours.
The case is the People of the State of Illinois v. Countrywide, 10CH27929, Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division.
Pfizer Sues Mylan, Sandoz to Block Generic Copy of Detrol LA
Mylan and Sandoz are seeking Food and Drug Administration approval to sell lower-cost copies of Pfizer’s Detrol LA. Pfizer said the copies would infringe two patents on formulas used to make the drug and wants to block approval until both patents expire, according to separate complaints filed in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, on June 24.
Detrol LA is the extended-release version of Detrol, known chemically as tolterodine tartrate. The drugs generated $1.15 billion in sales last year, according to New York-based Pfizer’s annual report. Pfizer describes Detrol and Detrol LA as the most prescribed branded medicine worldwide for overactive bladder.
Mylan is the biggest U.S. maker of generic drugs, while Sandoz is the world’s second-biggest generic-drug maker after Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
A separate patent on the compound expires in 2012. U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh in January upheld the validity of that patent in a case against Teva.
Michael Laffin, a spokesman for Canonsburg, Pennsylvania- based Mylan, and Lauren Cohen, a spokeswoman for Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
The lawsuits are types commonly filed to clarify patent rights while the FDA analyzes applications for generic versions of medicines. The FDA can’t grant final approval for 30 months unless a judge rules in favor of Mylan or Sandoz before then.
The case is Pfizer Inc. v. Mylan Inc., 10cv3246, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (Newark); and Pfizer Inc. v. Sandoz Inc., 10cv3250, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (Newark).
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Chimay Pleads Not Guilty to Grand Larceny, Forgery
New York money manager Guy de Chimay, who claims to be related to royalty in Belgium, pleaded not guilty to grand larceny and forgery charges after he was accused of stealing millions in client funds.
Chimay, 47, chairman and chief investment officer of Chimay Capital Management Inc., appeared in New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan after being extradited from North Carolina, where he was arrested June 11 on a New York warrant, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
“Chimay perpetrated a large-scale fraud on trusting investors,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in a statement. “His scheme involved all manner of deceit -- he lied about who he was, how he was managing his clients’ finances, and he even forged bank documents to back up his bogus story.”
Chimay was charged with grand larceny, attempted grand larceny, forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument and a felony violation of general business law. If convicted of the top count of grand larceny, he faces as much as 25 years in prison.
He’s accused of running a Ponzi scheme that stole almost $7 million from several victims, according to the district attorney’s office. Chimay used the money to pay credit card bills, his summer rental home in the Hamptons section of Long Island, his mortgage, car payments, a redeeming investor in his hedge fund and other investors.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Aaron Wolfson asked New York state Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro to order Chimay to be held without bail, and Carro agreed.
“He denies any fraud,” Chimay’s attorney David Liebman told the judge, asking him to set bail at about $400,000.
Carro scheduled the state case for Aug. 4. Lawyers for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission served him with subpoenas for a deposition and hearing on July 16th in the Southern District of New York.
The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Chimay Capital Management Inc., 10-cv-04582, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
The criminal case is People v. Chimay, New York state Supreme Court (Manhattan).
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Disney’s ABC Took Risk for ‘Millionaire,’ Lawyer Says
Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network took 100 percent of the risk for putting “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” on U.S. television, a lawyer for the company said at the end of a trial over profits from the quiz show.
The U.K. creators of the show, who licensed the North American rights to ABC in 1998 for a flat fee per episode plus a share of the profits, knew they wouldn’t receive any profits from the network run, Disney lawyer Martin Katz told jurors in Riverside, California, during his closing argument on June 29.
“Coming off the network, it is going to be down 10 percent,” Katz said. “The most profitable show in the history of television? That’s not true.”
Closely held Celador International Ltd. sued Disney six years ago, claiming the company’s Buena Vista Television unit and its ABC network “through a complex web of self-dealing transactions” allowed ABC to keep the advertising revenue and pay Buena Vista only a licensing fee equal to the cost of producing the show so that Buena Vista never made a profit from “Millionaire” that it would have had to share with Celador.
“When success happened, something else happened,” Celador’s lawyer, Roman Silberfeld, said in his closing statement. “Greed took over.”
London-based Celador seeks more than $200 million in damages from Disney. The jury started deliberating yesterday.
The case is Celador International Ltd. v. Walt Disney Co. 04-03541, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside.)
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Ex-SocGen Executive Mustier Fined for Insider Trading
Former Societe Generale SA investment banking chief Jean- Pierre Mustier, who led the division where Jerome Kerviel worked, was fined 100,000 euros ($122,900) by France for selling shares of the bank before it announced losses tied subprime mortgages.
Mustier has been under investigation since January 2008, when the Autorite des Marches Financiers began reviewing insider sales that preceded the Jan. 24, 2008, revelation of subprime losses and the 4.9 billion-euro trading loss suffered after unwinding bets placed by former trader Kerviel.
“The level of Mr. Jean-Pierre Mustier’s responsibilities imposed on him” the requirement to know not to sell the shares at that time, the AMF said in a statement on its website yesterday.
Mustier, 49, testified at Kerviel’s trial earlier this month, telling the court that he expected to be cleared by the AMF. The executive quit his post in August after investigators notified him they had recommended he face punishment for the trades, doing so “in the interest of the group,” according to a statement by the bank. There is no allegation the sales were based on knowledge of Kerviel’s trades, of which Mustier said during the trial he was entirely ignorant.
“Determined to defend his honor and to have his innocence recognized, Mr. Jean-Pierre Mustier is going to file an appeal against this decision,” his lawyer, Jean Veil, said in an e- mailed statement, adding the enforcement committee member handling the case recommended clearing Mustier.
Bank spokeswomen didn’t immediately respond to calls or e- mails.
The AMF cleared Robert Day, founder of Los Angeles-based TCW Group Inc. and a former member of Societe Generale’s board, of any wrongdoing.
Day “is very pleased that the AMF Commission has followed the recommendation of its staff and dismissed all charges against him,” according to a statement e-mailed by Day’s spokesman Josh Pekarsky. He “has maintained from the outset that his share sales were appropriate.”
Mustier sold 6,000 shares in Societe Generale on Aug. 21, 2007, after the bank began an internal modeling system to estimate losses related to the subprime market.
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ArcelorMittal, Voestalpine Fined by EU for Cartel
ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, and Voestalpine AG were among 17 producers fined a total of 518.5 million euros ($637 million) by the European Union for fixing prices of a type of steel used in concrete.
The European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s antitrust regulator, said the companies, including a unit of Russian steelmaker OAO Severstal colluded on prices of prestressing steel. Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal got the biggest fine of 276.5 million euros.
Voestalpine, Austria’s biggest steelmaker, was fined 22 million euros and Finland’s Rautaruukki Oyj was asked to pay 4.7 million euros. Italian company Redaelli Tecna SpA, a unit of Severstal’s wire-making subsidiary Severstal Metiz since July 2008, was fined 6.3 million euros.
Natalia Ivanova, a spokeswoman for Severstal in Moscow, said she couldn’t immediately comment.
Voestalpine said yesterday it will appeal the fine, adding that it “has never been involved in the prestressing steel cartel.”
Jean Lasar, a Luxembourg-based spokesman for ArcelorMittal, said the company will “review the decision in detail and respond within the time limits provided.”
Rautaruukki “will examine the grounds for the Commission decision and evaluate any further action warranted,” the company said in a statement yesterday. The fines concern a former unit, it said.
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Kagan Advocates Consensus, Refuses to Criticize Court
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan said justices should seek greater consensus when possible, while refusing to criticize the divided decisions reached by the court under Chief Justice John Roberts.
“The court is served best and our country is served best when people trust the court as an entirely nonpolitical body,” Kagan said during a third day of hearings on her nomination before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “One of the benefits of narrow decisions is that they enable consensus to a greater degree than broad, far-reaching decisions.”
Kagan, nominated last month by President Barack Obama, is trying to counter Republican claims that she is too political as she vies to become the third woman on the high court. She wouldn’t let fellow Democrat and Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse draw her into condemning recent 5-4 decisions.
“I’m not agreeing to your characterization of the current court,” Kagan, 50, said yesterday. “I’m sure that everybody up there is acting in good faith.”
Kagan distanced herself from the analogy made by Roberts during his 2005 confirmation hearing, when he likened judges to baseball umpires who simply call balls and strikes. That analogy is “correct in several important respects but like all metaphors it does have its limits,” Kagan said.
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