BP, Berkshire Bank, Altimo, Formula One, Kagan, Drill Ban in Court News

BP Plc and the U.S. Coast Guard have reached an agreement to end the inadvertent killing of endangered sea turtles trapped inside containment booms during controlled burns of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a judge said.

“The lawyers have told me they’ve reached some sort of agreement,” U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said in an interview in his chambers in New Orleans federal court. He said he wasn’t informed of the details of the settlement yet as the lawyers were continuing to meet.

The agreement comes in advance of an emergency court hearing July 2 in New Orleans federal court, where environmentalists sought to force BP to either stop controlled burns or place rescuers on the boats to scoop federally protected sea turtles out of floating sludge patches before the corralled oil is ignited. Barbier said the hearing has been postponed.

Environmental groups sued BP and the Coast Guard on June 30, seeking to block the use of controlled burns or require all boats involved in the process to rescue turtles from inside floating “burn boxes” before the oil is ignited.

“BP has already killed or otherwise harmed” hundreds of rare Kemps Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead and other species of endangered sea turtles through its use of controlled burns or as a result of contamination from the oil spill itself, the lawsuit claims. The animals become trapped when shrimp boats encircle patches of floating oil with fire-resistant booms to create “burn boxes” 60 to 100 feet in diameter, they said.

BP spokesman Tony Odone said June 30 that the company had no comment on pending litigation.

The wildlife activists added the Coast Guard to the lawsuit after BP said all company clean up and containment activities, including the controlled burns, are being carried out under Coast Guard orders.

BP has yet to contain a damaged underwater well that has been spewing as much as 60,000 barrels of crude oil daily off the Louisiana coast since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig burned and sank in April.

The case is Animal Welfare Institute v. BP America Inc., 2:10-cv-01866, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

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New Suits

Berkshire Bank Sues First American Over Appraisal

Berkshire Bank, a commercial bank based in Manhattan, sued First American Appraisal and Consulting Services LLC., claiming the company overvalued a proposed condominium development in Brooklyn, New York.

First American pegged the market value of the proposed project at $47 million, at least 33 percent more than its legitimate value, according to the lawsuit filed July 2 in New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Berkshire relied on the appraisal to make a $13.8 million loan in 2007 to Westshore 480 Development LLC, the owner of the property, the suit says. Westshore defaulted on the loan, resulting in a foreclosure sale March 25 that left a deficiency of $6 million, Berkshire said.

Berkshire, which is suing for negligence, professional malpractice, and breach of contract, is seeking the $6 million in damages from the company, which was dissolved, and its successor parent CoreLogic Inc. The valuation overstated the square footage of the property and the maximum buildable area, the suit claims.

Bob Visini, a spokesman for CoreLogic, said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

First American Appraisal is a defunct company formerly known as KTR Valuation and Consulting Services, LLC, which was owned by First American Corporation, according to the suit.

The suit is Berkshire Bank v. First American Appraisal, 650803/2010, New York state Supreme Court (Manhattan).

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Trials/Appeals

TeliaSonera, Altimo to Appeal Court Ruling on Merger

TeliaSonera AB and Altimo said they will appeal a Moscow court ruling aimed at hampering a merger of their stakes in OAO MegaFon, Russia’s third-largest wireless operator.

The companies “believe that the agreement is fully valid and enforceable and does not contradict Russian or other applicable legislation or unlawfully infringe interests of any third party,” Stockholm-based TeliaSonera said in a statement.

TeliaSonera and Altimo, the telecommunications arm of Russia’s Alfa Group, agreed last year to combine their stakes in Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri AS and MegaFon to improve corporate governance and increase dividends.

OAO Telecominvest, a MegaFon shareholder, sued in April to block the merger of the holdings, citing a Russian law that bars state-controlled foreign investors from taking control of strategic companies.

The court ruling June 22, which would nullify the agreement’s provisions relating to MegaFon, hasn’t been enforced yet, TeliaSonera said.

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Verdicts/Settlements

Formula One Gets Singapore’s Speed to Stop Selling ‘F1’ Drink

Formula One settled its dispute with Speed Drinks Pte after the beverage distributor agreed to stop selling its F1 Racing Energy Drink in Singapore, host of the first night race of the world’s most-watched motor sport.

Formula One Licensing BV agreed to withdraw its lawsuit against Speed Drinks if the distributor retracts its challenge stating that the ‘F1’ trademark was indistinctive or generic, according to court papers filed after a closed door Singapore High Court hearing July 1.

“This is a victory for Formula One,” its lawyer Arthur Loke said in a phone interview. “We’re very pleased.”

Speed Drinks, which acknowledged that Formula One is the owner of the “F1” trademarks in Singapore, must also hand over 65,000 cans of the beverage to be destroyed and end its contract with their Dutch supplier. No payment to Formula One is required, Loke said.

The motor sport owner, controlled by Bernie Ecclestone, had sued seeking damages, claiming that Speed Drinks caused “irreparable damage to the reputation and goodwill of the brand.”

Speed Drinks’ lawyer Kelvyn Oo from Arfat Selvam Alliance LLC didn’t return messages left with his office. The beverage distributor’s director Ashok Murthy didn’t pick up calls made to his mobile phone.

Formula One had accused Speed Drinks of passing off the beverage, which has a circled checkered “F1” logo and the slogan “Start Your Engine,” as licensed by it, according to court papers.

Formula One had said Speed Drinks’ actions, including directing users to the official F1 website, would hinder its future attempts to license the use of the “F1” mark on beverages.

The case is Formula One Licensing BV v. Speed Drinks Pte Ltd., S314/2010, Singapore High Court.

Ryanair, Aer Lingus Lose EU Court Appeals Over Blocked Takeover

Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest discount airline, lost a European Union court appeal of its failed 1.48 billion- euro ($1.86 billion) hostile takeover bid for Aer Lingus Group Plc. In a related ruling, the court allowed Ryanair to keep its 29.8 percent stake in the carrier.

The EU’s General Court, the region’s second-highest court, said the 2007 veto of the deal by European antitrust officials was valid. The court also said EU regulators have no power to decide on the shareholding “in the absence of effective control by Ryanair over Aer Lingus.”

“It is not disputed that in the present case Ryanair’s shareholding in Aer Lingus does not confer on Ryanair the power to ‘control’ Aer Lingus,” the court said.

The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust regulator, in June 2007 halted Ryanair’s hostile takeover of Aer Lingus because it said a combination of the two Dublin-based carriers would create market dominance on some routes. The commission four months later refused to force Ryanair to sell the shares it acquired in Aer Lingus because the holding wasn’t a controlling stake.

Ryanair, whose stake in Aer Lingus has grown to almost 30 percent, in January 2009 withdrew a second attempt to take over Aer Lingus after the Irish government said it would reject the deal. Today’s decision wouldn’t prevent the company making a future offer for Aer Lingus, Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive officer, said in an e-mailed statement. “But obviously any such offer will have to take account of the court’s detailed ruling.”

O’Leary said Ryanair “has no immediate plans to make a third offer for Aer Lingus, which in any event would be unlikely to succeed unless” the Irish Government decides to sell its 25 percent stake.”

Ryanair, has the right to appeal today’s ruling at the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court.

“It is regrettable that the court has not taken this opportunity to take the further step necessary to address the anti-competitive effects of Ryanair’s minority shareholding in Aer Lingus,” Colm Barrington, chairman of Aer Lingus, said in a statement.

The cases are T-411/07 Aer Lingus Group v. Commission; T- 342/07 Ryanair v. Commission.

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Court News

Hatch Says He Will Oppose Kagan for Supreme Court

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said he will vote against the confirmation of Elena Kagan to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice, a signal that her appointment will receive little support from his fellow Republicans.

Hatch, in a statement July 2, said he “cannot ignore disturbing situations” in which Kagan’s personal opinions appeared to drive her legal views. Hatch is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which completed four days of hearings on Kagan’s nomination to the high court by President Barack Obama on July 1.

“The law must control the judge; the judge must not control the law,” Hatch said. “I have concluded that, based on evidence rather than blind faith, General Kagan regrettably does not meet this standard and that, therefore, I cannot support her appointment.”

The Judiciary Committee, with 12 Democrats and seven Republicans, will vote later this month and set the stage for action by the full Senate well before the Supreme Court begins its next term in October. Democrats control 58 of the Senate’s 100 seats.

Kagan, 50, was nominated by Obama on May 10 to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who has retired from the nine-member court. She is a former dean of Harvard Law School and worked for four years in President Bill Clinton’s White House as a lawyer and policy adviser.

Court Filings

Drilling Ban Lawsuit Most Popular Docket on Bloomberg

A lawsuit by Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc. and other oil service companies challenging the six-month Gulf of Mexico deep water drilling moratorium was the most-read litigation docket on the Bloomberg Law system last week.

On June 29, a federal appeals court granted the U.S. an expedited hearing on its request to delay enforcement of a federal judge’s order overturning the ban on deep-water drilling. The appeals court scheduled the hearing for July 8.

The government is seeking to delay an order by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman that scrapped the six-month drilling ban, imposed May 27 after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April. President Barack Obama said the moratorium, covering waters deeper than 500 feet, was needed to give a presidential commission time to study offshore operations safety as the BP Plc oil spill became the largest in U.S. history.

Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc. and other oil service companies had sued U.S. regulators, including Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar, arguing the drilling suspension would cause them irreparable economic harm.

Feldman ruled June 22 that the measure was overly broad and two days later denied a U.S. request to put his order on hold while regulators appealed. The U.S. filed notice of appeal June 23. On June 25, the government asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans to stay the order.

The case is Hornbeck Offshore Services LLC v. Salazar, 2:10- cv-01663, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans). The appeal case is 10-30585, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (New Orleans).

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To contact the reporters on this story: Elizabeth Amon in Brooklyn, New York, at eamon2@bloomberg.net; Ellen Rosen in New York at erosen14@bloomberg.net.

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