Tullett Prebon-GFI, Abu Dhabi Taqa, Brooks Brothers, Odfjell in Court News

Tullett Prebon Plc, the London-based inter-dealer broker, sued rival GFI Group Inc.’s London unit for hiring its oil options broker Alan Newman before his contract expired.

Newman, who also worked as a manager on the soft-commodity and base metal options desks at Tullett, resigned before his contract was up and didn’t give the required six months’ notice, Tullett said in the lawsuit, which also names Newman as a defendant. GFI encouraged the contract breach by offering him a job before his contract expired, according to the lawsuit, filed in late July and made public last week.

Tullett has sued rivals at least four times seeking damages for poaching its employees, with mixed results. Most recently, in August, Tullett sued three executives affiliated with inter- dealer broker BGC Partners Inc. in New York, alleging they helped plot the hiring away of 77 of its staffers.

GFI spokeswoman Patricia Gutierrez said the firm doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation. Newman also declined to comment.

The case is Tullett Prebon v. Alan Newman, GFI Holdings, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division (London).

New Suits

Abu Dhabi’s Taqa Sued in U.S. Over Ex-CEO’s Dismissal

Abu Dhabi National Energy Co.’s former Chief Executive Officer Peter Barker-Homek sued the state-owned energy firm known as Taqa in a U.S. court, claiming he was forced out last year after he “tried to put a stop to the kickbacks, bribery, accounting fraud and corruption.”

Taqa unit Taqa New World Inc. is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, according to the complaint.

Barker-Homek, recruited to Taqa after working at energy companies including BP Plc, was allegedly forced by General Manager Carl Sheldon to sign a severance agreement, according to the breach of contract lawsuit filed Aug. 27 in Detroit federal court.

Sheldon, also named as a defendant, took over for Barker- Homek, whose total compensation exceeded $3 million, according to the suit. Barker-Homek seeks at least $460 million in compensatory and exemplary damages.

Taqa, about three-quarters owned by the Abu Dhabi government, owns assets in oil and gas production and power generation around the world. The company said in an e-mailed statement that it will fight Barker-Homek’s suit and what it called its “spurious allegations.”

In addition to the contract claim, Barker-Homek alleged retaliatory discharge, assault, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Barker-Homek didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

The case is Peter Barker-Homek v. Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC, 10-cv-13448, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).

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Fidelity, Other Rock Well Investors Sue Numis Over Failed IPO

Six investment funds sued a Numis Corp. unit for not disclosing a lawsuit against Rock Well Petroleum Inc. before accepting more than $95 million in investments on behalf of the oil driller.

Numis Securities Ltd. persuaded the funds, including three owned by Fidelity Investments, to buy into Rock Well’s private share placement in 2007, which sought to raise $150 million for an initial public offering, according to the lawsuit filed last month in London.

The IPO was abandoned after Numis, a London-based investment banking and brokerage firm, disclosed that Rock Well faced an intellectual-property lawsuit by Omega Oil Company Inc. In the suit, Omega alleged it owned a patent that Rock Well relied on for oil recovery, the funds said.

Rock Well wasn’t able to procure financing after the failed IPO and filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada. The funds’ investments were “totally lost,” according to the lawsuit.

Numis said in a statement yesterday that the allegations are “entirely spurious and unfounded” and it will defend itself.

The case is CQS Convertible and Quantitative Strategies Master Fund Ltd. v. Numis Securities Ltd., 2010/968, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division (London).

LDK Solar Sues Canadian Solar for Canceling Supply Contract

LDK Solar Co., a Chinese maker of silicon wafers used in solar power cells, said it sued Canadian Solar Inc. for canceling a contract.

Canadian Solar breached a 10-year supply agreement it made in 2008 with LDK Solar that required it to buy specific amounts of materials at set prices, LDK Solar said in a release today.

Canadian Solar, which makes most of its products in China and moved its headquarters to Kitchener, Ontario, from Jiangsu, China, last year, plans to complete a module-making facility in Ontario early next year that will produce 200 megawatts of panels annually.

LDK Solar, which is based in Xinyu City, China and operates from Sunnyvale, California, said it also sought an arbitration hearing before the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission in Shanghai.

Daniel Heck of Canadian Solar declined to comment immediately on the lawsuit.

BLT Restaurant Sues Tourondel Over Hamptons Spot

BLT Restaurant Group LLC sued celebrity chef Laurent Tourondel, who developed its BLT Steak and BLT Burger restaurants, over claims he infringed its trademarks with his new burger place in New York’s Hamptons.

BLT Restaurant Group said in a complaint in federal court in Manhattan yesterday that Tourondel and his partner, Michael Cinque, opened a restaurant in Sag Harbor in July that “mimics plaintiff’s well-known line of restaurants.”

Tourondel, formerly the chef of Cello in New York, worked for BLT Restaurant Group until February, according to the complaint. His new restaurant is called LT Burger in the Harbor. BLT Restaurant said it opened 18 restaurants from 2004 to 2009, including ones called BLT Fish and BLT Prime. Tourondel developed the decor, menus and publicity for the restaurants, according to the complaint

BLT stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel, according to the restaurant’s website.

Tourondel wasn’t immediately available for comment. Cinque also wasn’t immediately available.

The case is BLT Restaurant Group LLC v. Laurent Tourondel, 10-6488, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Meatpacker JBS Swift Sued Over Muslim Discrimination

JBS USA LLC, the meatpacker known as JBS Swift & Co., was sued for discrimination by a U.S. agency that said workers threw blood, meat and bones at Somali and Muslim employees and called them names.

A complaint filed in federal court said graffiti in the company’s Greeley, Colorado, facility included comments such as “Somalis are disgusting,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said yesterday in a statement. A lawsuit in Nebraska said employees at the Grand Island factory made comments such as “lazy Somali” and “go back to your country.”

Both suits said JBS USA fired workers who requested prayer breaks related to Ramadan, the Islamic holiday. The commission said it received 83 complaints from Greeley employees and 85 from workers at Grand Island.

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Lawsuits/Pretrial

JPMorgan Asks Bankruptcy Judge to Toss Lehman Lawsuit

JPMorgan Chase & Co. asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit by bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., accusing the bank of helping cause its collapse.

The New York-based lender, in papers filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James M. Peck in Manhattan on Aug. 25, said that when the securities firm teetered on the brink of collapse in 2008, it was the only major bank that continued to extend credit to it. The bank “typically extended more than $100 billion in credit each day to LBI for the settlement and clearance of its securities transactions,” the bank’s attorneys said in the filing.

The case is scheduled to be tried in 2012 in U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan.

Lehman Brothers filed the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history in September 2008. In May, the New York-based firm sued the bank, alleging that JPMorgan took advantage of the stricken firm.

Lehman, in its May complaint, alleged JPMorgan helped cause its collapse by demanding $8.6 billion in collateral as credit markets contracted in 2008.

The bankruptcy case is In Re: Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., 08-13555, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

The adversary proceeding is Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. v. JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, 10-03266, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Facebook Chief Calls Court Motion a Ploy to ‘Harass’

Facebook Inc.’s founder and chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, said the man who claims to own a majority of the company is fighting to move the lawsuit he filed back to state court “solely to burden and harass” Zuckerberg.

Ceglia sued Zuckerberg in state court. Facebook’s lawyers moved the case to federal court, saying the men were from different states. Federal courts can hear cases involving parties from different states.

Lawyers for Paul Ceglia asked to move the case from federal court back to state court “under the pretext of obtaining ‘jurisdictional discovery’ into Zuckerberg’s private life,” his lawyers said yesterday in court papers. In response, Zuckerberg lawyers wrote in court papers that Zuckerberg “lives year-round in California. Ceglia “does not identify what additional information” he seeks, Zuckerberg’s lawyers said in their filing.

Ceglia claims to own 84 percent of Facebook, based on a contract he claims Zuckerberg signed in 2003. His lawyers argued in Aug. 9 filings that U.S. District Judge Richard Arcaro’s court in Buffalo, New York, lacks jurisdiction because Ceglia and Zuckerberg are both citizens of New York State.

The case is Ceglia v. Zuckerberg, 10-cv-00569, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York (Buffalo).

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Trials/Appeals

Brooks Brothers Loses Appeal in Bow-Tie Marking Case

Brooks Brothers Inc. must face legal claims that the closely held apparel chain marked its bow ties with expired patent numbers, a court decision that may bolster similar lawsuits against more than 350 companies.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said yesterday that lawyer Raymond Stauffer can pursue his claim against the New York-based clothier. It’s illegal to mislabel products with the wrong patent numbers, and the U.S. lets individuals sue on the government’s behalf and keep half of any penalties, which can be as much as $500 for each item.

Brooks Brothers got Stauffer’s lawsuit thrown out in May 2009 by a judge who said the New Jersey lawyer didn’t have the standing to bring the case. The overturning of that decision yesterday may give new life to the hundreds of so-called false- marking lawsuits against companies including Pfizer Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Michael Bregenzer of Reed Smith LLP in Chicago, who is defending companies in three cases, said the patent numbers are the result of errors and the companies are not “trying to deceive anybody.”

A lawyer for Brooks Brothers declined to immediately comment, while a telephone message for Stauffer wasn’t returned. Brooks Brothers is controlled by Enfield, Connecticut-based Retail Brand Alliance Inc.

More than 350 cases have been filed, according to Allen Arntsen, a patent lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP in Madison, Wisconsin. Some of the cases had been put on hold awaiting yesterday’s decision.

The lawsuits largely started after the Federal Circuit, in a case in December, said companies can face a penalty of as much as $500 for each item falsely marked as under patent protection.

The case is Stauffer v. Brooks Brothers Inc., 2009-1428, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Stauffer v. Brooks Brothers Inc., 08cv10369, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Verdicts/Settlements

AstraZeneca Given More Time to Settle 6,000 Seroquel Lawsuits

AstraZeneca Plc, the U.K.’s second-biggest drugmaker, was given more time to settle 6,000 lawsuits claiming its antipsychotic drug Seroquel causes diabetes after a group of judges in an Aug. 30 order decided not to send the cases back to their home courts for trials.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation vacated orders sending the cases, consolidated in federal court in Florida, in courts across the U.S. after a judge said the move might hinder settlement negotiations. London-based AstraZeneca has settled about two-thirds of the 26,000 Seroquel cases pending against it.

AstraZeneca officials said they would continue to work with a mediator to resolve the remaining lawsuits over Seroquel. It still faces at least 8,000 cases in both state and federal courts alleging Seroquel causes diabetes in some users. AstraZeneca officials said last month that they agreed to pay about $198 million to settle 17,500 suits over Seroquel. Those accords provide average payouts of about $11,000 for former users of the drug.

Continued court-ordered mediation won’t improve the chances of settlement at those prices, said Ken Bailey, a Houston-based lawyer who represents former Seroquel users in most of those suits.

The case is In Re Seroquel Products Litigation, 06-MD- 01769, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Orlando).

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On The Docket

Odfjell Invest, Statoil in Legal Battle Over Failed Drilling

Odfjell Invest Ltd. and Statoil ASA have sued each other over costs and payments for a failed drilling campaign by the Deepsea Atlantic rig at the Gullfaks and Troll platforms offshore Norway.

The depositions were delivered in the case on Aug. 23. The proceeding, which started Aug. 30, is scheduled to last two weeks, Heidi Sola Vignes at the Stavanger District Court said in an e-mail.

Odfjell is seeking $138 million in rental payments for the semi-submersible rig, according to a suit filed in Stavanger District Court. Statoil hasn’t paid the day rate since November, saying the rig’s blow-out preventer damaged wells at Gullfaks and Troll, according to Odfjell’s filing.

Statoil, Norway’s largest oil company, counter-sued for costs incurred and said it shouldn’t pay since the rig hasn’t performed as stipulated in the contract, according to a filing distributed by the court. Statoil seeks 300 million kroner ($59 million) in costs for the failed drilling.

Statoil spokesman Gisle Johanson and Stephen Knudtzon, the lawyer representing Odfjell, confirmed the legal proceedings.

Odfjell’s compensation claim increases monthly by about 100 million kroner ($16 million), Knudtzon said by phone.

The case number is 09-202994TVI-STAV.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carla Main in Jersey City, New Jersey, at cmain2@bloomberg.net.

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