Stanford, Morgan Stanley, BP, Apple, MF Global in Court News
R. Allen Stanford, standing trial on allegations he led a $7 billion investment fraud, appeared in an October 2008 video shown to jurors in which he decried “damn greed” on Wall Street as the financial crisis deepened.
“People are stupid, they’re greedy, they’re lazy, they don’t stick to their core values,” he told a gathering of Stanford Financial Group Co. executives in Miami. “We’re different.”
In the video, shown yesterday in Houston federal court, the financier told his audience that the company was “$5.5 billion more liquid than it should have been.” Four months later, U.S. regulators filed suit claiming his businesses were missing billions of dollars in investor money. He was indicted in June 2009.
Prosecutors accuse Stanford of skimming more than $1 billion in investor deposits from his Stanford International Bank Ltd. to fund a lavish lifestyle and support real estate developments and unrelated companies that included regional airlines and newspapers.
Charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and obstructing a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe, Stanford, 61, told jurors earlier this week that he wasn’t guilty. He faces as long as 20 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charges.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who is overseeing Stanford’s case, said the trial, which began Jan. 23, may last six weeks.
The video was played as Jason Green, former president of Stanford Group Co.’s private client group, testified against his ex-boss.
Green told the jury of 10 men and five women, which includes three alternates, about a monthly newsletter Stanford drafted for his investors and sent to him for his input in December 2008, the same month New York money manager Bernard Madoff admitted to the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.
The criminal case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston). The SEC case against Stanford is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Stanford International Bank, 09-cv-298, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
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Morgan Stanley Sued Over $1.2 Billion in Mortgage Securities
Morgan Stanley was sued over about $1.2 billion worth of residential mortgage-backed securities by Bayerische Landesbank and Dexia (DEXB) SA in New York state court.
Bayerische Landesbank, based in Munich and the second- biggest German state-owned lender, asserts claims on almost $486 million in residential mortgage-backed securities purchased in 22 offerings in 2006 and 2007.
Dexia asserts claims on more than $680 million worth of the securities bought in 21 offerings in 2006 and 2007. Belgium and France are dismantling Brussels-based Dexia, once the world’s leading lender to municipalities, after the company could no longer fund itself as the sovereign-debt crisis dried up short- term financing.
Both banks say the loans underlying the securities were riskier than promised and that Morgan Stanley “knew or recklessly disregarded” that the loans didn’t conform to underwriting standards.
Mark Lake, a spokesman for New York-based Morgan Stanley (MS), declined to comment on the lawsuits, which were both filed Jan. 25 in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, because the company hadn’t received them yet.
The cases are Bayerische Landesbank, New York branch v. Morgan Stanley, 650230/2012; and Dexia SA/NV v. Morgan Stanley, 650231/2012, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).
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BP Can’t Collect Part of $40 Billion Spill Costs From Transocean
BP Plc (BP) can’t collect from Transocean Ltd. (RIG) part of the $40 billion in cleanup costs and economic losses caused by the 2010 oil well blowout and Gulf of Mexico spill, a judge ruled, sending Transocean shares higher.
BP (BP/) must indemnify Transocean for pollution-related economic damage claims under its drilling contract, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans ruled yesterday. London-based BP (BP\) sued Transocean in April to recover a share of its damages and costs from the spill.
Any awards for punitive damages against Transocean or civil penalties under the U.S. Clean Water Act won’t have to be covered by BP, the judge wrote in his 30-page decision. He didn’t say whether Transocean will be liable for punitive damages or Clean Water Act penalties. Transocean has already accepted responsibility for equipment losses and paying personal injury and death claims, citing contract provisions.
“This confirms that BP is responsible for all economic damages caused by the oil that leaked from its Macondo well, and completely discredits BP’s ongoing attempts to evade both its contractual and financial obligations,” Transocean said in an e-mailed statement.
The decision leaves Transocean at risk for Clean Water Act penalties and possible punitive damages. The U.S. sued BP and Transocean in December 2010, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act, and seeking penalties for each barrel of oil spilled.
“Under the decision Transocean is, at a minimum, financially responsible for any punitive damages, fines and penalties flowing from its own conduct,” BP said in a statement. “Transocean cannot avoid its responsibility for this accident.”
BP argued that Transocean’s conduct voided the agreement.
The April 2010 Macondo well blowout and the explosion that followed killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The sinking of Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and spill led to hundreds of lawsuits against BP and its partners and contractors.
The case is In Re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
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Apple, Google Must Face Employee-Poaching Ban Antitrust Lawsuit
Google Inc. (GOOG) and Apple Inc. (AAPL) were among seven technology companies that must face a lawsuit claiming they violated antitrust laws by entering into agreements not to recruit each other’s employees, a federal judge said.
U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose, California, said yesterday that even if she dismisses some claims, she will give the plaintiffs a chance to amend their complaint and re- file it. Intel Corp. (INTC), Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE), Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s Pixar animation unit, Intuit Inc. (INTU) and Lucasfilm Ltd. are also named as defendants.
“They still have an antitrust claim that’s going forward so I don’t want to see any obstruction on discovery,” she told lawyers during a hearing.
The case is a private lawsuit brought on behalf of employees that mirrors claims the companies settled with the U.S. Justice Department in 2010 following a probe. The companies agreed to refrain from placing “cold calls” to lure workers from competitors, the government said at the time.
The decision yesterday requires the defendants to produce documents describing the agreements and permits lawyers to take depositions, Saveri said. “We get to see what really happened,” he said, adding that damages in the case could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Google said in a statement that is has “always actively and aggressively recruited top talent,” declining to comment further.
George Riley, a lawyer for Apple, and Robert Mittelstaedt, an attorney for Adobe, declined to comment immediately after the hearing.
Zenia Mucha, a Disney spokeswoman, wasn’t immediately available for comment after regular business hours yesterday.
Intel spokeswoman Laura Anderson, Intuit spokeswoman Sandra Corradetti, and a representative at Lucasfilm didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment on Koh’s ruling after regular business hours yesterday.
The San Jose case is In Re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-2509, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose). The previous case is United States v. Adobe Systems, 10-cv-1629, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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Virginia, Alberta Lead Suit Against Corzine Over MF Losses
The Virginia Retirement System and Canada’s Alberta province will lead a group lawsuit against Jon Corzine seeking compensation for losses from MF Global Holdings Ltd (MFGLQ).’s collapse.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan combined 12 lawsuits against Corzine, putting Virginia and Alberta at the head as their combined investment losses of $19 million give them a larger stake in the suit than seven other applicants for lead plaintiff, he said in a signed order.
MF Global executives led by Corzine, New Jersey’s former governor, made “materially misleading” statements about liquidity and financial controls, Joseph DeAngelis alleged in the first of the 12 similar suits. He also named Henri Steenkamp, the New York-based company’s chief financial officer, and Bradley Abelow, its president. JPMorgan Chase & Co., MF Global’s banker, should have noticed the “depletion” of customer money, and should have investigated, commodity customers said in a separate suit seeking unspecified restitution and damages.
Andrew Levander, a lawyer for Corzine, hasn’t responded to e-mails seeking comment on the suits and Mary Sedarat, a JPMorgan spokeswoman, has declined to comment.
The main case is DeAngelis v. Corzine, 11-cv-7866, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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Mets Ruling Draws 34 Similar Suits by Madoff Trustee
A federal judge’s ruling in a $1 billion lawsuit against the New York Mets owners has drawn 34 suits to the judge’s door that claim to be similar to the case brought by the liquidator of Bernard L. Madoff’s firm against Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan threw out most of trustee Irving Picard’s claims against the team owners and refused to let Picard appeal his ruling before a March jury trial on $386 million in remaining claims.
Rakoff has accepted as related some of the 34 cases against other defendants, while others await decisions, according to court records. Two new suits were added to the list Jan. 25.
Defendants in Picard’s bankruptcy court suits, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., have asked district judges to decide whether Picard, a New York lawyer, has the right to sue them, and for how much. They say that Picard is straining the limits of the law as he tries to grab back money for victims of Madoff’s fraud -- and some of them have won initial victories.
The Madoff trustee calculated in October that people and companies he sued in about 247 actions had sought an “escape hatch” from bankruptcy court, intended by Congress to handle such cases, he said. Judge shopping was “perverting” the law, Picard said in the October filing. He is appealing district court rulings in the JPMorgan and other bank cases that knocked out more than $28 billion of his claims.
The Mets owners have said they will ask Rakoff next month for judgment on all remaining counts of Picard’s complaint. Picard said separately he wants a ruling before trial on one remaining count.
Picard originally demanded $300 million in profit and $700 million in principal from Wilpon, Katz and a group of family members and related entities, saying they turned a blind eye to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. The partners denied the allegation. In September, Rakoff dismissed all or part of nine of 11 claims in Picard’s suit against Wilpon and Katz.
The case is Picard v. Katz, 11-cv-03605, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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Chinese Vitamin C Makers Can Be Sued by Buyers as a Group
North China Pharmaceutical Co. (600812) and three other Chinese makers of vitamin C can be sued in the U.S. for alleged price- fixing by buyers acting as a group, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan in Brooklyn, New York, yesterday certified a class of vitamin C buyers. The buyers are seeking triple damages.
“Individual class members are unlikely to have sufficient resources -- let alone fluency with federal antitrust law -- to institute a lawsuit such as this,” Cogan wrote.
The defendants, including Aland (Jiangsu) Nutraceutical Co., Northeast Pharmaceutical Co. and Weisheng Pharmaceutical Co., captured more than 60 percent of the worldwide market for vitamin C by 2001, Cogan said in a September ruling. China’s share of vitamin C imports to the U.S. climbed to more than 80 percent in 2002 from 60 percent in 1997, he wrote.
Cogan appointed Ranis Co., a food company in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to represent the group seeking damages.
The judge also certified a group of buyers asking the court to force the Chinese companies to stop their alleged antitrust violations. He appointed Animal Science Products Inc., a Nacogdoches, Texas-based maker of animal-feed additives, to represent that group.
The ruling “is important because Chinese companies selling products in the U.S. are being treated like companies from England and Switzerland and Japan and Korea,” William A. Isaacson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, said in a phone interview.
North China’s unit in the case is Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical. Charles Critchlow, a lawyer for Hebei Welcome at Baker & McKenzie LLP in New York, declined to comment on Cogan’s ruling.
Richard Goldstein, a lawyer for Aland (Jiangsu) at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in New York; James Serota, a lawyer for Northeast Pharmaceutical (000597) at Greenberg Traurig LLP in New York; and Daniel Mason, a lawyer for Weisheng Pharmaceutical at Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP in San Francisco, didn’t immediately return calls for comment on the decision.
The case is In re Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation, 06- md-1738, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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Perelman Trial Testimony Ends With Tale of Broken Friendship
After 2 1/2 days of testimony about contract clauses and e- mails, jurors in Donald Drapkin’s lawsuit against Ronald Perelman’s MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc. heard a witness recount how the $16 million breach-of-contract claim splintered a once-close friendship.
The testimony yesterday wasn’t about Perelman’s relationship with Drapkin, a top dealmaker who worked for Perelman at MacAndrews & Forbes for 20 years. Rather, Eric Rose, who heads the firm’s life sciences business, testified that he fell ill last year and that Drapkin, once a dear friend, ignored him.
“I think he’s been more than aware of the difficulties I’ve had in the last six months,” said Rose, who walked into court using two canes and wearing a cap to retain body heat. “He hasn’t even picked up the phone and called me.”
Drapkin, the former vice chairman, is suing MacAndrews & Forbes for $16 million that he says the firm failed to pay him after he left in 2007. Lawyers for MacAndrews & Forbes called Rose to the witness stand as their final witness yesterday to bolster their claim that Drapkin breached a separation agreement by trying to induce Rose to quit.
Rose testified about a dinner at Quality Meats in Manhattan on May 14, 2007, three weeks after Drapkin left MacAndrews & Forbes. Most of the dinner was about “everyday life stuff,” said Rose, who met Drapkin on a rafting trip in the early 1990s. Then the conversation switched to the firm.
“Mr. Drapkin told me that Mr. Perelman had little interest in life science, and in light of that my continuation at MacAndrews would be disastrous long-term for my future,” Rose testified. “The implication of that was clear for me.”
Drapkin says he agreed to leave the firm in 2007 in return for millions of dollars in severance and proceeds from the sale of his stock. He has yet to be paid $16 million, money that MacAndrews & Forbes says it withheld because Drapkin breached the separation deal by withholding documents and trying to get Rose to leave.
The cases are Drapkin v. Mafco Consolidated Group, 09- cv-1285, and MacAndrews & Forbes LLC v. Drapkin, 09-cv-4513, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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Dresdner Banker Says Commerzbank Bonus Didn’t Match ‘Worth’
Desmond McNamara, who headed up risk management for Dresdner’s capital-markets division, is one of 104 London-based bankers who have sued claiming Commerzbank failed to honor a bonus pledge Dresdner made before it was taken over in 2009.
“I’m only claiming the amount my line manager determined during the year my performance was worth,” McNamara said. While he received salary and a guaranteed bonus worth around 400,000 pounds ($628,000) for 2008, Commerzbank didn’t pay a discretionary bonus he was told was worth another $394,000.
Commerzbank, Germany’s second-biggest lender, completed a takeover of Dresdner in January 2009 then cut bonuses by 90 percent or more, according to court filings from the former Dresdner bankers. Stefan Jentzsch, Dresdner’s former chief executive officer, had in 2008 promised to set aside 400 million euros ($524 million) for workers who stayed at the bank.
Commerzbank, which took an 18.2 billion-euro bailout from Germany during the credit crunch, has been sued in London, Germany and Singapore by workers who claim they weren’t paid what they were owed after the buyout.
Earlier, Commerzbank lawyer Tom Linden set out the Frankfurt-based lender’s case, saying the 400 million-euro promise made by Jentzsch at a 2008 meeting “cannot have been intended to be legally binding even if it genuinely represented the intentions of the bank.”
The cases include: Mr. Fahmi Anar & Others v. Dresdner Kleinwort Limited, Commerzbank AG (CBK), High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, HQ09X05230 and Richard Attrill & 71 others v. Dresdner Kleinwort Limited, Commerzbank AG, HQ09X04007
Chevron Bid to Block Judgment Rejected by Appeals Court
A U.S. appeals court blocked Chevron Corp. (CVX) from using a New York law to try to bar a group of Ecuadoreans from collecting on an $18 billion judgment in an environmental damage lawsuit.
The appeals court yesterday reversed a lower-court order, saying Chevron can’t use the law against the plaintiffs before they try to collect.
“Chevron will have its opportunity to challenge the judgment’s enforcement under this act at such time, if any, as judgment-creditors seek to enforce the judgment in New York,” a three-judge panel of the Manhattan-based court said yesterday.
In March, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan issued a ruling that barred Ecuador residents in the Amazon River Basin from enforcing an $18 billion judgment awarded by a court in their country until a separate suit by Chevron against the villagers and their lawyers is decided.
“A grave injustice against the Ecuadorians has been set right by today’s 2nd Circuit ruling,” Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “It rebukes Chevron’s abusive legal tactics of the past two years.”
Chevron was ordered Feb. 14 to pay as much as $18 billion in compensatory and punitive damages for Texaco Inc.’s alleged dumping of toxic drilling wastes in the Ecuadorian jungle from 1964 to about 1992. The ruling came in an 18-year-old lawsuit decided by a judge in Lago Agrio, a provincial capital near the Colombian border.
“Chevron believes this corrupt judgment will be unenforceable in any country that adheres to the rule of law and we will continue to defend Chevron’s interests against any attempts to enforce the fraudulent judgment,” San Ramon, California-based Chevron said in a statement yesterday.
Chevron says it cleaned up its portion of the oil fields and was released from pollution claims against Texaco in an agreement with the government of Ecuador. Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001.
The case is Chevron Corp. v. Naranjo, 11-1150, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).
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Ranbaxy Violations Include Unsafe Drugs, U.S. Says in Settlement
Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. (RBXY) made “adulterated, potentially unsafe” medicines that were illegal to sell, U.S. prosecutors said in a proposed settlement with the Indian drugmaker.
Among alleged violations, Ranbaxy failed to adequately separate the production of penicillin and non-penicillin drugs and failed to take adequate steps to prevent contamination of sterile medicines, the U.S. Justice Department said in a 58-page document filed in federal court in Maryland Jan. 25.
The settlement stipulates proposed changes Ranbaxy, based on the outskirts of New Delhi, must make to settle the three- year-old dispute. The drugmaker set aside $500 million to resolve all potential civil and criminal liability related to the U.S. investigation, it said last month. The company didn’t admit or deny the accusations detailed in the settlement, which requires approval by a federal judge.
“This action against Ranbaxy is groundbreaking in its international reach -- it requires the company to make fundamental changes to its plants in both the United States and India,” Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in an e-mailed statement.
“Our commitment to ensuring that the drugs the American people rely on are safe, effective and manufactured according to the FDA’s standards extends beyond our borders,” West said.
The department in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration uncovered numerous problems with Ranbaxy’s drug manufacturing and testing in India and at facilities owned by its U.S. subsidiary, according to the statement.
The defects led the FDA to block more than 30 generic drugs made at the Indian drugmaker’s Paonta Sahib and Dewas plants, the FDA said in September 2008, three months after Tokyo-based Daiichi Sankyo Co. (4568) agreed to buy a controlling stake in Ranbaxy for $4.6 billion.
Ranbaxy consented to the proposed decree on Dec. 20 in an agreement signed by company officials including co-defendants Dale Adkisson, head of global quality; Managing Director Arun Sawhney; and Venkatachalam Krishnan, the company’s regional director for the Americas.
“Today’s announcement is the next step in the process of finalizing our agreement with the FDA to resolve this legacy issue,” Sawhney said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “We are pleased with the progress we have made in upgrading and enhancing the quality of our business and manufacturing processes.”
Daiichi Sankyo declined to comment on the proposed settlement until the court approves the filing, spokesman Masaya Tamae said.
The case is U.S. v. Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., 12-00250, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Baltimore).
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Johnson & Johnson Wins Jury Verdict Over Levaquin Warning
Clifford Straka, who blew out two Achilles tendons after taking the drug for pneumonia, sued J&J and its Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical unit in 2008. Straka said his doctor wasn’t aware when she prescribed the drug that Levaquin was linked to an increased risk of tendon damage in elderly patients.
Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has denied any failure to warn and contended that Straka needed Levaquin to treat his pneumonia. The Minneapolis federal jury yesterday found that J&J and its unit failed to provide reasonably adequate warnings, while also ruling that this wasn’t the cause of Straka’s injuries. The verdict is the companies’ third straight trial win.
“We are trying to understand how the jury arrived at the verdict,” Ronald Goldser, Straka’s attorney, said in an interview. “If the warning is inadequate, what is it the doctor did wrong?”
The company is “pleased with the verdict,” Foster said in an e-mail yesterday. “When used according to the product labeling, Levaquin has been proven to be a safe and effective medication.”
The lawsuit was the third federal case to go to trial in Minnesota alleging the unit, now known as Janssen Pharmaceuticals, downplayed the risks of the antibiotic to boost sales. J&J lost the first, a jury verdict for $1.8 million in 2010, and won the second last year. The company also won the first state case in October, when a New Jersey jury rejected the claims of two plaintiffs.
J&J is facing more than 3,700 claims involving Levaquin in state and federal courts, Bill Foster, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. The 2010 trial loss has been appealed and 43 cases have been dismissed, he said.
The case is Straka v. Johnson & Johnson, 08-05742, combined for trial in In re Levaquin Products Liability Litigation, 08- md-01943, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (Minneapolis).
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On The Docket
Ex-UBS Municipal Derivatives Chief Faces July Criminal Trial
Peter Ghavami, former co-head of UBS AG’s (UBSN) municipal- derivatives group, will go on trial July 9 along with two colleagues, Gary Heinz and Michael Welty, in a municipal bond bid-rigging case, a federal judge said.
The three, who have pleaded not guilty, are accused in a six-count indictment of engaging in “complex fraud schemes and conspiracies that subverted competition in the market for municipal finance contracts and deprived municipal bond issuers of the benefits of their investments,” according to court documents. U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan set the trial date yesterday.
The case is one of three brought by the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust unit in connection with a nationwide bid- rigging probe of contracts used by states and local governments to invest municipal-bond proceeds.
The conspiracy included more than 200 deals involving state agencies, local governments and non-profits across the country, according to documents filed in federal court.
The amount of evidence collected in the case is massive, Charles Stillman, a lawyer for Ghavami, said in court. The U.S. has provided more than 600,000 audiotapes and hundreds of millions of documents, he said.
An unidentified municipality hired Ghavami’s firm to handle the bidding for the investment of bond proceeds, government prosecutors allege. Ghavami preselected the winning bidder in exchange for a kickback to his employer, whom the government didn’t identify, in a conspiracy that began in October 2001 and ran until February 2002, according to the U.S.
Stillman, Jonathan Halpern, a lawyer for Heinz, and Gregory Poe, a lawyer for Welty, all declined to comment after court.
The case is U.S. v. Ghavami, 10-cr-1217, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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U.K. Prosecutor’s Fraud Chief Joins Jones Day as Departures Rise
Glyn Powell, a senior attorney at the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, left the agency to join law firm Jones Day, adding to the number of departures under the current director.
Powell, the former head of fraud and assurance at the SFO, joined the U.S. firm this week after eight years at the agency. He oversaw investigations of the U.K. operations of Bernard Madoff, who is serving a 150-year prison sentence in the U.S. for operating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, and Asil Nadir, the former Polly Peck International Plc chief executive officer who went on trial this week in London accused of stealing 150 million pounds ($235 million).
“Glyn’s criminal experience is a perfect adjunct to the civil team here,” said Craig Shuttleworth, the head of litigation in London at Jones Day, a Washington-based firm that according to its website has clients including Bank of America Corp., Deutsche Bank AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Powell is being replaced on an interim basis at the SFO by case managers Jane de Lozey and Claire Whitaker until a new director takes over in April, David Jones, an SFO spokesman, said. Richard Alderman, the director since 2008, will be replaced by David Green, a barrister who was formerly the director of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Fraud Group.
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