Goldman, Deutsche Bank, Lone Star, Apple in Court News
Rosslyn LB Syndication Partner LLC, a Lehman unit not in bankruptcy, accused USREO/Rosslyn Investors LLC, a Goldman Sachs unit, of terminating a transaction related to an office building portfolio in Arlington, Virginia, according to a filing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.
The Goldman unit’s “obligations (which it failed to perform) are absolute,” according to the filing. Rosslyn LB is seeking more than $100 million in damages.
Michael DuVally, a spokesman for New York-based Goldman Sachs, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Lehman Brothers filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history on Sept. 15, 2008. The U.S. brokerage went into liquidation four days later.
The judge overseeing Lehman’s bankruptcy approved the proposed sale of its 78.5 percent interest in the 3 million- square-foot commercial real estate project on Aug. 17, court papers show. Two days before the scheduled closing date, USREO/Rosslyn terminated the agreement based on “pretextual reasons,” Lehman lawyers said in court papers.
The case is Rosslyn LB Syndication Partner LLC v. USREO/Rosslyn Investors, LLC, 11-02764, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Madoff Trustee Sues ABN Amro, Nomura to Recoup $47 Million
Irving H. Picard, the trustee liquidating Bernard L. Madoff’s money management firm, sued Nomura Holdings Inc. (8604)’s Nomura International and ABN Amro Group NV’s ABN Amro Bank to recover a total of $46.9 million.
The companies invested with Madoff, who ran the biggest Ponzi scheme, through feeder funds, according to the lawsuits filed yesterday in bankruptcy court in Manhattan. Picard seeks to recover $25.5 million transferred to Amsterdam-based ABN Amro and $21.4 million transferred to Tokyo-based Nomura.
“The subsequent transfers were derived from investments with BLMIS,” Picard said in the suits, referring to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.
Picard also filed lawsuits seeking $110 million from KBC Investments Ltd. and $50.1 million from Caceis Bank Luxembourg.
The trustee alleges the money was invested in the Madoff firm and taken out through feeder funds such as Fairfield Sentry Ltd. and Harley International (Cayman) Ltd.
Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence for running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
Mike Geller, a spokesman for Royal Bank of Scotland, which now owns ABN Amro, declined to comment on the lawsuit. Suzanne Hallberg, a spokeswoman for Nomura, declined to comment.
A call to a representative of Caceis Investor Services in New York wasn’t immediately returned. A call after business hours to Viviane Huybrecht, director of communications for KBC in Brussels, wasn’t immediately returned.
The cases are Picard v. ABN Amro Bank NV, 11-ap-2760, and Picard v. Nomura International Plc, 11-ap-2759, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Loreley Sues Deutsche Bank Over CDOs ‘Designed’ to Fail
Deutsche Bank AG (DBK), Germany’s biggest bank, was sued by Loreley Financing over $440 million worth of collateralized debt obligations purchased from 2005 to 2007.
The bank is accused of defrauding the plaintiffs into purchasing CDOs that were “destined --and indeed, designed-- to fail,” Loreley Financing said in a complaint filed Oct. 5 in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Each of the collateralized debt obligations was “a fraudulent investment vehicle created and exploited by defendants for their own benefit and the benefit of certain preferred Deutsche Bank clients looking to profit from the imminent collapse of the subprime mortgage market,” Loreley Financing said in the complaint.
Loreley Financing is a group of special-purpose entities based in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, a dependency of the U.K. with its own legislative assembly and known as a tax haven. The entities were formed for long-term investing in CDOs, pools of assets such as mortgage bonds packaged into new securities, Loreley Financing said in the complaint.
“We believe these claims are unfounded and will vigorously defend against them,” Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank said in a statement.
The case is Loreley Financing (Jersey) No. 3 Ltd. v. Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., 652737/2011, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).
IKB Deutsche Sues Credit Suisse Over Mortgage Securities
The suit stems from Credit Suisse’s misrepresentations concerning the sale of residential mortgage-backed securities and its role in creating the securities, known as HEAT 05-8 and CXHE 05-D, IKB said in court papers filed yesterday in New York state court.
IKB is seeking reversal of the sale and purchase of the notes and restitution of the $10 million purchase price of the HEAT 05-8 notes and the $6 million purchase price of the CXHE 05-D notes, as well as damages, the Dusseldorf-based bank said in court papers.
Credit Suisse views the allegations as “merit-less,” Steven Vames, a spokesman for the bank, said in a statement. IKB was “well informed on the risks associated with these investments,” the company said.
IKB, which was bailed out during the subprime mortgage crisis, was put up for sale by buyout firm Lone Star Funds. Dallas-based Lone Star paid about 137 million euros ($185 million) to take control of IKB in August 2008.
IKB also sued Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) last month in the same court over residential mortgage-backed securities.
The case is IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG vs. Credit Suisse Securities AG, 652735/2011, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).
EX-AFG CEO Hand Plotted to Kill Witness, Prosecutor Says
A man convicted for his role in a fraudulent $100 million mortgage scheme, former AFG Financial Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Aaron Hand, was charged with plotting to kill a witness who testified against him.
Hand, 39, sentenced in 2010 to as long as 25 years in prison, was arraigned yesterday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan on two counts of attempted murder in the first degree, one count of attempted murder in the second degree and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. He faces 4 1/2 years to life in prison if convicted.
“The motive for this attempted murder was revenge, plain and simple,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement.
Hand pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer, Kevin Canfield, said his client was entrapped by the police.
Hand was the mastermind of a mortgage scheme that defrauded Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and other banks, according to Vance’s office, which said it won convictions against all 27 people charged.
In August, an investigator with the district attorney’s office received a tip that Hand, while incarcerated at New York State Coxsackie Correctional Facility, was attempting to arrange the murder of a witness who testified against him during a nine- week trial in July 2010, according to the statement.
Based on this evidence, an undercover investigator from the district attorney’s office was sent to meet with Hand on Aug. 26, posing as a “hitman,” according to Vance’s statement. Hand instructed the agent to kill the witness, who hasn’t been identified, Assistant District Attorney Peirce Moser said in court yesterday. The witness was a cooperating defendant.
The case is People v. Hand, 4870/2011, New York Supreme Court (Manhattan).
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U.K. Sues Over ECB Limits on Clearing Euro-Denominated Trades
The U.K. sued the European Central Bank over plans to block trades in some euro-denominated securities from being cleared outside of the 17 countries that share the currency.
In the first such move by a government, the U.K.’s lawsuit against the ECB over its location policy for clearinghouses was registered at the EU General Court in Luxembourg. A hearing could come within two years and a ruling may take as long as three years.
The case was registered at the EU court, the region’s second-highest, on Sept. 15, according to the tribunal’s press service, the same day the U.K. Treasury said it would take action. In parallel with the court case, the U.K. is seeking safeguards in a draft EU law on over-the-counter derivatives that would protect clearinghouses from pressure to relocate.
EU finance ministers this week agreed to stipulate in the law that “no member state or a group of member states” should be discriminated against as a venue for clearing services. The final version of the rules must be hammered out in negotiations between governments and lawmakers in the European Parliament.
U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said after the ministerial meeting that the draft had been adjusted to take into account his country’s concerns.
“We have inserted into the article of the draft directive an explicit reference to non-discrimination against any member state in any currency,” Osborne said. “Of course we still have our legal action with the ECB, but in terms of the draft directive here on derivatives we have the clearest possible statement of a non-discriminatory location policy.”
The case is T-496/11 pending case, United Kingdom v. ECB.
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Union Carbide Judge Removed From $322 Million-Verdict Case
The Mississippi Supreme Court granted a request by Dow Chemical Co. (DOW)’s Union Carbide unit to disqualify the judge who presided over an asbestos trial that ended with a $322 million verdict against the company.
Union Carbide argued that state Circuit Court Judge Eddie Bowen shouldn’t have presided over the trial that ended on May 4 because his father suffered from asbestosis, a disease caused by the mineral that sickened plaintiff Thomas Brown. The company claimed the defense was denied a fair trial.
The high court ordered Oct. 5 Bowen removed and stopped all action on the case until a new judge is appointed, without addressing the status of the verdict.
“We find that a reasonable person, knowing all of the circumstances, would harbor doubts about Judge Bowen’s impartiality in this particular case,” the court said.
Bowen’s father filed two asbestos lawsuits, one of which is still pending, and both his parents had settled a claim with Union Carbide and other defendants based on a diagnosis of asbestosis, according to the court’s ruling, which cited an independent probe by the Dow Chemical unit.
Judy Herrington, a circuit court administrator, said in a phone interview that Bowen said he isn’t permitted to comment on the matter. The judge was sworn in at the Raleigh, Mississippi, courthouse in September 2010, according to a statement the court issued at the time.
The May 4 award is the largest ever made to a single asbestos case plaintiff, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A state punitive-damages cap would erase at least $260 million.
Union Carbide is “gratified” by the state Supreme Court ruling, a company spokesman, Scot Wheeler, said in an e-mailed statement. The jury verdict was “outrageous and completely unsupported by the facts and applicable law,” he said.
“We look forward to this case being remanded to the trial court for further proceedings before a new judge,” Wheeler said.
Brown’s lawyer, D. Allen Hossley, didn’t reply to after- hours voice-mail and e-mail messages seeking comment.
The case is Brown v. Phillips Co., 2006-196, Circuit Court, Smith County, Mississippi (Raleigh).
AT&T Judge Asked by U.S., Company to Appoint Special Master
AT&T Inc. (T) and the U.S. Justice Department asked a federal judge to appoint a special master to help manage the government’s lawsuit seeking to block the company’s purchase of T-Mobile USA Inc.
In a motion filed yesterday in federal court in Washington, AT&T and the government requested that Richard Levie, a retired judge, be named a special master to oversee the process of the two sides exchanging information as the case moves toward trial. Special masters are often appointed in complex lawsuits to help the judge administer a case.
Levie’s help will be important “in light of the expedited trial” schedule, according to the request. Last month, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, who is hearing the case, set a trial date for Feb. 13.
A former associate judge on the District of Columbia Superior Court, Levie has worked as a mediator since 2000, according to the website of London-based JAMS, a private dispute-resolution service.
Levie has mediated cases involving telecommunications, high-tech and health-care matters, according to the website. He’s the former president of the Academy of Court Appointed Masters.
The Justice Department sued Dallas-based AT&T and Bonn- based Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE)’s T-Mobile unit on Aug. 31, saying a combination of the two companies would be anticompetitive. The acquisition would make AT&T the biggest U.S. wireless carrier, followed by Verizon Communications and No. 3 Sprint Nextel Corp.
Separate suits to block the purchase have been filed by Sprint and Ridgeland, Mississippi-based Cellular South Inc., the ninth-largest by customers.
The case is U.S. v. AT&T Inc., 11-cv-01560, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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S&P Didn’t ‘Rubber Stamp’ Notes, Company Says
Standard & Poor’s, the ratings company accused of bowing to pressure from an Australian bank to issue its highest rating for notes that lost 94 percent of their value, thoroughly investigated the investment and didn’t just “rubber stamp” the bank’s opinion, a court was told.
S&P was sued along with ABN Amro Bank NV, the Australian affiliate of Royal Bank of Scotland, by Australian towns over the sale of notes called Rembrandt that plummeted in value during the global financial crisis in 2008.
In the first lawsuit of its kind in the world, according to IMF (Australia) Ltd., which is funding the litigation, damages are being sought from S&P for misleading investors with its ratings. S&P, a unit of New York-based McGraw-Hill Cos., rated the Rembrandt notes AAA based on data supplied by ABN Amro Bank and under “significant pressure” from the bank, said Noel Hudley, a lawyer representing the towns.
“You are the wuss for bending over in front of bankers and taking it,” Sebastian Venus, who had prepared an internal model for the notes at S&P, told Derek Ding, an analyst responsible for rating them, according to e-mail transcripts in a written version of the plaintiffs’ opening statement that was released by the court. “You rate something AAA, when it’s really A-?”
The plaintiffs cite “selectively” from the hundreds of documents that were submitted, S&P said in a written version of the opening statement its own lawyers presented in court.
“Those e-mail exchanges also evidence the fact that S&P did not simply rubber stamp ABN’s opinion,” the company said in the filing. “Conflicting views are to be expected in the context of any serious process of analysis and consideration.”
A dozen Australian townships claim they lost A$15 million ($14.3 million) of A$16 million invested in the Community Income Constant Proportion Debt Obligation Notes. The notes were unwound less than two years after the towns bought them because credit spreads kept increasing and the notes’ cash value was exhausted, according to court documents.
The towns also sued Local Government Financial Services Ltd., a municipal financial adviser that bought the notes from ABN Amro Bank and resold them to the towns. LGFS also sued the bank, accusing it of breach of contract.
The case is Bathurst Regional Council v. Local Government Financial Services Ltd. NSD936/2009. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).
Airlines May Lose Battle Over EU’s Carbon Caps at Top Court
International airlines should lose a challenge to the European Union’s planned expansion of its carbon cap-and-trade system beyond the bloc’s borders, an adviser to the region’s top court said.
“The inclusion of international aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme is compatible with international law,” Advocate General Juliane Kokott of the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg said in a non-binding opinion yesterday. The court follows this advice, at least in part, most of the time.
United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL), AMR Corp. (AMR)’s American Airlines and the Air Transport Association of America challenged the EU’s first attempt to extend the world’s largest carbon cap- and-trade program beyond its borders. The EU regulator last month said it won’t ditch its plans to impose carbon curbs on flights to and from the region’s airports starting next year.
At a court hearing in July, the airlines said the EU’s plans to extend the EU carbon market to all flights that depart from or arrive at an airport in the region are unlawful. The advice by Kokott, one of eight advocates general at the EU court, gives an indication of which way the tribunal may rule.
The case is C-366/10, Air Transport Association of America v. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
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Oracle to Pay $199.5 Million to End U.S. Overbilling Case
Oracle Corp. (ORCL), the world’s second-biggest software maker, will pay more than $199.5 million to settle allegations it overbilled the U.S. government for nine years.
The accord resolves a lawsuit claiming Oracle induced the General Services Administration to buy $1.08 billion in software from 1998 to 2006 by falsely promising the same discounts offered to favored commercial customers. The Justice Department, which pursued the case after joining a whistleblower lawsuit, and Oracle announced the settlement yesterday.
The payout is the largest ever obtained by the GSA under the False Claims Act, which lets citizens sue on behalf of the government and share in any recovery. Former Oracle employee Paul Frascella, who filed the case in 2007, will get $40 million.
“Companies that engage in unlawful or fraudulent practices to secure government business undermine the integrity of the procurement process and create an unfair advantage,” Tony West, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s civil division, said in a statement.
The U.S. joined Frascella’s case in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, and filed its own complaint last year. It claimed Oracle gave companies discounts of as much as 92 percent, while the government’s cuts ranged from 25 to 40 percent.
Deborah Hellinger, a spokeswoman for Redwood City, California-based Oracle, said in a statement that the company “denies that it did not scrupulously adhere to the pricing requirements of that contract.”
Oracle has “strong controls in place to insure that the government agencies who purchased from the GSA schedule received fair pricing,” she said. “Oracle never committed any fraud whatsoever.”
The case is United States of America v. Oracle Corp., 07-cv- 00529, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).
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Lone Star Found Guilty of Stock Manipulation by Seoul Court
Lone Star Funds was found guilty of stock-price manipulation and the former head of its South Korean unit was jailed after a five-year legal dispute that stalled the U.S. buyout fund’s efforts to sell Korea Exchange Bank. (004940)
Paul Yoo was sentenced to three years in prison by Judge Cho Kyung Ran yesterday. Korea Exchange Bank was found not guilty, Cho said after presiding over a retrial ordered by the Supreme Court this year following their acquittal in June 2008.
The verdict may remove the final barrier to Lone Star’s sale of Korea Exchange to Hana Financial Group Inc. (086790), after the litigation delayed its plan to offload the 51 percent stake and derailed two earlier attempts. A public backlash over Lone Star’s legal woes and profit on its eight-year investment may deter foreign takeovers, impeding the government’s plans to sell state assets such as Woori Finance Holdings Co.
“It has taken too long for the resolution of the KEB-Lone Star case,” Hank Morris, North Asia adviser at Triple A Partners Ltd., said by e-mail before the verdict. The delay “will have had a negative effect upon the plans of global investors in regard to direct investment into Korea.”
Lone Star was fined 25 billion won ($21 million) by the court. South Korea’s financial regulator may order Lone Star to sell most of its stake in Korea Exchange Bank if the fund fails to prove it is a legitimate shareholder, the Financial Services Commission said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
“Now it’s all up to the regulator and we’ll follow the their decision,” Hana Financial President Kim Jong Yeol said by phone yesterday. “We will do our utmost to complete the Korea Exchange Bank takeover to best serve our shareholders.”
Korea Exchange Bank spokesman Lee Sun Hwan said the company respects the court’s decision to clear it of the manipulation charge. He declined to comment on the FSC’s remark that it may order Lone Star to sell its stake.
Jed Repko, a spokesman for Lone Star in New York, didn’t respond to phone calls or reply to an e-mail sent after regular office hours.
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Del Monte, Barclays Pay $89.4 Million to Settle Buyout Suits
Investors in Del Monte, maker of Meow Mix cat food and Milk Bone dog biscuits, will get at least 30 cents more a share to resolve claims they weren’t paid enough in the $19-a-share buyout, Stuart Grant, a lawyer for the investors, said yesterday in an interview. A Delaware judge must approve the accord before it becomes final.
“Del Monte has entered into the proposed settlement to eliminate the uncertainties, burden, and expense of further litigation,” the San Francisco-based company said yesterday in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The companies denied any wrongdoing under the accord.
The settlement also resolves investors’ claims that London- based Barclays, which served as Del Monte’s financial adviser while providing some financing for the buyers, had conflicting interests in the $5.3 billion deal. The private-equity group led by New York-based KKR included Vestar Capital Partners and Centerview Partners LLP.
Barclays was paid $23.5 million to advise Del Monte and as much as $24 million for providing loans to the buyers, according to investors’ suits filed in Delaware Chancery Court in Wilmington.
“We are pleased that the parties have agreed to settle the litigation to avoid the expense, distraction and uncertainty of litigation,” Kerrie-Ann Cohen, a Barclays spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “We believe that the sale process leading up to the merger achieved the best price reasonably available for Del Monte stockholders.”
Kristi Huller, a KKR spokeswoman, and Chrissy Stengel, a Del Monte spokeswoman, both declined to comment on the accord.
The case is In re Del Monte Foods Co. Shareholder Litigation, CA6027, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).
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Soros Loses Case Against French Insider-Trading Conviction
Billionaire investor George Soros lost a challenge to his 2002 insider trading conviction, with the European Court of Human Rights saying French market regulations were clear enough to hold him responsible.
France didn’t violate Soros’s rights in punishing him criminally for trading on inside information about Societe Generale (GLE) SA in spite of the market regulator’s conclusion that its rules were unclear, the Strasbourg, France-based court said.
“Soros was a famous institutional investor, well-known to the business community and a participant in major financial projects,” the court said in a statement about its ruling. “As a result of his status and experience, he could not have been unaware that his decision to invest” risked violating insider- trading laws, and given “there had been no comparable precedent, he should have been particularly prudent.”
Soros, 81, was convicted in 2002 of insider trading and ordered to repay 2.2 million euros ($2.9 million) he’d made from the share purchase and subsequent sale after a Paris court found he’d acted with the knowledge that the bank might be a takeover target. While prosecutors filed criminal charges, French stock market regulators didn’t pursue Soros, saying insider-trading laws were too vague to determine whether he’d broken them.
“It is inconceivable to expect that the citizen has a better understanding of the law than the authority in charge” of market regulation, Ron Soffer, Soros’s lawyer, said. “The opinion of the regulatory authority is an irrebuttable presumption as to the lack of clarity of the law.”
Soros will appeal the four-to-three ruling to the court’s Grand Chamber, Soffer said.
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Apple General Counsel Becomes Protector of Jobs’s Vision
If Steve Jobs was the creative force that made Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s products hip, General Counsel Bruce Sewell is the authority in keeping competitors from copying those ideas.
Hired from Intel Corp. (INTC) in 2009, Sewell, 52, has led Apple’s fight against mobile devices running Google Inc.’s Android operating system in lawsuits spanning four continents. His biggest role has been in coordinating the Cupertino, California- based company’s legal strategy against Android customers Samsung Electronics Co., Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and HTC Corp. (2498)
Before Sewell, Apple rarely filed lawsuits, typically only targeting small companies making unapproved accessories for Mac computers or, as with the case against Nokia Oyj (NOK), retaliating for a suit against it. Then came the iPhone.
Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007, saying Apple had applied for more than 200 patents for the device and was ready to enforce them. Within six months of being hired in 2009, Sewell put those words into action when the company filed its first pro-active patent-infringement suit against an Android handset maker, seeking an order to ban some phones made by Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC from the U.S.
Since then, Apple also has sued to stop sales of Samsung’s Galaxy phone and tablets, claiming the products “slavishly” copy the iPhone and iPad.
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Baum Law Firm to Pay $2 Million Over Foreclosure Practices
Steven J. Baum’s foreclosure law firm, one of the largest in New York state, will pay the U.S. $2 million and change its practices to resolve a probe into its mortgage-related legal filings.
The agreement resolves an investigation into whether the Baum firm filed misleading pleadings, affidavits and mortgage assignments in courts, according to a statement yesterday by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan.
“There are no excuses for sloppy practices that could lead to someone mistakenly losing their home,” Bharara said in the statement. “Homeowners facing foreclosure cannot afford to have faulty paperwork or inadequate evidence submitted, and today’s agreement will help minimize that risk.”
Steven J. Baum PC, located in Amherst, New York, just north of Buffalo, has attracted lawsuits and fines for its actions during the housing crisis. It has been accused of overcharging, filing false documents and representing parties on both sides of a mortgage transfer.
The changes in procedure “go over and above what current law requires,” Baum said in an e-mailed statement. “We will continue to adhere to the highest ethical standards.”
The agreement calls for the firm’s employees to halt their practice of assigning mortgages as supposed employees of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., an electronic database of mortgages.
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