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April

April 26 - 30, 2009

NEW YORK TIMES: Skepticism at the Court on Validity of Vote Law
April 30, 2009
BYLINE: Adam Liptak
"A central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, designed to protect minorities in states with a history of discrimination, is at substantial risk of being struck down as unconstitutional, judging from the questioning on Wednesday at the Supreme Court. ... 'It is one thing to retain coverage of jurisdictions that have lived with the constraints of Section 5 for some time,' Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Columbia, wrote in The Yale Law Journal in 2007. 'It is quite another to heap a new and costly administrative scheme onto jurisdictions unaccustomed to needing federal permission for their voting laws.' "

WASHINGTON POST: Foreclosure Prevention Plan Expanded to 2nd Mortgages
April 29, 2009
BYLINE: Renae Merle
"The Obama administration unveiled an expansion of its $75 billion foreclosure prevention plan yesterday, providing new subsidies to mortgage lenders and investors. ... The expansion is a step in the right direction, but remains voluntary for many banks, consumer advocates said. In many cases, lenders are being paid to act in their own best interest, said Edward R. Morrison, a professor at Columbia Law School, who has studied loan modification efforts. 'I wonder whether it's paying too much to get to the right solution,' he said. 'We don't need to throw money at everybody.' "

NEW YORK TIMES: Bank Regulation Case Pits U.S. Against States
April 28, 2009
BYLINE: John Schwartz
"The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in a case that could change the way big banks are regulated. ... James E. Tierney, director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School, said that the federal regulators’ job was to promote 'bank fiscal soundness and not protection of consumers,' and that battling fraud in mortgage lending was an area where state attorneys general had long excelled. 'They got it first,' Mr. Tierney said, 'and they got it right.' "

LOS ANGELES: U.S. expanding foreclosure prevention plan
April 28, 2009
BYLINE: Ben Meyerson and Scott Reckard
"The Obama administration, stepping up efforts to stem foreclosures, will offer lenders and homeowners incentives to cut payments on second mortgages, write down balances on first mortgages that are underwater, and repay loans in a timely fashion. ... Edward Morrison, a Columbia University law professor, saw the program as a bit of a gamble for lenders and loan officers. 'But Obama seems to be wanting to force servicers to take Hope for Homeowners seriously,' he said."

NEW YORK TIMES: On Voting Rights, Test of History v. Progress
April 27, 2009
BYLINE: Adam Liptak
"Ellen D. Katz is a liberal law professor and a big fan of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which she calls the most effective civil rights legislation in American history. ... Theodore M. Shaw, a law professor at Columbia and a former president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., said the court should not place too much weight on a single election. 'We’ve had a profound moment, and we’re in a different place,' Professor Shaw said. 'But race still plays powerfully in electoral politics in this country. If it weren’t for the Voting Rights Act, there would be no President Obama.' "

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April 19 - 25, 2009

NEW YORK TIMES: Louis Lowenstein, Professor of Business Law and Critic of Wall St., Dies at 83

April 25, 2009
BYLINE: Dennis Hevesi
"Louis Lowenstein, an influential business law professor and former corporate executive who for nearly three decades dissected the excesses of Wall Street and warned of the dangers of short-term investing, died on April 18 at his home in Manhattan. ... Before becoming a professor at Columbia, he had been a founding partner of one of New York’s most powerful corporate law firms and later the president of a supermarket conglomerate."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: LAW BLOG: In Tribute: Louis Lowenstein, 83, Critic of Wall Street Shenanigans
April 24, 2009
BYLINE: Dionne Searcey
"Louis Lowenstein, Columbia law professor and former CEO turned prominent critic of financial misconduct on Wall Street, died Saturday of pancreatic cancer. ... In 1998, Lowenstein, along with his wife Helen, endowed a fellowship program at Columbia Law School to encourage and reward students who demonstrated dedication and potential for contributing to public interest law."

BLOOMBERG: Bank of America’s Lewis May Face SEC Probe on Merrill
April 24, 2009
BYLINE: David Mildenberg and Karen Freifeld
"Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kenneth D. Lewis may face scrutiny by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to disclose mounting losses at Merrill Lynch & Co. because of pressure from federal regulators to complete the takeover. ...  John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia University Law School in New York, said Lewis’s testimony to Cuomo’s office puts the SEC in a 'very difficult' position. 'They are under some pressure to bring action against Lewis if they feel that Lewis was withholding material information,' Coffee said. Companies can’t argue that it’s in 'the national interest' to 'withhold material facts from your shareholders,' he said."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: BofA chief reveals threats from feds on Merrill Lynch deal
April 24, 2009
BYLINE: E. Scott Reckard and William Heisel
"Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke threatened to oust Bank of America Corp.'s board and its chief executive, Kenneth Lewis, if the bank called off its purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co., Lewis said in sworn testimony released Thursday. .. While the SEC's mission is to encourage corporations to disclose important events, banking regulators 'sweep problems under the rug,' said Columbia University securities law professor John C. Coffee. 'The worst outcome from their point of view is that adverse information reaches shareholders, who may panic' and cause banks to collapse, Coffee said." He predicted the failure to disclose Merrill's problems would multiply the amount Bank of America will have to pay to settle shareholder litigation over the acquisition."

NEW YORK TIMES: Prospects: Law
April 19, 2009
“Good news for spring graduates: Most firms are not reducing starting salaries, says James G. Leipold, executive director of the National Association of Law Placement. … Below, how grads fared last year.”
Scroll past “Prospects: MBA” to see statistics on graduates from law schools, including Columbia Law School.

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April 12 - 18, 2009

HUFFINGTON POST: The Rating Agencies, A Key Reason For The Recession, Get Primed For An Overhaul  
April 17, 2009
BYLINE: Julie Satow
"Much attention is being paid to the $12.1 trillion government bailout, and where that money is going. But the root cause that has created the need for this funding -- the credit rating agencies -- has been largely overlooked. ... 'This is a debt market crisis we are experiencing, and it revolves around the sudden loss of credit and the inability of the rating agencies to keep up,' said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia University's School of Law. ... Others, such as Coffee, are pushing for reforms that are similar to what the accounting industry underwent during the Arthur Anderson-Enron scandal. This includes having an independent firm that would verify the accuracy of the information provided by the companies, much as CEOs were asked to sign off on their companies' accounting. Coffee is also a proponent of increasing the rating agencies' liability, just as occurred with the accounting profession. 'Until the late 1990s, when the asset-backed mortgage bonds began to be issued in earnest, investment bankers would hire a due diligence firm to make sure the real estate collateral was solid,' said Coffee. 'We should go back to that practice.' "

DIVERSE: Blacks and Mexican Americans Disproportionately Denied Law School Admittance

April 15, 2009
BYLINE: Ronald Roach
"As director of the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic at the Columbia University Law School, law professor Conrad Johnson knows that digital technology has the power to highlight and amplify social justice concerns and to enable people to take direct action. Under Johnson’s leadership, the clinic has developed and maintained the Columbia-hosted Web site titled ‘A Disturbing Trend in Law School Diversity,’ which highlights more than a decade of declining to stagnant African-American and Mexican American enrollment at U.S. law schools. ‘What we tried to do in this study is something we haven’t seen done very often (and that) is to measure the trends of inclusiveness in the context of the capacity of law schools to take in students, which has increased by 10 percent over the last 15 years,’ Johnson says."

CNN: Lou Dobbs Tonight
April 15, 2009
“Demonstrators pulled nationwide protests against high taxes and bigger government, many Americans expressing their frustration and anger on this tax day and so-called ‘tea party’. … PILGRIM: Well, joining me now for more on today's ‘tea parties’, also the growing movement by states to protect their sovereignty, we're joined by three of the country's leading authorities on constitutional law. Nate Persily, professor of law and political science at Columbia University.”

WAMC: Northeast Public Radio: The Era of Courts Deciding Elections
April 14, 2009
BYLINE: Susan Barnett
“It’s been four months since voters in Minnesota voted for a new senator. … Is that what’s happening in New York? Nate Persily is an election law expert and professor of law and political science at Columbia Law School.”

MARKETWATCH: SEC to consider the future of credit raters April 15
April 14, 2009
BYLINE: Ron D. Orol
"In the wake of last year's Lehman Brothers collapse and the financial crisis ensnarling the markets, credit rating agencies are under intense scrutiny by Washington lawmakers and regulators. ... Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee said that rather than randomly picking a rating agency, the independent entity could be set up in a way that chooses a rating agency based on its track record. 'Raters with stronger records would get greater opportunities,' Coffee said."

 

JERUSALEM POST: IOSCO to outline new role of regulators at conference
April 13, 2009
BYLINE: Matthew Krieger
"While the recent G-20 summit in London provided world financial leaders with the opportunity to begin charting a path of recovery for the ailing global economy, the work to build the markets up and to ensure that a crisis like this never happens again will be left to the world's securities regulators. ... Here in Israel, the country's chief securities watchdog, Prof. Zohar Goshen, chairman of the Israel Securities Authority, has also been a center of attention with the publication of his 'Goshen Plan,' an ambitious agenda that seeks to restructure the local corporate bonds market by giving institutions a government guarantee covering 75-80 percent of new corporate bonds issued. ... '
'In the wake of the 2008 crisis, regulators will inevitably face a new and vastly expanded mission,' said Prof. John Coffee, a professor of law at Columbia University and an IOSCO 2009 panelist. 'It will no longer be enough to assure full disclosure and transparency; rather regulators must come to grips with the problem of systemic risk and impose a degree of prudential financial oversight over institutions that are indeed "too big to fail." If regulators do not learn from the immediate past, they will be destined to repeat it,' Coffee said."

GOTHAM GAZETTE: A Tangle of Problems Links Prison, Foster Care

April 13, 2009
BYLINE: Michelle Chen
"Wanda Chambers came to understand motherhood in an unlikely setting: the solitude of a maximum-security prison. ... According to research led by Columbia University law professor Philip Genty, in the years following the act's passage -- 1997 to 2002 -- termination proceedings for incarcerated parents more than doubled. ... The law's aim of promoting stability has backfired, Genty said. 'There's no unified, enlightened policy going on,' he said. 'The correctional system is making its decisions for its own reasons, the foster care system is making its decisions for its own reasons, and nobody's really keeping track of whether that creates inherent tensions.' "

NEW YORK TIMES: Gay Vows, Repeated From State to State
April 12, 2009
BYLINE: Adam Liptak
"And now there are four. In the space of a week, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has doubled, with Iowa and then Vermont joining Massachusetts and Connecticut. ... 'The concern about creating another Roe v. Wade looms large,' said Nathaniel Persily, who teaches law and political science at Columbia. 'At least five members of this court, if not more, would probably be reluctant to weigh in on this controversy, especially given the progress that is being made in state legislatures, state courts and public opinion.' ... 'Without the activist decisions on same-sex marriage,' Professor Persily said, 'there might not have been a fire lit under the legislature that passed it.' "

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April 1 - 11, 2009

MBAUNIVERSE.COM: ISB’s survey finds rapid growth in global investments by Indian multinationals
April 10, 2009
"Indian multinational enterprises (MNEs) have become major investors in global markets, according to the first ever survey by the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, and the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC)."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE: US courts put corporations on notice over human rights
April 10, 2009
"A spate of US court cases is lighting a fire under the feet of powerful corporations doing business in countries that commit human rights abuses, analysts said Thursday. ... Peter Rosenblum, a Columbia University law professor specializing in human rights, said the Alien Tort Statute is too narrowly defined to risk inundating corporations with claims. 'You're very limited to the kind of cases you can bring. They have to be flagrant violations,' he said. But coming in the same week that former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years prison for death-squad crimes, such cases demonstrate that the world's powerful -- whether politicians or companies -- are not untouchable. 'These things don't just expire. In that sense, there's accountability,' Rosenblum said. 'There is a lot going on in the world of corporations in human rights and there is attention to it ... They say there's nothing like a law suit to focus the mind.' "

THE TAKEAWAY: Beyond short-selling: A look at SEC reform
April 8, 2009
BYLINE:  John Hockenberry, Femi Oke, Noel King
"Today the Securities and Exchange Commission will unveil several proposals aimed at restricting short-selling—a technique used by investors to profit from falling stock prices by selling at one price and then buying back at a lower price. ... The Takeaway is taking a broad look at SEC reform with John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School and director of that school’s Center on Corporate Governance."

THE NATION: Mrs. Obama Meets Mrs. Windsor
April 8, 2009
BYLINE: Patricia J. Williams
"In 1985, Deborah Gray White published her now-classic little book, Ar'n't I a Woman? This gem of historical research examines the archetypes by which slave women in the plantation South were confined--the brazen, sexualized Jezebel; the domineering, emasculating Sapphire; the dependable, selflessly neutered mammy; and the perpetually loveless, suicide-inclined, tragic mulatta. ... It's not easy living on the receiving end of this unhappy iconicity. That's why so many minority women are so smitten by the work that Michelle Obama performs, if at a purely symbolic level. ... Patricia J. Williams, a professor of law at Columbia University and a member of the State Bar of California, writes The Nation column 'Diary of a Mad Law Professor.' "

NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: All Things Considered: Judge Dismisses Stevens Case, Orders Inquiry
April 7, 2009
BYLINE: Nina Totenberg
"The judge in the trial of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens granted the government's motion Tuesday to set aside the guilty verdict and drop all charges. ... But as Columbia Law School professor and former prosecutor Daniel Richman notes, witnesses don't always say exactly the same thing. 'One of the things we all know about conversations with witnesses is that different details come out at different times, and the failure to have said something isn't necessarily a sign of later fabrication. Could it be? Sure,' Richman says."

MARKETWATCH: White House ponders: Are some hedge funds too big to fail?
April 7, 2009
BYLINE: Ron D. Orol
"When the $9.2 billion Connecticut hedge fund Amaranth Advisors collapsed in 2006, securities attorneys jumped all over each other to express gleefully how the markets absorbed such a mega-fund failure. ... Presumably, that would mean these systemically significant non-bank institutions would pay fees to set up their own insurance funds, said Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee. ... Columbia's Coffee contended that, if the hedge fund insurance fund were used up, the FDIC should be required to draw down capital from its bank insurance fund as a contingency to avoid a catastrophic collapse of a mega-hedge fund. 'You could have two hedge fund failures and it could take out the entire fund,' Coffee said."

AMERICAN PUBLIC MEDIA: Marketplace: The real reason you got laid off


April 7, 2009
BYLINE: Sally Herships
"The recession is providing a great cover for employers who have been looking to get rid of employees. ... SUZANNE GOLDBERG: When an employer is engaged in massive layoffs, proving that the reason for the layoff was discrimination rather then just financial distress will be more difficult.

HERSHIPS: That's Columbia University law professor Suzanne Goldberg. She says you obviously can't fire someone for race, gender or religion. But both lawyers agree there are a lot of reasons you can legally fire someone."

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: N.Y. Attorney General Sues Financier Over Madoff Losses
April 7, 2009
BYLINE: Daniel Wise
"New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Monday sued J. Ezra Merkin, a prominent financier who sat on the boards of many well-known charities, for feeding his investors' money into the 'largest Ponzi scheme in history.' ... Under the Martin Act, the attorney general does not need to prove scienter, or guilty knowledge, and that provides him with 'a unique advantage,' said John C. Coffee Jr., a Columbia University School of Law professor and New York Law Journal columnist whose field is securities law."

MCCLATCHY:Why didn't Fed force big banks to take less of AIG bailout?
April 6, 2009
BYLINE: Greg Gordon and Kevin G. Hall
"The Federal Reserve Bank of New York in November chose not to pursue tough negotiations with large foreign and domestic banks and instead allowed them to receive 100 cents on the dollar in government funds to settle tens of billions of dollars of exotic financial bets guaranteed by American International Group. ... The decision to pay full contract value is the latest example of the Fed appearing to be 'very much out of sync with the attitude of the public and the taxpayers,' said John Coffee, a Columbia University law professor who testifies frequently before Congress on matters of corporate finance. ... Columbia's Coffee countered that 'you could have asked everybody to scale down their expectations at least 10 or 15 percent, and that wouldn't have been discriminatory. And if you asked Congress, I think they would have been much more in favor of being discriminatory towards foreign banks, because this is funded with U.S.-taxpayer-funded dollars.' "

NEW YORK TIMES: Bits: It’s Not Just Microsoft Balking at Google’s Book Plans
April 4, 2009
BYLINE: Miguel Helft
"Earlier this week, Google’s public relations team sent around to reporters a story from Wired suggesting that Microsoft was behind the opposition to its sweeping settlement with book publishers and authors over its book scanning project. ... Others who have publicly expressed concerns include prominent and independent intellectual property and antitrust experts, including Pamela Samuelson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, and Jane Ginsburg, a professor at Columbia Law School, which recently held an all-day conference where the settlement was debated."

GLOBE GAZETTE: Gay couples make wedding plans following court ruling today
April 3, 2009
BYLINE: Rod Boshart
"Gay couples began making wedding plans today after the Iowa Supreme Court handed them a landmark victory that makes Iowa the first Midwest state to legalize same-sex marriages. ... 'This is a tremendous victory for gay and lesbian couples and for all who care about equality,' said Suzanne B. Goldberg, clinical professor and director of the Columbia Law School Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic. 'The court recognized that the state’s equality guarantee cannot tolerate having rules that single out gay couples and exclude them from marriage.' "

FINANCIAL TIMES: Fairfield accused on Madoff funds transfer
April 2, 2009
BYLINE: Brooke Masters
"The managers of Fairfield Greenwich, the feeder fund that lost more than $7bn to Bernard Madoff, sent him an additional $14.8m of their own money just weeks before his Ponzi scheme collapsed, according to a regulatory complaint filed yesterday. ... John Coffee, Columbia University law professor, said the role of feeder funds in the Madoff scandal was lending strength to US regulatory efforts to force more oversight on hedge funds."

PHARMA TIMES: US courts "failing" on pay-for-delay generic deals

April 1, 2009
BYLINE: Lynne Taylor
"Deals agreed between drugmakers during 1993-2008 to keep generic versions of 20 branded products off the market have cost US consumers at least $12 billion a year, Congress has heard. ... Moreover, 10 brand-name drugs with annual US sales of around $17 billion are currently protected by such agreements, Scott Hemphill, an associate professor at Columbia Law School, told a US Congressional hearing yesterday."

INSIDE COUNSEL: Green Warfare 
Issue of April 1, 2009
BYLINE: Melissa Maleske
“The landmarks of the Bush administration’s environmental policy included withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, rolling back or weakening numerous environmental rules and simply skirting the issue of climate change. … Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law, predicts a shift from the Bush-era model.
‘For the last several years, most of the litigation has been environmental groups suing federal agencies for failing to take action on climate change,’ he says. ‘We now have a federal government that actually is taking action on climate change. So the focus is going to shift to industry groups challenging actions taken by government—and we’re already seeing that.’ ”

TAIWAN REVIEW: The Taiwan Relations Act at 30: Enduring Framework or Accidental Success?

April 1, 2009
BYLINE: Vincent Wei-Cheng Wang
"On December 15, 1978, former United States President Jimmy Carter announced that the US government would terminate diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (ROC) in favor of recognizing mainland China. ... Indeed, as pointed out by Columbia University Law School professor Lori Fisler Damrosch, who served in the US Department of State's Legal Advisor's Office and participated in the preparation of the TRA, despite the US government's acknowledgement of Beijing's position that Taiwan was a part of mainland China, the United States continued granting Taiwan such trade benefits as most-favored nation status and inclusion in the Generalized System of Preferences (unilateral tariff reduction for manufactured exports from developing nations), while mainland China, with a socialist economy at the time, received neither."

THE NEW REPUBLIC: Check It

April 1, 2009
BYLINE: Jagdish Bhagwati
"The proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which passed the House on March 1, 2007, but was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate, has now been reintroduced and still faces opponents in many quarters. Several economists and business groups deplore its promotion of a 'card check' system, which would enable a simple majority of workers to sign up for a union and so avoid the subsequent holding of a secret-ballot election (under Section 2 of the act). These opponents deride the use of the phrase 'free choice' in legislation that they see as denying it. And it is, indeed, hard to defend the denial of an automatic secret ballot.
"But while these issues will doubtless be debated, and the actual legislation will go through the usual legislative mauling and modification, the current debate misses the essential reason why EFCA makes sense, a reason that has led a stout defender of free trade such as myself to endorse it. The proposal is an appropriate and free-trade-compatible approach to dealing with the overriding problem we face: the long-standing stagnation of workers' real wages.
"Jagdish Bhagwati is University Professor, Economics and Law, at Columbia University, and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations."

GOVERNING: The Second Best Job in the State

April 2009
BYLINE: Josh Goodman
"Eliot Spitzer of New York styled himself a steamroller, an uncompromising politician who preferred intimidation over negotiation. ... James Tierney doesn't think these results are a coincidence. A former Maine attorney general who now directs the Attorneys General Program at Columbia University in New York, he points out that almost any successful AG has to know how to strike a deal. '99.9 percent of cases are settled,' Tierney says. 'You're involved in compromises every time you bring a lawsuit.' Both Easley and Gregoire, for example, were major players in the tobacco settlement in the late 1990s."

 

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