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June 20 - 30, 2009

NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: MORNING EDITION: Madoff Received Maximum Sentence, 150 Years
June 30, 2009

BYLINE: Mike Pesca
A hundred and fifty years – that was the prison sentence handed down to Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff. . . . What's changed since? Columbia Law School professor John Coffee says, not enough. JOHN COFFEE: I don’t think that either Congress or the SEC has focused on those reforms that would really work. . . . Mr. Madoff served as his own self-custodian, and it’s very easy to corrupt yourself – you can’t be your own watchdog.
http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=106083649&m=106083621
 
NEW YORK TIMES: High Court Poised to Rewrite Spending Rules
June 30, 2009
BYLINE: Adam Liptak
A Supreme Court case concerning a quirky documentary critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton may result in a major overhaul of rules governing campaign spending by corporations, the court signaled Monday. . . . “The court is poised to reverse longstanding precedents concerning the rights of corporations to participate in politics,” said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Columbia. “The only reason to ask for reargument on this is if they’re going to overturn Austin and McConnell.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/30/us/politics/30movie.html
 
POLITICO: George W. Bush appointees buck Barack Obama on terror policies
June 30, 2009
BYLINE: Josh Gerstein
President Barack Obama’s claims of broad executive authority to carry out the war on terror are drawing fire from an unexpected source: federal judges nominated by President George W. Bush, who asserted the sweeping powers in the first place. . . . Another analyst said the ideological lines blurred in the detainee cases. “When it comes to coercive state power, those legal issues don’t always divide neatly along liberal/conservative, partisan lines,” said Matthew Waxman, a law professor at Columbia University.
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/24365.html
 
Michael Gerrard is Professor of Professional Practice and Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. These comments were condensed by editor Julia R. Dillon from the PLI panel Environmental Actions: The Obama Administration's First Policy Changes 2009 on April 22, 2009.
http://www.metrocorpcounsel.com/current.php?artType=view&artMonth=July&artYear=2009&EntryNo=9891
 
WASHINGTON POST: Madoff Sentenced to 150 Years
June 30, 2009
BYLINE: Tomoeh Murakami Tse
Bernard L. Madoff, the mastermind behind one of the biggest and longest-running financial frauds in history, on Monday was ordered to serve 150 years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed, for a scheme that has come to define the latest iteration of Wall Street greed. . . . Stronger regulation and more frequent prosecutions could do more to deter white-collar crime than a few stratospheric sentences for those who get caught, said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Columbia University. “That being said,” he added, “the readiness of a court to impose the highest available punishment must have some marginal effect.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/29/AR2009062902015.html
 
ABC NEWS: Courts Charge Mother of 555-Pound Boy
June 29, 2009
BYLINE: Lauren Cox
The mother of a 555-pound, 14-year-old boy in South Carolina was charged with neglect last week for allegedly failing to control her son's weight. . . . Jane Spinak, a professor at Columbia University Law School in New York, said that in many cases of medical neglect, public health officials are expected to offer help to a parent. “I think the question is when is the outreach sufficient that a court could then say, 'Look, we're giving you all these opportunities to better care for your child?” Spinak said. “The state has to decide at what point is not accepting that voluntary assistance neglect.” . . . “The offers have to be realistic,” Spinak said. “They have to be things that [a mother] and her child can actually take advantage of. If they want her to take him every day to something and she's working two jobs, that's not really realistic.”
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/WellnessNews/story?id=7941609
 
NPR: MORNING EDITION: Madoff To Find Out How Long He'll Be In Prison
June 29, 2009
BYLINE: Jim Zarroli
Ronnie Sue Ambrosino lost everything in the collapse of Bernie Madoff's empire. . . . “It is entirely likely that this will be a very formal proceeding where Madoff speaks and conveys the depth of his sorrow and shame at what he did,” said Dan Richman, a former federal prosecutor. Richman says considering how many people were affected by Madoff's meltdown, the judge is unlikely to agree to a light sentence. Prosecutors are asking for life, but Richman doesn't want to predict what kind of sentence Madoff will get. He says there are federal sentencing guidelines but they're used in an advisory way. “The fact is anything over a 20-year sentence can easily amount to him spending the rest of his life in jail,” Richman said. “People can have views about whether it should be 100 or life or 2,000 but I'm not sure it makes that much of a difference.”
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106033938
 
REUTERS TELEVISION: Madoff gets 150 years
June 29, 2009
BYLINE: Bobbi Rebell
Bernie Madoff is headed to prison after getting the maximum sentence for his ponzi scheme - 150 years. . . . SOUNDBITES: John Coffee, Professor, Columbia Law School (at 0:57).
http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=107052
 
WALL STREET JOURNAL: LAW BLOG: ‘Nobody . . . Is Ever Going to Plead Guilty Again’
June 29, 2009
BYLINE: Amir Efrati
It’s only been a few hours, but already people in the white-collar world are buzzing over 150 year the sentence imposed by Judge Chin. . . . John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University, said the Madoff case might help criminal defendants take a harder look at the evidence early on. If they realize “that if the evidence is strong,” they should take a plea bargain on fewer counts so that if the various sentences for each count run consecutively, it won’t amount to life in prison. “The only way to avoid life sentences in highly publicized cases is to strike a deal in the plea-bargaining phase,” Coffee says. “Otherwise you are subject to extraordinarily high punishment.”
http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/06/29/nobody-is-ever-going-to-plead-guilty-again/
John Coffee is quoted in a related Law Blog post here: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/06/29/should-a-victims-tale-of-woe-move-a-judge-the-impact-of-a-letter/.
 
NEW YORK TIMES: Justices Rule That States Can Press Bank Cases
June 29, 2009
BYLINE: John Schwartz
The Supreme Court paved the way on Monday for states to enforce fair-lending laws and other consumer protection measures against the nation’s biggest banks, striking down a rule that limited such powers to federal banking regulators. . . . James E. Tierney, director of the national state attorneys general program at Columbia Law School, said that a line-drawing exercise by Congress was unlikely to put state enforcers on the sidelines again. In the absence of tough regulation of the banking industry by the federal government, he said, state attorneys general have stepped up to provide consumer protection and to fight discrimination. He called the case “a stinging defeat for the large banks and federal regulators who have worked for years to stop states from enforcing state consumer protection and antidiscrimination laws.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/30/business/30bizcourt.html
 
NEW YORK TIMES: Room for Debate: Detecting Race Bias in Workplaces
June 29, 2009
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., suffered unfair discrimination when the city threw out a promotional exam because none of the African-American firefighters who took the test qualified for promotion. . . . We asked several legal scholars how the court’s ruling might affect employer practices and claims of racial discrimination in the workplace. Jamal Greene, Columbia Law School.
http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/detecting-race-bias-in-workplaces/
Jump directly to Jamal Greene’s post “Stay Out of the Testing Business”: http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/detecting-race-bias-in-workplaces/#jamal.
 
CONGRESS DAILY: Campaign Finance Law Under Wider Scrutiny
June 29, 2009
BYLINE: Carrie Dann
The Supreme Court signaled today that it is expanding its inquiry into the constitutionality of campaign finance rules, instructing both sides in a dispute over an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary to take a broader look at the most contested area of the law when they argue their case once again in September. . . . But the court's order to rehear the case makes clear that the justices intend to use Citizens United v. FEC as a vehicle to examine broader questions about the free speech rights of corporations, says Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School who specializes in campaign finance. “It definitely underscores the fact that they're seriously thinking about making [a] huge change” to the ban on corporate spending during election season, he said.
http://www.nationaljournal.com/congressdaily/cdp_20090629_9165.php
 
INVESTMENT NEWS: SEC doesn't need a defibrillator after all
June 28, 2009
BYLINE: Sara Hansard
At the beginning of the year, after it missed cues for seemingly everything from the massive Madoff Ponzi scheme to the credit crisis, the Securities and Exchange Commission was being written off as all but dead. . . . “They have come out ahead,” said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia University Law School in New York. He sees three areas where the SEC stands to gain significant new power under the regulatory reform plan that Congress is beginning to consider.
http://www.investmentnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090628/REG/306289970/1032/RIA
 
TIMES: The final curtain falls for Bernard Madoff
June 28, 2009
BYLINE: Iain Dey
LATE ON Friday American prosecutors won a small victory in their pursuit of the ill-gotten gains of Bernard Madoff, the conman that duped America’s rich and famous in a $65 billion (£40 billion) scam. . . . John Coffee, law professor at Columbia Law School, said: “I think he will get 20, 25 maybe 30 years. Chin is not known as a hanging judge at all but I can’t see him getting less than 20.” Coffee said the magnitude of his crimes and the fact that he has not cooperated with investigations would count against him.
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article6590916.ece
 
THE NATION: The Beat: House Passes "Weak" Climate Change Bill
June 26, 2009
BYLINE: John Nichols
The American Clean Energy and Security legislation that was backed by the Obama administration and congressional Democratic leaders as a centerpiece of the drive to address climate change was approved Friday by the U.S. House. . . . Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, argued the middle ground, saying: “I do believe a weak bill is better than no bill ... I think today's vote establishes a good deal of momentum. There's a head of steam, hopefully, wind- and solar-generated steam.”
http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat/446444
A related story by the Associated Press is available here: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gYghoTeDFU5HTPe7oJ-9gCnFTqnwD992LS2O0.
 
MCCLATCHY: Court rules school strip search illegal
June 26, 2009
BYLINE: Michael Doyle
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the strip search of a 13-year-old student violated the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. . . . “School officials will now say to themselves, what are the dangers here, and what is the likelihood that searching the person's body will address those dangers,” Columbia Law School Professor Jane Spinak said. Spinak added that “the message here to the school is, ask a lot more questions before you start searching.”
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2009386061_courtrulings26.html
 
CBS NEWS: What's Next For The Voting Rights Act?
June 26, 2009
BYLINE: Stephen Ansolabehere and Anthony Salvanto
This week the Supreme Court decided (in an 8-1 vote) a closely watched case challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. Its decision – and perhaps more importantly, what it didn’t say – leaves open a debate that could echo through the next round of legislative redistricting in 2010 and beyond. . . . For example, in an amicus brief (not taking a side in the case) Nathaniel Persily, Stephen Ansolabehere (co-author of this entry) and Charles Stewart provided the Court with an examination of voting patterns in the 2008 election, finding that they "revealed the intransigence of racial differences in voting patterns," pointing out that there were "persistent geographic and racial differences" in 2008 and differences between areas covered by the VRA, and those not covered.
http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/06/26/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry5116660.shtml
 
AMLAW DAILY: Steve Jobs and Disclosure Rules
June 25, 2009
BYLINE: Zach Lowe
In the wake of revelations that Apple chief Steve Jobs underwent a liver transplant, the question of whether Apple violated federal securities law by failing to disclose the severity of Jobs' health issues in January is in the news again, thanks to this piece by the Los Angeles Times. . . . Such a difference of opinion among experts in this area is not surprising. Back in January, John Coffee, a securities law expert at Columbia University, told Corporate Counsel there has never been any clarity over whether the SEC could consider an executive's health to be a material fact--no matter who the executive is. That is "an issue that has been debated by corporate counsel for at least the past decade," he told Corporate Counsel's Sue Reisinger then. One thing that is clear, Coffee said: A company can't disclose something it knows to be false or misleading: "You can't say it's just a small hormonal imbalance if you know it's [something much more serious]."
http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/2009/06/steve-jobs-and-disclosure-rules.html
 
REUTERS: Huntsman settlement could strain financing
June 24, 2009
BYLINE: Michael Erman
Deal financing could become more difficult to obtain and may contain more onerous terms, as banks seek to avoid the kind of pricey legal settlement paid to chemical company Huntsman Corp (HUN.N). . . . Banks “are going to want to have much clearer language in any kind of commitment letter that they have the right to call things off if they have any doubt about the solvency of the acquired firm,” said Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee.
Coffee said bank concerns about potential liability could make it even harder to close deals.
“They may not fund a potential transaction because they don't trust that they have the ability to escape liability, or they may have language that makes it impossible to force them to close. So this is more likely to produce deals that blow up,” he said.
http://www.reuters.com/article/innovationNews/idUSTRE55N5LC20090624
 
NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL: Will Downsizing Solve the SEC's Problems?
June 24, 2009
BYLINE: John C. Coffee Jr.
"Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!/Long has it waved on high,/And many an eye has danced to see/That banner in the sky."
So wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., about "Old Ironsides," the U.S. Constitution -- once the pride of the U.S. Navy -- on learning that the Navy planned to scrap its "eagle of the sea." Similar thoughts may come to mind on reading press reports that the Obama administration was considering shifting some of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's jurisdiction to other agencies. . . . John C. Coffee Jr. is the Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and director of its Center on Corporate Governance.”
http://www.law.com/jsp/PubArticle.jsp?id=1202431694677
 
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE: Good prognosis for Apple's Jobs but questions remain
June 24, 2009
BYLINE: Chris Lefkow
The prognosis for Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is "excellent" following his liver transplant, according to his doctors, but the company's handling of his health issues is raising questions. . . . “You can generate a lively discussion as to what the law currently is,” said Columbia University professor John Coffee, who likened Jobs' standing at Apple to that of other iconic company founders such as Walt Disney and Henry Ford. “The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has failed to give clear and adequate guidance,” said Coffee, who specializes in corporate governance and securities law.
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hzARbI7MvnlGVYQE8Fn9l6kV-Luw
 
MARKETWATCH: Congress played major role in Obama bank reform plan
June 24, 2009
BYLINE: Ronald D. Orol
The Obama administration's sweeping proposal to overhaul the U.S. financial regulatory system could have been more sweeping -- had Congress not gotten in the way. . . . “In framing the proposal, the administration did accept some ideas from Congress,” said Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee. “Because of congressional opposition they backed off and didn't do a number of reforms that were likely six or eight months ago.”
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/congress-played-key-role-in-obama-bank-proposal
 
WASHINGTON POST: Voting Rights Act Upheld, But Court Hints at Change
June 23, 2009
BYLINE: Robert Barnes
A key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act survived a constitutional challenge yesterday in the Supreme Court, but justices made it clear that a law forged in the darkest days of the nation's civil rights struggles may no longer be appropriate in a new era of American racial politics. . . . “I tend to think the Voting Rights Act is living on borrowed time,” said Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia University law professor whose work was cited in the opinion.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/22/AR2009062200771.html
 
AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN: Supreme Court lets Voting Rights Act stand in Austin case
June 23, 2009
BYLINE: Chuck Lindell
Ruling Monday on a closely watched case that began in suburban Austin, the U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped — for now — a key challenge to the landmark Voting Rights Act. . . . “The court ducked the issue. They blinked. They dodged a bullet — whatever metaphor you want to use,” said Nathaniel Persily, an election law expert at Columbia University Law School in New York. “It leaves for another day the central constitutional question in this case,” Persily said. “That challenge is coming. The question is who's going to bring it.”
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/2009/06/23/0623voting.html
 
BYLINE: Greg Stohr
Consensus is back at the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts -- at least for a day. . . . “It’s quite clear that there is division on the court” about the Voting Rights Act, said Nathan Persily, a political scientist and election-law professor at New York’s Columbia Law School. “Instead of engaging and exposing the divisions, John Roberts cobbled together a broad majority to produce a consensus position.”     
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aI7B11S0x8yA
 
BUSINESSWEEK: Experts: Apple Disclosure 'Falls Short'
June 23, 2009
BYLINE: Arik Hesseldahl
Apple's handling of reports that CEO Steve Jobs had a liver transplant has rekindled concern among corporate governance experts that the company and its board are disclosing too little, too late on the health of its highest-ranking executive. . . . Indeed, guidance from regulators—including the Securities & Exchange Commission—isn't clear on how much and how quickly companies need to discuss the health of an executive, says John Coffee, a Columbia University law professor who specializes in corporate governance and securities law. “The SEC has assiduously avoided giving clear guidance on when the CEO's health is material,” Coffee says. “Apple is probably an extreme example where the CEO's health is very material. Walt Disney in 1950 would have been an equivalent.”
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2009/tc20090622_877379.htm
John Coffee is mentioned in the story by the Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0625/p02s01-usgn.html.
 
Als «einfach nicht wahr» hat das US-Justizministerium einen Zeitungsbericht der «New York Times» bezeichnet. Diese hatte von einer möglichen Einigung im Streit zwischen der UBS und den USA berichtet. Dennoch: Bundespräsident Hans-Rudolf Merz zeigte sich am Rande der Berliner OECD-Tagung zuversichtlich.
John Coffee appears in second video at 0:39.
 
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: All Things Considered: High Court Rules In Voting Rights Case
June 22, 2009
BYLINE: Nina Totenberg
The Supreme Court has ruled in a case on the Voting Rights Act. . . . Columbia University law professor Nathan [sic] Persily observes, however, that the bullet that the civil rights community dodged today is still out there. PERSILY: In some ways the civil rights community is breathing a sigh of relief because their worst case scenario was not realized. However, what this probably means is that the main question over the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act may come to the court in the heat of the 2011 redistricting cycle, which would really throw the state of the law into disarray at a time when you need it to be most clear.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105775072
Related NPR story: Supreme Court Avoids Voting Rights Act Showdown at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105762087
 
NEW YORK TIMES: Room for Debate: The Battle, Not the War, on Voting Rights
June 22, 2009
The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, considered one of the most effective civil rights laws in history. . . . We asked several legal scholars where the court’s very narrow approach leaves the debate and what implications might it have for future rulings on voting rights law. . . . Jamal Greene, professor, Columbia Law School.
http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/22/the-battle-not-the-war-on-voting-rights/
Jump directly to Jamal Greene’s post “Chief Justice Roberts as Mediator”: http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/22/the-battle-not-the-war-on-voting-rights/#jamal.
 
BYLINE: Greg Stohr
“The U.S. Supreme Court avoided a sweeping ruling on a central part of the Voting Rights Act, striking a compromise that will let more jurisdictions change election procedures and district lines without federal approval. . . . Others questioned whether more than a handful of jurisdictions would want to take on the political and legal obstacles to bailing out. Among other requirements, jurisdictions would have to show a 10-year record of compliance with the Voting Rights Act. “Very few jurisdictions would attempt to do so,” predicted Nathaniel Persily, a political scientist and election- law professor at New York’s Columbia Law School.
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aCSthCIrVSbk
BYLINE: Jesse Westbrook
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission may force investors to disclose derivative stakes in companies, a step that would make it difficult for hedge funds to accumulate equity-swap positions without tipping off targets. . . . Increasing the disclosure may raise costs for the funds and give corporations an advantage in fending off takeovers, said John Coffee, a corporate and securities law professor at Columbia University. “It’s a rather strange world in which you can obtain such a large portion of a company’s equity swaps and reveal nothing,” he said. “You can obtain a position much cheaper if you don’t have to disclose what you are doing.”
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a35Rb6RUlLwI
 
WALL STREET JOURNAL: Law Blog: Sotomayor, Day 28: She Says Goodbye to Belizean Grove, More
June 22, 2009
BYLINE: Ashby Jones
“We hoofed it up to Columbia Law School on Saturday afternoon to listen to a speech by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was back in Morningside Heights to celebrate her 50th reunion.”
http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/06/22/soto-roundup-she-says-goodbye-to-belizean-grove-more/
 
HARTFORD BUSINESS JOURNAL: Child Welfare Often Trumps Religious Freedom
June 22, 2009
BYLINE: Laurence D. Cohen
When I was suffering from a bout of writer’s block, the editor of the Hartford Business Journal recommended that the sure cure was a cut in pay, longer working hours, and no distractions such as lunch or bathroom breaks. . . . Nowhere is the clash between faith and responsibility more pronounced than in matters of medical care, when religious belief or personal idiosyncrasy comes between patient and medical professional. . . . As George P. Fletcher, a law professor at Columbia University, described a similar case in the 1990s involving a mother held liable for the death of her child: “The defendant mother said that she should not be liable because she believed, in good faith, that prayer would heal the child. She has a right to believe that, but she has no right to inflict the costs of her belief on the child or the father.”
http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/news9308.html
 
ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Courts to rule on fate of Georgia’s ‘badge of racism’
June 21, 2009
BYLINE: Bill Rankin, Aaron Gould Sheinin
John Lewis saw the blue sea of Alabama state troopers advancing with their horses and their nightsticks, saw them putting on gas masks and wielding bullwhips, saw everything until a trooper slammed his club into Lewis’ head. After that, he doesn’t remember what happened on “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. . . . But Ted Shaw, former president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said Section 5 is an important deterrent to electoral mischief and a safeguard that ensures changes in voting schemes do not have a discriminatory purpose or effect. “Because of it, we’ve gotten to the point of where we are today,” said Shaw, now a Columbia University law professor. “Without it, Barack Obama would not be in the White House.”
http://www.ajc.com/services/content/metro/stories/2009/06/21/voting_rights_act.html
 
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Making the Grade
June 21, 2009
Former Gov. Gray Davis served up some interesting life lessons during his recent commencement address at Columbia Law School.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/20/BAD218AJ40.DTL
 
TRIBUNE MEDIA: Supreme Court 'collegial,' justice says
June 20, 2009
BYLINE: Mark Silva
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who might rather have been an opera diva if she didn't posess [sic] a “sparrow” voice, says the Supreme Court is the “most collegial” place where she ever has worked. . . . Ginsburg, Columbia Law School Class of 1959, spoke at the Law School's Reunion 2009, where her class is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
REUTERS: Shell Nigeria case may temper Big Oil policies
June 18, 2009
BYLINE: Rebekah Kebede
Royal Dutch Shell's (RDSa.L) cash payment of $15.5 million -- roughly four hours of its 2008 profits -- to settle a human rights case in Nigeria may not be enough to change Big Oil's policies in the developing world. . . . “Many times the most important things about (these claims) is to keep alive the case and keep it focused before the public and before the courts,” said Peter Rosenblum, a professor in human rights law at Columbia University in New York. . . . Rosenblum said legal fees and public relations costs for the 13-year case probably far exceeded the settlement sum and Shell likely wanted to end the “beating” its reputation took in connection with the accusations.
http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-Oil/idUSTRE55H6A620090618
 
WASHINGTON POST: With BlackRock's Reach Set to Expand, CEO Defends Money Manager's Stability
June 17, 2009
BYLINE: Tomoeh Murakami Tse
The acquisition of Barclays Global Investors by BlackRock, which has emerged from the financial crisis as a powerhouse and adviser to the U.S. government, creates a giant overseeing $2.7 trillion in assets, making it by far the largest money manager in the world. . . . Indeed, BlackRock and other asset managers are “not as risky” as a dealer who writes billions of dollars worth of credit-default swaps and whose collapse could spark a chain reaction of failures, said John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University. But, he added, “If you were giving common advice to $3 trillion worth of funds, you are going to be having an impact that could increase systemic risk. There can be systemic risk if one person or entity is able to make a bet-the-farm-investment decision based on poor investment analysis for an extraordinary large amount of capital.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/16/AR2009061603343.html
 
FINANCIAL TIMES: SEC allows Madoff to settle civil charges
June 17, 2009
BYLINE: Greg Farrell
The US Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday agreed to allow Bernard Madoff to settle civil fraud charges without admitting to any wrong-doing. . . . “This shows a certain bureaucratic mindedness,” says John Coffee of Columbia University Law School. “I would think the SEC would be too embarrassed to claim any victory. This settlement seems to me to show the stubborn, phlegmatic persistence of a bureaucrat.”
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/930b13ae-5ac9-11de-8c14-00144feabdc0.html
 
REUTERS: Madoff barred from acting as investment adviser
June 16, 2009
BYLINE: Rachelle Younglai
Bernard Madoff, who ran the biggest investment fraud in history, has partially settled a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil complaint against him without having to admit any wrongdoing. . . . “You can only mock this,” said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School. “I don't think the SEC will be able to declare a victory in this case.”
http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE55F77420090617


 

 

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June 14 - 20, 2009


TRIBUNE MEDIA: Supreme Court 'collegial,' justice says

June 20, 2009
BYLINE: Mark Silva
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who might rather have been an opera diva if she didn't posess [sic] a “sparrow” voice, says the Supreme Court is the “most collegial” place where she ever has worked. . . . Ginsburg, Columbia Law School Class of 1959, spoke at the Law School's Reunion 2009, where her class is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
 
REUTERS: Shell Nigeria case may temper Big Oil policies
June 18, 2009
BYLINE: Rebekah Kebede
Royal Dutch Shell's (RDSa.L) cash payment of $15.5 million -- roughly four hours of its 2008 profits -- to settle a human rights case in Nigeria may not be enough to change Big Oil's policies in the developing world. . . . “Many times the most important things about (these claims) is to keep alive the case and keep it focused before the public and before the courts,” said Peter Rosenblum, a professor in human rights law at Columbia University in New York. . . . Rosenblum said legal fees and public relations costs for the 13-year case probably far exceeded the settlement sum and Shell likely wanted to end the “beating” its reputation took in connection with the accusations.
WASHINGTON POST: With BlackRock's Reach Set to Expand, CEO Defends Money Manager's Stability
June 17, 2009
BYLINE: Tomoeh Murakami Tse
The acquisition of Barclays Global Investors by BlackRock, which has emerged from the financial crisis as a powerhouse and adviser to the U.S. government, creates a giant overseeing $2.7 trillion in assets, making it by far the largest money manager in the world. . . . Indeed, BlackRock and other asset managers are “not as risky” as a dealer who writes billions of dollars worth of credit-default swaps and whose collapse could spark a chain reaction of failures, said John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University. But, he added, “If you were giving common advice to $3 trillion worth of funds, you are going to be having an impact that could increase systemic risk. There can be systemic risk if one person or entity is able to make a bet-the-farm-investment decision based on poor investment analysis for an extraordinary large amount of capital.”
FINANCIAL TIMES: SEC allows Madoff to settle civil charges
June 17, 2009
BYLINE: Greg Farrell
The US Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday agreed to allow Bernard Madoff to settle civil fraud charges without admitting to any wrong-doing. . . . “This shows a certain bureaucratic mindedness,” says John Coffee of Columbia University Law School. “I would think the SEC would be too embarrassed to claim any victory. This settlement seems to me to show the stubborn, phlegmatic persistence of a bureaucrat.”
REUTERS: Madoff barred from acting as investment adviser
June 16, 2009
BYLINE: Rachelle Younglai
Bernard Madoff, who ran the biggest investment fraud in history, has partially settled a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil complaint against him without having to admit any wrongdoing. . . . “You can only mock this,” said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School. “I don't think the SEC will be able to declare a victory in this case.”

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June 7 - 13, 2009

 

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Ask AP: Following Sotomayor, movie closed captions
June 12, 2009
BYLINE: Carly Petesch
This sort of thing isn't unique to the U.S. — it's just a more extreme version of what goes on in many other countries. . . . “Courts matter politically, or are understood to matter politically, and therefore they are of public interest,” George Bermann, director of Columbia Law School’s European Legal Studies Center, said of common-law countries in general and the U.S. in particular.
 
FINANCIAL TIMES: Legal trade barriers must be kept in check
June 11, 2009
BYLINE: Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya
It is a common complaint that, despite the repeated calls by heads of the Group of 20 leading nations to prevent an outbreak of protectionism in the wake of the current crisis, many member countries have charged ahead with protectionist measures anyway. But it is wrong to conclude that the G20 is crying in the wilderness, or that it is hypocritical.
. . . The authors are professors at Columbia University and Jagdish Bhagwati is also senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

DOW JONES: World Federation Of Exchanges Warns Against Short-Selling Ban
June 11, 2009
BYLINE: Sara Toth
Financial regulators shouldn't ban short-selling, or other investment tools, but rather should simply regulate their use, the World Federation of Exchanges said Thursday. . . . John Coffee, professor of law at Columbia University, also speaking at the IOSCO conference, said the financial crisis provides great momentum for implementing regulatory reforms, but that the momentum may dry up with improvement of the economy. “So the next six months are critical to implementing any reforms,” Coffee said.

USA TODAY: New executive compensation chief has fortitude for job
June 10, 2009
BYLINE: Del Jones
Kenneth Feinberg has shouldered so many wrenching duties that monitoring the paychecks of the top executives at General Motors, Citigroup and others can seem trivial by comparison. . . . “This will not be small potatoes, even in relation to his 9/11 job,” says John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University. “Hell hath no fury like a banker who has lost his bonus.”

MINNESOTA INDEPENDENT: Can Pawlenty use his political war chest to run for president?
June 10, 2009
BYLINE: Paul Demko
Gov. Tim Pawlenty finished 2008 with nearly $600,000 in the bank — a conspicuously large war chest considering he’s not running for re-election. . . . Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia University Law School, said Pawlenty could use the money for a presidential bid. “There would be no general problem with shifting money from one campaign to the other if the money satisfies the legal requirements of the second campaign,” Briffault said.

NEW YORK TIMES: A Supreme Court Nomination Stirs Up Bad Memories
June 10, 2009
BYLINE: Fernanda Santos
Jeffrey Deskovic heard a TV talk show host announce President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court last month, and his mind raced. . . . Also, it is rare for appellate judges to reverse a lower court’s decision that is based on precedent and stands on solid procedural grounds, explained Jamal Greene, a professor at Columbia Law School. “She’s a very careful judge and as far as I can tell, very much believes in the rule of law,” Mr. Greene said of Ms. Sotomayor.

AMLAW DAILY: Visiting Chinese Judges Meet with Justice Ginsburg, Federal District Courts, to Learn about U.S. Legal System
June 10, 2009
BYLINE: David Bario
On Monday, Manhattan federal district court judge Denise Cote took a break from her docket to meet some unlikely visitors. For the next three weeks, 30 judges from China are absorbing as much as they can about the workings of the U.S. judicial system, taking classes at Columbia University Law School and meeting with judges and lawyers in New York and Washington, D.C.

VARIETY: Online, who owns what?
June 9, 2009
BYLINE: William Triplett
The World Copyright Summit on Tuesday was a unifying effort as the entertainment industry grapples with an uncertain future, but it also highlighted just how polarizing the whole notion of copyright has become in the digital age. . . . Author and Columbia Law School professor Michael Heller gave a speech ominously noting that “when too many people own pieces of one thing, no one can use it. Too much ownership causes gridlock.” . . . The creative industry should be concerned about this problem because, as he said, “Increasingly, the cutting edge of creativity today is the mash-up, the assembling of multiple parcels.”

WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT: Obama’s Detention Dilemma
June 9, 2009
BYLINE: Daphne Eviatar
The transfer of former “high-level” Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Ghailani to a federal prison in New York on Tuesday highlights the dilemma President Obama faces over what to do with the 240 detainees remaining at the Guantanamo Bay prison, as well as any others he claims will need to be detained indefinitely without trial in the future. . . . Sarah Cleveland, professor of human and constitutional rights law at Columbia Law School, testified that Hamdi v. Rumsfeld only allowed “states to apprehend enemy troops in a traditional conflict and to hold them until the end of that conflict.” The only issue in that case, she said, was the detention of an armed combatant in the U.S. war with the Taliban-led Afghan government, which was a traditional international conflict.
But the U.S. government has also claimed “a roving power to detain persons seized outside a traditional theater of combat,” and that claim “has brought the United States widespread international condemnation, eroded our moral authority, and inspired new converts to terrorism,” testified Cleveland.

FORTUNE: Chrysler sale raises tough legal questions
June 9, 2009
BYLINE: Roger Parloff
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg unexpectedly stayed the sale of Chrysler to Fiat yesterday -- only minutes before a lower court stay would have expired, allowing the deal to close -- a world of stakeholders gasped. . . . Nevertheless, Edward Morrison, a bankruptcy law professor at Columbia Law School, says in an email that that the formalistic analysis will probably pass muster in this case. “Once New Chrysler buys Old Chrysler's assets,” Morrison writes, “New Chrysler can do whatever it wants with its money. . . . If it wants to share the wealth with workers, it can do that.”
Morrison explains that “form matters a lot here” because the New Chrysler appears to be paying a reasonable price for the Old Chrysler's assets. “This would have been a very different case if there were proof that the sale price is artificially low [and, therefore] . . . that the government is diverting wealth from the senior bondholders to the workers. But there's not enough proof here. No other bidders showed up at the auction.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS: US women's families ask NKorea to show compassion
June 9, 2009
BYLINE: Vijay Joshi
The families of two American journalists sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean labor prison urged its hard-line government to grant them clemency, amid hopes the U.S. government would send an envoy to negotiate their release. . . . Rather, the sentence is a way for Pyongyang to maximize its leverage with Washington, said Roh Jeong-ho, the director of the Center for Korean Legal Studies at Columbia Law School.
“I don't think the reporters will do hard labor. It's simply not in the North Koreans’ interests to make them go through that,” he said in comments e-mailed to The Associated Press. “Essentially, it's a whole package of brinksmanship,” he said. "They want to say to the Obama administration ‘take us seriously and, in turn, we'll resolve this issue for you.’ ”

CAPITAL EYE BLOG: Donors Weigh in on Close Ties Between Moran Brothers
June 9, 2009
BYLINE: Aaron Kiersh
Brian Moran enters today's Virginia gubernatorial primary loaded with contributions from the campaign fund of his older brother, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and their mutual allies in the Northern Virginia defense industry. . . . Richard Briffault, a Columbia University Law School professor, told Capital Eye that Rep. Moran's earmarks are “likely to create a spirit of gratitude,” but that the exchanges don't necessarily suggest that PMA employees were seeking a benefit. “This is the kind of thing where a quid-pro-quo would be illegal. We can expect that people are grateful, and may decide to reward a family member,” Briffault said. “But the companies are employers in the same district. Just traditional pork-barrel. It's a huge gray area.”

TIME: Kenneth Feinberg, Compensation Czar
June 9, 2009
BYLINE: Frances Romero
Some of the biggest jobs that Kenneth R. Feinberg has handled are best described as grim. . . . “His natural talent is cutting a deal that everybody can live with.” — John C. Coffee Jr., a law professor at Columbia University where Feinberg once taught (New York Times, December 11, 2001)

BYLINE: Michael Corkery
A quick scan of the 169-page legislation detailing the purpose of the Troubled Asset Relief Fund doesn’t say anything about automobile companies. . . . It is likely going to prove a long shot for the pension funds to persuade the high court that the funds were harmed by TARP funds going to Chrysler, says Columbia Law School Professor Edward Morrison. “You can’t sue unless you have suffered harm,” says Morrison, who attended the hearing in the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday at which the judge approved the Fiat deal. Is there any group that would have standing to legally challenge the government for doling out TARP money to the car companies? “To have standing in a case you have show that the injury is concrete and particular,” Morrison says. “An injury that is felt by all taxpayers is not sufficient.”
Edward Morrison is also quoted in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/06/08/will-the-supreme-court-stay-the-chryslerfiat-deal/.
 

NEW YORK TIMES: The Directors Guild
June 8, 2009
BYLINE: Ronald J. Gilson and Reinier Kraakman
"OUR government has invested more than $50 billion in General Motors and is now the majority stakeholder in the company. This is one of the largest investments that the Treasury has recently made in private industry, but hardly the only one. The Troubled Asset Relief Program has infused hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation’s biggest banks. And taxpayers have given $83 billion to American International Group, the world’s largest insurer. Like it or not, the government is now the controlling investor in some of America’s largest companies. . . . Ronald J. Gilson is a professor of law and business at Stanford and Columbia."

SHANGHAI DAILY: Outward investment rises as countries eye many benefits
June 8, 2009
BYLINE: Ken Davies
“IN 2008 global FDI fell by around 20 percent, while outward FDI from China nearly doubled. . . . The article is adapted with permission from the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment - www.vcc.columbia.edu.”

TELEGRAPH: Expanding voter participation: The roadmap to erase voter apathy is clear

June 7, 2009
BYLINE: Page Gardner
“Almost half a year has passed, but the 2008 election still looms as an epochal event. . . . Why did 79 million Americans — more than the total population of Great Britain or France — not vote in an historic election after an exciting campaign? As Professor Nathaniel Persily of Columbia Law School testified before the Senate Rules Committee, ‘The United States continues to make voting more burdensome than any other industrialized democracy.’ ”

 

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June 1 - 6, 2009

ABA JOURNAL: The Future in Black and White
June 2009 Issue
BYLINE: David G. Savage
"For much of this term, the U.S. Supreme Court spent its time tweaking the law in relatively narrow cases. But in late April, the justices took up several disputes with broader stakes. . . . Perhaps the most eye-opening amicus in defense of the law came from Columbia Law School professor Nathaniel Persily. He directly challenged the notion that Obama’s election signaled a sea change in racial attitudes, at least in the South. Persily noted that Obama won only 26 percent of the white vote in the Southern states covered by section 5, compared with 48 percent elsewhere. And in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, his share of the white vote fell far below that for Sen. John Kerry in 2004. Despite a Democratic trend that swept him into office, Obama won just 10 percent of the white vote in Alabama, 11 per­cent in Mississippi and 14 percent in Louisiana, according to exit polls cited by Persily."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Wikipedia blocks access from Church of Scientology in L.A.

June 5, 2009
BYLINE: Kate Linthicum
“The Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia has blocked all contributions from computers at the Church of Scientology's Los Angeles headquarters to stop users there from revising articles to reflect a pro-Scientology viewpoint. . . . Tim Wu, a professor of Internet law at Columbia Law School and the chairman of Free Press, a media reform group, said that more and more, decisions about free speech were being made online. Websites such as Google, Facebook and Wikipedia now act as gatekeepers of information. ‘Wikipedia has more power over speech than many governments,’ he said. ‘We have to make sure that they're being reasonable.’ ”

REUTERS: Control issues muddy biotech merger waters
June 3, 2009
BYLINE: Jessica Hall
“The issue of ‘control’ has become a controversial topic in the biotechnology industry as a web of partnerships and joint ventures has complicated several merger negotiations. . . . ‘Arbitrators have a bit more leeway than a judge. They can look at what the parties' intention was at the time, they can look at what various drafts of the contract said, and delve into what the language intended or meant,’ Columbia University Law School Professor John Coffee said.”

BLOOMBERG: Pepsi Bottling CEO Would Get $16.5 Million in PepsiCo Takeover
June 2, 2009
BYLINE: Duane D. Stanford
“Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Eric Foss will get at least $16.5 million if PepsiCo Inc.’s takeover attempt succeeds. . . . The so-called golden parachute, first approved by independent directors on May 3, is ‘common to ubiquitous in these transactions,’ according to John Coffee, a corporate and securities law professor at Columbia University Law School in New York. ‘The usual justification is that it does permit management to appraise the fairness of the offered price with greater objectivity,’ Coffee said May 29 in an e-mail. ‘The real issue remains, is the price fair?’ ”

NEW YORK TIMES: Judge in Case Is Known for His Brisk Approach
June 2, 2009
BYLINE: Jonathan D. Glater
“Bankruptcy lawyers involved in the filing of General Motors may want to catch up on sleep now, because the presiding judge is known for midnight hearings. . . . In that case, the judge produced dozens of opinions, some of them lengthy and at least one scathing, said Edward R. Morrison, a law professor at Columbia. Judge Gerber slammed a group of creditors, accusing them of pursuing ‘scorched-earth litigation strategy,’ after they raised objections that could have hindered the sale to Time Warner and Comcast. That kind of blunt language is not common in judicial opinions, Professor Morrison said, and it may be a sign of some sympathy toward those trying to get a case concluded more quickly. ‘But perhaps this was an unusual case in which the hedge funds were more aggressive,’ Professor Morrison added. ‘It’s hard to know.’ ”

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Big case nothing new for bankruptcy judge
June 2, 2009
BYLINE: David Ashenfelter
“The federal judge presiding over General Motors Corp.'s historic bankruptcy is no stranger to big cases. . . . ‘He has an excellent reputation and is incredibly hard-working,’ said Columbia Law School bankruptcy professor Edward Morrison. ‘He's a no-nonsense, highly professional judge who reads things very closely and has experience with some really big cases.’ Morrison wouldn't predict whether Gerber would go along with GM's fast-track bankruptcy, which is designed to prevent further erosion of its customer base.”

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