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March

March 22 - 31, 2009

NEW YORK TIMES: The Price Is Not Right
March 31, 2009
BYLINE: Thomas L. Friedman
"I don’t expect much from the G-20 meeting this week, but if I had my wish, the leaders of the world’s 20 top economies would commit themselves to a new standard of accounting — call it 'Market to Mother Nature' accounting. ... Some of our biggest financial firms got away from their original purpose — to fund innovation and to finance the process of 'creative destruction,' whereby new technologies that improve people’s lives replace old ones, said the Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati, in an interview in The American Interest. Instead, he added, too many banks got involved in exotic and incomprehensible financial innovations — to simply make money out of money — which ended up as 'destructive creation.' "

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Democrats Target Deals to Delay Generics
March 31, 2009
BYLINE: Jonathan D. Rockoff
"As part of its drive to cut health-care costs, the Obama administration wants to stop the payments pharmaceutical companies make to generic-drug makers to delay the launch of cheap copies. ... Ten brand-name drugs with about $17 billion in annual U.S. sales are now protected by the agreements, said Scott Hemphill, an associate professor at Columbia Law School, a critic of the deals. The drugs include such blockbusters as Pfizer Inc.'s cholesterol drug Lipitor, he said."

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: Greenhouse Gases: Emerging Standards for Impact Review
March 27, 2009
BYLINE: Michael B. Gerrard
“Numerous federal and state judicial decisions have established that environmental impact statements (EISs) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its state equivalents should examine the impact of proposed projects on emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), the principal anthropogenic cause of climate change. Administrative agencies and court settlements are now establishing the guidelines for the conduct of these examinations.
This column surveys the emergence of these new guidelines, which is occurring against a backdrop of accelerated activity in both Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the vigorous support of President Barack Obama, leading toward federal regulation of GHGs. The world community is also preparing for the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in November-December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, to devise a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Michael B. Gerrard is professor of Professional Practice and Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, and senior counsel to Arnold & Porter.”

CLIMATE WIRE: Can NEPA pass tests posed by climate-related projects?

March 26, 2009
BYLINE: Jessica Leber
“The ‘magna carta’ of U.S. environmental law is having growing pains as federal agencies grapple with how it will incorporate climate change and whether it will invite lawsuits that could send streams of climate-related issues into the courts. … Agencies' approach to considering climate change in their reviews has been patchy and piecemeal so far, said Michael Gerrard at Columbia University's School of Law, who is NRDC's counsel for the CEQ petition. … For that reason, some believe NEPA is ill-suited to dealing with global climate issues. … One way out of that box, suggested Gerrard, would be to give applicants an incentive to minimize their greenhouse gas footprint by having a minimum threshold under which their emissions wouldn't trigger a full NEPA review. That, combined with a set of best practices to mitigate emissions, could be a good regulatory tool for sectors not covered by climate legislation or regulations, he said.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Meltdown 101: The new financial rules and you
March 26, 2009
BYLINE: David Pitt
“Proposed new regulations outlined Thursday by the Obama administration would rein in financial services companies like never before. … ‘Retail investors should find it reassuring that financial institutions will probably be subject to what I will call financial adult supervision,’ said John Coffee, a securities professor at Columbia Law School. ‘It will keep them from betting the ranch on one investment strategy or leveraging up to the eyeballs.’ ”

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Rahm Emanuel's profitable stint at mortgage giant
March 26, 2009
BYLINE: Bob Secter and Andrew Zajac
“Before its portfolio of bad loans helped trigger the current housing crisis, mortgage giant Freddie Mac was the focus of a major accounting scandal that led to a management shake-up, huge fines and scalding condemnation of passive directors by a top federal regulator. … John Coffee, a law professor and expert on corporate governance at Columbia University, said the financial crisis at Freddie Mac was years in the making and fueled by chronically weak oversight by the firm's directors. The presence of presidential appointees on the board didn't help, he added. ‘You know there was a patronage system and these people were only going to serve a short time,’ Coffee said. ‘That's why [they] get the stock upfront.’ ”

BUSINESSWEEK: Will Populist Rage Hurt Corporate America?
March 25, 2009
BYLINE: Michael Orey and Keith Epstein
“Populist rage is sweeping the nation. How will it affect corporate interests in Washington, in the courts, and at cash registers? So far, at least, the damage seems to be limited. … Robert E. Scott, a contracts expert at Columbia Law School, cautions that respecting contracts ‘is a very important principle, and one that shouldn't be [treated lightly] by a government.’ The President seems to agree. On Mar. 22, Obama, who had fulminated publicly about the AIG bonuses days earlier, suggested the House measure may not be appropriate and signaled his wish that the Senate not move the bill forward.”

MAINE PUBLIC BROADCASTING NETWORK: Former Maine Attorney General Blasts FTC
March 25, 2009
“Former Maine Attorney General James Tierney told a congressional committee that the Federal Trade Commission has failed to do what's needed to protect consumers in recent years. … Tierney, who now directs the state attorneys general program at Columbia Law School, says the FTC has not cooperated with state attorneys general, who he says have had to take the lead in protecting consumers during the current financial crisis.”

DOW JONES: Treasury Seizure Authority Request Will Cover Hedge Funds
March 25, 2009
BYLINE: Sarah N. Lynch and Gregory Meyer
“A Treasury official confirmed Wednesday that the department's proposal to allow the government to seize troubled nonbanking firms would include hedge funds if they pose a significant risk to the marketplace. … ‘Because hedge funds are major players in the credit default swaps market, they do become “too entangled to fail” in the same way that AIG did,’ said John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia Law School. ‘Thus, from a systemic risk perspective, hedge funds - or at least the largest ones - do merit inclusion in the Treasury proposal.’ ”
BYLINE: Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
“An email from the head of a controversial unit at AIG suggests employees who gave up their bonuses did not do so voluntarily, but feared their names would be released if they did not. … However, Professor John Coffee, of Columbia University believes the attorney general is well within his rights because a court has already ruled that the employees of Bank of America and Merrill did not have a right to confidentiality. As for physical threats he called ‘speculative,’ and added ‘We haven't seen any credible threats that have required police protection. I'll admit, its a high price to pay for privacy.’ ”
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March 15 - 21, 2009

NEW YORK TIMES: Tips for the Sophisticated Fugitive
March 21, 2009
BYLINE: Michael Powell
"The Bernie Madoffs of the world — not just the Ponzi schemer himself but the rogue accountants, lawyers and hedge funders — walk meekly into federal courts with their rictus faces and ashen complexions and the expectation of long prison sentences, and a bystander can’t help but wonder:
Why not take the ill-gotten money and run? ...
'It’s funny how many don’t understand their problem,' says Daniel C. Richman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a law professor at Columbia University. 'I could never figure out why suspects stuck around.' ”

NEW YORK TIMES: For Cuomo, Financial Crisis Is His Political Moment
March 21, 2009
BYLINE: Michael Powell, Danny Hakim and Louise Story
"Andrew M. Cuomo, whose love of analogies is great, often likens his investigations to a fine opera. ... Evincing outrage is not a legal strategy, so it remains to be seen what he’s going to do with his information,” said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia law professor and former prosecutor."

ASSOCIATED PRESS: E-diplomacy? Hillary Clinton embraces new media
March 21, 2009
BYLINE: Matthew Lee
"Her videos aren't quite viral yet and she's not tweeting, but Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is embracing new media, using the Web to promote the agency and her role as the nation's top envoy. ... The department hopes to follow through on a Bush administration organized project that brought together Facebook, Google, Howcast, YouTube, AT&T, MTV, Columbia Law School, Access360Media and Gen-Next for an Alliance of Youth Movements summit."

BNA'S PATENT, TRADEMARK & COPYRIGHT LAW JOURNAL: Google Books Settlement Prompts Questions About Effect on Readers, Libraries, Others
March 20, 2009
BYLINE: Anandashankar Mazumdar
"Google Inc. has come to an agreement with American publishers and authors in a dispute involving Google's scanning of entire libraries of books for full-text searches on the Internet. ... Many of these questions were raised at a March 13 seminar hosted by Columbia University's law school, New York, where representatives of the settling parties, non-party publishers and authors, attorneys, and scholars offered their first-take analysis of the massive settlement deal."

ASSOCIATED PRESS: With AIG, Spitzer is Sheriff of Wall Street redux
March 19, 2009
BYLINE: Michael Hill
"Eliot Spitzer has a few words to say about the AIG bonus brouhaha: I told you so. ... 'He obviously believes history has vindicated him,' said John Coffee, a professor of securities law at Columbia University, 'and wants to remind America that he was there first.' "

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: A Systemic Risk Regulator? Who, What and Why?
March 19, 2009
BYLINE: John C. Coffee Jr.
"One cycle is invariable in securities regulation from the time of the South Seas Bubble, circa 1715-1720 (when this author was only an assistant professor) to today: market crashes produce securities legislation. Last week, the Senate Banking committee heard testimony from eight witnesses on what policy changes were required to address the current financial crisis. ... John C. Coffee Jr. is the Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law at Columbia University Law School and director of its Center on Corporate Governance."

DAILY BEAST: The Teen Rape Double Standard
March 19, 2009
BYLINE: Constantino Diaz-Duran
"Alan Jepsen was playing videogames at his home in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, when the cops came knocking on his door. He was handcuffed in front of his sister and thrown in jail. ... While Suzanne Goldberg, who teaches sexuality and gender law at Columbia Law School, acknowledged that 'every case has to be dealt with individually,' she said she believes 'a state would be inclined to punish young men more harshly than young women because young men are often seen as aggressors in adolescent sexual contact.' "

EVERYBODY'S LIBRARIES: The Google Books settlement: A symposium, and a call for library action
March 18, 2009
BYLINE: John Mark Ockerbloom
"Last Friday I went to a fascinating symposium at the Columbia Law School: 'The Google Books Settlement: What Will it Mean for the Long Term?' "

LIBRARY JOURNAL: At Columbia Conference, Harvard’s Darnton Asks: Is Google the Elsevier of the Future?
March 18, 2009
BYLINE: Norman Oder
"Is the public’s interest in books at risk with the pending Google Book Search Settlement? That was one of many issues addressed at an all-day conference on the settlement, held on March 13 at Columbia University."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Conservatives invoke Obama in Voting Rights Act challenge
March 18, 2009
BYLINE: Peter Wallsten and David G. Savage
"Reporting from Washington -- The election of Barack Obama as president has been hailed as a crowning achievement of America's civil rights movement, the triumph of a black candidate in a nation with a history of slavery and segregation. ... Asked what would happen if the provision was rolled back, Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia University law professor who compiled voter data in a court brief, said: 'It's like removing the police presence from what had been a high-crime area. You don't know what would happen.' "

MARKETWATCH: Hedge funds may be getting a bailout via AIG's payments
March 18, 2009
BYLINE: Dan Molinski
"The fact that some payments made by American International Group Inc. to hedge funds are coming from government bailout money raises a question: Are hedge funds receiving a de facto bailout? ... 'Taxpayer money is being paid to hedge funds by a Treasury that could have limited the payments to domestic banks but decided not to risk letting anyone big fail,' said John Coffee, a professor of securities law at Columbia University. 'In short, everyone of importance is being protected.' "

ABC NEWS: Cases Challenged Over 'Tweeting' Jurors

March 17, 2009
BYLINE: Scott Michels
"Jurors aren't supposed to discuss the cases they hear outside the jury deliberation room. But what happens when they post comments on social networking sites? ...'Our [legal] doctrine is not made for a wired universe,' said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Columbia Law School. 'The jury system is based on this anachronistic notion that members of the community will come in to court, render their decision and then leave and become ordinary members of the community again,' he said. 'We're coming into a world where the stability of that model is in question.' "

STAR TRIBUNE: Regulatory slack wed to greed put us in this mess
March 16, 2009
BYLINE: Neal St. Anthony
"AIG, once the world's most powerful commercial insurance company, has proposed paying $165 million in bonuses to retain key people after the U.S. government invested $180 billion to keep the crippled insurer afloat. ... John Coffee, a onetime Wall Street lawyer who has studied securities laws and the markets for 30 years at Columbia University, notes that the mortgage and technology-stock bubbles of the last decade were driven by 'competition among the major investment banks' and their professional accomplices that 'led to a lemmings-like race over the cliff' thanks to short-term greed and ineffective regulation.
It was all grounded in rationalizations such as 'real estate prices never fall' and 'the credit-rating agencies gave this deal a Triple A rating,' Coffee told Congress last week. 'Explosive growth and a decline in professional standards often go hand in hand.' ... But to prevent a rerun of this debacle, I suggest everyone spend some time with Coffee's analysis and recommendations."

WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT: In Torture Cases, Obama Toes Bush Line
March 16, 2009
BYLINE: Daphne Eviatar
"While Congress debates whether senior Bush administration officials should be called to account for the torture, humiliation and indefinite detention of prisoners taken during the 'war on terror,' some of those prisoners aren’t waiting around for lawmakers to make up their minds. ... 'If we’re talking about holding a particular individual liable, we’re talking about drawing a straight line between opinions given and acts done,' said Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia University law school. 'At the end of the day people who really were hurt by the government in ways that are legally offensive ought to have some sort of forum to get compensation or vindication. But to go from there to say that part of that process should involve singling out one or two subpresidential actors in an area where the president really does dominate policymaking is a stretch for me.' "

FINANCIAL TIMES: Watch out for the rise of protectionism in FDI
March 16, 2009
BYLINE: Karl P. Sauvant
"Sir, Christopher Caldwell is right (“Protection by another name”, March 7) to draw attention to the rise of protectionism under whatever name – and there is plenty of it. But he, like many others, focuses only on the rise of protectionism in the trade area. ... Karl P. Sauvant, Executive Director, Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment, Columbia University."

NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL: The Lessons of Madoff
March 16, 2009
BYLINE: John C. Coffee Jr.
"The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probably missed Bernard Madoff for 25 years or more, likely missed Allen Stanford for at least 20 years, overlooked other recent Ponzi schemes for many years and also was slow to act in the case of several other recent widespread frauds, such as the "market timing" scandals in mutual funds, stock-options backdating and the auction-rate securities meltdown. Again and again, it has been last to the scene of the crime, waiting until state regulators took the first step and forced it into action. Even if Ponzi schemes and similar frauds are hard to detect, the SEC had credible evidence from whistleblowers in the Madoff, Stanford and other recent cases. And yet it slept. What is going on here? ... John C. Coffee Jr. is the Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and director of its Center on Corporate Governance."

LIBRARYLAW BLOG: Google Books Settlement at Columbia: Part 1
March 15, 2009
"On Friday, 13 March, I had the privilege of being able to attend a Conference at Columbia Law School on 'The Google Books Settlement: What will it mean for the long-term?' ... After an introduction from June Besek of Columbia that briefly summarized the settlement, the meeting kicked off with what was for me the highlight of the day: Mary Beth Peters, the Register of Copyrights, providing her view of the settlement."
Part 2 is available here.

 

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March 8 - 14, 2009

BLOOMBERG: Wal-Mart Can Do Us Good Taking on Bank of America
March 13, 2009
BYLINE: David Reilly
"The economy is in an awful jam. Consumers and businesses need access to credit. ... This apprehension may really be rooted in a desire to insulate banks “from competition by potentially more nimble” rivals, Columbia Law School Professor Ronald Mann wrote in a 2008 paper."

REUTERS: Madoff in jail
March 13, 2009
REPORTER: Fred Katayama
"Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff is in jail after pleading guilty to the biggest fraud in Wall Street history. ... JACK COFFEE: If Judge Chin sentences Mr. Madoff to more than 25 years, which he has ample discretion to do, then Mr. Madoff under federal law has to be sentenced to a maximum security prison. I think many of the injured victims have a preference here as to where Mr. Madoff goes, and it will depend upon the length of the sentence."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: 'Enemy Combatant' Label Is Dropped for Detainees
March 13, 2009
BYLINE: Evan Perez and Jess Bravin
"The Obama administration said it is dropping use of the term 'enemy combatant' for suspected terrorist detainees held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while slightly modifying the legal standard used to justify their continued imprisonment. ... 'The Obama administration is trying simultaneously to distance itself from the Bush administration's legal positions while preserving flexibility,' said Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University law professor and former detainee-affairs official in the Bush administration."

REUTERS: Madoff goes from penthouse to penitentiary
March 12, 2009
BYLINE: Edith Honan and Grant McCool
"Multimillionaire swindler Bernard Madoff is leaving the luxury of his Manhattan penthouse to become just another inmate in a crowded jail. ... 'MCC is incredibly secure, tightly maintained and a tough place to be,' said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and now a Columbia University law professor."

REUTERS: Stage set for Madoff plea in New York court drama
March 12, 2009
BYLINE: Grant McCool and Edith Honan
"Bernard Madoff, accused of running the biggest fraud in Wall Street history, is expected to plead guilty on Thursday in what is shaping up to be a courtroom drama featuring denunciations by investors and a renewed push by prosecutors to jail him immediately. ... 'This is not going to be a quiet, sober, dignified group,' said John Coffee, professor at Columbia Law School in New York. 'I think this is going to be a bloodthirsty mob.' "

FORTUNE: Bank of New York in settlement talks with Russia
March 12, 2009
BYLINE: Roger Parloff
"The good news is that a Moscow judge adjourned Tuesday's scheduled pretrial hearing in Russia's dubious $22.5 billion suit against the Bank of New York Mellon to allow the parties to pursue settlement talks. ... According to Columbia Law School professor Katherina Pistor, a 2007 ruling of Russia's highest constitutional court holds that contingent fees in judicial cases are contrary to Russian public policy and, therefore, unenforceable. If Marks' case is about vindicating Russia's laws, he should get zero."

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Talk of uptick rule's return - and alternatives
March 12, 2009
BYLINE: Kathleen Pender
"Investors seem to be hoping that the possible reinstatement of a rule designed to rein in short sellers - those bad news bears who bet against stocks - would put an end to market misery. ... At that time, 'The SEC felt that an unimpeded, efficient market required that both optimists and pessimists be able to buy or sell shares immediately regardless of the impact,' says John Coffee, a Columbia University law professor."

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: Yeshiva Teacher Appearing Pro Se in Sex Abuse Case Found Guilty on All Counts
March 12, 2009
BYLINE: Mark Fass
"Israel Weingarten, the yeshiva teacher charged in Brooklyn, N.Y., federal court with sexually abusing his daughter for seven years, since she was 9years old, was found guilty Wednesday on all five counts. ... With a pro se defendant, 'Your choice is either to enforce [the rules], and make it really hard for this person to function without objection, or not enforce them and give them a kind of benefit,' said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia Law School professor of criminal procedure.
That difficult balancing act has contributed to a 'prevailing theme in the Supreme Court in recent decades of, yes, there is this right, and yes, it will be protected, but we're not real happy with it,' Richman added. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, for example, that judges may impose counsel at trial or deny pro se representation on appeal."

TALKING POINTS MEMO: Senate Committee Hearing Examines Flaws in Voter Registration System
March 11, 2009
"Calling voter registration "the lifeblood of our republic," Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, opened the committee's hearing this morning on current problems in America's voter registration system. ... 'The United States continues to make voting more difficult than any other industrialized democracy,' agreed Dr. Nathaniel Persily of Columbia Law School, who identified two major factors in this problem. The first is that Americans have a high mobility rate; an estimated 90 million eligible voters move every five years, and therefore are required to re-register each time-a problem that disproportionately affects certain vulnerable populations including low-income Americans, minorities, young voters, and military voters. The second factor, according to Persily, is that the American government takes a very limited role in affirmatively registering voters."  

BLOOMBERG: Madoff’s Refusal to Admit Conspiracy Said to Have Scuttled Deal
March 11, 2009
BYLINE: David Voreacos, Robert Schmidt and David Glovin
"Bernard Madoff didn’t agree to a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors because of their demand that he admit to a conspiracy, a charge that would require him to say he worked with others in the largest Ponzi scheme in history, according to people familiar with the matter. ... By not charging Madoff with conspiracy, the government 'signaled it’s not going to stand in the way of him pleading guilty,' said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches law at Columbia University. Most judges would require him to identify his co-conspirators if he were to plead guilty on that charge, 'and that would prevent him from going forward.' "

BLOOMBERG: Reversal in Police Assault May Provide Basis for Madoff Appeal
March 11, 2009
BYLINE: U.S. District Judge Denny Chin’s decision to permit Bernard Madoff to set aside the potential conflict of interest faced by his lawyer was similar to a ruling that was overturned by a federal appeals court in one of New York City’s most notorious police-brutality cases. ... Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor, said Madoff, 70, may use the waiver issue as a basis for appeal.
Richman, who teaches at Columbia Law School, said he uses the Schwarz case as a lesson for his students 'for the reason that, after the Schwarz decision, every judge said you can’t be sure that, when you accept the waiver, it ends the matter.' "

BOND BUYER: An End to Muni Self-Regulation?
March 11, 2009
BYLINE: Andrew Ackerman
"The municipal market should no longer be overseen by a self-regulatory organization led by securities and bank dealers, Thomas Doe, chief executive officer of Municipal Market Advisors and a former MSRB board member, told a Senate panel yesterday. ... John Coffee, a professor at Columbia University Law School who testified before Dodd's panel, endorsed a 'twin peaks' model of financial regulation in which the Fed would serve as a systemic regulator and another regulator would serve as a separate investor protection agency.
But becuase bank regulators are focused on protecting bank solvency and have historically regarded added transparency as inimical to their interests, Congress should not allow the systemic regulator 'to override the disclosure regulators on questions of accounting or investor protection,' he said."

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Lawmakers debate Fed's role in financial overhaul
March 10, 2009
"Greater transparency from banks, corporations and other market players will be demanded under the overhaul of the nation's financial rules that Congress is embarking on, but the role of the Federal Reserve is an early sticking point in those plans. ... Columbia University law professor John Coffee, said the central bank was uniquely suited to it. All big financial institutions must be subjected to 'financial adult supervision' by a single regulator, and the Fed alone is capable of providing that oversight, he said."

NEW YORK TIMES: Justices, 5-4, Set Limit on Sweep of Voting Law
March 9, 2009
BYLINE: Adam Liptak
"Only election districts in which minorities make up at least half of the voting-age population are entitled to the protections of a part of the Voting Rights Act that seeks to ensure and preserve minority voting power, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday. ... Nonetheless, some legal experts said the impact of the decision might be relatively minor. 'How many districts will not be drawn as a result of this decision?' asked Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Columbia. 'The answer is very few.'

THE HILL: Supreme Court narrows minority district protections
March 9, 2009
BYLINE: Aaron Blake
"The Supreme Court ruled Monday that minority voters don’t qualify for a key protection of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) unless they constitute a majority of voters in a district. ... Columbia University law Professor Nathaniel Persily, though, said the reverse decision would likely have had a greater impact on the 2010 redistricting, because it would have resulted in a 'mushier standard.'
'Had it gone the other way, it would have been one more strategy that political parties would have used to upset redistricting plans,' said Persily, who filed a brief in the case that favored neither side."

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Court refuses to expand minority voting rights
March 9, 2009
"The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a part of the Voting Rights Act aimed at helping minorities elect their preferred candidates only applies in electoral districts where minorities make up more than half the population. ... The court's familiar ideological split in this case strongly suggests that Kennedy could hold the key to the outcome in the April case as well, said Nathaniel Persily, an election law expert at Columbia University."

NEW YORK TIMES: Terror-War Fallout Lingers Over Bush Lawyers

March 9, 2009
BYLINE: Charlie Savage and Scott Shane
"When John C. Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer, was selected by President George W. Bush in May 2004 to join a government board charged with releasing historical Nazi and Japanese war crimes records, trouble quickly followed. ... And while corporate lawyers may face malpractice lawsuits by clients for bad advice, in practice it has been 'incredibly rare' for lawyers to be punished, said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia University law professor. ...

But Mr. Richman, of Columbia, said any punishment against Bush lawyers is unlikely unless e-mail messages or early drafts turn up proving that they blatantly altered their legal conclusions to fit a policy agenda. Mr. Richman said that would be unlikely for Mr. Yoo, who had pushed an aggressive theory of presidential power long before the administration recruited him. 'The selection of Yoo was putting in place someone where you sort of had an idea what he would say,' Mr. Richman said. 'Most academics are in the center of most things, but there are some outliers. And he was an outlier.' "

GLOBE AND MAIL: Big pharma's big precedent
March 9, 2009
BYLINE: Alison Lawton and James Tansey
"Nobody would expect a multinational company to give away its assets in the midst of the worst recession in decades. Yet, recently GlaxoSmithKline announced it would dramatically reduce prices on its patented drugs in developing countries and would begin to share intellectual property, the most cherished asset of a pharmaceutical company. ... Author Michael Heller calls this the 'gridlock economy,' with too much focus on private property and too little on common or open-source data."

USA TODAY: Some victims may face Madoff in court as plea deal nears
March 8, 2009
BYLINE: Kevin McCoy
"Some victims of the alleged $50 billion scam run by Bernard Madoff might get a chance to vent their anger in federal court amid signs that the disgraced financier could plead guilty to criminal charges this week. ... 'It suggests the parties are getting close to a plea bargain deal,' Columbia University law professor John Coffee, a securities law expert, said Friday. 'But it's not yet clear what that deal will be.' "

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March 1 - 7, 2009

CNN: Madoff plea proceeding scheduled in New York
March 7, 2009
BYLINE: Allan Chernoff
"The stage is set for Bernard L. Madoff to plead guilty to defrauding thousands of investors out of billions of dollars in what is widely believed to be the biggest investment fraud in history. ... 'Typically a waiving of indictment is a strong signal that a plea bargain is in the works,' said Professor John Coffee of Columbia Law School."

AP TELEVISION: Lawyers: Madoff Plea Could Occur Next Week
March 7, 2009
REPORTER: Bonny Ghosh
"Self-proclaimed con man Bernard Madoff may be ready to plead guilty. ... JOHN COFFEE: Waiving an indictment usually implies that a plea bargain is imminent..."

WNYC: Madoff Plea Deal Expected
March 7, 2009
"A plea deal could be in the works for Bernard Madoff, accused of swindling investors out of $50 billion dollars in a Ponzi scheme. ... COFFEE: I don't think he has any realistic chance of acquittal. But it is time, money, expense, and a good deal of delay. The government would like to go ahead and get a guilty plea and start the longer process of returning restitution to the victims."

MARKETWATCH: Senators: Regulators didn't do their job at AIG
March 5, 2009
BYLINE: Ronald D. Orol
"Senators on Thursday lashed out at government bank and insurance regulators arguing that officials failed adequately to oversee American International Group Inc., which has received government bailouts totaling $173 billion in equity and loans. ...

Columbia University Law School professor John Coffee said the Federal Reserve doesn't want to disclose the names of the institutions that are AIG's trading partners is because many of them are foreign banks and off-shore hedge funds.
'Politically, when the U.S. bails out automakers, taxpayer money goes to the U.S., but to make sure AIG doesn't collapse, the U.S. government is also bailing out foreign entities such as international banks and offshore hedge funds and that doesn't look good.' Coffee said AIG sold these risky insurance contracts, called credit default swaps, through their London office.

FINANCIAL WEEK: UBS Chairman Kurer oversaw inadequate probe of IRS fraud
March 3, 2009
BYLINE: Neil Roland
"In the most direct evidence yet tying UBS Chairman Peter Kurer to oversight failures at the Swiss bank, the U.S. Justice Department last month criticized as inadequate an internal investigation that he supervised. ... Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor, said the documents 'bring home the essential role that Mr. Kurer played in the failures at UBS. Whether he acted negligently or worse in the government’s eyes is still something that has not yet been made clear.' "

NEW YORK OBSERVER: State to Developers: Mind Climate Change!
March 3, 2009
BYLINE: Eliot Brown
"As environmental advocates and climate change wonks are often quick to note, the vast majority of carbon dioxide emissions created in New York City do not come from cars, trucks or buses. ...

Still, backers of the DEC measure say the amount of extra work required to account for climate change would be marginal, and it would follow the lead of a few other states that have begun to install similar regulations.
'If you’re already doing an EIS, a greenhouse gas analysis should only be a small amount of additional work,' said Michael Gerrard, an environmental attorney and the new director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University." 

FOX BUSINESS: The Fix for Housing
March 2, 2009
HOSTS: Connell McShane and Jenna Lee
"McSHANE: We have Edward Morrison on with us from Columbia ... Professor, just give us a quick take on what Sandra's reporting on, that some of these smaller banks are now getting hit very, very hard by the mistakes that you could argue some of the bigger banks made, or is it the market working for banks that just took too much risk, what do you think?"

NEW YORKER: Voter, Beware
Issue of March 2, 2009
BYLINE: Jeffrey Toobin
“The Voting Rights Act, which passed in 1965, stands as one of the great monuments to civil rights in American history. … Barack Obama won the Presidency, but voting patterns in the Deep South suggest that race remains a major factor in American political life. As part of a brief in the Northwest Austin case, Professor Nathaniel Persily, of Columbia Law School, shows how poorly Obama did with white Democrats in those states. According to Persily’s analysis of the 2008 returns, Obama received forty-seven per cent of the white vote in states that are not covered under Section 5 but won only twenty-six per cent of the white vote in covered states. ‘Barack Obama actually did worse among whites than John Kerry in several of the covered jurisdictions, despite the nationwide Democratic swing,’ Persily writes.”

NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL: STRIP-SEARCHING KIDS: A bad prescription
Issue of March 2, 2009
BYLINE: Vivian Berger
“With ever younger children abusing an increasing smorgasbord of substances, schools have become the front line of defense against this troubling trend. On the one hand, educators cannot responsibly ignore tips that students may be ingesting or distributing dangerous drugs — information that may require verification by bodily searches. On the other hand, public employees are constrained by the Constitution: The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that students do not abandon their rights at the schoolhouse door and are entitled to obtain redress if these are infringed on. Yet school personnel are not law enforcement officers, trained in the subtleties of changing search-and-seizure doctrine. Thus, administrators confront the Hobson's choice of doing too much and doing too little, when either option threatens to invite community outrage and civil suits. But sympathy for these officials' plight should not eclipse concern for students who endure extreme intrusions — often because of dubious, if good-faith, judgment calls. …
Vivian Berger is professor emerita at Columbia Law School.”

 

 

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