July 30-Aug. 6

"The SEC accepted a modest penalty and a non-fraud resolution but they got a real individual identified who had authority," said John C. Coffee, professor of law at Columbia University. That may satisfy judges like Judge Rakoff, he said.
And unlike Goldman Sachs, which was originally accused of defrauding investors, but then negotiated that charge down to a lesser count of making inaccurate disclosures when it agreed to pay a record $550m fine, Citi’s charges only related to misleading statements the bank made. “There was no intent to deceive,” said Jack Coffee, a Columbia Law School professor.
Columbia Law Professor (and Free Press board chairman) Tim Wu has said that letting carriers choose favorites is "just too close to the Tony Soprano vision of networking: Use your position to make threats and extract payments. This is similar to the outlawed, but still common, 'payola' schemes in the radio world. "If allowing network discrimination means being stuck with AT&T's long-term vision of the Internet," Wu concludes, "it won't be worth it."
John Coffee, professor of law at Columbia University, says it is "easier to settle cases" under section 17(a) because it doesn't always require a showing of intent to defraud, and thus may give less ammunition to private investors seeking to recover losses. Still, Mr. Coffee said the statute has some "symbolic" value as a fraud charge. "If the SEC wants to call it that, they can."
James Liebman: [T]he reforms Mayor Bloomberg has put in place have boosted city students' scores on state and national tests, narrowed the achievement gap between city students and their peers elsewhere in the state and put more city kids on track to graduate college-ready. Critics say that city gains came about because state tests were too easy. That's like saying my daughter's improved track times occurred because the league made it too easy to qualify for the next round. Whether she qualified for anything or not, my daughter ran faster at the end of the year than she did at the beginning. New York's gains on state tests can be seen in the same terms.
Eight years ago the fire department was 92 percent white and only 2.8 percent black in a city that was 24 percent black, a disparity that remains largely unchanged, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod. A group of black firefighters sued. "We're in a tough situation because the fire department on one hand is tremendously heroic and the whole world knows about its heroism. And on the other hand we have this singular embarrassment," said Suzanne Goldberg from Columbia Law School.

Goldman, like many large companies, operates political action committees at the state and national levels that could raise money for the purpose of influencing political races. In addition, companies are free to spend money to advocate positions on specific issues, like health care, gun control or financial regulation. “This doesn’t mean they are disarmed,” said Richard Briffault, a law professor at Columbia University who specializes in campaign finance.
Personal bankruptcies haven't been distributed evenly. The suburbs of Atlanta had particularly high filing rates, according to an analysis by Ronald Mann, a professor at Columbia University's law school. Of the 10 U.S. counties with the highest filing rates, six were in Georgia.
Former shareholders of fallen mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp. are in line to recoup a fraction of their investments now that a Los Angeles judge has approved a settlement worth more than $600 million. The payoff doesn't come close to compensating for the money lost by investors. But it could prompt more lenders to settle legal disputes at the center of the housing bust. For Countrywide, "This is only a chapter and not the end of the book," said John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia University.

“It is a slam-dunk victory for same-sex couples and for the same-sex couples in this case,” says Suzanne Goldberg, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. “The decision recognizes that the legal battles against marriage rights for same-sex couples now no longer have a leg to stand on.”

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Aug. 6-13

SLATE—Aug. 6
Tim Wu: If Google hasn't switched sides, it has certainly softened, particularly in the wireless realm. If an Internet payola scheme does come to pass, it's most likely that this prioritization would happen on wireless devices, like your mobile phone, rather than wired devices like your desktop computer.
I devoured a proof of Tim Wu’s latest book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. Wu is the Columbia law professor who coined the term “network neutrality” and his new book (available for purchase in early November) is a brilliant exploration of the oscillations of communications technologies between “open” and “closed” from the early days of telephone up through Hollywood and broadcast television up to the Internet era.
If anything, conservatives are pushing for less transparency, not more, in a series of legal and regulatory challenges. Disclosure is under fire, says Richard Briffault, a Columbia University law professor, in part because it is taking center stage as one of the few remaining campaign finance restrictions that this Supreme Court appears likely to uphold. "Disclosure has many values," Briffault says. "But we are becoming more aware of the down sides of disclosure, and we may need to focus more carefully on what we need to know."
People who provide original information that leads to a successful SEC enforcement action will now be entitled to 10 per cent to 30 per cent of any sanction imposed over $1m – including a share of the proceeds from any related regulatory action or shareholders’ lawsuit. “We’ve seen recent settlements of SEC actions of up to $800m. This is a tremendous incentive for people to blow the whistle and for entrepreneurial law firms to represent them,” said John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University.
Though the Wylys and the companies named in the suit were here in North Texas, the suit was filed in New York's Southern District, in part because some of the allegedly illegal trading happened there. "It's an artful and legitimate attempt to avoid" going to trial in Texas, said John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University in New York, adding that Washington regulators don't always find a welcome reception in the Lone Star State.
Mr. Coffey donated more than $30,000 in states where his firm did no work. But an expert on securities litigation said Mr. Coffey's donations raise questions. "I know him and respect him, but I think this is an issue he has to face squarely," said John C. Coffee Jr., a professor of corporate and securities law at Columbia University Law School. "What the public wants from a new attorney general is someone who can clean up the conflict-of-interest mess in Albany, and plaintiffs' law firms play a significant role in those conflicts."
Jagdish Bhagwati, an economist and professor at Columbia University, says that, first of all, Becker’s proposal avoids the major problem: illegal immigration. There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., the majority of who come from Mexico. “As long as there are immigration restrictions, there will be illegals in our midst,” he says. In fact, such a steep tariff will likely drive more Mexican immigrants, ones who might otherwise have entered legally, to hop the border.
Jagdish Bhagwati: In policy, sometimes Gresham’s Law operates – with bad policies driving away good ones. With no good argument in its favor, a preoccupation with manufacturing industries threatens yet one more example of such a perverse outcome. By promoting manufacturing of all kinds (as can be expected as the sector’s lobbies get down to work) at the expense of more innovative and dynamic service sectors, precisely when America is faltering in its recovery from the crisis, this unhelpful fascination promises to inflict gratuitous damage on an economy that can ill afford new wounds.
John C. Coffee Jr., a professor at the Columbia University School of Law and a prominent expert on corporate governance, called the Hurd and Thomas cases “bookends” that describe the extremes of corporate oversight. “It’s zero tolerance versus maximum tolerance,” Coffee said. “In Hurd’s case, the board didn’t even find anything to the sexual harassment claims, but this is a board that is very demanding of its C.E.O.’s.”
Tim Wu: Just consider the power and public role of firms like Verizon or Google (especially if they work together). Sitting atop the web, they can influence what firms succeed or fail -- by making sites load faster or slower, or end up on page 10 of search results. It goes further -- in subtle ways, the information carriers have the power to influence elections and even censor speech they don't like.
John Coffee, professor at Columbia Law School, said the selection of New Orleans was a “victory for plaintiffs.” He said: “The decision is not surprising to me because the eastern district of Louisiana is the logical centre of gravity.”
Columbia also announced today that the number of law-firms interviews is up 8%. “The market outlook appears to be better,” said Petal Modeste, the school’s career dean. “Based on what I’m hearing from firm partners, I get the sense that they expect business in a year or two to be strong enough to keep new hires employed and productive.”
Columbia Law reports that the number of interviews law firms have agreed to conduct with second-year students has increased by 8 percent to 8,780. "It will probably still be smaller summer classes than it was in 2007 and 2008," said Petal Modeste, dean of career services at Columbia Law. "But I don't think they will be as small across the board as they were last year. I think a good number of the firms will edge back up closer to where they used to be."
The SEC has considered permitting so-called proxy access since 2003, only to back away several times because of opposition from corporations and questions over whether the change would stir up litigation. Harvey Goldschmid, a professor at Columbia Law School and a former SEC commissioner who fought to open the board nominating system, argues that the agency now has a clear directive to act, “and that ends the matter as a serious issue in the courts.”
Eben Moglen, founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) and a law professor at Columbia Law School, said the new effort is being driven largely by what's happening in the embedded world. Most of the violations that the SFLC has observed and pursued have occurred among manufactures of embedded devices, Moglen said. In most cases, the violations stemmed from a lack of experience in open source use.
At the Linux Foundation's annual LinuxCon event this week, Columbia University law professor and Software Freedom Law Center founder Eben Moglen explained that prospects for software patent reform are bleak and that the time has come for the free software community to start finding ways to solve its patent problems by using the patent system itself.

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Aug. 13-20

“If all you’re concerned about is an expense account, there are other sanctions,” says Professor John Coffee of Columbia Law School. “You could have taken away his bonus for the year. Most companies would not have treated a peccadillo with this severity, particularly when it inflicts such a penalty on shareholders.”
[A]ccording to the National Bankruptcy Research Center (NBKRC), 2010’s number of bankruptcies is slated to out pace 2009, which outpaced 2008, and so the ball rolls. Professor Ronald Mann of the Columbia Law School wrote in the NBKRC analysis about one surprising trend that the national data reflect the continued prevalence of Chapter 7 (liquidation) filings. He pointed out that only 25% of the July filings sought relief under Chapter 13 (rehabilitation).
One likely difficulty is finding proof that a given individual intended to defraud and wasn't simply "overwhelmed by the financial crisis," said Columbia University law professor John Coffee. He said Countrywide "is one of the few companies that could show criminal prosecutions" if the government can prove executives hid growing problems in the loan portfolio, which ultimately damaged the company and led to its sale in 2008 to Bank of America.
Eben Moglen, a professor at Columbia Law School who is an advocate for free software and online privacy, sees frameworks like the one proposed by Google and Verizon as emphasizing the business of the Internet at the expense of the privacy of the Internet. “As the network does more to adapt to what commerce needs, it becomes more and more about knowing what’s inside the head of the user, about what the person is doing and buying,” he said.
“The short answer is that ownership is unclear,” said June M. Besek, executive director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at the Columbia University School of Law. “There was never any arrangement for distribution of copies” in contracts between performers and radio stations in the 1930s, she explained, “because it was never envisioned that there would be such a distribution, so somewhere between the radio station and the band is where the ownership would lay.”
"It's very clear that Judge Rakoff's ruling in Bank of America is resonating in their ears," said John Coffee, a securities law professor at Columbia University in New York. "Judges often conducted a simple ritual and they blessed the decision. I don't think there was searching inquiry. They are adjusting."
"Judges and the public are upset that we are two years past the financial crisis, and we cannot identify a single financial executive who has been prosecuted" successfully, said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School. "That may be where the tide is shifting, toward a greater need for regulators to at least place some of the costs on individuals. It gives you much greater deterrence."

“In future, the SEC has to show individual responsibility and it’s only making slow progress towards lifting the corporate veil,” John Coffee, a Columbia University law professor, said. But he highlighted differences between the two settlements that have come under judicial challenge: “I don’t think Citigroup is quite as pathologically mysterious a settlement as Bank of America, where you had no idea who had done what.”
Columbia University Law School professor Robert J. Jackson, Jr. said his experience as an investment banker and an associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz allowed him to maintain a unique perspective while drafting key portions of the new act for the Department of Treasury. "I can see both sides of the issue," said Jackson, who served as an adviser on executive compensation and corporate governance to senior Treasury officials.
The Asian powerhouse may be the workshop of the world, but it has set up few of its own workshops in Africa - even as it keeps expanding its overall investments on the continent. The World Bank has expressed its desire to work with China to change that and jump start African industrialization. But two academics have just set out the reasons why it’s going to be an uphill battle, in a short analysis note from the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment.
A new short paper published by the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment, at Columbia University, casts doubt on whether China’s low-end industries will actually shift to Africa in “flying geese” style. First of all, say authors Terutomo Ozawa and Christian Bellak, China’s own hinterland is large and still relatively poor, which means factories seeking lower-cost locations can find them inland, before having to look abroad. “China’s own vast interior seems more attractive as new production sites than any faraway countries,” the paper says.
NPR.ORG—Aug. 18
The mistrial on most of the two dozen counts brought against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich proved something that prosecutors already knew: It's hard to convict politicians in corruption cases. The fact that much of the public believes that most, if not all, politicians are crooks makes the job difficult. "When you're dealing with corruption cases, there is a special dimension to jury dynamics," says Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at Columbia Law School. "You have a group of people who have a sense of local norms and what is tolerated and what is not."
CNN.COM—Aug. 19
[A]ttitudes are changing [in the U.S.] and waning are concepts that homosexuality harms children, defies biblical teachings or destroys the fabric of society. The trend is similar abroad, especially among younger people, said Suzanne Goldberg, a Columbia University law professor who heads the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. The center has handled asylum cases for gay people fleeing persecution in countries including Jamaica, Brazil, Uzbekistan and Ivory Coast.

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