A daily look at legal news and the business of law:
Prosecution's "Lapses" Under Cuomo Costs Two Convictions
It was former New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer who filed charges against Marsh & McLellan executives for bid-rigging in the insurance industry, but current Attorney General Andrew Cuomo oversaw the prosecution of the case.
On Wednesday, the judge who convicted two of the executives vacated their convictions because the prosecution failed to turn over 700,000 documents, including exculpatory and impeaching evidence. The judge also implied key witnesses' testimony couldn't be trusted because of the extremely favorable deals they cut with the prosecution. Despite these and other acquittals, something was going on at Marsh -- 21 people have plead guilty to related charges.
Biggest Verdict of the Year: $671 million Against Calif. Nursing Home Chain
Skilled Healthcare Inc. just lost a massive lawsuit for understaffing its facilities and violating the California health and safety code requirement that each patient get 3.2 hours of nursing care per day. The verdict is the largest in so far in 2010, even without including yet-to-be-decided punitive damages.
Millionaire Lawsuit Verdict May Not Be the Final Answer
Disney and ABC bought the U.S. rights to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? from British company Celador, and then used "Hollywood accounting" to conceal almost $270 million of its profits in an attempt to avoid paying Celador the licensing fees it was owed, a jury found Wednesday. (Hollywood accounting: Is that like Enron accounting?) Disney has taken an especially hard line against claims that it owes more profits under its contracts for fear of setting a precedent, according to Bloomberg. It has vowed to appeal.
More Penalties for Bribing Nigeria
On Tuesday, I noted that Technip S.A. paid $340 million to settle Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges from bribing Nigeria for a decade. Previously, Technip's joint venture partners KBR and its former parent, Halliburton, paid $917 million to settle related charges.
Now another joint venture partner, Dutch company Snamprogetti Netherland B.V., and its current and former parent companies, has agreed to pay $365 million, $240 million of which is for criminal penalties. One former joint venture partner, a Japanese company remains. I wonder how many millions that firm will pay.
And in the Business of Law...
• Female law partners are paid 22% less than their male counterparts, and according to a survey reported by the ABA Journal, the women know it and are incensed. While the official "reason" for the pay disparity is that the women on average spend more time with family, the 700 survey respondents expose that claim for the pretext it is. The women partners report that male partners steal credit for work that women brought in, and that women aren't included on the compensation committees that set the salaries. When you don't get the credit you're due and have no say in your pay, you're going to be paid less than you deserve. No wonder at least one woman partner is trying to sue. Her challenge: Sex discrimination laws protect employees, but as a partner, it's hard to been seen as an employee. She's arguing to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that notwithstanding her title, she's an employee, precisely because of her relative impotence within the partnership.
• Another sign of the lousy legal job market comes from Above the Law: an ad for a full time, UNPAID legal position in San Mateo, California is overwhelmed with applicants.
• A disbarred Georgia lawyer was sentenced to five years for stealing $4.3 million from his clients, reports ABA Journal.
Legal Briefing: Cuomo Loses Two Bid-Rigging Convictions Over Lapses