A daily look at legal news and the business of law:
In Foreign Corrupt Practices Act News
Foreign subsidiaries of two American tobacco companies pled guilty to charges of bribing foreign countries. Units of Alliance One International, a global tobacco leaf company based in North Carolina, admitted bribing Thai and Kyrgyz officials and will pay $9.25 million in fines and disgorge $10 million in profits. Universal Leaf Tabacos, a Brazilian subsidiary of a Virginia company, admitted that it bribed Thai officials and agreed to pay nearly $9 million in disgorgement and fines.
In a big comedown, James H. Giffen, a businessman charged seven years ago with steering some $84 million in bribes related to Kazakh oil and gas projects, will plead to a misdemeanor tax charge and pay a $25,000 fine. Giffen's investment bank, Mercator Corp., pled guilty to one Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) charge and faces up to a $2 million fine. Bloomberg reports that Giffen and the company also agreed to surrender any title to $84 million frozen in secret Swiss bank accounts. That money had already been dedicated by the Kazakh and Swiss governments to improve transparency in the Kazakh oil industry and improve the lives of poor Kazakh kids. Bloomberg reported the charges are a "face-saver for the government."
Finally, according to Main Justice, Merck & Co. is under investigation by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible FCPA violations. Merck (MRK) joins four other pharmaceutical companies under investigation: AstraZeneca (AZN), Baxter International (BAX), Eli Lilly (LLY), and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY). Multiple countries are the focus of the inquiry. According to Main Justice they vary for each company but include: Brazil, China, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
In Prop 8 News
Former Solicitor General Ted Olson predicts the Supreme Court will uphold the decision that marriage, as a fundamental right, includes the right of gay people to marry. And his co-counsel David Boies urges lawyers to defend judges in the wake of the attacks on Prop 8 Judge Vaughn Walker.
And in the Business of Law...
Metrics drive the way business is done, so what will be the impact of U.S. News and World Report's ranking of law firms, asks the Am Law Daily?
The legal sector lost 800 jobs in July, coming off a revised 3,200 lost in June, reports the American Lawyer. A total of 17,200 legal jobs have been shed since July 2009.
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