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French court blocks secret recordings of Sarkozy
Press Releases | 2014/03/14 22:10
A French court has ordered an ex-aide of Nicolas Sarkozy to pay 10,000 euros ($14,000) in damages and costs to the former French president over secret recordings that were published in an online journal, and instructed the publication to pull down the links.

Sarkozy and his pop-star-supermodel wife, Carla Bruni, had demanded an emergency injunction blocking publication of their conversation, which surfaced in the online publication Atlantico. The court Friday ordered Atlantico to take down the audio files.

Once-trusted aide Patrick Buisson was ordered to pay 10,000 euros in damages to Sarkozy for making the recordings, and Atlantico and Buisson were each ordered to pay 1,000 euros in court costs.

Atlantico has already pulled the playful exchange between Sarkozy and Bruni.


Supreme Court allows Stanford Ponzi scheme suits
Press Releases | 2014/02/28 23:37
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that victims of former Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford's massive Ponzi scheme can go forward with class-action lawsuits against the law firms, accountants and investment companies that allegedly aided the $7.2 billion fraud.

The decision is a loss for firms that claimed federal securities law insulated them from state class-action lawsuits and sought to have the cases thrown out. But it offers another avenue for more than 21,000 of Stanford's bilked investors to try to recover their lost savings.

Federal law says class-action lawsuits related to securities fraud cannot be filed under state law, as these cases were. But a federal appeals court said the cases could move forward because the main part of the fraud involved certificates of deposit, not stocks and other securities.

The high court agreed in a 7-2 decision, with the two dissenting justices warning that the ruling would lead to an explosion of state class-action lawsuits.

Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison after being convicted of bilking investors in a $7.2 billion scheme that involved the sale of fraudulent certificates of deposits from the Stanford International Bank. They supposedly were backed by safe investments in securities issued by governments, multinational companies and international banks, but those investments did not exist.


Gov. Snyder signs jury duty, trampoline court laws
Press Releases | 2014/02/20 23:46

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a law letting full-time college students postpone jury duty until the end of the school year.

The governor on Tuesday also approved rules for indoor trampoline parks where adults and kids can bounce around for a fee.

Snyder says jury duty is "an important part of our civil responsibility" but can be disruptive to college students' studies. A similar exemption already exists for high school students.

The other law requires trampoline courts to publicly display rules and inform customers of the activity's inherent dangers. Trampoliners also must adhere to rules specified in the law.

A trampoline user, spectator or operator who violates the law is liable for damages in civil lawsuits.


Argentina asks top US Court to stop 'catastrophe'
Press Releases | 2014/02/20 23:46
Argentina filed a long-shot appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday asking the justices in Washington to avert an "economic catastrophe" by overturning lower court rulings that could force the South American government to default on billions of dollars in debts.

Making Argentina pay cash in full to investors who didn't accept bond swaps in exchange for defaulted debt could destabilize the global economy by making other voluntary debt restructurings "substantially more difficult, if not impossible," the petition said.

"Full payment of the holdouts would cut Argentina's reserves approximately in half, an unimaginable result for any nation," Argentina's lawyers argued. "Any sovereign would protest if a foreign court issued an extraterritorial order threatening its creditors and citizens and coercing it into turning over billions of dollars from its immune reserves."

By ignoring the federal sovereign immunity law that normally protects other countries' assets from seizure outside the United States, the lower court decisions also could make U.S. assets overseas vulnerable to similar seizures by other governments, the petition said.


Australian court rules ANZ Bank late fees too high
Press Releases | 2014/02/07 00:28
One of Australia's largest banks faces a multimillion dollar payout to thousands of customers after a judge ruled on Wednesday that late payment fees it charged on credit cards were exorbitant.

ANZ Banking Group Ltd. partially lost a class action law suit in the Australian Federal Court brought by more than 43,000 customers who claimed they had been charged excessive fees for years. In some cases the fees were 70 times the cost to the bank of administering late payments.

Justice Michelle Gordon ruled that the bank had been illegally imposing penalties for late payments on credit cards.

She agreed with lead plaintiff Lucio Paciocco's argument that the fees were "extravagant, exorbitant and unconscionable," and represented a breach of contract.

But she also ruled in ANZ's favor by dismissing claims that other types of bank fees were illegal penalties.

It was not clear how much the bank would have to pay back customers who had been charged too much over six years. Lawyers for the bank and customers have until next week to agree on a proposal for repaying customers that the court can rule on.


Viacom, Fox want to run anti-smoking ads too
Press Releases | 2014/01/30 23:32
More TV networks want to gain from tobacco companies' mandate to run anti-smoking ads that will cost tens of millions of dollars.

Fox Broadcasting and the company behind MTV, Comedy Central and BET argue that a court-ordered plan to air anti-tobacco ads on ABC, CBS and NBC won't do a good job reaching young adult and black viewers. Those populations were aggressively targeted by the tobacco industry and are areas of concern for the public health community.

Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., and Viacom Inc. are asking the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to include its channels in the anti-smoking ad purchase.

The required ads stem from a 2006 ruling that the nation's largest cigarette makers concealed the dangers of smoking for decades. A judge ordered the tobacco companies to pay for corrective statements related to issues such as the adverse health effects of smoking, the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine and the negative health effects of secondhand smoke. The companies involved in the case include Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., owner of the biggest U.S. tobacco company, Philip Morris USA; No. 2 cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., owned by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc.; and No. 3 cigarette maker Lorillard Inc., based in Greensboro, N.C.

Along with the TV ads, the tobacco companies are also meant to publish statements in newspapers, websites and on cigarette packs.

The tobacco companies and the federal government last month agreed on how to publish the statements. The court must still approve the deal.


Minn. Supreme Court dismisses Vikings stadium suit
Press Releases | 2014/01/24 22:20
Minnesota's Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the funding plan for a new Vikings football stadium, eliminating a legal obstacle that threatened a last-minute derailment of the project.

Minnesota finance officials postponed a $468 million bond sale while the case was pending. After the ruling, the chairwoman of the government authority managing the construction said she believed the project could be kept on schedule, despite earlier worries about possible delays and cost overruns.

"We are confident that we will be able to move forward very quickly, to get the financing in place for the bond sale and to keep things on track," said Michele Kelm-Helgen, board chairwoman for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

The nearly $1 billion stadium, on the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis, has a planned opening of July 2016.

Doug Mann, an activist and former Minneapolis mayoral candidate, filed the Supreme Court lawsuit on Jan. 10, arguing the stadium funding plan was unconstitutional. But the state's highest court disagreed.

State law "does not confer original jurisdiction on the court to resolve all challenges to legislation authorizing the use of appropriation bonds," the court's five-page ruling read. It was unsigned and issued "per curiam," meaning on behalf of the entire court. Justice Alan Page, a former Minnesota Vikings player, did not participate.


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