Missing Fla. hedge fund manager turns himself in
Legal Topics | 2009/01/27 22:35
A Florida hedge fund manager who disappeared this month just as he was due to pay investors $50 million turned himself in to authorities Tuesday to face federal securities and wire fraud charges.

Arthur Nadel, accompanied by two attorneys, surrendered in Tampa, about an hour north of his home in Sarasota, the FBI said.

He was chained at the waist and wrists when he appeared in court later Tuesday. Attorney Barry Cohen said Nadel is not violent and asked that he be released on his own recognizance. He said Nadel has emotional problems and does not pose a flight risk, but a federal judge ordered him held at least until Friday.

Asked outside court where his client had been for two weeks, Cohen said, "He went away for a while just to be alone." He declined to say where exactly Nadel was, and the FBI did not provide details.

Federal regulators last week sued Nadel for fraud, saying he misled investors and overstated the value of investments in six funds by about $300 million. The Securities and Exchange Commission also won a court order freezing his assets.

A criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan alleges Nadel has been defrauding investors since 2004.

Nadel, 76, disappeared Jan. 14 after telling his wife in a note that he felt guilty. He also threatened to kill himself, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. Police found his green Subaru the next day in an airport parking lot.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tampa, the SEC said Nadel recently transferred at least $1.25 million from two funds to secret bank accounts that he controlled.



Wrongfully convicted, man can't sue prosecutor
Headline Legal News | 2009/01/27 22:32
The Supreme Court says a man who was wrongly convicted and spent 24 years in prison may not sue the former Los Angeles district attorney and his chief deputy for violating his civil rights.

The justices, ruling unanimously Monday, say decisions of supervising prosecutors, like the actions of prosecutors at trial, are shielded from civil lawsuits.

In this case, Thomas Goldstein was convicted of a 1979 murder on the strength of a jailhouse informant's testimony that Goldstein had confessed to the crime. The informant testified he received no benefit in return, but evidence that came to light later suggested he had struck a deal to get a lighter sentence.

Goldstein sued former District Attorney John K. Van de Kamp and his former chief deputy, Curt Livesay, claiming that as managers they had a policy of relying on jailhouse informants even though it sometimes led to false evidence.

In this case, the federal appeals court in San Francisco said Van de Kamp and Livesay did not enjoy the absolute immunity from lawsuits that is given to prosecutors because they were acting as administrators, not prosecutors, in failing to put in place a system that would allow information about informants to be shared in their office.

The case is Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 07-854.



Sludge company's ex-representative pleads guilty
Legal Topics | 2009/01/27 22:32
A former representative of a Texas company pleaded guilty Monday to federal bribery conspiracy, admitting a multiyear scheme to win a sludge recycling contract through cash and trips for Detroit officials.

Jim Rosendall's cooperation with the FBI led prosecutors to recommend a sentence of no more than 11 months in prison, well below the five-year maximum.

The company used cash and plane trips to Las Vegas to curry favor with Detroit officials and win the $47 million contract to recycle sludge, according to a criminal charge unsealed earlier in the day.

The city officials were not identified.

The influence-peddling game reached a climax in fall 2007 when a city council member accepted payments to vote in favor of a deal with Synagro Technologies, the government alleges. The contract was approved, 5-4, in November 2007.

"People expected me to give things to get their support," Rosendall, former president of Synagro of Michigan, said in court.

Earlier Monday, Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. addressed speculation about a federal investigation into the conduct of city government members. "I think we'll have to see how it plays out," he said.

Rosendall's guilty plea comes more than four months after Kwame Kilpatrick resigned as mayor and went to jail in a sex-and-text scandal after admitting he lied during a civil trial to cover up a torrid affair with his chief of staff.



ACLU Challenges Gov't Secrecy in the False Claims Act
Headline Legal News | 2009/01/20 17:11
The federal government has been defrauded of billions of dollars in hundreds of cases it has sealed under the False Claims Act, the ACLU claims in Federal Court. "The result of the secrecy provisions is that the federal court system is home to an entire secret docket of cases that is inaccessible to the public and the press," including more than 60 such cases in Iraq, according to the complaint.
    The ACLU claims Congress inserted unconstitutional secrecy amendments into the Act in 1986.
    Joining the ACLU as plaintiffs are OMB Watch and the Government Accountability Project.
    The plaintiffs "challenge the constitutionality of the secrecy provisions in the FCA, specifically §§ 3730(b)(2) and (b)(3) (together, the 'FCA secrecy provisions'). The FCA secrecy provisions are unconstitutional on their face. Plaintiffs seek a declaration that they violate the public's First Amendment rights."
    The plaintiffs sued Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Fernando Galindo, "the Clerk of the Court in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia. The Clerk of the Court is the officer of the court that seals the complaints as required by the statute challenged in this case."
    According to the complaint, Congress enacted the False Claims Act in 1863 to "combat rampant fraud in Civil War contracts." It was substantially amended only twice. The 1943 amendments were to prohibit "so-called parasitic actions," in which individuals filed qui tam actions "based entirely on public allegations found in criminal indictments against World War II contractors. ... The Act was amended such that jurisdiction over FCA claims was barred if the claims were based on information in the government's possession.
    "In 1986, as a result of a decline in FCA suits, Congress amended the FCA to encourage private individuals to bring more FCA suits. The legislation increased incentives, financial and otherwise, for private individuals to bring suits on behalf of the government. Congress also set out to right a number of overly restrictive court interpretations of the FCA that were making it difficult for whistleblowers to succeed in FCA suits. Finally, to encourage more whistleblowers to file FCA suits, Congress enacted an anti-retaliation provision to protect whistleblowers from reprisal for initiating or aiding an FCA disclosure and lawsuit.
    "As part of the amendments in 1986, Congress enacted the secrecy provisions at issue. Thus, for the first 123 years of the existence of the FCA, qui tarn complaints were not filed under seal and were accessible to the public. Only in the last 22 years have all FCA qui tarn complaints filed by relators been automatically placed under seal and inaccessible to the public.
    "When the secrecy provisions were being debated before the Senate Judiciary Committee, DOJ argued that the secrecy provisions were needed to prevent the potential defendant from being tipped off that there might be a parallel criminal investigation. 1986 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5288-89. DOJ stated that the FCA civil suit 'might overlap with allegations already under criminal investigation.' Id. at 5289 (emphasis added). Thus, neither DOJ nor any other entity expected that every FCA case would be accompanied by a parallel criminal investigation. Even if an ongoing criminal investigation alone was a sufficient governmental interest, not every case should be subjected to secrecy. ...
    "The mandatory secrecy provision requires the Clerk of the Court to seal the complaint upon its filing. Neither the relator nor the government is required to show that there is a compelling need to deny the public access to this information. The mandatory secrecy provision prohibits a court from making an individualized, case-by-case determination as to whether the sealing of the complaint serves a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored.
"During this time, the public has no knowledge that a civil action has been filed in federal court alleging that the U.S. government has been defrauded. Nor does the public have any other means of acquiring this knowledge or accessing information relating to these cases because the relator is gagged from speaking about the case. ...
    "The secrecy extension provision does not define "good cause," nor is the term defined elsewhere in the FCA statute. 31 U.S.C. § 373O(b)(3). The secrecy extension provision does not require that the relator or the government demonstrate a compelling need for the action to remain inaccessible to the public, or that keeping the complaint under seal is narrowly tailored to that need. The secrecy extension provision therefore permits the complaint to remain under seal for an indefinite period of time."
    As a result, the FCA secrecy provisions hide allegations of fraud from the public, including more than 60 allegations of fraud in the Iraq war, the complaint states. Many of these allegations are against politically connected giants such as Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown & Root.
    "According to DOJ, as of July 2007, there were approximately 1,000 qui tarn cases that were under seal pending the government's decision on whether to intervene. The average length of time between when an FCA case is filed and when the government notifies the court of its election to intervene is approximately 13 months. FCA cases, however, are usually sealed for much longer period of time than 13 months. Cases typically remain sealed for 2 to 3 years, and have been sealed for as long as 9 years.
    "The FCA secrecy scheme has hidden from public purview allegations of military contractor fraud in the Iraq War. (See, e.g., David Rose, The People vs. the Profiteers, Vanity Fair November 2007, asserting that military contractor fraud is rampant but unknown to the public at large because the allegations remain under seal).
    "Although the exact number of Iraq contractor fraud cases under seal remains unknown, there is evidence that more than a handful of these cases exist. Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraqi reconstruction, reports on Iraq reconstruction issues to the Pentagon and State Department. In 2006, Mr. Bowen reported that he knew of 79 sealed FCA Iraq contractor fraud cases, some of which have multiple plaintiffs. Id. As of August 2007, allegedly 66 remained under seal."


Hollywood Firm Dreier Trying to Sever Ties
Headline Legal News | 2009/01/07 17:07
A top Hollywood law firm is quietly but doggedly trying to sever ties with its New York owner in the wake of his arrest on financial fraud charges.

Santa Monica-based Dreier Stein, the 40-attorney outpost of Dreier Llp. and home to well-known entertainment litigator Stanton "Larry" Stein, spent the holidays in expedited meetings with potential new merger partners on both coasts.

The goal, Stein said, is to split from firm principal and accused swindler Marc Dreier before the end of January.

"We're listening to offers," said Stein, who reps such industry clients as Lionsgate, Jennifer Love Hewitt and David Duchovny. "We've done nothing wrong, and we need to get out from under the burden of Dreier."

Dreier, who opened the West Coast outpost of his 250-lawyer firm in January 2007 via a pricey deal with Stein's entertainment litigation and corporate boutique, has been held in a Manhattan jail since early December on charges of bilking some of New York's top investors to the tune of $380 million.

Among other colorful and bizarre tactics, Dreier is accused of impersonating lawyers and hawking fake promissory notes to hedge funds.

The arrest has plunged the once high-flying Dreier firm into bankruptcy and put some of Hollywood's most prolific lawyers in play.

Stein's group of 20 talent-side litigators, which includes Michael Plonsker, Yakub Hazzard and Mark Passin, has handled recent cases for Marvel Entertainment and Eva Longoria and repped Rob Lowe in his battle against a former nanny.

In December, the firm, whose full name is Dreier Stein Kahan Browne Woods George, went to trial against AMPAS on behalf of the estate of Mary Pickford over the effort by Pickford's heirs to auction off her Oscar for 1929's "Coquette."

Stein said he and his partners are cooperating with the court-ordered receiver that is collecting the firm's income and approving its expenses while he scrambles to find another home. He would not confirm the names of suitors, but top contenders include Los Angeles' Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstreif, which itself boasts a strong entertainment practice, as well as New York-based Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, Washington-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and international firms Troutman Sanders and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel.


Holocaust Survivors' Class Action Dismissed
Headline Legal News | 2009/01/05 17:01
A federal judge dismissed Holocaust survivors' class-action claim that the Republic of France and its railroad company stole thousands of Jews' property as they were being deported to Nazi-run concentration camps. "(T)he court concludes that the bounds of its jurisdiction are not coterminous with the moral force of Plaintiffs' claims,' U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan wrote.      Judge Sullivan ruled: "(T)he Court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiffs' claims under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ... and that, even if jurisdiction were proper, the case presents serious justiciability issues that make abstention appropriate. Accordingly, Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted."
    Suing for the class of Holocaust deportees and their heirs, Lead plaintiff Mathilde Freund sued The Republic of France, the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français, and the Caisses des Dépôts et Consignations.
    Plaintiffs' lead counsel was Harriet Tamen. France's lead counsel was Jeremy Goldman Epstein with Shearman & Sterling.


Judge gives $65M to USS Pueblo Captives
Legal Topics | 2009/01/02 17:41
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered North Korea to pay $65.85 million to two crew members of the USS Pueblo, the commander's widow and a civilian oceanographer for kidnapping and torturing the ship's crew in 1968.
    In a sordid 33-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy describes how the crew members were systematically beaten and tortured during 11 months in captivity.
    William Thomas Massie, Donald Raymond McClarren, Dunnie Richard Tuck and the estate of Lloyd Bucher, the ship's commander, sued North Korea for damages, alleging egregious violations of human rights.
    The USS Pueblo was captured in the Sea of Japan, about 25 miles off the coast of North Korea, while on an electronic surveillance mission on Jan. 23, 1968.
    The crew was dragged off the ship while bound and blindfolded, and led through a crowd of hostile and unruly North Koreans, who shouted insults and spat at them. The guards also kicked their legs and administered "karate chops," the ruling states.
    The captives were then transported to Pyongyang, where they were taken to a "prison" nicknamed the "Barn" on the outskirts of town. There, they were separated into rooms of four prisoners each. The conditions were cold and dark, and there was no running water. The prison was infested with rats and bed begs, one of which bit Massie, causing him to develop a severe infection that had to be lanced by a North Korean doctor without the use of an anesthetic. Bucher lost about 50 pounds, Massie lost 51 and Tucker lost 37.
    For almost a year, North Korean officers beat, starved, tortured and intimidated the men, in order to coerce them into confessing that they were spies for South Korea. The captors tried to get Bucher to sign a typed statement that he was a CIA spy trying to incite a war.
    Though Bucher initially refused to sign, he eventually capitulated after his captors threatened to shoot his crew, in his presence, one by one.
    While the men were being held hostage, the North Koreans tried to extract a public apology from the U.S. government. The hostages were forced to participate in staged press conferences and propaganda films, which they sabotaged by inserting corny, archaic language into the prepared statements and sticking up their middle fingers in pictures and videos. They told the North Koreans that the middle finger gesture was the "Hawaiian Good Luck Sign." When the captors discovered the true meaning of the obscene gesture, they ramped up the beatings, launching a campaign of torture dubbed "Hell Week."
    Judge Kennedy said countries that sponsor terrorism forfeit their sovereign immunity. And although the plaintiffs were released 25 years before Congress enacted the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty of 1996, Kennedy said Congress intended it to apply retroactively.
    Because North Korea never responded to the damage claim, Kennedy entered judgment for the plaintiffs. He awarded Massie, McClarren and Tuck $16.7 million each, while Bucher's estate recieved $14.3 million. Bucher's widow, Rose, won $1.25 million.
    "The effects of the outrageous conduct of North Korea will be felt by Massie, Tuck, McClarren and Rose Bucher for the rest of their lives," Kennedy concluded.


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