Shareholders Sue Baker Hughes For Bribery
Areas of Focus | 2008/06/09 17:35
Directors of Baker Hughes, worldwide oil services, failed to stop bribing foreign officials despite a court order to do so, shareholders claim in Federal Court. Shareholders say the "Code of Conduct" the company instituted in 2002, after the SEC sued it, "was a farce," and the company continued paying "illegal bribes totaling millions of dollars ... to foreign officials."

Baker Hughes paid $44 million in April 2007 and was ordered to disgorge illegal profits to settle more bribery complaints, from the SEC and the Department of Justice, plaintiffs say, including an $11 million criminal fine.

Plaintiffs want restitution and exemplary damages from the Baker Hughes board members.

Plaintiffs' lead counsel is Crowley Norman.


Two Foreclosure Crooks Plead Guilty
Legal Topics | 2008/06/05 16:13
Two men pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding homeowners in a "foreclosure rescue" scam that netted the criminals titles to more than 80 houses, more than $20 million in fraudulently acquired home equity loans and $1.4 million in fees, federal prosecutors.

Maurice McDowall, 49, faces up to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, plus a fine of twice his ill-gotten gains. McDowall directed the illegal operation, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Aleksander Lipkin, 29, faces the same sentence on the same charge. He was a mortgage broker who coordinated the submission of fraudulent information to lenders. Lipkin also pleaded guilty to another charge of defrauding subprime mortgage lenders.

One other defendant has pleaded guilty in U.S. v. McDowall and three more await trial. Four have pleaded guilty in U.S. v. Lipkin, and 22 await trial.

As is often the case in mortgage rescue scams, the men offered to "help" distressed homeowners by refinancing, selling the homes to straw buyers who would apply for a new mortgage, which they would use to pay off the old debt, and then resell the house to the victims.

But McDowall and Lipkin sometimes failed to make even a single payment on the loans; in nearly all the others they eventually stopped making payments and defaulted, cashing out the property. In some cases, they just stole the houses by forging homeowners' signatures transferring the property, prosecutors said.

"As a result, the distresses homeowners lost the titles to their homes and faced eviction, the straw buyers owed the lenders hundreds of thousands of dollars that they were unable to repay, and the lenders suffered losses from the defaulted loans," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.


Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon Can't Block Movie
Areas of Focus | 2008/06/03 16:14
A federal judge has denied Yoko Ono's and Sean Lennon's request that producers of the movie, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" be prohibited from distributing it because it contains 15 seconds of the John Lennon tune, "Imagine."

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein found that "defendants are likely to prevail on their affirmative defense of fair use. ...(T)he fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes of criticism and commentary is not an infringement of copyright."


Fire Paramedics In Philly Win Overtime Pay Appeal
Areas of Focus | 2008/06/02 16:35
More than 300 paramedics for the Philadelphia Fire Department won the right to receive overtime pay in a 3rd Circuit ruling. The court voted 2-1 to reject the city's argument that fire service paramedics fall under an exemption from Fair Labor Standards Act overtime requirements that applies to workers who "engage in fire protection activities."

Judge Dolores Sloviter said fire service paramedics do not qualify as exempted fire protection employees, because they "are not hired to fight fires, not even in a small part."

"Every substantive aspect of the job description is medical in nature," Sloviter added, citing the statistic that plaintiffs' dispatches to actual fires account for 0.1 percent of their total annual dispatches. That's about five to 10 times a year, compared to 6,000 to 8,000 total dispatches for emergency medical services. Even when fire paramedics are called to a fire, it's for the purposes of providing medical care, not for putting out a fire, the ruling states.

For these reasons, the court concluded that fire paramedics do not fall within the overtime exemption and should receive time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours a week.


FTC Shuts Down Pretexters
Legal Topics | 2008/05/29 17:35

The Federal Trade Commission has obtained court orders shutting down a ring that used "pretexting" to get people's confidential telephone records and sell them to third parties. The FTC also fined the defendants $600,000, their profits from the operation that got the information on false pretenses.

Pretexting made national news when Hewlett-Packard Chairwoman Patricia Dunn allegedly used it against reporters and her own board members to track down the source of leaks from board meetings.

A bill in the California Legislature to make the practice illegal under state law was heading for passage in 2006 when the Motion Picture Association of America killed it, telling lawmakers its investigators needed to pose as someone other than who they are to bust up illegal downloading rings. The MPAA got the bill killed just days before Hewlett-Packard's use of pretexting made headlines.



Lawyer Says Cook County Clerk Defamed Him
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/28 16:46
An attorney claims the Cook County Clerk defamed him to TV news to retaliate for his informing another news station that the clerk had allegedly "confessed to using court funds to acquire three luxury SUVs to chauffeur her to the office and home again each day and to carry her 10-man 'security detail.'"

David Novoselsky claims County Clerk Dorothy Brown has it in for him because he has publicly criticized her, and sued her, for her part in raising the filing fee from $5 to $15. Novoselsky claims Brown did this as a political tool to seek re-election, claiming that by hiking the fee she was saving taxpayers money.

Novoselsky says he sued Brown on May 22 on behalf of a client who paid, but challenged, the fee increase. In response, he says, Brown released a statement to WBBM, Channel 2, accusing him of filing "frivolous and baseless lawsuits" against her office that are nothing more than "unscrupulous harassment, unbecoming an attorney at law."

Novoselsky claims that this alleged defamation was in retaliation for his tipping Fox News, Channel 32, to Brown's alleged misuse of public money for her private chauffeur service and security detail.

His complaint states: "Brown became agitated in the [Fox News] interview when the reporter pointed out that her chauffeur was being paid more than $60,000 per year as a 'systems analyst' and that there was no authority in her budget for a 'security detail.' Brown referred to these lawful restrictions as a mere 'budget title' and said that she needed to use court funds for her gas and parking expenses since she 'only made $105,000 per year.'"

Represented by Joseph Curcio in Cook County Court, Novoselsky demands $1 million in punitive damages.


Chicago Isn't Liable For Club Tragedy, Court Says
Legal Topics | 2008/05/27 22:13
The city of Chicago is not liable for the deaths and injuries of E2 Nightclub patrons trampled in a stairwell trying to flee the club after security guards used pepper spray to quell a disturbance, an Illinois appellate court ruled.

The estates of 20 decedents and more than 30 injured patrons filed suit against the club owners and the city, claiming Chicago failed to enforce court orders barring the use of the club's second floor. They also alleged that police failed to protect or help victims at the scene, and that one officer even closed and locked an exit door, contributing to the fatal pileup on Feb. 17, 2003.

Chicago moved to dismiss the complaint, citing unqualified immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, which shields public entities from liability for injuries "caused by adopting or failing to adopt an enactment or by failing to enforce any law."

Plaintiffs countered that the city's actions fell under an exception to the immunity law for "willful and wanton conduct."

However, the appellate court ruled that the exemption does not apply, because the city was not in control of the situation. It added that the plain language of the exception refers to public employees, not public entities.


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