Monday, September 21, 2015


Original Story:

A defiant Kwame Kilpatrick is not giving up on getting out of prison, this time asking for the entire U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals bench to consider his appeal.

A three-judge panel from the 6th Circuit refused to grant the former Detroit mayor a new trial last month, upholding his public corruption conviction and 28-year prison sentence.  So now Kilpatrick is asking for what is known as an “en banc” review, which means he wants all of the judges who sit on the 6th Circuit to hear his case. An Atlanta RICO lawyer represent clients in racketeering cases involving bribery, money laundering, and corruption.

In a Friday court filing, Kilpatrick repeated his long-held belief that his trial lawyers had a conflict of interest and were ineffective. The three-judge appellate panel already ruled that Kilpatrick never proved that, nor did he prove that federal agents prejudiced him with their hearsay testimony before the jury, as Kilpatrick has argued.

Kilpatrick, who was convicted in 2013 following a sixth-month trial, is hoping the entire 6th Circuit bench sees things differently, claiming he didn't get a fair trial for three reasons:

  • He was forced to go to trial with a lawyer he didn't want — and shouldn't have had — due to a conflict of interest.

  • The judge erred in allowing two FBI agents to offer their opinions to jurors about what Kilpatrick's and others' text messages meant and how texts and phone calls showed the ex-mayor was involved in crooked contracts.
  • The nearly $4.7 million he was ordered to pay in restitution was not authorized under federal law. The 6th Circuit has ruled in Kilpatrick’s favor on this issue.

Kilpatrick's appeal focuses heavily on his longtime defense attorney James Thomas, who Kilpatrick tried to get thrown off the case at the start of his trial, citing a conflict of interest: Thomas and his associate were working for a law firm that was suing Kilpatrick over the same alleged crimes of which Thomas was defending him. A Chicago RICO lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

At Kilpatrick's request, Thomas asked U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds to withdraw from the case. But Edmunds denied it, noting that when Kilpatrick ran out of money and couldn't afford a lawyer, he requested Thomas, so he got him. Edmunds also found that Thomas had been a good and effective lawyer for Kilpatrick.

Thomas represented Kilpatrick throughout the six-month trial that ended with Kilpatrick getting convicted in March 2013 on 24 counts for crimes including racketeering, extortion and bribery.

Two months after the guilty verdict, Kilpatrick officially dumped Thomas, telling Edmunds that "a grave error" occurred in his case and that he needed a new lawyer.

Thomas agreed that it was time for him to step down.

Edmunds appointed Harold Gurewitz to handle Kilpatrick's case.

The prosecution, meanwhile, has scoffed at all of Kilpatrick's arguments.

"He cannot show that, absent the alleged (attorney) conflict, the result of (his trial) would have been different," Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goetz has written in court documents. A Milwaukee RICO lawyer is following this story closely.

Bobby Ferguson, Kilpatrick's longtime contractor friend and codefendant, also was convicted of multiple crimes. Ferguson, who got a 21-year prison sentence, also appealed  his conviction, but the 6th Circuit upheld his conviction.

Historically, federal appeals courts have sided with prosecutors, upholding convictions roughly 95% of the time, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.


Original Story:

As the number of deaths linked to defective cars made by General Motors has steadily risen to 124, victims’ families have waited for the answer to a burning question: How will federal prosecutors hold the automaker accountable for its decade-long failure to disclose the defect? A Sydney product liability lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

On Thursday, they got their answer, and many were disappointed.

In a settlement with prosecutors, no individual employees were charged, and the Justice Department agreed to defer prosecution of the company for three years. If G.M. adheres to the agreement, which includes independent monitoring of its safety practices, the company can have its record wiped clean.

And even though General Motors will pay a $900 million penalty, it was 25 percent less than the record $1.2 billion Toyota agreed to pay last year. A Taipei products liability attorney is following this story closely.

“I don’t understand how they can basically buy their way out of it,” said Margie Beskau, whose daughter Amy Rademaker was killed in an October 2006 crash in Wisconsin. She added, “They knew what they were doing and they kept doing it.”

At a news conference, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, defended the settlement. “It has been a challenging case, for the agencies, for the prosecutors and for me,” Mr. Bharara said. “We’ve had to think long and hard about the appropriate resolution in this case.”

Mr. Bharara said that the victims had been paramount in the minds of the prosecutors on the case.

“I met personally with families who lost loved ones in tragic accidents involving the switch and, I’ll tell you, those were among the most searing moments I’ve ever spent in my six-plus years as United States attorney,” he said. A Budapest product liability lawyer have experience managing a variety of products liability cases for a wide range of clients.

G.M.’s cooperation, he said, was the reason the settlement was reached after only 18 months, rather than after four years or more, as in the Toyota case.

“From the moment the top management came forward to disclose the defect in February of 2014, the company’s cooperation and remediation have been fairly extraordinary,” Mr. Bharara said, citing G.M.’s creation of a compensation fund for victims of the defect and its dismissal of 15 employees, among other factors.

“Good behavior after the fact does not absolve G.M. or any company of responsibility,” Mr. Bharara said, “but companies should be encouraged to act as G.M. did here to help the truth come out faster.”

Mr. Bharara cited an internal investigation conducted for G.M. as favorable in determining the penalties paid by the automaker.

The two law firms hired for that inquiry, King & Spalding and Jenner & Block, had previously done legal work for G.M. And court papers show that Anton R. Valukas, the chairman of Jenner & Block, who headed the G.M. investigation, helped represent the automaker in its talks with the Justice Department. A Vienna products liability lawyer provides professional legal counsel and extensive experience in many aspects of product liability law.

Mr. Valukas declined to be interviewed, and several corporate lawyers said such arrangements are not unusual because an outside law firm that conducts an investigation knows the facts of a case. But Deborah L. Rhode, a professor at Stanford Law School, said the public’s interest may suffer when a law firm wears so many different hats.

“It would be nice to know that the law firm doing the internal investigation was truly disinterested and didn’t have an interest in subsequent representation” of the same company, Ms. Rhode said.

The overall tone of the news conference was notably more subdued than the bravado that accompanied the Toyota announcement last year. At that news conference, the attorney general at the time, Eric Holder, and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx both attended and spoke, calling Toyota’s behavior shameful. On Thursday, neither Mr. Holder’s successor, Loretta Lynch, nor Mr. Foxx attended.

The complaint filed by prosecutors details what has become a familiar narrative in the G.M. safety crisis — employees within General Motors were aware going back more than a decade of problems with the ignition switch, which is prone to turning off, cutting the engine and disabling systems like power steering and airbags.

But prosecutors focused their attention to a relatively short period of time — only about 20 months from the spring of 2012 to February 2014, when G.M. began recalling 2.6 million older cars to fix the switch — even though the first reports of the problem had been made more than a decade earlier. As awareness of the problem grew inside the company, the automaker’s legal department was aggressively fighting back against a mounting wave of litigation, even settling lawsuits.

Mr. Bharara emphasized that individuals could still be charged, but bringing a case against employees faces higher legal hurdles than in some other industries. Two employees in particular were singled out in the complaint as playing a central role in concealing information from regulators, but they were identified only by a vague job description.

“This knowledge extended well above the ranks of investigating engineers to certain supervisors and attorneys at the company — including G.M.’s safety director and G.M.’s safety attorney,” prosecutors said in their statement of facts that accompanied the complaint.

The Justice Department and G.M. declined to comment on the identities of the safety director and safety attorney. But among those dismissed last year were Carmen Benavides, the director of product investigations, and William Kemp, a G.M. lawyer who handled safety matters. Both of their actions as described in Mr. Valukas’s internal investigation and in congressional documents match the descriptions in the complaint.

Mr. Kemp did not return a message left at his home and Ms. Benavides did not return an message left at a LinkedIn account matching her name and career description.

Lawmakers who have been persistent critics of G.M. were unpersuaded by the settlement.

“This outcome fails to require adequate and explicit admission of criminal culpability from G.M. and individual criminal actions,” said Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, in a joint statement. “This outcome is extremely disappointing.”

G.M. struck a tone of contrition on Thursday. In a meeting with employees at G.M.’s huge technical center north of Detroit, Mary T. Barra, the chief executive, again apologized.

“Let’s pause for a moment and remember that people were hurt and died in our cars,” Ms. Barra told about 1,000 workers gathered in an atrium at the company’s vehicle engineering center. “That’s why we are here.”

Ms. Barra had flown back overnight from the Frankfurt Auto Show to attend the town hall, and then take questions from reporters.

Her address to workers highlighted all the improvements in safety practices that G.M. has made since the company first began recalling the defective vehicles.

But she admitted that it will take more than apologies for G.M. — which went bankrupt in 2009 and needed a $49 billion government bailout to survive — to restore its reputation in the eyes of consumers.

“We accept the penalties being announced today because they are part of being accountable,” she said. “But apologies and accountability do not amount to much if you don’t change your behavior.”

Her address to employees came on a day when G.M. reached another legal milestone, setting aside $575 million to resolve the cases of about 1,380 people, all represented by Robert C. Hilliard. Mr. Hilliard, a lawyer who is among those leading the class-action cases against the automaker, said that 45 death cases were among those settled. The $575 million also includes the settlement of a shareholder suit filed by the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System.

Altogether, the private lawsuit settlements resolve more than half the outstanding private cases against G.M.

In the end, victims said they were unsatisfied by the Justice Department’s announcement.

“I don’t see how Mary Barra can sleep,” said Laura Christian, the birth mother of 16-year-old Amber Rose, who was killed in a July 2005 crash in Maryland. She said the deferred-prosecution agreement was like probation.

“We buried our loved ones because G.M. buried a deadly defect,” Ms. Christian said. “And yet today all G.M. has to do is write another check to escape. We can’t escape — every day I am missing a daughter.”

Friday, September 18, 2015


Original Story:

A Flint-area Catholic hospital has until the end of Friday to change its mind and perform a tubal ligation on a pregnant woman with a brain tumor – or face a potential lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union. A San Diego healthcare lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The ACLU is fighting on behalf of Jessica Mann, 33, of Flushing, a pregnant woman with a life-threatening brain tumor who was denied a request to get her tubes tied at the time of her scheduled cesarean section next month.

According to the ACLU, Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc won't allow the sterilization procedure on religious grounds. Mann's doctor requested a medical exception to the hospital's prohibition on sterilization, arguing that a future pregnancy could harm Mann because of her brain tumor, said the ACLU.

But Genesys wouldn't budge, triggering a demand letter from the ACLU last week. The ACLU argues the hospital could be violating state law by denying appropriate care. An Albany healthcare lawyer is following this story closely.

Johnny Smith Jr., a spokesman for the hospital's parent, Ascension, declined comment, citing patient privacy. He would only say that the company follows the "ethical and religious directives" of the Catholic church.

This issue isn't a first for the ACLU, which last month convinced a Catholic hospital in California to change course in a similar case involving tubal ligation.

Under the threat of a potential lawsuit from the ACLU, Mercy Medical Center in Redding, Calif., changed its mind in agreeing to perform a postpartum tubal litigation on a woman. The hospital had initially denied a request by the woman's doctor to tie her tubes, but changed course within days of receiving a demand letter from the ACLU.

According to the ACLU, tubal ligation, commonly known as getting one's “tubes tied,”  is the contraception method of choice for more than 30% of married women in the U.S. An estimated 600,000 women annually undergo this procedure, which is often performed at the time of a cesarean section, the group said. A Chicago healthcare lawyer defends clients in a wide variety of large, complex health care and medical negligence cases.

Ten of the 25 largest hospital systems in the U.S. are Catholic-sponsored, and nearly one of nine hospital beds in the country is in a Catholic facility. According to the ACLU, these Catholic hospitals operate under binding “ethical and religious directives” issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Among the directives is that sterilization for the purpose of contraception as “intrinsically evil.”

The ACLU argues that bishops should not be playing the role of doctors.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Original Story:

Washington — Federal prosecutors are expected to announce Thursday that General Motors Co. will pay a $900 million fine as part of a criminal investigation into GM’s delayed recall into defective ignition switches in 2.6 million cars, The Detroit News has learned. A Charleston defective products lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

GM is expected to be charged with at least two felonies, including wire fraud, for misleading consumers and hiding information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three people briefed on the settlement said. It also will enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York over the defect that was linked to 124 deaths, as well as face oversight from an independent monitor. GM will not have to plead guilty as part of the agreement.

NHTSA declined to comment.

The defective ignition switch, mostly installed in Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, allowed the key to inadvertently turn off the engine in some vehicles, which disabled power steering and air bags. GM CEO Mary Barra fired 15 employees and disciplined five others last year after an internal investigation showed the automaker largely ignored the problem for a decade. An Irvine product liability lawyer represents clients who have been injured as a direct result of the use or contact with a defective or dangerous product.

The $900 million fine is less than the $1.2 billion that Toyota Motor Corp. paid last year after it was charged with wire fraud — because federal prosecutors credited the Detroit automaker with swift and significant cooperation. The government is not expected to announce any criminal prosecutions of individuals, but prosecutors are expected to say the investigation remains open.

The Wall Street Journal reported some details of the settlement earlier.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York declined to comment, as did GM, which reiterated it is cooperating fully with the investigation. A formal announcement is expected Thursday in New York. Resolving the probe represents a major milestone for Barra, who took over shortly before the scandal exploded last year. A Jackson product liability lawyer is following this story closely.

The settlement comes after GM set aside $4.2 billion last year to pay for recall and ignition compensation fund expenses and transformed how it approached safety issues. Barra repeatedly appeared before Congress to address the ignition problems and the automaker came under withering criticism for its approach to safety. Barra blamed a “culture of incompetence and neglect” and pledged never to forget what happened.

Peter J. Henning, a Wayne State University law professor, said the fact that GM cooperated may be why its fine comes in less than Toyota’s. He expects the Justice Department will say it continues to investigate individuals related to the case and that the continuing investigation doesn’t preclude charging individuals.

“GM reacted,” he said. “Once it became known to senior management, they took steps to address it not only with victims, but also with the government. They were much more forthcoming and essentially it created a template on how to cooperate.”

Laura Christian of Harwood, Maryland is the birth mother of Amber Marie Rose, a 16-year-old who was killed in a 2005 crash tied to the ignition switch defect. Christian said she will be greatly disappointed if GM is fined less than Toyota and if nobody from GM is criminally charged.

“This is one of the worst days since Amber died,” Christian said by phone Wednesday night, nearly in tears. “I was really hoping, really, really hoping that the Justice Department would hold GM accountable.”

In May 2014, GM agreed to pay a then record-setting $35 million civil penalty to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and make significant safety changes. In doing so, GM admitted it broke the law. It entered into a three-year consent agreement with NHTSA.

Transportation officials said some within GM knew ignition switch problems would turn off air bags in Cobalts as early as November 2009. NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman said he had no records indicating Barra knew of the defect, but said that GM engineers, investigators, lawyers and other executives knew of it and failed to act to protect consumers.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, Transport Canada and all 50 state attorneys general also have been investigating GM for nearly 18 months.

Federal prosecutors, aided by the FBI and a federal grand jury, have interviewed dozens of current and former GM executives, lawyers and engineers, including Barra. They also have talked to employees at auto supplier Delphi, which made the ignition switch.

A fund run by compensation expert Ken Feinberg approved compensation for nearly 10 times more than the 13 deaths GM executives reported as the controversy unfolded in 2014. The fund also approved claims for 17 serious injuries and 258 less-serious injuries.

GM is paying at least $1 million in each death claim and gave Feinberg and his staff the final decision on approving or rejecting all claims. It placed no cap on the amount Feinberg could award, but he is not allowed to assess “punitive damages.” A Nashville wrongful death lawyer represents clients in wrongful death cases and negligent accidents.

The automaker expects it will spend $625 million in compensation; it already has paid out $280 million in claims.

Joseph Spak, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets LLC, said in a note to investors Wednesday that the firm had been expecting a $1.5 billion settlement for GM with the Justice Department. If the fine comes in smaller, Spak said it would be a “slight positive” for GM and its stock.

Henning said the settlement with the DOJ came quickly for a case such as this.

“It lets GM put it behind it quickly, and that way it becomes exactly what GM wants, which is (to be) yesterday’s news,” he said.

GM also faces hundreds of lawsuits stemming from the faulty part, including 100 U.S. class-action lawsuits and 21 in Canada from owners who say the recalls reduced the value of their vehicles.

The automaker also faces 172 U.S. lawsuits and nine in Canada over injury or death claims; those are separate from the compensation claims. There are also suits pending by shareholders. A Detroit automotive lawyer represent clients in a variety of automotive law matters including product liability matters.

The first trial stemming from the dozens of suits filed against GM and consolidated in front of a federal judge in New York is set to start in January. Lawyers are deposing dozens of current and former GM executives, including Barra set for October.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Original Story:

A Muslim flight attendant for ExpressJet says she was wrongly suspended from her job last month because she refused to serve alcohol to passengers, citing her religious beliefs.

Charee Stanley, a Detroit-based flight attendant for ExpressJet, filed a discrimination complaint Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A Memphis employee rights lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The airline had agreed to give Stanley a religious accommodation, saying she could work out an arrangement with the other flight attendant on duty so they could serve alcohol instead. She was suspended only after a colleague complained, said Lena Masri, an attorney with the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Stanley, 40, has worked for the Atlanta-based airline for nearly three years and during that time converted to Islam, Masri said. Stanley approached a supervisor in June after learning that her faith forbids not just consuming alcohol but also serving it.

When the co-worker complained, Stanley was put on unpaid leave for a year, Masri said.

"She was placed on unpaid leave for following the instructions that ExpressJet airlines gave her," Masri said.

Masri claimed the complaint against Stanley was discriminatory, with the employee noting Stanley carried a book with "foreign writings" and wore a head scarf. A Memphis employment discrimination lawyer represents clients in employee rights cases involving whistle blowers, victims of retaliation, discrimination, and harassment.

A spokeswoman for ExpressJet said in an emailed statement that the airline values diversity but could not comment on specific personnel matters.

"At ExpressJet, we embrace and respect the values of all of our team members. We are an equal opportunity employer with a long history of diversity in our workforce," the statement said.

ExpressJet has 9,000 employees, 388 planes and averages 2,200 flights each day, according to the company's website.


Original Story:

Lawyers hired to compensate victims of General Motors’ faulty ignition switches have finished determining which claims are eligible, rejecting 91% of them.

The compensation fund led by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg approved 399 of the 4,343 claims filed and rejected 3,944. A San Francisco product liability lawyer has experience representing clients who have been injured as a direct result of the use or contact with a defective or dangerous product.

Camille Biros, deputy administrator of the fund, said Monday that the claims that were rejected “couldn’t support any connection to the ignition switch.” For example, she said, claims were submitted for cars that weren’t part of the recall for faulty ignition switches in older compacts such as the Chevrolet Cobalt. In other cases, the air bags inflated in the crash, an indication that the ignition switches were not at fault, Biros said.

Last year, GM recalled 2.6 million small cars because the ignition switches could slip out of the run position, causing the cars to stall unexpectedly, disabling the air bags and power steering and brakes. A Charlotte product liability lawyer represents clients in product design defects, manufacturing defects, and product marketing defects.

The fund has made offers in 124 death cases and 275 injury crashes. Of those, 325 were accepted, eight rejected and 65 haven’t decided. One injury claim was added to the eligible list in the last week.

Families of those who died will get at least $1 million. GM has set aside $625 million to compensate people. A Kentucky automotive lawyer is following this story closely.

GM said in a second-quarter filing with securities regulators that it had paid $280 million to compensate ignition-switch crash victims and their families as of July 17. The company said it faces 181 wrongful-death or injury lawsuits due to recalled vehicles in the U.S. and Canada. A Nashville product liability attorney is reviewing the details of this case.


Original Story:

The Detroit Medical Center could soon settle for $42 million its portion of a 2006 class lawsuit over pay brought by registered nurses against eight metro Detroit hospital systems.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen gave preliminary approval on Monday for the proposed settlement involving DMC and the roughly 24,000 nurses who worked at either DMC or the other seven hospital systems between December 2002 and December 2006. The lawsuit alleged a conspiracy among the hospitals to suppress the nurses' pay. A San Diego healthcare lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Settlements totaling $48 million were previously reached with the other hospitals, and that money has already been distributed to nurses, according to a website of the Seattle-based law firm Keller Rohrback that represented the plaintiffs. With this latest proposed settlement, the total size of the settlement could be $90 million — before attorneys fees and taxes.

Neither DMC nor the other hospital systems have admitted to any wrongdoing or to underpaying nurses. All eight hospital systems contended they acted independently in setting their nurses' pay and benefits and didn't collude to keep wages low. A Grand Rapids healthcare lawyer is knowledgeable in all areas of general health care.

The other hospitals and health systems were Henry Ford Health System, Mt. Clemens General Hospital (now McLaren Macomb), what is now St. John Providence, Oakwood Healthcare, the former Bon Secours Cottage Health Services, Beaumont Hospital and Trinity Health.

The DMC on Tuesday referred all comment to its attorney in the case, Veronica Lewis of Dallas-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who said in a statement that "The settlement is not an admission of liability but rather a business decision to bring the matter to a resolution.  We remain committed to our nurses and value the hard work and dedication of all our hospital staff." A Charleston healthcare lawyer is following this story closely.

An attorney representing the nurses, Mark Griffin of Keller Rohrback, declined comment.

More information regarding the settlement is available at The size of each individual check would be determined by the number of hours a nurse worked and his or her pay rate.


Original Story:

WASHINGTON — For decades, women who believed their employers had punished them with lower wages and missed promotions after they had become mothers have been filing gender discrimination complaints and bringing lawsuits. A Boston employment lawyer has experience representing clients in employment law matters involving discrimination and harassment.

Now, as men shoulder more responsibilities at home, they are increasingly taking legal action against employers that they say refuse to accommodate their roles as fathers.

“The huge thing that’s changed only in about the past five years is suddenly men feel entitled to take time off for family,” said Joan C. Williams of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. “They’re willing to put their careers on the line to live up to that idea. It’s revolutionary.”

Just last week, CNN and Turner Broadcasting quietly settled an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge with a former CNN correspondent, Josh Levs, who claimed that the company’s paid parental leave policy discriminated against biological fathers. An Atlanta employment lawyer has experience advising clients about their rights and obligations under employment agreements.

At the time Mr. Levs’s daughter was born, in October 2013, CNN offered 10 weeks of paid leave to biological mothers and the same amount to parents of either gender who adopted children or relied on surrogates. By contrast, the company offered two weeks of paid leave to biological fathers.

Mr. Levs, whose daughter was born five weeks prematurely, already had two young children. He said he felt he needed to spend more time at home sharing in caregiving responsibilities with his wife. He filed his charge when the company refused to grant him more paid time off.

Mr. Levs is prevented from disclosing what he received under the settlement, but he confirms that CNN and Turner Broadcasting will provide additional paid time off to some other biological fathers who took paternity leave before January 2015. The company’s current policy — which went into effect this year — gives six weeks of paid caregiving leave to all new parents. Biological mothers receive another six weeks of leave, and more if they have additional medical needs.

“Turner is a recognized leader because of its family-friendly policies,” the company said in a statement. “CNN is pleased Mr. Levs feels that his concerns have been addressed and has withdrawn his E.E.O.C. charge.” An Idaho employment lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Mr. Levs’s is the latest in a recent string of cases brought by fathers against their employers over conflicts relating to family responsibilities. The law firm Dechert settled a case in 2013 that was brought by Ariel Ayanna, a former lawyer at the firm, who said he faced retaliation from supervisors, who withheld work and ultimately fired him, after he took a leave that was covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act in 2008. He said that one reason for his leave was to help care for his wife, who was suicidal while pregnant.

In his complaint, Mr. Ayanna cited a “macho” culture that “encourages male associates and partners to fulfill the stereotypical male role of ceding family responsibilities to women.”

At the firm, he noted in the complaint, the partner he reported to repeatedly “made derisive comments about Ayanna’s taking care of his wife and children” after he came back from leave, even though there was no evidence that he had missed deadlines or his work had suffered in any way.

Also in 2013, the Transportation Department settled a complaint from Gary M. Ehrhard, an air traffic controller who claimed that the federal agency had engaged in sex discrimination when it denied him several days of child care leave that it granted to mothers in 2007. Mr. Ehrhard said the agency retaliated when he complained about this treatment by, among other things, requiring him to present a medical note when absent because of illness.

The cases come against the backdrop of a societal shift in which many fathers are working less and spending more time with their children. A recent Pew Research Center analysis reported that from 1965 to 2011, fathers reduced the number of hours they devoted to paid work to about 37 from 42 each week on average and increased the number of hours they devoted to child care each week to about seven from 2.5. A Miami employment lawyer is following this story closely.

The earlier cases that have been settled appear to have encouraged more fathers to seek legal remedies. Rebecca G. Pontikes, who represented Mr. Ayanna, said she had received inquiries from other lawyers. “They talk to me about bringing suits they have on behalf of male caregivers,” she said. “It has not been without effect.”

Even companies that have adopted legally defensible official policies may still face legal action. In a study reported this year in the journal Organization Science, Erin Reid, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Boston University, who gained access to workers in a large consulting firm, uncovered numerous instances in which fathers were discouraged from adjusting their schedules to accommodate parental responsibilities, coupled with a kind of disbelief that they would even entertain the idea.

“Men experienced more overt discrimination, hostility,” Professor Reid said.

David Reina, a lawyer who took paternity leave once at a prominent New York firm and a second time at a firm in Washington, said it was implicitly conveyed to senior associates of both genders that if they wanted to make partner they should not take the full leave: In both cases it was four weeks for parents who were not the primary caregiver (typically men) and roughly 18 weeks for women who were primary caregivers.

Though taking the full leave could be equally damaging to men’s and women’s careers, he said, men’s decision-making was carefully scrutinized for signals about commitment.

“The woman was more quickly written off; the expectation was that she’ll take a lot of time off,” Mr. Reina said. “For the man, it’s more like, ‘Oh, here’s a test for him. What’s he going to do?’ ”

Experts say the issue goes beyond unequal treatment of men and women to a question of the trade-off between work and family. By discouraging men from taking child-rearing seriously, they say, employers can effectively add to the workplace stigma of women who shoulder these responsibilities.

“People would say to me, ‘When a man disappears from the office at 4:30 or 5, he could be meeting with a client,’ ” Ms. Reid said. “But people tended to assume women were picking up their children.”

The specific issue of paternity leave shows how deeply ingrained these assumptions can be.

Few employers provide paid leave for new fathers or new mothers: Only 17 percent of companies in a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management offered paid paternity leave, while 21 percent offered paid maternity leave.

But companies that do offer paid leave can run into legal trouble if they offer far longer paid time off to women. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance on the subject explains that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, companies may offer longer leaves to biological mothers than to biological fathers, but the difference must be justified by medical necessity. Any paid leave offered beyond the time a mother spends recovering from her pregnancy must be offered equally to both men and women. Courts have recognized that six weeks is typical for a mother, though it can be longer in individual cases.

Mr. Levs’s charge claimed that at CNN, biological mothers were receiving 10 weeks of paid leave regardless of whether the time was medically necessary.

Peter Romer-Friedman of the nonprofit Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban affairs, one of the lawyers who represented Mr. Levs, said, “The Supreme Court has said that any disparity in the overall amount of parental leave given to mothers compared to fathers must be tethered to the actual time it takes a mother to recover from having a baby.” A Memphis employment discrimination lawyer represents clients in employment discrimination, employment retaliation, and workplace harassment issues.

He added: “In some cases courts have allowed employers to presume that the recovery time is six weeks. In others courts have rejected such a presumption.”

Cynthia Thomas Calvert, who is a senior adviser at the Center for WorkLife Law, said CNN’s policy was sufficiently close to the line that it may have withstood a court challenge. But CNN is hardly the only employer whose policies have left it vulnerable to discrimination claims.

Goldman Sachs, for example, offers women 12 weeks of maternity leave tied to their pregnancy-related disability, along with four additional weeks of parenting leave, an amount that is also available to biological fathers. The disparity appears out of step with the case law on the issue, Ms. Calvert said. Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Toward the most generous end of the spectrum are companies like Facebook, which equalizes paid leave, offering men and women four months.

Polling suggests that millennials — the oldest of whom are in their early 30s — are more likely than their predecessors to rank family obligations ahead of work.

“I loved my job, and wanted to keep doing it, but I was also needed at home,” said Mr. Levs, 43. “In the initial weeks of a newborn child’s life, mothers and fathers should not have to choose between work and caring for their children.”

If Mr. Levs was a pioneer of sorts, who will be next?

Ms. Calvert said the world would soon see a case alleging that retaliation for male caregiving — mockery, gratuitous discipline, ostracization — created a hostile work environment, that mainstay of litigation involving women in the 1980s and ’90s.

Her colleague, Ms. Williams, amplified that point. “Because of the kinds of comments older men are making to younger men,” she said, “employers are unfortunately sitting ducks for suits based on gender discrimination.”


Original Story:

EAST LANSING — It can’t be silence or lack of a fight. It can’t be an existing relationship or a past encounter. It can’t be a drunken nod.

Only a sober “yes” from both parties should count as consent to sex, two Greater Lansing lawmakers and several advocates said Tuesday at a press conference announcing planned “Yes Means Yes” legislation. A Memphis sexual harassment lawyer has extensive experience handling sexual harassment claims.

State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-Meridian Township, and state Rep. Tom Cochran, D-Mason, said they’d introduce legislation this week that would require schools to include “a more robust conversation” about consent in their sexual education courses. In addition to clarifying that sex without “yes” — whether or not there’s a “no” — could be assault, the bill would clarify that individuals can take back their consent at any time and that just because two people are dating doesn’t mean they want to have sex.

Speaking alongside the lawmakers at East Lansing’s Hannah Community Center, Detective Lt. Scott Wriggelsworth of the East Lansing Police Department said “a dangerous trend is unfolding: Many college students just don’t know what consent looks like ... Anything less than yes means no.”

Also at the conference, Sarah Hansen, a co-president of the group East Lansing High School Students for Gender Equality, applauded the bill because she said students “need more open discussions with our peers and educators” about real consent. An Idaho education lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The bill comes as a national conversation about campus sexual assault has expanded.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights said “a sexually hostile environment existed for and affected numerous students and staff” at Michigan State University following the university’s delayed investigations into harassment accusations. Earlier this summer, Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder held a Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault Summit in downtown Lansing, calling on schools across the state to do more to prevent abuse.

Hertel said Tuesday his bill would add to, not conflict with, the first lady’s efforts and a separate Democratic bill recently introduced in the state Senate that would require schools to provide “medically accurate” information in sex-ed courses. He said those other efforts should help his legislation gain bipartisan support. An Atlanta college lawyer is following this story closely.

Nationwide, 13% of college-aged women say they’ve been forced to have sex with the person they were dating, Kathy Hagenian, executive policy director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence, said at Tuesday’s press conference.

“We need to change these shocking numbers,” she said.

Hertel said said “the situation has become untenable. It’s clear we need to do more to teach our children before they go to college.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Original Story:

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Google (GOOGL - Get Report) shares are slumping 0.31% to $653.30 on Monday after Russia's antitrust regulator found that the search giant violated the country's antitrust rules, The Wall Street Journal reports. A Denver antitrust lawyer is following this story closely.

Google was guilty of "abusing its dominant market position," but not of "unfair competition practices," the regulator told the Journal.

This action comes after Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) started the probe back in February. Russia's Internet firm Yandex (YNDX) often called the "Google of Russia," had asked the country's regulator to look into whether or not the tech giant violated Russia's antitrust rules.

Yandex specifically pointed to Google's Android operating system and how the company bundles apps with the system, according to the Journal. A Charleston unfair competition attorney represents clients in matters involving deceptive trade practices, domain infringement issues, and in non-compete and non-disclosure agreements.

The regulator's decision will "help restore competition on the market," Yandex added.

Shares of Yandex are jumping 7.99% to $12.17 on heavy trading volume in Monday's afternoon trading session.

Based in Mountain View, CA, Google builds technology products and provides services to organize the information.

Separately, TheStreet Ratings team rates GOOGLE INC as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate GOOGLE INC (GOOGL) a BUY. This is driven by several positive factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, reasonable valuation levels, increase in net income and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

GOOGL's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 6.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 11.1%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share. An Aiken unfair competition lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Although GOOGL's debt-to-equity ratio of 0.05 is very low, it is currently higher than that of the industry average. Along with this, the company maintains a quick ratio of 4.60, which clearly demonstrates the ability to cover short-term cash needs.

The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Internet Software & Services industry average. The net income increased by 17.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $3,351.00 million to $3,931.00 million.

Net operating cash flow has increased to $6,985.00 million or 24.13% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, GOOGLE INC has also modestly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of 19.50%.


Original Story:

The names Enron and WorldCom are synonymous with accounting fraud and an era in which top executives turned to desperate measures to inflate company earnings, mislead investors, prop up share prices and supercharge their already exorbitant compensation. A Boca Raton white collar crime lawyer is following this story closely.

Surprisingly, the post-Lehman Brothers, post-financial crisis period has yielded no such headline-grabbing cases. So it’s easy to imagine that the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., thought he had struck gold when someone accused the top officials of Dewey & LeBoeuf — the prestigious global law firm that imploded in May 2012 after a series of partner defections — of defrauding the firm’s lenders and bondholders by means of a sophisticated accounting conspiracy.

Steven H. Davis, the firm’s former chairman; Stephen DiCarmine, the firm’s former executive director; and Joel Sanders, its former chief financial officer, have been on trial in Manhattan Criminal Court for three and a half months. The prosecution rested its case last week, and the defense offered no witnesses of its own, arguing that the prosecution had utterly failed to meet its burden of proof.

I attended some of this week’s closing arguments, and the jury is expected to begin its deliberations next week. While there’s no knowing what the jury will decide, one thing already seems clear: Dewey & LeBoeuf is no Enron, and Mr. Davis, Mr. DiCarmine and Mr. Sanders are unlikely to emerge from the proceedings as household names synonymous with accounting fraud, no matter what the verdict. A St. Louis white collar crime lawyer provides professional legal counsel and extensive experience in many aspects of white collar crime law.

I don’t recall any Enron or WorldCom witness describing any of the defunct companies’ top executives as “awesome.” But that’s what a prosecution witness called Mr. DiCarmine. “Maybe Mr. DiCarmine is awesome,” an assistant district attorney, Peirce Moser, conceded in his summation. But, he said, “awesome people commit crimes, too.”

Some of the accounting “adjustments” made to enhance Dewey’s fiscal picture during and after the financial crisis may well have been improper. Three employees pleaded guilty to one felony each, including the prosecution’s star witness, Frank Canellas, the firm’s former finance director. Four low-level employees pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.

There’s no doubt that the accountants, with the encouragement of their bosses, were doing their best to make Dewey & LeBoeuf’s financial statements look as good as possible during a difficult period for all law firms. But it still isn’t entirely clear they believed they were committing crimes: several testified that at the time, they didn’t believe they were doing anything wrong. Business accounting in Encino provides basic tax management and accounting services to more in-depth services.

In any event, none of these adjustments amounted to the kind of blatant financial falsehoods that dominated previous scandals. No one is accused of falsifying revenue that did not exist. No one at the firm is accused of entering into sham transactions for work that was never performed or for booking revenue that was never paid.

Instead, much of the testimony was about arcane, small-bore accounting issues — whether revenue received by the firm during the first few days of January for work performed and billed the previous year could be booked in December; whether the return of a client’s retainer could be amortized over five months in the same calendar year; and under what circumstances payments to partners could be classified as a return of their capital contributions. Jurors were subjected to hours of testimony on each of these topics, which are also the subject of extensive discussion in accounting literature.

For some reason, prosecutors didn’t call any accounting experts to testify that any of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s accounting was improper. Nor did they call the Ernst & Young partner in charge of the firm’s audits. As even Mr. Canellas testified, on “almost any accounting issue people can differ in opinion.”

And while Mr. Sanders, as chief financial officer, was at least involved in some of the considerations of the accounting treatment, there was scant evidence that either of the “two Steves,” as Mr. Davis and Mr. DiCarmine were known at the firm, understood that any of the adjustments were questionable, let alone that they directed a conspiracy to defraud lenders and investors. There was testimony that Mr. Canellas hid some accounting adjustments from Mr. Davis and, in one instance, told a participant “not to tell Mr. Davis anything about it.”

In his summation, Mr. Moser seemed to address this missing link, arguing that Mr. Davis and Mr. DiCarmine “can’t escape” being convicted “just because they had others do their dirty work for them.” And he said that when Mr. Davis told employees that Dewey & LeBoeuf needed to meet its loan covenants, that was actually “a command to commit fraud.”

No matter the verdict, the Dewey & LeBoeuf prosecution may well add to a growing national concern about “overcriminalization and excessive punishment,” to quote Justice Elena Kagan of the Supreme Court. She was discussing the overzealous prosecution of trivial matters or, in the accounting context, prosecuting the exercise of business judgments over which experts can differ.

The Justice Department this week began a new initiative to hold corporate executives accountable for crimes at the corporate level, a response to widespread frustration that so few high-level executives have been prosecuted since the financial crisis even as their corporate employers have admitted wrongdoing and paid billions in fines. But that doesn’t mean prosecutors should bring cases based largely on inference and flimsy evidence.

Justice Kagan criticized aspects of the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform law as “a bad law — too broad and undifferentiated, with too high maximum penalties, which give prosecutors too much leverage and sentencers too much discretion,” which she found to be “an emblem of a deeper pathology in the federal criminal code.”

Justice Kagan was writing in the now infamous fish case Yates v. United States, in which a Florida fisherman was prosecuted under Sarbanes-Oxley’s antifraud provisions for throwing some underweight grouper overboard, which prosecutors claimed amounted to tampering with any “record, document or tangible object.” (The Supreme Court overturned the fisherman’s conviction.)

The Dewey & LeBoeuf case isn’t as absurd as Yates, and Mr. Vance brought it under state rather than federal law. Still, the prosecution raises some of the same issues.

John F. Lauro, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn and now a white-collar defense lawyer, said the Dewey case illustrated that “the criminal laws are so broad that virtually any accounting issue can be turned into a criminal cause.” That means, he added, that “someone can go to jail simply for exercising their best judgment, which isn’t fair.” An Atlanta white collar defense lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Mark Chenoweth, general counsel for the Washington Legal Foundation, which promotes business interests and free enterprise and has criticized the overprosecution of accounting decisions, said he could not comment on the Dewey case specifically, but noted: “Prosecutors can easily file charges over legitimate judgment calls, and because the defendant’s personal freedom is at stake, the prosecutor can get tremendous leverage.”

He added: “Of course, these charges are almost always going to be filed after a severe problem has occurred that implicates the accounting decision, so what was a legitimate judgment call at the time may look like an obviously bad or even criminal decision later. But just because a bad outcome resulted does not mean that an accounting decision was unjustified.”

Mr. Lauro said that most such cases are better left to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which can pursue civil remedies, like fines and other relief, but not jail time. It also faces a lower burden of proof.

“These cases belong in civil court, not criminal court,” Mr. Lauro maintained. “Some of the issues are so complex that I’ve had to take advanced accounting courses just to be able to cross-examine a witness.”

Mr. Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, has much riding on the outcome, given how he trumpeted the indictments back in March 2014. “Those at the top of the firm directed employees to hide the firm’s true financial condition from creditors, investors, auditors and even partners of the firm,” he said at the time.

On the contrary, Mr. Davis’s lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, argued this week, “the simple truth is that Steve Davis did not have anything to do with any illegality that may have occurred in the accounting department. He had no belief that anyone there was doing anything wrong.” He relied on accounting experts and people like Mr. Canellas, Mr. Abramowitz said, “not one of whom brought any evidence of wrongdoing to Mr. Davis’s attention.”

Mr. Vance already faces criticism for his handling of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case, which was eventually dismissed; his pursuit of Sergey Aleynikov, the former Goldman Sachs programmer after his conviction for stealing computer source code was overturned; and for filing a dubious mortgage fraud case against Chinatown’s Abacus Federal Savings, whose top officials were exonerated at trial. (The Abacus case was the subject of a column by my colleague Gretchen Morgenson.)

Mr. Vance’s office could not be reached for comment.

“Sometimes prosecutors make mistakes,” Mr. DiCarmine’s lawyer, Austin Campriello, told the jury this week. “Sometimes they make mistakes because they jump to conclusions.” Sometimes “they become fixated.” And sometimes, he argued, “they can’t step back.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Original Story:

Challengers of Arizona's landmark immigration law failed to show that police would enforce the statute differently for Latinos than they would for people of other ethnicities, a judge said in a ruling that dismissed the last of seven challenges to the law. A Mexico City immigration lawyer is following this story closely.

The ruling could signal the end of the case and gave a victory to backers of the law, which was approved in 2010.

In her order Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton dismissed the challenge and upheld provisions that were previously ruled on by appeals courts.

She upheld the law's controversial requirement that police, while enforcing other laws, can question the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally. The U.S. Supreme Court also upheld the requirement, but the law's detractors continued to push their challenge at a lower-court level.

Opponents have “not produced any evidence that state law enforcement officials will enforce SB1070 differently for Latinos than a similarly situated person of another race or ethnicity,” Bolton wrote. A Washington immigration attorney has experience representing clients in immigration lawsuits as related to legal and illegal immigrants.

It's unclear whether the challengers will appeal the ruling. Karen Tumlin, an attorney representing a coalition of civil rights groups, said in a statement they would “evaluate all legal options moving forward.”

Former state Sen. Russell Pearce, who sponsored the initial legislation, applauded Bolton's judgment.

“She made it very clear the law was written very carefully not to be a race issue. It's not a racial law,” Pearce said.

The judge, however, did permanently bar a section of the law that prohibited people from blocking traffic when seeking or offering day labor services on streets. An appeals court previously also held Arizona could not enforce such provisions. Opponents had argued that day labor rules unconstitutionally restrict the free speech rights of people who want to express their need for work. A Panama City immigration lawyer represents clients on matters involving refugee status, employment of illegal immigrants, and pet immigration.

Arizona's frustrations over federal enforcement of the state's border with Mexico spawned a movement nearly a decade ago to have local police confront illegal immigration. Several such laws — including the state's ban on immigrant smuggling and automatic denial of bail to people in the country illegally who are charged with certain crimes — have since been thrown out by the courts.