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U.S. law firm again at center of big CEO payout
Headline News | 2007/01/03 21:49

Law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is again at the center of a massive and controversial CEO payout, representing the board of Home Depot Inc.that gave its departing boss a $210 million goodbye.

Wachtell's work for Home Depot marks the third time in recent years that it gave advice to boards during other large payout controversies, including executive ousters at Morgan Stanley and the New York Stock Exchange.

Home Depot confirmed Wachtell is representing its board. Wachtell, a respected New York city corporate law firm led by prominent takeover attorney Martin Lipton, did not respond to a call seeking comment on Home Depot.

The home improvement retailer said on Wednesday that Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Nardelli had resigned after a year of heavy criticism of the company's underperformance and Nardelli's pay package. The company also found past problems with its stock option grants.

Nardelli's $210 million exit package sparked widespread criticism and thrust Wachtell back in the CEO pay spotlight.

Martin Lipton was also chairman of the legal-advisory committee of the NYSE, where former Chairman Richard Grasso was forced out in 2003 after a furor over his $187.5 million pay package.



Many Californians handle their own divorces
Headline News | 2006/12/31 20:58

Rising legal fees, fewer legal aid services and a do-it-yourself mentality are driving more Californians to handle their own divorces, but sometimes not very successfully.

Court officials and legal experts worry that tens of thousands of former California couples don't realize their divorces weren't finalized after they tried to end their marriages. Many more, officials say, simply let their cases languish because they're stumped by complex paperwork and court procedures.

"People just don't get it done. They don't know how to get it done," said L.A. County Superior Court Judge Mark Juhas. "That's troubling. There are legal ramifications to continuing to be married."

About 80 percent of people in California who file for divorce handle their own paperwork, according to court officials. It's estimated that about a third of all petitions have not been finalized.

Richard Zorza, who coordinates a national network of organizations working on self-representation, said one reason people are increasingly handling their own civil court matters is rising lawyer fees.

He also blamed decreasing legal aid services for poor people, and a "Home Depot philosophy of people feeling they can do things on their own."

But the legal system, Zorza said, is complex and shouldn't be navigated by people without legal training.

In San Diego County, one of the few counties where statistics are available, 46 percent of people represented themselves in divorces in 1992; by 2000 that figure had climbed to 77 percent.

At a legal services center in Van Nuys, Calif., officials say they see 20 people a month who incorrectly thought they were divorced.

"They come in screaming," said Norma Valencia, a paralegal at the center operated by Neighborhood Legal Services. "They say, 'You don't understand my situation. I want a divorce right now.'"

Other couple have showed up weeping that they've remarried without a completed divorce and they're afraid to tell their new spouses.

Getting divorced in California requires filing divorce papers, serving them on the spouse and then writing and processing a judgment with the court. A divorce cannot become final until at least six months after the date the papers are served.

Juhas has tried to tackle the problem of divorces that haven't gone through by calling about 100 people a month and asking them if they need help.

About 10 percent say they've reconciled, and about 30 percent ignore him. But more than half want to be divorced but need help, he said.

Court officials also have launched self-help programs so people can get divorced.



SEC Announces Administrative Judge McEwen To Retire
Headline News | 2006/12/29 20:24

Administrative Law Judge Lillian A. McEwen has announced that she is retiring from her position with the SEC, effective Jan. 3, 2007. Since her appointment in September 1995, Judge McEwen has presided over, and issued initial decisions in, scores of administrative proceedings brought by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. She also served on multiple occasions as the SEC delegate to the Federal Administrative Law Judges Conference and was a founding member of Judicial Council, which is affiliated with the Washington Bar Association.

Prior to her appointment to the SEC, Judge McEwen served as an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration in Fresno, Calif., from July 1994 to March 1995, at which time she was promoted to Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge in New Haven, Conn. Judge McEwen began her legal career in 1975 as an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, D.C. From 1979 to 1982, she was counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where she worked extensively with Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., on criminal forfeiture and racketeering legislation. Judge McEwen then practiced criminal law privately from 1983 to 1989 and 1993 to 1994. During 1989 through 1992, she was an Assistant Professor of Law at the District of Columbia School of Law.



Court Reprimands Ohio Governor Over Gifts
Headline News | 2006/12/29 03:17

Governor Bob Taft (R-OH) Wednesday received a public reprimand from the Ohio Supreme Court for ethics violations stemming from charges that he received over 50 gifts worth up to $6,000 during four years in office. The reprimand will be a permanent mark on his record as an attorney, but while the justices had the option of issuing a stronger punishment in their 6-0 opinion, they cited Taft's previously clean record as a lawyer and otherwise unblemished record in public office.

In 2005, Taft pleaded no contest and was fined for the original charges, however in April of this year a disciplinary action was initiated by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, part of the Ohio Supreme Court tasked with monitoring lawyer behavior. That office determined that Taft had violated the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility by accepting the gifts. Taft did not seek re-election due to term limits, and is leaving office in less than 2 weeks. He has said that he would be more interested in teaching than in returning to practicing law.



Samsung Korean Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty
Headline News | 2006/12/22 18:59

WASHINGTON — An executive from Samsung Electronics Company Ltd..– the world’s largest manufacturer of a common computer component called dynamic random access memory (DRAM) – has agreed to plead guilty, serve jail time in the United States, and pay a fine for participating in a global conspiracy to fix DRAM prices, the Department of Justice announced.

In total, four companies and 18 individuals have been charged in the Department’s DRAM investigation and criminal fines totaling more than $730 million have resulted. This total reflects the second-largest total amount of fines ever imposed in a U.S. criminal antitrust investigation from a single price-fixing conspiracy. The Korean executive, Young Hwan Park, participated in the price-fixing conspiracy while in his capacity as Vice President of Sales at Korean memory maker Samsung Electronics Company Ltd. Park is currently President of Samsung Semiconductor Inc., Samsung’s U.S.-based subsidiary. Park is charged with participating in a conspiracy in the U.S. and elsewhere to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain original equipment manufacturers of personal computers and servers (OEMs), in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

“This latest plea underscores our resolve to hold responsible those who target U.S. businesses and consumers with price-fixing schemes,” said Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department’s Antitrust Division. “Individuals who choose to engage in price fixing are on notice of the consequences of their illegal actions – criminal fines and prison time.”

Under the plea agreement, which must be approved by the court, Park has agreed to serve 10 months in prison and to pay a criminal fine of $250,000. In addition, Park has agreed to assist the government in its ongoing investigation.

DRAM is the most commonly used semiconductor memory product, providing high-speed storage and retrieval of electronic information for a wide variety of computer, telecommunication, and consumer electronic products. DRAM is used in personal computers, laptops, workstations, servers, printers, hard disk drives, personal digital assistants, modems, mobile phones, telecommunication hubs and routers, digital cameras, video recorders and TVs, digital set top boxes, game consoles, and digital music players. There were approximately $7.7 billion in DRAM sales in the U.S. in 2004.

According to the one-count felony charge filed today in federal court in San Francisco, Park conspired with unnamed employees from other memory makers to fix the prices of DRAM sold to certain OEMs from on or about April 1, 2001, to on or about June 15, 2002. The violation directly affected sales to U.S. computer makers Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Company, Compaq Computer Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation, Apple Computer Inc., and Gateway Inc., the Department said.

Park is charged with carrying out the price-fixing conspiracy by:

∙ Participating in meetings, conversations, and communications with competitors to discuss the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain customers;

∙ Agreeing with competitors to charge prices of DRAM at certain levels to be sold to certain customers;

∙ Issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached; ∙ Exchanging information on sales of DRAM to certain customers, for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to agreed-upon prices; and

∙ Directing subordinates to contact competitors to obtain DRAM pricing information for the purpose of fixing prices.

This is the fifth Samsung executive to agree to a prison sentence in the DRAM investigation. Three foreign-based Samsung executives and one U.S. executive have already pleaded guilty and agreed to serve prison terms ranging from seven to eight months and to each pay a $250,000 fine. In April 2006, Sun Woo Lee and Yeongho Kang pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy while they worked for Samsung or its subsidiaries in the U.S. In August 2006, Young Woo Lee pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy while he worked for Samsung or its subsidiaries in Europe. Then, in November 2006, Thomas Quinn, a San Jose, Calif. executive, pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy in his capacity as vice president of marketing for memory products at Samsung Semiconductor Inc.

In December 2006, a former Elpida executive, D. James Sogas, pleaded guilty for his participation in the DRAM conspiracy and was sentenced to serve seven months in jail and to pay a $250,000 fine. In addition, four Hynix Semiconductor Inc., executives, Dae Soo Kim, Chae Kyun Chung, Kun Chul Suh, and Choon Yub Choi, were charged with participating in the DRAM price-fixing conspiracy and agreed to plead guilty and serve jail terms ranging from five to eight months and to each pay a $250,000 fine. In December 2004, four Infineon executives, T. Rudd Corwin, Peter Schaefer, Gunter Hefner, and Heinrich Florian, pleaded guilty to the DRAM price-fixing conspiracy. The Infineon employees served jail terms ranging from four to six months and each paid a $250,000 fine.

Also, in December 2003 the Department charged Alfred Censullo, a Regional Sales Manager for Micron Technology Inc., with obstruction of justice. Censullo pleaded guilty and admitted to having withheld and altered documents responsive to a grand jury subpoena served on Micron. Censullo was sentenced to serve six months of home detention.

Samsung pleaded guilty to the price-fixing conspiracy and was sentenced to pay a $300 million criminal fine in November 2005. Hynix, the world’s second-largest DRAM manufacturer, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $185 million criminal fine in May 2005. In January 2006, Japanese manufacturer Elpida Memory agreed to plead guilty and pay an $84 million fine. In October 2004, German manufacturer Infineon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $160 million criminal fine.

In October 2006, a federal grand jury in San Francisco returned a single-count indictment against two executives from Samsung, Il Ung Kim and Young Bae Rha, and one executive from Hynix, Gary Swanson, for violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.

Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Francisco.



17 Guantanamo detainees sent home
Headline News | 2006/12/17 23:16

The U.S. military repatriated 18 detainees from Guantanamo Bay over the weekend to Afghanistan, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Libya and Bangladesh, a Pentagon spokesman said Sunday.

The men, flown out of the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba on Friday, were all transferred to the custody of governments in their native countries except for one Yemeni detainee, who was released without conditions, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler.

The detainees, held for years at the isolated detention center without being charged, were cleared for departure by a military review process that assesses whether detainees have intelligence value or pose a threat to the United States. The military does not provide details about individual cases.

Since the prison opened in January 2002, about 380 detainees have been released from Guantanamo. About 395 prisoners are still held on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban, including roughly 85 others cleared to leave for other countries, Peppler said.



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