Posts Tagged ‘Court

12
Aug
10

BP Agrees to Record $50.6 Million Fine for Texas City Blast

NEWS
BP Agrees to Record $50.6 Million Fine for Texas City Blast

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BP has agreed to pay a record $50.6 million fine related to the deadly 2005 blast at its Texas City refinery and spend $500 million on safety improvements, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The fine relates to BP’s repeated failure to meet safety standards both before and after the explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170 others.

BP has also been slapped with huge fines for the pollution released from the troubled facility.

Those fines pale in comparison to the billions the British energy giant is liable for in the wake of the massive oil spill unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico after a deadly explosion sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration initially fined BP a record $21 million after it determined that BP failed to protect its workers ahead of the 2005 blast.

The penalty was increased to $50.6 million in 2009 after inspections found that BP failed to correct significant safety deficiencies.

‘This agreement achieves our goal of protecting workers at the refinery and ensuring that critical safety upgrades are made as quickly as possible,’ said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

‘The size of the penalty rightly reflects BP’s disregard for workplace safety and shows that we will enforce the law so workers can return home safe at the end of their day.’

The settlement does not impact ongoing litigation over the $30 million fine imposed for 439 new ‘willful violations’ discovered in the 2009 inspection.

‘It is perfectly within BP’s means to make that facility safe,’ OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab said in a conference call.

The settlement ‘commits them to a schedule to address those issues and it provides OSHA with an unprecedented level of oversight to make sure they do what they’re supposed to do,’ he added.
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07
Aug
10

A New Supreme Court Justice

NEWS
A New Supreme Court Justice
Honoring Elena Kagan

Saturday, August 07, 2010

“This is a good day,” said the President this afternoon. And it was, especially for Elena Kagan, who was being congratulated on her on confirmation as the next Supreme Court Justice. He thanked the other Justices in attendance for coming, and thanked the Senate – in particular Judiciary Chairman Leahy – for their work in the process.

The President noted the bipartisanship in the final vote and recounted the broad support her nomination received across the ideological spectrum:

These folks may not agree on much, but they’ve all been impressed, as I have, by Elena’s formidable intellect and path-breaking career – as an acclaimed scholar and presidential advisor, as the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School, and most recently as Solicitor General. They admire how, while she could easily have settled into a comfortable practice in corporate law, she chose instead to devote her life to public service. They appreciate her even-handedness and open-mindedness, and her excellent – and often irreverent – sense of humor.

These are traits that she happens to share with the last Solicitor General who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice – one for whom Elena clerked, and whom she considers one of her heroes – Justice Thurgood Marshall. And we are very proud to have Justice Marshall’s widow here today joining us. (Applause.)

In a tribute she wrote after Justice Marshall’s death, Elena recalled how she and her fellow clerks took turns standing guard when his casket lay in state at the Supreme Court – and how 20,000 people stood in a line that stretched around the block to pay their respects. They were people from every background and every walk of life: black, white, rich and poor, young and old. Many brought their children, hoping to impress upon them the lessons of Justice Marshall’s extraordinary life. Some left notes, some left flowers. One mourner left a worn slip opinion of Brown v. Board of Education.

It is, to this day, a moving reminder that the work of our highest Court shapes not just the character of our democracy, but the most fundamental aspects of our daily lives – how we work, how we worship, whether we can speak freely and live fully, whether those words put to paper more than two centuries ago will truly mean something for each of us in our time.

For her part, Kagan echoed the gratitude for those who worked so hard in the process, and gave a special note of thanks to her family:

Finally, I want to thank my family and friends. I have a lot of family here today – my brothers and sister-in-law, a nephew, a niece, aunts, uncles, cousins – and I have a great many friends here as well. You came from all over the country as soon as you heard the Senate had approved my nomination. And I’m moved and deeply grateful for your support.

And all around me in this room, I feel the presence of my parents. I wouldn’t be standing here today if not for their love and sacrifice and devotion. And although my parents didn’t live to see this day, what I can almost hear them saying – and I think I can hear Justice Marshall saying this to me right now as well – is that this appointment is not just an honor. Much more importantly, it is an obligation – an obligation to protect and preserve the rule of law in this country; an obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution; and an obligation to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law.

Tomorrow, I will take two oaths to uphold this solemn obligation: one, to support and defend the Constitution; and the other, to administer justice without respect to persons, to the rich and poor alike.

Today, Mr. President, I will simply say to you and to everyone here and across the nation that I will work my hardest and try my best to fulfill these commitments and to serve this country I love as well as I am able.

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25
Jul
10

Families mark 10 years since Concorde crash

NEWS
Families mark 10 years since Concorde crash

Sunday, July 25, 2010

••• Ten years to the day after Concorde plunged from the skies near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, victims of the tragedy have been remembered.

Families of the 113 people killed gathered at Gonesse just outside the French capital where the supersonic jet crashed onto a hotel after take-off.
All of the mainly German passengers on board the New York-bound flight perished alongside its Air France crew and four people on the ground.

The Concorde programme itself never recovered. The mythical aircraft was finally retired in 2003.
Controversy still surrounds what went wrong. The verdict in a manslaughter case is due in December.

Continental Airlines and five men went on trial amid claims a small metal strip from a Continental DC10 punctured the Concorde’s tyres on the runway. They all deny the charges against them.

Some defence lawyers argue the supersonic was on fire before it ran over the titanium strip.
» Related: Ten years on, French court asks who’s to blame for Concorde crash
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20
Jul
10

Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

NEWS
Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fabrice Tourre, the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive and co-defendant in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s charges that the bank defrauded investors, on Monday asked the court to dismiss the case filed against him by the U.S. Regulators.

Tourre, whose emails about a collateralized debt obligation were at the heart of the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC’s complaint, denied that he made any materially misleading statements or omissions, or behaved wrongly in connection to complex mortgage-linked securities called collateralized debt obligations or CDO.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York Tourre “specifically denies he made any materially misleading statements or omissions or otherwise engaged in any actionable or wrongful conduct” stemming from the CDO known as Abacus.
Tourre also argued that neither he nor his employer had a “duty to disclose any allegedly omitted information” in the marketing and sale of the CDO.

In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the investment bank that it did not reveal that one of its clients, Paulson & Co, played a significant role in the selection of securities contained in the Abacus mortgage portfolio and which was later sold to investors.

Following the collapse of the housing market, the securities in that mortgage portfolio – Abacus – lost more than $1 billion.
Goldman said it was a “mistake” to state that the loans contained in the CDO had been selected by a third party without mentioning the role of Paulson & Co, a hedge fund that bet against the security.

Last week, in a settlement, Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges brought in by the SEC. This is reportedly the largest ever for a financial institution and is less than the $1 billion fraud that the Commission alleged.

Tourre, who is the only Goldman Sachs executive named as a defendant in the SEC’s fraud lawsuit, has yet to settle with the regulator. Goldman also agreed to co-operate with the SEC in its case against Tourre.

Goldman Sachs declined $0.49 or 0.34 percent and closed Monday’s regular trading at $145.68. After hours, Goldman Sachs declined further $1.68 or 1.15 percent and traded at $144.00
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02
Jul
10

Judge Grants Bail to One of Alleged Russia Spies

NEWS
Judge Grants Bail to One of Alleged Russia Spies

Friday, July 2, 201

••• A prosecutor has warned that a powerful and sophisticated network of U.S.-based Russian agents was eager to help defendants in an alleged spy ring flee the country on bail.

U.S. authorities also said one defendant confessed that he worked for Russia’s intelligence service and others had large amounts of cash.

‘There are a lot of Russian government officials in the United States who are actively assisting this conspiracy,’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis on Thursday as he argued that those arrested last weekend should remain held without bail.

Ellis ruled that two defendants, Cynthia and Richard Murphy, should remain in custody because there was no other way to guarantee they would not flee since it was unclear who they were.

But he set bail of $250,000 for prominent Spanish-language journalist Vicky Pelaez, a U.S. citizen born in Peru, saying she did not appear to be trained as a spy.

The judge required electronic monitoring and home detention and said she would not be freed before Tuesday, giving prosecutors time to appeal.

Ellis ruled after Farbiarz said the evidence against the defendants continued to mount and the case was solid.

‘Judge, this is a case where the evidence is extraordinarily strong. Prosecutors don’t get cases like this very often,’ he said.

The decision to set bail for one defendant came as police in Cyprus searched airports, ports and yacht marinas to find a man who had been going by the name Christopher Metsos, who disappeared after a judge there freed him on $32,500 bail.

‘This is a case that in the course of less than a week has gotten much, much better,’ Farbiarz said, citing $80,000 in new, hundred dollar bills found in the safe-deposit box of two defendants who had been living in Montclair, NJ.
Farbiarz said a criminal complaint filed against the defendants was ‘relatively long but the complaint is the tip of an iceberg’.

The prosecutor said new evidence included the discovery of multiple mobile phones and multiple currencies in a safe deposit box and other ‘tools of the trade when they’re in this business’.

He said the spy ring consisted of people who for decades had worked to Americanise themselves while engaging in secret global travel with false passports, secret code words, fake names, invisible ink, encrypted radio and techniques so sophisticated that prosecutors chose not to describe them in court papers.

If freed, Farbiarz warned, the defendants would certainly flee, using co-conspirators in the United States to disappear and the tentacles of ‘one of the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world’.

Farbiarz said the defendants have a ‘powerful sophisticated network they can call upon in the United States’.

The prosecutor’s claims were countered by lawyers for several defendants who said that their clients, accused of going undercover in U.S. cities and suburbs, were harmless and should be released on bail.

‘It’s all hyperbole, your honour,’ lawyer Donna Newman said on behalf of Richard Murphy.

She said Murphy was a stay-at-home-dad who did the chores while his wife Cynthia earned a good living.

Farbiarz said the couple was proof that the defendants carried out ‘deception and lies at a systematic level’.

He said U.S. agents had been surveilling them for years and yet ‘after all those years of listening, there is no inkling at all that their children who they live with have any idea their parents are Russian agents’.

Ellis said the disappearance of Metsos after he was granted bail on the Mediterranean island did not affect his ruling.

‘I don’t know what they do in Cyprus,’ the judge said.

Lawyers for Juan Lazaro asked to postpone his bail hearing just hours after prosecutors revealed in a letter to Ellis that Lazaro had made incriminating statements.

U.S. authorities said in their court filing that Lazaro made a lengthy statement after his June 27 arrest in which he discussed some details of the operation, which prosecutors said involved Russian moles on a long-term mission to infiltrate American society.

Among other things, prosecutors said, he admitted that Juan Lazaro was not his real name, that he wasn’t born in Uruguay and wasn’t a citizen of Peru, as he had long claimed, that his home in Yonkers, NY, had been paid for by Russian intelligence and that his wife, Pelaez, had passed letters to the ‘Service’ on his behalf.

He also told investigators that even though he loved his son, ‘he would not violate his loyalty to the ‘Service’ even for his son,’ three assistant U.S. lawyers wrote in a court memo.

They added that Lazaro, who investigators claim spent at least part of his childhood in Siberia, also wouldn’t reveal his true name.

Federal prosecutors said they had searched a safe-deposit box belonging to the Murphys this week and found eight unmarked envelopes each stuffed with $10,000.
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28
Jun
10

Gov’t plans to double available wireless spectrum

NEWS
Gov’t plans to double available wireless spectrum

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Obama administration says it intends to nearly double the available amount of wireless communications spectrum over the next 10 years in an effort to keep up with the ever-growing demand for high-speed video and data transmission to cell phones, laptops and other mobile devices.

The White House said President Barack Obama will sign a presidential memorandum on Monday committing the federal government to auctioning off 500 megahertz of federal and commercial spectrum.

Revenue from the auctions would be spent on public safety, infrastructure investments and deficit reduction.

National Economic Council director Lawrence H Summers will explain the new policy in a speech on Monday at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.

In an excerpt released by the White House, Summers said, ‘This initiative will catalyse private sector investment, contribute to economic growth and help to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.’

The administration said it hopes to encourage the spread of wireless broadband across the country, including rural areas.

The auction is intended, in part, to counter fears of a potential ‘spectrum crunch’ as smart phones and laptop computers become more popular and new wireless devices hit the market.
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12
Jun
10

Goldman Sachs Crime watch – SEC Launches 2nd Major Investigation

NEWS
Goldman Sachs Crime watch – SEC Launches 2nd Major Investigation

Saturday, June 12, 2010

US securities regulators are hunting for fresh dirt on Goldman Sachs Group, hoping to bolster their lawsuit against the bank and perhaps force it to settle on terms more to the regulators’ liking.

Two months ago the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Wall Street’s most powerful bank with civil fraud in connection with a subprime mortgage-linked security.

The case hinges on whether Goldman misled investors when it marketed Abacus 2007, a mortgage-linked security that turned toxic during the mortgage crisis.

Now, the SEC is also looking at other collateralized debt obligations that turned toxic, including Hudson Mezzanine Funding, a source familiar with the investigation said on Thursday.

“You put a number of things together and then it becomes harder to defend against all of them,” said Annemarie McAvoy, a Fordham University School of Law professor and a former federal prosecutor

“So you finally cry uncle and say, ‘Fine, I’ll settle.'”

The expanding investigation of Goldman’s CDOs comes as federal prosecutors probe some of the complex mortgage-linked transactions that Wall Street firms cobbled together and which helped spark the worst financial crisis in decades.

Even the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is getting into the act.

Reuters has learned the securities industry’s self-regulatory agency recently began its own investigation into whether Wall Street banks violated customary sales practices in hawking CDOs to institutional investors.

A document reviewed by Reuters reveals FINRA is looking into potential improprieties in the structuring of the deals and the relationship between the CDO underwriters and mortgage lenders.

Former Goldman customers also are putting pressure on the bank and its chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein.

Reuters previously reported that SEC lawyers had looked at the $1 billion Timberwolf deal before filing the Abacus lawsuit in April.

The SEC’s interest in the $2 billion Hudson CDO was first reported by the Financial Times.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin, during a hearing in April of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, raised Abacus, Timberwolf and Hudson while questioning a cast of past and present Goldman employees, including Blankfein.

In a Senate floor speech in May introducing legislation to curb conflicts of interest in Wall Street deals, Levin zeroed in on Hudson Mezzanine 2006-1.

“When Goldman first sold the securities to its clients, more than 70 percent of Hudson Mezzanine had AAA ratings,” he said. “But … within 18 months Hudson was downgraded to junk status, and Goldman cashed in at the expense of its clients.”

The Hudson deal closed in November 2006 and went into liquidation in May 2008.

The myriad investigations, coupled with the Timberwolf litigation, could create a tipping point at which Blankfein and other Goldman executives decide they have no choice but to reach some sort of comprehensive settlement, according to legal experts.

“Will there be more stuff? At this point, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me,” said White.

At the least, the SEC could be looking to bolster its Abacus case, which some saw as weak. SEC commissioners voted to bring the lawsuit in a split decision.

Fordham’s McAvoy said the SEC’s strategy could be to strengthen the initial case by adding new material from other deals.

“A lot of folks don’t think the initial case is as strong as the SEC made it out to be,” McAvoy said.

Goldman shares are down more than 25 percent since the SEC filed its lawsuit on April 16. The shares were off 2.4 percent to $133.49 in Thursday morning trading.
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