Saturday, April 05, 2008

Small Victories over piranha lawyers

Foes of lawsuit abuse have been writing gleefully about the fall of Dickie Scruggs, Bill Lerach and Melvyn Weiss. All three lawyers are likely to spend time in jail for plotting to bribe a judge (Scruggs) or paying kickbacks (Lerach and Weiss). Good riddance. Locking them up will stop them from further damaging America - at least for a few years. But it's a small victory for reformers. New members of the parasite circus will just step forward to take their place. And what these aggressive class-action and securities lawyers do legally is more damaging to America than the crimes that Scruggs, Lerach and Weiss committed. They broke laws to cheat other lawyers out of some loot, but at least that barely hurt the public.

An editorial in this newspaper justifiably mocked Lerach for declaring his lawbreaking a mere "foot fault" ("I stepped over the line," he said). But at least paying off plaintiffs honestly reflects how such lawyers get rich. Often, they are less "officers of the court seeking justice" than businessmen colluding with plaintiffs in a lucrative extortion business. Legal extortion. But still extortion. Companies pay the lawyers to go away even when it's unclear that they did anything wrong.

Once companies pay, it's logical that the plaintiff/partner who helped the lawyers enrich themselves should get a cut of that loot. That's a fairer deal than what typical plaintiffs in class actions get: coupons or a check for perhaps $1.26.

A federal judge will soon decide whether to award Lerach his cut of what may be the biggest class-action legal fee ever. Lerach extorted - I mean persuaded - J.P. Morgan, Citigroup and a Canadian bank to give $695 million to him and other lawyers who claimed the banks were culpable in the Enron debacle. On March 19, 2007 an appellate court ruled that the banks were not culpable. But so what? Fairness doesn't necessarily govern this game. The game is more about rounding up lots of complainants and using America's one-sided legal system to terrorize businesses into settling. Companies could fight and win, but that distracts managers from what they ought to be doing. And they might get a bad jury and lose the entire company. It's safer to settle.

More here



The myth of the just price: "The concept of the just price is the basis of a great deal of erroneous economic thought that permeates our supposedly free market, capitalistic society. Laws regarding usury, loan sharking, price gouging, ticket scalping, dumping, profiteering, equal pay, price discrimination, predatory pricing and lending, product bundling, and antitrust -- these are all prime examples of this fallacious way of thinking. Opinions expressed on these practices, and things like pay for supermodels, executives, actors, and athletes, as well as nebulous concepts of fairness, are likewise predicated on just price theory -- regardless of whether the opinionist has any concept of basic economics or has ever even heard of just price theory."

Demon seed? "Interview with Robert Paarlberg, author of Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is Being Kept Out of Africa. Paarlberg: "My students know just what kind of food system they want: a food system that isn't based on industrial scale monoculture. They want instead small farms built around nature imitating polycultures. They don't want chemical use; they certainly don't want genetic engineering. They want slow food instead of fast food. They've got this image of what would be better than what we have now. And what they probably don't realize is that Africa is an extreme version of that fantasy. If we were producing our own food that way, 60 percent of us would still be farming and would be earning a dollar a day, and a third of us would be malnourished. I'm trying to find some way to honor the rejection that my students have for some aspects of modern farming, but I don't want them to fantasize about the exact opposite."

Newsweak shrinking: Hooray! "The staff of Newsweek will shrink dramatically, after 111 staffers on its news and business sides accepted a buyout last week. Among those leaving are some of the magazine's best-known, most-admired and longest-service critics, including David Gates, David Ansen and Cathleen McGuigan. 146 staffers were offered the chance to leave the magazine, with as much as two years of their current salary as a departing bonus, depending on their age and length of service. More staffers than expected accepted the offer, so at least some their jobs are likely to be filled by new hires. But dozens of positions will be eliminated permanently, Radar reports. The departure of so many senior staffers at once - all of them are expected to be gone by the end of this year - will mean the loss of much of the magazine's institutional memory, as well as many of its most talented writers and editors. All of the chief researchers are also leaving, and their positions may be eliminated"

EU regulations hit orchestras: "Along with other opera and ballet companies in the UK, Covent Garden is preparing itself for amendments to EU legislation relating to noise in the workplace. For most industries the regulations came into effect two years ago, but music and entertainment were granted an extra two years to find ways to adapt to the limits. That extension expires on Sunday, and orchestral managers have been thrown into a tailspin. They are spending tens of thousands of pounds consulting acoustic engineers and compiling complex databases, installing noise-reducing screens and buying earplugs for their players. They are metering their shows and rearranging their performance schedules accordingly, so that noisier productions are shared with quieter ones during the working week. And all without leaving audiences feeling that their musical night out has been compromised as a result. The regulations are designed to protect factory workers and other employees forced to carry out their jobs against a backdrop of loudly humming machinery. The irony is that for orchestras noise is their business, which makes it doubly tricky for them to function within the EU directive, especially when a Swan Lake clocks in at 90 decibels."

McCain has a personal stake in the war: "Sen. John McCain regularly talks about his military experience on the presidential campaign trail, but he draws the line when asked about his sons' service in the armed forces. Jimmy McCain, 19, who returned from Iraq in mid-February, is stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. Jack McCain, 21, is poised to graduate from the Naval Academy and could join the Marines as a second lieutenant. At a time when Democrats are calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, McCain has refused to use his children's experience to strengthen his arguments for keeping the U.S. military in the Middle Eastern country. McCain has appeared uncomfortable when asked about Jimmy's deployment to Iraq. When asked about it last month by Fox commentator Sean Hannity, McCain replied, "We really never talk about our sons. We have two sons in the military but we never talk about it, if that's all right." McCain added, "I am so proud of both of them."


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A lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is a recent example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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