Contracts

(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

At 1:24 a.m. on March 18, 1990, as St. Patrick’s Day festivities wound down in Boston, two men dressed as police officers rang the buzzer at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. Eighty-one minutes later, they vanished, taking eleven paintings and two artifacts with them. None of the stolen works — worth at least $500 million today — has ever been recovered. This week, On Remand looks back at the Gardner heist and another set of stolen paintings that found their way back the rightful owner — landing an attorney in prison in the process….

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Dan Harris

I figured my first Above the Law post should be something aimed squarely at those who generally read this blog: American lawyers. I also figured I should lead with what I do best and that is scaring the heck out of people.

So I am going to write about four common and egregious mistakes my law firm’s China lawyers often see American domestic lawyers make when representing their clients in doing business with or in China, along with a very brief analysis of what causes American lawyers to make each sort of mistake.

1. Many years ago, a lawyer in the Midwest called us to discuss his client’s desire to form a company in China. This lawyer did not even tell us that his client was in the room. The lawyer asked us the minimum capital the Chinese government would likely require his client put into a Chinese bank to be able to start a business (a WFOE) in China. Based on the nature and size of the business, we estimated $6 to $8 million. The lawyer asked us to confirm that a portion of the required $6 to $8 million could come from factory equipment not cash, and we assured him that it could. At that point, he said, “good,” because his client had already purchased $5 million in equipment and shipped it to China.

We then had to tell him those equipment purchases could not count because they had not been previously designated as going to the WFOE. The lawyer then complained about how his client could not afford to come up with another $5 million and how China was putting form over substance. To which we could say little more than, “yeah”…

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Rachel Canning

* Dewey know who Zachary Warren is? Per this failed firm’s insiders, he seems to be a “man of mystery” who apparently worked in the “bowels of the bureaucracy” that ultimately led to D&L’s demise. [Am Law Daily]

* “You can cross-examine the witness. You can’t cross examine an email.” Defense of the Dewey defendants may be tough when it’s time for trial — and you can bet your ass there’ll be a trial. [New York Law Journal]

* Fear not, friends, because Patton Boggs has found a way to weather the storm. It’s the same way most barely buoyant firms stay afloat: more layoffs. Expect more on this news later today. [National Law Journal]

* Paul Ceglia, the man who claims he owns half of Facebook’s fortunes, can’t toss his criminal charges. Sometimes wheeling and dealing with allegedly faux contracts will land you in the clink. [Bloomberg]

* Because no father wants to see his daughter become “tabloid fodder”: Rachel Canning, the New Jersey schoolgirl who sued her parents, is being “savaged” by the public. Aww, poor little Millennial. [Daily Record]

19 Recordings, the entity that enters into record deals with the recording artists who win American Idol, has sued Sony Music for allegedly stealing millions of dollars after underpaying the company in terms of royalties. The 33-page complaint, available after the jump, opens with a list of American Idol success stories and then documents in detail how Sony Music reportedly stole millions from them. 

According to the suit, Sony misclassified streaming music sales to pay 19 Recordings less than what the company was owed.  Another claim is that Sony was supposed to obtain approval from 19 Recordings after a certain ceiling cost for advertising was reached, but Sony failed to seek that approval before spending 19 Recordings’ royalties without its consent. The remaining allegations similarly claimed underpayment for royalties, improper passing of expenses on 19 Recordings, not allowing 19 Recordings to audit all of Sony’s books, and claims related to royalties for individual artists.

Interestingly, 19 Recordings filed in federal court. 19 Recordings is the little guy in this action — with the backing of name brand stars — and it seems that the company might fare better in state court.  The suit comes just after Season 13 of the show premiered on Fox.  The suit seeks $7 million in damages and $3 million in prejudgment interest.

Keep reading to see the complaint…

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Lisa Kudrow

You really in real life bear no relationship to the character Phoebe, right?

Mark Baute, attorney for Scott Howard, while cross-examining “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow on the witness stand earlier this week. Baute accused Kudrow of “pretending to be dumb” and acting like her well-known character, Phoebe Buffay, during her testimony.

(Howard served as Kudrow’s manager during her time on the show, and claims he’s owed more than $1.7 million in residuals. A jury returned a verdict in Howard’s favor today.)

(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

With the snow melting in Sochi, “On Remand” looks back to one of the greatest moments in Olympic history. Tomorrow is the 34th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice.”

In February 1980, the XIII Olympic Winter Games were underway in Lake Placid, New York. But a little-known group of hockey players had been practicing together for months, skating themselves to exhaustion learning coach Herb Brooks’s new, fast, and grueling style of play. Most of the players on Team USA were barely old enough to order a beer, and hardly any had played hockey professionally. In a few months, several would be playing in the NHL. But on February 22, they were underdogs against a Soviet team that had won the gold in every Olympic contest since 1956 — except for 1960, when the Americans stood atop the podium. A week before the 1980 games started, the Soviets had trounced the Americans, 10-3, in an exhibition game.

“Unless the ice melts” or some team “performs a miracle,” a sports writer quipped, the Soviets would win the gold medal again in 1980. And, for most of the U.S.S.R. versus U.S. game, that prediction appeared accurate. But with 10 minutes left in the game, Mike Eruzione, Team USA’s captain, scored a goal from thirty feet, putting the Americans up 4-3. They never relinquished the lead. As the clock ran out, ABC broadcaster Al Michaels delivered his now iconic play-by-play

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George Zimmerman and DMX

DMX has promised to “beat [George Zimmerman's] ass,” but no contract or paperwork has been signed or agreed to yet.

Domenick Nati, a spokesperson for DMX, commenting on the upcoming “celebrity” boxing match scheduled to occur this March between the ex-neighborhood watchman and the washed-up rapper.

* Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees, has left Akin Gump’s dugout. He hopes to hit it out of the park and slide into his new home at Jackson Lewis. Please, no more baseball references. :( [Am Law Daily]

* Thanks to Virginia, the electric chair may be making a comeback when drugs for lethal injection aren’t available. OMG, that’s so freakin’ lame. Bring back the breaking wheel or death by disembowelment. [Gawker]

* A lawyer won’t have to pay an ex-law student $1M after making a hyperbolic challenge in a TV interview. Better luck reading the Leonard v. Pepsico case next time, pal. [Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Protip: when you’ve been recommended for suspension for your “contemptuous attitude,” bragging that one of the judges who disciplined you thinks you’re “probably the best DUI lawyer” isn’t smart. [Santa Barbara Independent]

* If you watch The Walking Dead, you’ve probably wondered if all of the killing was legal — because you’re a lawyer, and you can’t enjoy anything anymore. Here’s your answer, from a UC Hastings Law prof. [GQ]

* If you’d like your chickens to live a life of luxury before you eat them and their eggs, then you’re going to love this law in California. If not, you can move to Missouri. See Elie squawk about it here. [ATL Redline]

* Ian Whittle, a recent George Mason Law grad, took a break from watching the saddest Super Bowl ever to save a little girl from drowning in a pond. Check out the news coverage, after the jump. [CBS 6 WTVR]

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Let’s play the game where we spot unenforceable contractual clauses and laugh at people who are afraid of modernity.

Actually, let’s play the game where we marvel at how good it must be to be a university president, even at a small school that most people have never heard of. Then we can imagine all the personal freedoms we’d willingly give up if we could in order to have such a life. Because I can think of a number of unmarried women who would cede control of their bedroom to the state in order to have such a sweet job….

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Welcome to Above the Law’s newest feature, Fun With Fine Print. This occasional column will chronicle especially clever or awful examples of legalese, fine print, disclaimers, disclosures, and the like. Our readers who spend so much time toiling over contractual language, drafting it beforehand or litigating it after the fact, will hopefully appreciate — and contribute to — this feature.

We’ll start things off with an example of infamous fine print. Earlier this year, Subway got torpedoed over its regrettable response to a customer complaint. After Australian teenager Matt Corby complained that his “footlong” Subway sub was a mere eleven inches, Subway invoked the following fine print: “With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, ‘SUBWAY FOOTLONG’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway® Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.” Personally speaking, I think eleven inches is more than enough — but based on the uproar and litigation, maybe I’m in the minority.

Now let’s look at legalese worth celebrating, for its cleverness and its clarity. It also comes from a fast-food provider….

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