Category Archives: legal settlements

Yes, Jeff Jarvis was full of it

Way back in 2008, I told City University of New York journalism prof and strident new media guru Jeff Jarvis that he was full of it for contending that a bunch of LA Times reporters were wrong to sue Sam Zell and others for their reckless takeover and management of  the Tribune Company. Back then, Jarvis wrote:

The Times veterans should not be suing Zell. They should be suing themselves. Oh, I, too, am angry at the state of newspapers in America but I’m angry at the right people. The LA Times’ problems — like those of other papers — were caused by by decades of egotistical and willfully ignorant neglect by the owners, managers — and staff — at the paper.

Back then, in the comments section for his BuzzMachine blog, I told Jarvis:

I don’t think I have ever read a less germane comment on a lawsuit by anyone alleging to be any kind of journalist. If what is alleged in the lawsuit is true — that employee funds were misused in a flim-flam game that will make Sam Zell and former Tribune managers huge money while costing the employees most or all of the stock-option earnings they amassed over decades — the defendants have violated their fiduciary duties and some may even have criminal liability.

To conflate that specific allegation of egregious wrongdoing with some overarching general critique of how the newspaper business has been run in recent decades is — how can I put this gently? — shockingly misguided and legally illiterate.

Ordinarily, when I write so intemperately I regret it. Ordinarily, this blog post would be some form of apology, if not for substance then for style.

But I don’t regret any of what I said back then, because Jarvis truly didn’t know what he was talking about. Evidence to that effect: The lawsuit was just settled, with 13,000  current and former Tribune employees sharing in a $32 million payout (after it’s reduced by about $8 million in lawyer fees).

I’m not going to do some victory dance in the end zone here. I’ll just spike the ball, and trot on off to the bench. Smiling.


Filed under legal settlements

Friends and lawyers

Clearly, most lawyers are out of step with digital reality.  Bar rules are so specific they define almost everything an attorney does and everyone he can speak to outside the bathroom. This specificity in regard to allowed conduct is at marked odds with the Wild West ethos of the Internet and social networking, which creates myriad problems when law and InterWebs meet. It also creates funny blog posts, like this one at Above the Law, about the difficulties and perils lawyers face when they send Facebook friend requests to clients of other lawyers, or to people who aren’t clients, or to people who are suing their own clients. Read it all the way through, and you’ll either be happy that you never went to law school, or, if you’re one of my lawyerly Facebook friends, you’ll be wondering why anyone thinks this is funny or worth writing about. That’s the thing about law school; it really does teach you to think like a lawyer.

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Filed under judges, legal settlements

A BS news decision about UBS

When people say they hate the media, they really mean they hate that the media focus on trivia, pop culture and political sideshows and minimize institutionalized corruption and the stranglehold that wealth has over U.S. government at, essentially, all levels. A prime example is this story, “UBS to pay $160 million to settle bid-rigging case,” which was writ very short and buried in the print newspaper I subscribe to, The Los Angeles Times, and which has this astounding lede:

Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS AG, has agreed to pay $160 million to settle charges that it rigged the bidding process for investment contracts with cities and towns in 36 states.

The story goes on to explain that UBS folks paid kickbacks to city workers who were responsible for investing bond funds. Sometimes the kickbacks were meant to steer those funds to UBS; sometimes, apparently, UBS was supposed to be acting as an adviser to the municipalities, but used kickbacks and its expertise to steer business to other banks. Bid-rigging across the U.S. by the biggest bank in Switzerland seems, to me, to be kind of a big story. And it’s made even bigger by the story’s kicker: UBS won’t face criminal prosecution because it “admitted to the conduct and cooperated.” I’m sure this outcome — pay a tiny sum of money in the UBS scheme of things, suffer no real public humiliation and avoid criminal prosecution — will deter UBS and every other bank that interfaces with American government from ever paying a kickback again.

I’m not necessarily criticizing the prosecution decisions here; making public corruption cases is difficult, and sometimes less-than-optimum settlements are the best that can be gotten. I am criticizing the LA Times and other so-called mainstream newspapers for grossly underplaying this and other stories that illustrate the sickening power of wealth in the American political system. That tendency to minimize wrongdoing by wealth and power is bad for the country, of course — but it’s even worse for the media. It suggests to readers and viewers that media outlets are not protectors of the people but part of the country’s power structure. It says, loud and clear, that elite journalism is not part of the solution, but part of the problem.

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Filed under banking, corruption, legal settlements