The court will not countenance the gross overreaching evidenced under the facts and circumstances of this case in which the client is not even being billed for legal services. To move any court to put its imprimatur of approval on such practices is simply intolerable.
– Judge Frank Nervo, denying a Biglaw firm’s request for more than $126,000 in attorneys’ fees in a lawsuit over a $6,400 security deposit. Judge Nervo added that the firm spent “a grossly unnecessary amount of time” on simple tasks, including “research on the most basic and banal legal principles.”
(Which firm was on the receiving end of this benchslap? Find out after the jump, where we’ve posted the full opinion.)
The firm in question was Mayer Brown, which apparently made this foray into landlord/tenant law because one of the tenants, Thomas Clozel, is the son of Jean-Paul Clozel, a founder and CEO of Actelion, a Swiss biopharmaceutical company that’s a Mayer Brown client. The client wasn’t being billed, as noted by Judge Nervo, because the case was being handled as one of those “friend of the firm” matters.
I can’t really fault Mayer Brown here, since “friend of the firm” matters often require Biglaw attorneys to immerse themselves in areas of law that they know nothing about. I once worked on such a case, involving the high school disciplinary problems of a kid whose father was a titan of finance, even though neither I nor the partner I worked with knew anything about education law. Luckily we were able to resolve the matter to the family’s satisfaction (and they sent me a lovely case of wine for the holidays).
So next time your cousin wants your help getting back his security deposit, refer him to a knowledgeable residential real-estate litigator — unless your cousin is willing to pay you a six-figure sum.
The law firm of Herzfeld, Rubin, Meyer & Rose Limited (HRMR) announced itself as the first 100% American owned law firm in Myanmar on July 29, 2013. While the United States has reduced the number of sanctions it has against the former nation of Burma in the past year, there are many U.S. sanctions still on the books that make it more difficult for American companies to do business in Myanmar than companies of any other country. I had a series of conversations with Eric Rose of HRMR about his parent law firm’s global brand, its specialty in emerging and frontier markets and why it has chosen Romania and Myanmar as its two outposts in these markets.
In the interview below, Mr. Rose candidly speaks about the opportunities and risks in Myanmar where he expects GDP to at least triple in the coming 20 years. While representing his law firm, his answers provide a clear view of investing opportunities, business prospects, sanction situations, Myanmar’s history, current stability and international relations. Jon Springer: During your legal career, you have done a lot of work in emerging and frontier markets both in private practice and as an in-house lawyer for corporations. When did you first work in Myanmar? Eric Rose: I set up the strategy for American Standard, the kitchen and bath goods manufacturer, in Myanmar in the mid-1990s. At that time, U.S. sanctions were limited. Major sanctions came in 2003. JS: Was this experience part of why HRMR decided to open an office in Myanmar?
ER: Our firm specializes in emerging and frontier markets. We chose both Romania and Myanmar for similar reasons. Both countries at the time we arrived were newly open to American business. They both have large, literate populations. In both cases they were or are countries starting with a low GDP basis, a high need for infrastructure development, an incredible wealth of natural resources and a strong relatively cheap workforce. JS: When you say your firm specializes in emerging and frontier markets, what is the range of countries your firm’s attorneys have worked in and range of services provided?
ER: A law firm is only as good as the attorneys it has. Our attorneys have lead transactions in over fifty countries on five continents, the majority of which were then, and some still are, emerging or frontier markets. For example, in the early 1990s, I guided companies like John Deere and Tyco Toys in countries of the former Soviet Union, South Africa and China. In the middle ’90s, I lead American Standard’s and Trane’s entrance in Vietnam, Burma, Egypt and Eastern Europe. Later, I helped Wabco Automotive and Diasorin penetrate India and China. More recently, I steered Cybertel and Perry Equipment transactions in Latin America and Eastern Europe. The firm has over 200 practitioners in six affiliated offices on three continents, and offers a full range of legal services to its clients, which range from individuals to Fortune 500 companies the world over. JS: Specifically looking at Myanmar, it has been touted as early as 1885 as the greatest place to invest in the world in Archibald Colquhoun’s Burma and the Burmans: Or, “The best unopened market in the world”. What is different now?
ER: In the first half of the 20th century, Burma was the richest country in Southeast Asia, the largest producer of rice in the world and the number one producer of beans and pulses. Rangoon, at the time, had the best universities and was the hub airport for travel throughout Asia and beyond. Today, Myanmar is the poorest country in Southeast Asia, 75% of its population does not have access to electricity, and only 10% have access to cell phones. What has changed is that, for the first time since Myanmar’s independence, all of its citizens from all ethnic groups, as well as the government and the army, are sharing the same goals. JS: Thus, the case is that the communism and dictatorship the country experienced after British colonial rule ended in 1948 led to the current malaise and the country is now democratic and primed for capitalist success?
ER: Not quite! Myanmar has experienced civil war since its inception. It is now on the threshold of nationwide peace, it had free by-elections last year, it has freed almost all of its political prisoners, has adopted freedom of the press and association legislation and ended press censorship and it has passed a number of laws and regulations which have opened up most of the country to foreign investment. At the same time, much of industry is still controlled by companies associated with the military and cronies of the former government, land rights are in doubt or disputed, rule of law is still in its infancy, and the country is still rated very low on the corruption index of Transparency International. The effect of the sanctions can still be felt everywhere. For example, in 2002, the Myanmar garment industry exported 75% of its product to the United States. After 2003, when the major U.S. sanctions began, 300 factories closed and 80,000 people were laid off. Assuming on average that those factory workers, most of whom were women and the breadwinners for the average family of 5, the sanctions in that industry alone directly impacted 400,000 people. Now that the U.S. has lifted import restrictions, being able to export garments to the U.S. will, by itself, substantially help grow the economy. For example, in nearby Cambodia, once restrictions were lifted in 1997, exports of garments grew from $175 million to over $2.5 billion during the next dozen years. The same applies to the U.S., once again, granting Myanmar the GSP status, which it lost in 1989. GSP would cover a large percentage of agricultural products, minerals, plastics and rubber products, as well as wood products. All other developed countries have granted GSP to Myanmar, it is the U.S. alone which has not. Generally speaking, the U.S. today – while the GSP program has lapsed – is collecting $2 million/day in duties from the poorest countries on earth, Myanmar included [The U.S. Congress did not renew GSP legislation prior to its expiration July 31, 2013. The legislation to renew it is still pending]. In the first six months since the U.S. import ban against Myanmar has been lifted earlier this year, Myanmar’s exports to the U.S. amounted to only $14 million. Yet, over $8 million were GSP-eligible products, with an average duty of 4.2% when they would be paying zero under GSP.
JS: Could you briefly elucidate the U.S. sanctions currently in place and what is needed to remove them? ER: Currently, the U.S. sanctions regime against Myanmar is still in place, five laws and at least five executive orders. Most of the sanctions have been suspended by the president, but can be re-instated on short notice. No other country continues to have sanctions against Myanmar, except as to its military. By itself, the simple existence of such laws and executive orders hampers the ability of American business to invest in Myanmar, with little, if any, discernable current positive effect on the people of Myanmar. In addition to the bar on deals with the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar military), or its controlled business entities, there continues to be a bar on transactions with Myanmar entities and individuals listed on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals list, and on the importation of certain jewels. Furthermore, American companies and individuals alone have to annually report on their investments exceeding $500,000, certain payments to the government, dealings with the national oil and gas company, and a plethora of other requirements. Although large corporations are well equipped to deal with these reporting requirements, small and medium and enterprises (SMEs) are not. Thus, these reporting requirements put a disproportionate burden on SMEs investing in Myanmar.
A Seoul court rejected Samsung’s claim that iPhone and iPad models violated three of its patents, another setback for the South Korean electronics giant in a global battle with Apple over rights to technologies that power smartphones and tablets. A Seoul Central District Court judge ruled Thursday that Apple did not violate Samsung’s intellectual property rights. The technology in two of Samsung’s patents could easily be independently developed by others, Judge Shim Woo-yong said, making it unlikely they were copied. He said one patent was not used in the iPad.
“We are glad the Korean court joined others around the world in standing up for real innovation and rejecting Samsung’s ridiculous claims,” Apple Inc. spokesman Steve Park said. Samsung Electronics Co. sued Apple in March 2012, accusing the iPhone maker of illegally using three patented technologies related to short message services in smartphones and tablet computers. The maker of Galaxy smartphones sought 100 million won ($95,000) in initial compensation and a ban on sales of six iPhone and iPad models, which included models still available in the market, such as those with Retina display.
The judge said Samsung’s patent for a multitasking technology that prevents incomplete messages being lost when switching to another application was not violated by the existence of a similar technology. Another technology that enables users to touch a notification box to access a message can be invented easily, he said. A third Samsung patent for how mobile devices display short messages from the same sender together was not used in Apple’s iPad, which instead has Apple’s iMessage application, Shim said. The ruling is the latest legal blow to Samsung, which owes Apple $930 million from two jury verdicts in Silicon Valley. Samsung is seeking to appeal both. The world’s top two smartphone makers have waged legal battles over mobile devices since 2011. Samsung said it was disappointed by the ruling and will decide whether to appeal this decision after a thorough review. “As Apple has continued to infringe our patented mobile technologies, we will continue to take the measures necessary to protect our intellectual property rights,” it said in a statement. So far, two verdicts in Silicon Valley have been the most damaging to the South Korean company. Last month, a Silicon Valley jury added another $290 million to the damages Samsung Electronics owes Apple. A previous jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion, which was later reduced by a judge to $640 million.
But the size of the award is small compared with the size of Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of mobile devices, TVs and memory chips. The South Korean firm reported it had $47 billion in cash at the end of September and $247.5 billion in 2012 revenue.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (MarketWatch) — Does stock-market strength beget more stock-market strength? It’s human nature to think that it does. And the three “amazing” facts that I discuss below are evidence that this implicit belief is very strong right now. But, in true contrarian fashion, the market all too often ends up doing just the opposite of what human nature would have us believe. That’s why huge amounts of money gets invested right before market tops, just as large amounts of cash get pulled out at bottoms.
Keep this in mind as you confront the breathless cheerleading among some bulls right now about the stock market’s recent strength. Here are three of thee “amazing” facts that the cheerleaders are noting — whose significance is not nearly as bullish as they would have us believe: Amazing fact No. 1: Market has been unexpectedly strong since May Day – This factoid refers to the Halloween Indicator, of course, which is based on the historical tendency for the stock market to turn in its best returns between Halloween
and May Day (the “winter” months). In contrast, the stock market historically has been flat during the other six months of the year — the so-called summer months between May Day and the subsequent Halloween. Not this year, however. Since the beginning of May, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA -0.39% has gained nearly 5%, leading some bulls to forecast even better returns in the seasonally favorable six-month period that begins this Friday. But there is no statistical support for this forecast. Upon feeding into my statistical software the Dow’s historical data back to its creation in 1896, I found no statistically significant correlation between the stock market’s performance during the summer months and the subsequent winter period.
To the extent there was a correlation, furthermore, it was inverse — a positive summer was more likely to be followed by a negative winter, and vice versa. It wasn’t statistically significant, so we shouldn’t make too much of this. But I mention it nonetheless because it means that if the cheerleading bulls bothered to look at the
historical record, they would be more cautious than usual — not more bullish. Amazing fact No. 2: Market’s year-to-date 2013 returns have never been negative It turns out that the broad market averages have never registered a closing price this year lower than where they stood at the end of 2012 — a very rare event. But so what? How have stocks performed following past years in which the same has been true? I haven’t seen anyone bothering to answer this crucial question, even though the factoid itself has been widely noted. And I think I know why: The answer is disappointing.
At least for an afternoon, the chess players were back at the usual spot they’ve occupied for years along downtown San Francisco’s busy Market Street. But instead of hustling a dollar here and a dollar there with deft openings and clever traps, the mostly homeless players and their supporters were playing Sunday in defiance of a recent police crackdown and ban on the public games. And they were backed by a brass band and several homeless advocates who helped organize the three-hour “chess-in” under bright, blue skies on a hot San Francisco afternoon.
Earlier this month, police confiscated chess gear, tables and chairs at the site. Police said the games had begun to attract illegal gambling and drug sales to the area adjacent to a cable car terminal, which is a popular tourist destination. Nearby merchants had also complained about an increase in illegal activity. “We don’t mind the chess players and would like to have them back,” said Cody Hunt, manager of an electronics store in front of which the games were played. “But lately, the games have attracted loud dice games and open drug deals, and nobody needs that.”
The chess players argue that the police response to the illegal activity that took place near the games was heavy-handed and indiscriminate. “Have the drug deals stopped because chess has been banned?” said Andrew Resignato, a San Francisco resident who would play a game along Market Street occasionally. “It was an excuse to move homeless people away from here.”
San Francisco police didn’t return a phone call Sunday. Police Capt. Michael Redmond told the San Francisco Chronicle last month that he agreed the chess players themselves weren’t the problem. But others used the games as a shield for illegal activities. Redmond said arrests and complaints from merchants increased in the area. “It’s turned into a big public nuisance,” Redmond said. “I think maybe it’s a disguise for some other things that are going on.”
Hector Torres Jr., a homeless man who scratched out a living renting his chess equipment, tables and chairs to Market Streets players, said the games were a San Francisco tradition that attracted all sorts of players from all walks of life. Torres and others said it’s unclear whether regular games will resume in their usual spots, someplace else or disappear forever. “Chess isn’t a crime, and we aren’t criminals,” Torres said as he knocked over his king in resignation of a game. “San Francisco is about this kind of stuff. About diversity and differences. We just want to play chess.”