Judge Pauley Dismisses False Claims Act Case by Moody’s Whistleblower

Today, Judge Pauley dismissed a False Claims Act case (described as a “sprawling . . . Homeric ‘Catalogue of Ships’ for the 2008 financial crisis”) brought against ratings agency Moody’s by a former managing director.  The amended complaint alleged that Moody’s lack of independence and conflicts of interest led to false credit ratings that caused a myriad of “false payments” by the government, ranging from underpayment of FDIC premiums to an overvaluation of the AIG bailout.

Judge Pauley found that in order to succeed, the plaintiff would have to show that the government (not a private entity) had relied on Moody’s false ratings or that Moody’s had directed other financial institutions to submit false claims to the government.  The allegations in the amended complaint did not meet this requirement: Continue Reading

Complaint Alleges Copyright Infringement for Video Game Featuring LeBron and Kobe’s Tattoos

In a complaint filed yesterday, Solid Oak Sketches, LLC alleges that Take-Two Interactive Software and other defendants infringed Solid Oak’s copyrights by prominently featuring eight tattoos of five NBA players (including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant) in Take-Two’s popular NBA 2K16 video game.  Solid Oak Sketches entered into copyright license agreements with each of the artists that designed the tattoos.

The complaint alleges that tattoos “fit squarely” within the Copyright Act’s definitions of “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works”: Continue Reading

Judge Rakoff: Lanham Act Cannot Be Used to Deem Foreign Trademarks Abandoned

In an opinion today, Judge Rakoff dismissed a case in which a company holding a perpetual license to the “Del Monte” trademarks for fresh fruits a vegetables alleged that the nominal owner had abandoned all foreign trademarks, so as to render them invalid under the Lanham Act.  Although there are various instances in which the Lanham Act can apply outside the U.S., Judge Rakoff ruled that it would be “grossly intrusive” for the Lanham Act to go so far as to render foreign trademarks invalid: Continue Reading

Judge Forrest: RICO Rule of Person-Enterprise “Distinctness” Defeats Claims Involving Only FedEx Affiliate Companies

Judge Forrest yesterday granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion in a case accusing FedEx of violating RICO by overcharging for packages based on weight and Canadian customs fees.  She found that the plaintiffs had failed to show the necessary “distinctness” between the FedEx affiliate that committed the alleged wrongs and the “enterprise” through which it allegedly acted:

The RICO statute imposes liability on persons that improperly use a distinct entity as a vehicle for misdeeds. It is not a statute that attaches federal criminal and civil liability to routine claims of fraud involving a parent and its subsidiary, or two sister corporations. The undisputed facts of this case demonstrate that the defendant corporations, a holding company and one of its subsidiaries, are not “distinct” from the alleged enterprise, another wholly owned subsidiary, for RICO purposes. If plaintiff’s theory of RICO distinctness were accepted, it would transform every routine allegation of fraud involving a company that uses the routine holding company/subsidiary structure at issue here into a RICO claim. That is not and should not be the law.

Plaintiff in GM Ignition Switch MDL Asks Judge Furman to Remove Plaintiffs’ Co-Lead Counsel

In a motion filed this week – described as “no easy motion” but “the right motion” that “has to be made” – a plaintiff’s lawyer in the GM ignition switch multidistrict litigation asked Judge Furman to remove the plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel and reconsider the bellwether trial schedule in the wake of GM’s victory in the first bellwether case.  The motion claims that the co-leads prioritized the order of bellwether trials in concert with GM based on the potential share of fees and not the merits of each case.  The motion further alleges that the case originally scheduled for the first bellwether trial (which, according to the motion, was much stronger on the merits) was removed when counsel would not agree to split the fees with the co-leads.

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Judge Koeltl: Movie Studio Had No Duty to Disclose “Wells” Notices Regarding Control Fight With Carl Icahn

In an opinion Friday, Judge Koeltl dismissed a shareholder class action against the movie studio Lions Gate.  The case concerned how the company disclosed an SEC enforcement action over how Lions Gate handled various transactions designed to ward off efforts by investor Carl Icahn for control.  The SEC action was ultimately settled for $7.5 million, and the plaintiffs alleged that the company should have disclosed the SEC investigation when it received “Wells” notices. Judge Koeltl disagreed: Continue Reading

Judge Scheindlin Denies Class Certification Based On Ineffective Class Counsel

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Scheindlin denied class certification in a proposed class action accusing the New York City Housing Authority of systematically under-compensating employees based on their race.  Among other reasons for the ruling, Judge Scheindlin found that class counsel was not up to the task: Continue Reading

Major League Baseball Settles Broadcast Antitrust Class Action Moments Before Trial

Shortly before a nine-day bench trial was scheduled to start this morning, Major League Baseball settled an antitrust suit alleging it is anticompetitive for Major League Baseball broadcast out-of-market games only as part of a allegedly overpriced all-or-nothing packages.  As part of the settlement, MLB will offer reduced price packages for fans to stream out-of-market games for a single team.  Packages for all out-of-market games will also be discounted.

The case was before Judge Scheindlin.  Our previous coverage of the case is here.

H/T Law360

Judge Swain Rejects Artist’s Copyright Claim Against Starbucks Over Ad Campaign

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Swain dismissed artist Maya Hayuk’s claim that, after she rejected a request from Starbucks for her to create material for a new ad campaign, Starbucks simply copied the “core” of her art for the campaign anyway.  Below is one example of the actual campaign compared to the plaitniff’s art:

Starbucks ComparisonStarbucks Comparison2

More are here.

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