Blog: Today in Legal Reform
In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, ILR President Lisa Rickard writes that vague areas of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act need to be cleared up, including who is a public official and what constitutes an unlawful payment. “Clarity will help companies focus their auditing efforts and better detect genuine wrongdoing,” she says.
The Supreme Court seemed skeptical of using American courts to sue multinational corporations under the Alien Tort Statute, according to the Washington Post. Justice Alito asked why actions overseas should be tried in the U.S, adding that “there’s no connection to the United States whatsoever.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that American securities lawyers have started looking to Canada as a new venue for investor class actions. The move was prompted in part by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that limits participants in class actions to investors that purchased shares on U.S. exchanges.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that will decide whether corporations may be sued in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute. John Bellinger III, a former State Department legal adviser, has an op-ed in the Washington Post detailing some of the problems with the statute, including possibly running afoul of international law. “Ironically, the modern application of the Alien Tort Statute has caused the very diplomatic tensions it was enacted to prevent,” writes Bellinger.
Numerous media outlets (including Politico, Reuters, WSJ Corruption Currents, Main Justice, BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, International Business Times, and American Lawyer) reported on the letter that ILR and a broad coalition of business groups sent to the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding forthcoming guidance on enforcement under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The letter came on the heels of news that the Justice Department has dropped an FCPA sting case against military and security contractors, about which ILR’s Harold Kim stated, “While we are encouraged by the growing judicial oversight of FCPA enforcement actions, we believe that clarity and guidance is still much needed under the law.”
“Congress and the courts need to curtail this latest antibusiness crusade,” says a Wall Street Journal editorial of the Justice Department’s increasing enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. While the editorial admires the law’s goal of combating overseas corruption, the effort is hurt by vague definitions of foreign officials, weak cases, and prosecutorial misconduct.
The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a 2005 tort reform measure that allows either party to a lawsuit to request separate trials for compensatory damages and punitive damages. The court rejected arguments from the law’s opponents that the measure violated the separation of powers, the Associated Press reports.
The front page of the Washington Post details an FCPA sting case that was hailed as a “new chapter” in prosecutions but, after two years, hasn’t resulted in a single conviction. The latest salvo involves inappropriate texts between agents and informants, another example of missteps that led one jury foreman call the sting an “absolutely amateurish operation.” According to the story, the government’s case has gotten to the point that prosecutors are debating whether they should continue with the case or abandon it altogether.
A Mississippi House panel has approved a bill that would give state agencies a say in the retention of counsel to represent the state. The bill also provides that all legal service contracts be approved through the state’s contracts review board, and adds public disclosure to proposed contracts for hourly as well as contingency fee litigation on behalf of the state. The bill, opposed by the AG, now moves onto the full House for debate, reports the Biloxi SunHerald.