Suntrust, M&T Win Delay in Overdraft-Fee Cases During Appeal

From yesterday’s Bloomberg.com. Read the full story here.

SunTrust Banks Inc. (STI), M&T Bank Corp. (MTB) and two other banks accused of gouging customers on overdraft fees won a delay of lawsuits against them while an appeals court considers whether the plaintiffs have to go through arbitration.

U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King in Miami put the case on hold as the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta reviews his Sept. 1 decision allowing the plaintiffs — customers with debit cards attached to their checking accounts — to proceed with their lawsuits. King rejected the banks’ argument that the customers were legally bound to arbitrate the dispute.

Arbitration agreements for SunTrust, M&T, Regions Financial Corp. (RF) and Branch Banking & Trust Co. are “unconscionable” and can’t be enforced, King said in his opinion. He said the Supreme Court ruling in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, which involved arbitration agreements for AT&T Inc. wireless customers, didn’t require arbitration in every case.

In a two-page ruling today, King said the parties in the case had agreed to the delay during the appeal.

Bruce Rogow, an attorney for the plaintiffs, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the order.

The litigation before King involves more than 30 banks sued over their overdraft-fee policies. The customers claim the banks reorder debit-card transactions in their computers to maximize overdraft fees.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that forcing customers into arbitration would effectively bar millions of customers from pursuing claims individually because they aren’t worth the effort.

Bank of America Corp. (BAC), the biggest U.S. bank, in February agreed to pay $410 million without admitting liability to settle an overdraft lawsuit brought by its customers.

The case is In Re Checking Account Overdraft Litigation, 09-cv-02036, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).

To contact the reporters on this story: David Voreacos in Newark, New Jersey, at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net; Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta at lviele@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

Fla. lawyer claims Panama court stealing millions from orphans

Interesting story from Thompson Reuters.  Filed under Better Than Fiction. Read the full story here.

A half-decade ago, Richard Lehman was just a tax lawyer in South Florida who happened to have a very wealthy friend and client. Lehman’s fishing buddy, Wilson Lucom, was a curmudgeonly millionaire, a onetime member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration who went on to found the conservative group Accuracy in Media. In his old age, Lucom relocated to Panama and began buying up prime oceanfront land-more than 7,000 acres by the time he died in 2006.

Lehman spent a lot of time in Panama with Lucom in his friend’s waning months. He signed the will in which Lucom left his entire estate, then valued at more than $50 million, to a foundation dedicated to feeding Panama’s impoverished children. In 2006, Panama’s version of probate court named Lehman the sole executor of Lucom’s estate, which included property in Florida and Texas as well as the land in Panama, on which Lucom had envisioned a shining model city.

That didn’t sit well with Lucom’s widow, a Panamanian aristocrat named Hilda Arias Lucom, nor with Hilda’s children by her marriage to onetime Panama finance minister Gilberto Arias. Lucom’s will specified a yearly allowance for Hilda, but cut out the Arias children.

Thus began a fantastical probate battle that has led the tax lawyer down paths he never imagined. According to an 84-page civil racketeering complaint he filed Friday in Miami federal district court, Lehman has witnessed rampant corruption at the highest levels of the Panamanian judiciary, has been accused of murdering Lucom and attempting to extort his onetime family, has been falsely arrested in Panama and placed on an Interpol alert list, and has been on the wrong end of a $2 million Florida state court judgment for misusing Lucom estate assets. The Arias family has argued that Lucom never spoke of wanting to help children. He never even liked children, according to Hilda’s 2008 interview with The New York Times. The foundation, according to the Ariases, was Lehman’s concoction.

But in Lehman’s racketeering suit, he and his lawyer, Juan Rodriguez of Carey Rodriguez Greenberg O’Keefe, contended that Lucom specifically wanted to leave nothing to his stepchildren, who, according to Lehman’s complaint, sided against Lucom in his dispute with a Panamanian real estate developer. Lehman’s complaint alleged that the Arias family has exercised its considerable political muscle to obtain a fraudulent Panamanian Supreme Court ruling that he is not the Lucom estate executor and Hilda Lucom is. (Lehman has posted translations of most of the documents from the Panama branch of the case here.) “Every word in that complaint is true,” Lehman told me Monday. “I’m letting the whole world know what’s going on.”

Lehman said the Panamanian Supreme Court ruling was the result of Arias family corruption and has been stayed pending an investigation of a criminal complaint against the Justices who ruled against him. He asserted that the Florida court would not have found against him if the Ariases hadn’t fraudulently obtained that Panamanian high court ruling. (Lehman said in his racketeering complaint that he not only hasn’t misappropriated Lucom estate funds, but has spent more than a million dollars of his own money trying to uphold his old friend’s will.)

“The U.S. has to know what they do to Americans down there. I’m not the only one with a story like this,” said Lehman, who is seeking more than $700 million in damages. “What they have done, in their greed-they have ruined a new public city. They have poisoned their Supreme Court. They have ruined the testamentary laws. They have now proved what their country is like. There were all these rumors about corruption in Panama-now it’s spelled out in black and white.”

Hilda Arias died in August but is named as a defendant in Lehman’s suit, along with her children, their lawyers, and various Panamanian officials. The Ariases’ Florida lawyer, Charles Weiss, told me Lehman is desperate. “This is getting tiresome,” he said. “He brings these frivolous lawsuits, and then he loses at every turn.” Weiss said the Florida judgment against Lehman, entered after the state court judge heard full arguments from both sides, remains in place.

Lucom’s land in Panama, meanwhile, continues to appreciate. According to Lehman, it’s now worth more than $150 million-which, in his estimation, will eventually mean more money for the children of Panama. “When you’re the Supreme Court of Panama,” he said, “how do you steal from poor children?”

(Reporting by Alison Frankel)

Follow Alison on Twitter: @AlisonFrankel

Follow us on Twitter: @ReutersLegal

Dodgers owner, whom Major League Baseball is trying to push out of the game, wants a bankruptcy judge to force Selig to divulge financial data from every other club, particularly the Florida Marlins.

From yesterday’s LA Times. On deck in the Dodgers’ bankruptcy case: the Florida Marlins?

Read the full story here.

Frank McCourt goes on a fishing expedition

Dodgers owner, whom Major League Baseball is trying to push out of the game, wants a bankruptcy judge to force Selig to divulge financial data from every other club, particularly the Florida Marlins.

By Bill Shaikin

7:55 PM PDT, September 26, 2011

Could be, if Frank McCourt gets his way. As the bankruptcy proceedings increasingly resemble a grudge match cloaked in legal briefs, with Bud Selig threatening to banish the Dodgers from the league in order to rid it of McCourt, the Dodgers’ owner might respond by trying to take down the commissioner.

The Marlins could be in the collateral damage.

In July, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross wrote of what he called “the underlying feud between the Commissioner and … Frank McCourt” and added: “It appears that their dispute will shortly be before the Court.”

Game on.

Selig’s argument for kicking out McCourt boils down to this: You consented to our rules, you broke our rules, and we don’t want you in our club any more.

“Compliance with the Baseball Agreements is the price of membership in Major League Baseball,” league attorneys wrote in a court filing Friday.

And what is most prominent among Selig’s grievances?

“A Club owner must be well-capitalized and cannot use the team as a personal ‘cash cow,’ ” the filing read.

That could bring us to the Marlins — perhaps uncomfortably for Selig, and for Jeffrey Loria, the team’s owner.

Well-capitalized? McCourt never was, yet Major League Baseball approved his purchase of the Dodgers, primarily with loans from Fox and Bank of America.

MLB approved Loria’s purchase of the Marlins with a loan from the league itself, as part of Selig’s plan to steer Florida owner John Henry to the Boston Red Sox and kill the Montreal Expos.

Cash cow? Selig claims McCourt diverted more than $180 million of Dodgers revenue for personal use, an allegation McCourt denies.

Yet, Loria got more than that in revenue sharing — $198 million over six years of data compiled by the Business of Baseball website — from major-market owners under the condition that money be put into the team.

In 2006 and 2008 the Marlins reportedly took in more than twice as much from other owners as they spent on their major league payroll — and before they sold a single ticket or took in a dollar from local and national media contracts.

In 2010, one year after the Marlins got a new ballpark funded largely by public dollars, documents obtained by Deadspin showed the Marlins had turned a $38-million profit in 2008. In addition, Yahoo reported that the Marlins paid another $8 million over two years to a company controlled by Loria and the club president, David Samson.

“The swindlers who run the Florida Marlins,” Yahoo columnist Jeff Passan wrote.

Under pressure from MLB and the players’ union, the Marlins agreed last year to make sure revenue-sharing money went back into the team. Yet, Selig never threatened to kick out Loria, or the Marlins.

The Marlins needed to keep payroll down to show the positive cash flow necessary for ballpark construction financing, according to a high-ranking baseball official who could not be identified because of the litigation with the Dodgers.

“It had nothing to do with homes in Holmby Hills or Malibu, or private jets, or salaries for the owners’ kids,” the official said. “What makes the Dodgers different is the stripping of club assets and the violations of baseball rules.”

How do other owners spend club revenues? What defines stripping of club assets?

The way McCourt figures to see it, the answers require sworn testimony and financial data from every other owner, and from the commissioner himself. That way, the judge can see whether there truly is one standard for McCourt and another for the Marlins, and the New York Mets, and every other team whose owner is on good terms with Selig.

Gross, the judge, might not care.

He might decide MLB has the right to uphold the rules to which McCourt agreed. For McCourt, that would be game over.

The judge might decide he wants to limit the proceedings to the Dodgers. When McCourt’s attorneys wanted to explore why MLB would offer a bankruptcy loan at 7% interest to the Dodgers this year after extending a bankruptcy loan at 1.6% interest to the Texas Rangers last year, Gross ruled that he did not need to hear about the Rangers case.

However, if Gross allows McCourt to pursue his desired strategy, there would be two obvious results: McCourt could put Selig on trial, and the case would extend well past the World Series, dominating an off-season that starts all too soon for the Dodgers.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

TWO NEW ASSOCIATES JOIN KLUGER, KAPLAN, SILVERMAN, KATZEN & LEVINE

Erin Bohannon and Meredith Nelson to focus on complex commercial litigation

MIAMI, FL – September 22, 2011 – Miami-based commercial litigation firm Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, P.L. announces that Erin Bohannon and Meredith Nelson have joined the firm as associates.

Ms. Bohannon comes to Kluger Kaplan after graduating from the University of Miami School of Law, magna cum laude. Ms. Bohannon received both a Masters and Bachelors degree from the University of Florida. In law school, Ms. Bohannon served as senior notes and comments editor for the University of Miami Law Review. She is admitted to the State Bar of Florida.

 

 

 

Prior to joining Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, Ms. Nelson served as an associate at Vedder Price, P.C., in Chicago, focusing on commercial litigation. Ms. Nelson received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University and a Juris Doctorate from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where she graduated cum laude. She is admitted to practice in Illinois and Florida. She is a member of the American Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association and the Women’s Bar Association.

About Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, P.L.
Miami-based Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, P.L. focuses its practice on complex, high-stakes disputes across a range of disciplines and industries, including all aspects of business and corporate litigation; real estate related litigation; securities and financial fraud; corporate governance; bankruptcy related litigation and debtor and creditor’s rights; appeals in state and federal courts, professional liability; intellectual property disputes; class actions; and complex matrimonial litigation. The firm’s veteran litigators have served as lead class counsel in federal multi-district litigation and trials in federal and state courts throughout the country. For more information, please visit www.klugerkaplan.com.

Luther Campbell sues former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro

Um. We just couldn’t help posting this one.

Read the full story here.

By Susan Miller Degnan sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com
Former rap star Luther Campbell sues convicted UM booster Nevin Shapiro for ‘slandering my name.’

Luther Campbell has filed suit against former University of Miami booster and convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, claiming he “slandered and defamed’’ the rap star in a nationally publicized Yahoo! Sports report.

The report implicated at least 72 former and present UM football players from 2002 through 2010 for allegedly accepting thousands of impermissible benefits from Shapiro, from dinners to yacht cruises to jewelry to prostitutes.

Shapiro’s quote on Campbell that prompted the suit: “Luther Campbell was the first uncle who took care of players [at UM] before I got going. His role was diminished by the NCAA and the school and someone needed to pick up that mantle. That someone was me. He was ‘Uncle Luke’ and I became ‘Little Luke.’ ”

In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday, Campbell says Shapiro’s statements unfairly accuse Campbell of “engaging in the same type and category of illegal and immoral behaviors’’ with UM players as the Ponzi schemer.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Campbell, the football defensive coordinator for Miami Northwestern High, told The Miami Herald, “I’m tired of Shapiro slandering my name. I do too many good things in the community. People might not agree with me all the time, but they can’t say I’m a sleaze bag. Your name is what you stand for. As you get older, you realize that life is about public perception. It’s not about facts.’’

In the Yahoo! Sports report, Shapiro said UM players Ray-Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye, and current Florida player Andre Debose were taken to the “strip joint” Take One (Cocktail) Lounge when they were recruits. He said the lounge was “owned by Luther Campbell.”

Campbell said he doesn’t own Take One Lounge, has never owned it and had no affiliation with it. “I’ve never been in the place,” Campbell said.

The Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s Office confirmed Campbell’s claim Wednesday, saying it is owned by Buddy Bee Corporation and run by Karen H. Raley, the registered agent and president. Records show it has never been owned by Campbell.

Campbell’s miaminewtimes.com blog from Aug.17, referring to Shapiro’s claims, said, “That punk could never be me. First of all, I have never been a UM booster. I have never given a dime to the school.

“I have and always will support the players and the program out of civic pride, but I never violated any NCAA rules when I was the team’s biggest fan in the ‘80s. And I definitely would not have ever paid for a stripper to abort a baby allegedly fathered by a UM football player, like Shapiro claims he did.”

Continued Campbell in that blog: “If Nevin really wanted people to see him as ‘Little Luke,’ he would have dedicated part of his life to helping kids in Miami’s inner-city neighborhoods get a college education. He certainly never started a youth athletic program that has been around for more than 30 years helping underprivileged parents in Liberty City mold their children.

“It has never been about money for me. It has always been about community service. That’s what Uncle Luke is really about.”

According to the lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Shapiro “has slandered and defamed [Campbell] because this is untrue, false, knowingly so and the product of malicious intent.’’

Shapiro is serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for his $930 million Ponzi scheme.