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Saturday, December 31, 2011

JUDGMENT ENTERED FOR WILSON CLIENT IN COMMERCIAL LITIGATION AS SANCTION AGAINST OPPOSING PARTY


Full judgment, including for interest and attorneys’ fees, was obtained recently for a Roger C. Wilson client in a commercial litigation in Cobb County Superior Court, by court order, before trial, as a sanction for violation of discovery rules by the opposing party.

The Wilson client was the plaintiff in the case, Willson v. Tselios, et al. (no relation between client and attorney), case no. 10-1-3929-49.  The client had contracted to sell restaurant equipment to a commercial buyer under an installment purchase arrangement as a part of the disposition of a Sandy Springs restaurant of the Wilson client.  The defendant-opponent, the buyer, failed or refused to make full payments under the contract even after taking possession of all the equipment.  Only after the initiation of the litigation did the buyer raise allegations of lien-type encumbrances of the equipment, which allegations Wilson and his client rebutted.

The defendant-opponent repeatedly failed to properly respond to discovery requests (formal demands for information and documents about the case and defenses) submitted by Wilson on behalf of his client.  After first obtaining orders from the Court requiring the defendant to fully respond to those discovery requests, Wilson ultimately moved the Court to enter judgment in favor of his client as a sanction when the defendant continually failed to provide such responses.

After the presentation of written briefs and oral arguments, the Court granted Wilson’s motion and entered judgment in favor of the Wilson client for the full amount demanded by the client in the case.  In addition the Court granted Wilson’s request to add pre-judgment interest to the award, running from the time of the initial breach of the underlying contract.  Post-judgment interest generally is available as a matter of right, but pre-judgment interest is not and is more difficult to obtain.  Additionally, the Court awarded attorneys’ fees to the Wilson client in connection with the efforts to obtain the requested discovery.

Although courts have considerable leeway in fashioning remedies for violations of discovery rules, it is unusual to obtain an entry of final judgment against a litigant on this basis.  That remedy generally is reserved for cases of very substantial violations by a litigant.  Such was the case here, where the defendant repeatedly failed to respond to orders obtained from the Court specifically regarding discovery and related matters.

Defendants sometimes adopt such delaying tactics in order to increase the time and costs to a plaintiff of obtaining any judgment, hoping to dilute the plaintiff's resources and heart for the litigation before a trial is reached.  A great advantage of obtaining judgment on the basis and at the stage of litigation obtained by the Wilson client in this case is that this mitigates such delays and costs.  Occasionally, as in this case, the client is thereby able to obtain the full benefits sought in the litigation even without the expenses normally entailed by a trial of the case.



Roger C. Wilson represents companies and individuals in litigation in all state and federal courts in Georgia.  He has represented many clients in commercial and other civil litigation, both as plaintiffs and as defendants.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

WILSON OBTAINS DISMISSAL OF CIVIL LAWSUIT AGAINST TWO CLIENTS


The Roger C. Wilson Law Firm, PC  has obtained the dismissal of a civil action filed against two of its clients in Cobb County, Georgia Superior Court involving a dispute over the sales of several area office buildings.  In the case, Grund v. Crescent Holdings, et al., the former owner of the buildings sued to obtain the restoration of his ownership of the buildings.  The office buildings had been sold by the Cobb Sheriff's Department in enforcement of judgments for many hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been obtained against the plaintiff by another party in separate litigation.  In the Crescent Holdings case, the former owner of the buildings sued various defendants, including Cobb Sheriff's Department officials, seeking a court ruling that the Sheriff's sales were invalid as having been made at unreasonably low prices and allegedly otherwise contrary to law, and seeking a court order returning ownership of the buildings to the plaintiff.

The purchasers of the buildings also were sued in the case, including the two clients of Roger C. Wilson.  After substantial pretrial proceedings, Wilson obtained a dismissal of all claims against both of his clients.  A motion for an award of attorneys' fees to the Wilson clients remains pending.

Roger C. Wilson represents companies and individuals in litigation in all state and federal courts in Georgia.  He has represented many clients in commercial and other civil litigation, both as plaintiffs and as defendants, including in the enforcement of judgments from assets located outside Georgia.

FEDERAL JUDGE REJECTS $285 MILLION SEC/CITIGROUP SETTLEMENT AS TOO LENIENT


A federal Judge has rejected as unduly lenient a $285 million settlement reached between the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Citigroup to resolve civil litigation by the SEC against the financial services giant for various alleged abuses, including some types widely thought to have materially contributed to the financial and real estate market collapses.  Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refused to accept the settlement, finding it inadequate in multiple respects, including the amount of the payment to be required of Citigroup and the fact that Citigroup would not be required to acknowledge any wrongdoing. 


The SEC civil suit is based principally on Citigroup’s actions in marketing collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) to its customers as good investments while at the same time selling such instruments short itself (a technique essentially constituting a bet that the investment would drop in price in the future), and after having secretly included in the CDOs a great amount of highly undesirable assets, in order to unload those assets from its own books or accounts.


The proposed settlement is embodied in a consent decree providing for disgorgement of $160 million in profits by Citigroup and payment of $30 million in interest and $95 million in penalties, as well as the adoption by the conglomerate of internal controls designed to hold company officials responsible for signing public statements regarding the worthiness of the investments marketed by the company.


Judge Rakoff wrote in his opinion that in deciding whether to grant the judicial approval that is prerequisite for such consent decrees involving injunctive relief, federal judges are required by US Supreme Court precedent to consider the public in relation to the decree.  “[R]egretfully”, Judge Rakoff wrote, the proposed Citigroup consent judgment “is neither fair, nor reasonable, nor adequate, nor in the public interest."  He noted that, while


[p]urely private parties can settle a case without ever agreeing on the facts . . .when a public agency asks a court to become its partner in enforcement by imposing wide-ranging injunctive remedies on a defendant, enforced by the formidable judicial power of contempt, the court, and the public, need some knowledge of what the underlying facts are: for otherwise, the court becomes a mere handmaiden to a settlement privately negotiated on the basis of unknown facts, while the public is deprived of ever knowing the truth in a matter of obvious public importance.



The judge expressed particular concern about the SEC practice of allowing companies to enter such consent judgments without admitting or denying the underlying allegations, which, he wrote, deprived the court of critical facts by which to assess the activities involved and the relief or punishment to be imposed.

Particularly in this context Judge Rakoff criticized the payment amounts provided in the settlement:


It is harder to discern from the limited information before the Court what the S.E.C. is getting from this settlement other than a quick headline. By the S.E.C.'s own account, Citigroup is a recidivist . . . , and yet, in terms of deterrence, the $95 million civil penalty that the Consent Judgment proposes is pocket change to any entity as large as Citigroup.


Consequently, Rakoff rejected the proposed consent judgment, consolidated the case with a separate, related case against an Citigroup official individually, and “direct[ed] the parties to be ready to try this case on July 16, 2012.”


This is the latest in a series of criticisms or refusals by Judge Rakoff to approve proposed settlements by the SEC with Wall Street corporate alleged wrongdoers.  As another example, in 2009 he refused for months to approve a proposed settlement with Bank of America relating to alleged disclosure deficiencies in connection with its acquisition of Merrill Lynch.  He only approved that settlement early the following year after the penalties against the company were increased from $33 million to $150 million and safeguards were added to inhibit such conduct in the future. He also stoutly criticized a settlement of backdating claims that the SEC reached with Vitesse Semiconductor earlier this year, decrying the same SEC practice of permitting the corporation to avoid admitting any wrongdoing.  He stated, "The disservice to the public inherent in such a practice is palpable."

It is likely that the SEC will appeal Judge Rakoff’s rejection of the Citigroup settlement.  But his reputation seems now established as a firebrand judge determined not to be used by the US Executive Branch as a rubber stamp for consent judgments that he considers to be mere slaps on large, powerful corporate wrists.

FEDERAL CRIMINAL CHARGES DISMISSED AGAINST TWO WILSON CLIENTS


Federal criminal charges have been dismissed against two clients of Roger C. Wilson and The Roger C. Wilson Law Firm, PC in two different cases several weeks apart.

One client was charged with marijuana offenses based on events in a federal park near Atlanta.  Significant issues were discovered in a thorough review of the case, including in the reports of the investigating law enforcement officers, which issues supported the client's claim of innocence. Substantially as a result of those issues, and in the course of negotiations by Roger C. Wilson with the federal prosecutor, all charges against the client were dropped several days before trial.

Any crimes committed in federal parks or similar federally controlled or administered territories, such as on the Chattahoochee River or elsewhere in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, are federal crimes and are prosecuted in federal courts.

In a separate case, another Wilson client was charged, along with several co-defendants, with multiple offenses involving alleged weapons trafficking, including the alleged illegal possession and distribution of an unregistered weapon.  The charges, and similar charges against many other defendants in other cases, arose from a lengthy sting operation conducted by federal agents, principally from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. 

The agents established a storefront business in Southwest Atlanta as the base for an undercover operation in which they encouraged local residents to sell firearms and other items to the agents at the store, where the agents posed as legitimate business owners.  Those lured into the operation then were charged with such crimes as engaging in or conspiring to engage in gun sales without being registered to do so under federal dealer licensing regulations.  A number of such persons have reported not knowing of the existence of such registration requirements and regulations until their arrests. Other charges also were brought based on the involvement of certain weapons, such as sawed-off shotguns, which require registration to be possessed or sold.

All proceedings inside and outside the store were recorded by an elaborate network of hidden surveillance cameras and microphones.  Wiretap recordings also were made of numerous telephone calls engaged in by the undercover agents with customers who had been lured to the store.


The client of Roger C. Wilson was indicted on multiple counts, relating both to the alleged illegal dealing and to the alleged possession and sale of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun.  Shortly before trial the case was resolved, by means of a resolution of the lesser (in terms of sentencing) counts and then, just before  trial, with a negotiated dismissal by federal prosecutors of the major count (also in terms of sentencing) and of the corresponding remainder of the case.


Roger C. Wilson represents clients charged with crimes and otherwise involved in government enforcement activities at the federal and state levels.  He has represented individuals and companies facing actual or possible criminal prosecution in "white collar" and "blue collar" contexts, including by defending them at trial and by negotiating resolutions with state and federal prosecutors, as well as by negotiated resolutions with federal enforcement agencies in such areas as export controls, foreign assets controls, and customs and import regulations.