Latest Legal News: Vivendi Loses; Hope May Take the Fifth

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A daily look at legal news and the business of law:

Vivendi Gambled on a Jury ... and Lost

Vivendi (VIVEF) inflated the value of its shares by lying to investors 57 times between 2000 and 2002, a federal jury in Manhattan found this week. The case was the biggest securities class action to go trial, ever. Because the stakes in such cases can be so high, most are settled before reaching a jury. According to one of the plaintiff law firms, Vivendi's damages could be $9.3 billion. Vivendi has said it will appeal.
Hope May Take the Fifth

When the Associated Press sued artist Shepard Fairey, alleging he stole the image he used for his famous Obama "Hope" poster from it, media like The Colbert Report treated Fairey like a quixotic David being attacked by a corporate Goliath. Well, Fairey's got a much bigger foe now: the U.S. Attorney's office. He's facing possible criminal charges because he faked evidence to clear himself in the AP case, and may be forced to plead the Fifth rather than testify in that lawsuit.

The Business of Law Is Looking Up

After a year in which more than 4,600 attorneys were laid off from major firms, last week's news looks great: Almost no layoffs at big firms, according to the weekly roundup by Above the Law and Law Shucks. Of course, the practice of "stealth layoffs" makes it hard to be sure.

Despite the economy, some firms are managing to thrive: Hughes Hubbard racked up gains in profits, profits per partner, and profits per attorney, and while Paul Weiss reported record profits. White & Case, on the other hand, seems a bit sickly. It has lost partners to its rivals four times since last August, and last year it laid off 209 attorneys, the third-highest total in Big Law.
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