Latest Legal News: Senate Targets Money-Laundering Attorneys

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U.S. to Crack Down on Money-Laundering Attorneys and Others

The USA PATRIOT Act's anti-money-laundering provisions specifically exempt attorneys, but perhaps not for much longer. A major report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations details money laundering in recent years, and while much of it focuses on the banks, one recommendation is to end the exemption for lawyers. The report includes four case studies, and includes the contention that law firm Sidley Austin helped an African leader launder funds for the purchase of a $38.5 million plane, and that two other lawyers set up shell corporations to facilitate other transactions by the same leader.Consumer Attorneys Go After the Banks

Banks have been caught clearing customers' checks and debit transactions in whichever order results in the most bouncing and thus the most overdraft fees. For example, if a customer has $100 in a checking account, and had six $15 transactions and a seventh $90 one, the bank would process the $90 transaction first and bounce the other six, rather than clear the six and bounce the $90. And presto: six fees instead of one. An increasing number of lawsuits allege the practice violates state and federal laws. The recent increase in suits isn't a surprise, as there's already blood in the water: Last August Bank of America (BAC) and its affiliates agreed to pay $35 million to settle similar claims.

Aussie ISP Refuses to be Copyright Cop; Hollywood Fumes

In America, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) -- the big ones at least -- generally cooperate with the entertainment industry, policing their users' illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted material through measures ranging from sending nasty warning letters to cutting off the user's Internet access. However, Hollywood couldn't get Australian ISP iiNet Ltd. to play ball, so it took the company to court. Yesterday, Hollywood lost in Australian Federal Court, which reasoned that the Internet service provider was in the same position as a photocopier or video cassette recorder manufacturer, and like those companies, couldn't be held liable for what their users did with the technology.

Pay to Play: Campaign Contributions, Access and Rewards, Trial Lawyer Version

In the wake of Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commision, the public discussion has generally focused on the access -- and outcome -- buying role of corporate donations to political campaigns, but theWall Street Journal points out that campaign contributions seem to purchase the same kinds of benefits for plaintiffs' firms. While none of the lawyers' behavior documented by the Journal is good for the justice system (the American Bar Association opposes it), it is legal. One might wonder if the Journal, no friend to the plaintiffs' bar, is hoping its story will help broaden the post-Citizens United discussion.

What the MoFo?

Shunning the typically conservative, buttoned-down style of major law firms, Morrison and Foerster Lp has revamped its website, aggressively embracing both its nickname, MoFo, and a new graphic layout that has more in common with brainteasers or perhaps exercises at corporate retreats than it does with pinstripe suits. Check out Above the Law's tour.
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