Legal Briefing: BP's Partners Will Negotiate Over Gulf Oil Spill Bills

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

BP, Partners, Will Try to Negotiate Over Spill Bills

Mitsui Offshore Exploration has joined BP's (BP) other partner in the Deepwater Horizon well, Anadarko Petroleum (APC), in refusing to share in the liability for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Both companies now assert that BP's conduct in running the project was so egregious that it rose to the level of gross negligence, freeing them from liability. BP, of course, isn't going to let them off the hook so easily: 35% of an extremely expensive bill is at stake. But before heading to arbitration, the two sides will try to negotiate a resolution, reportsBloomberg. Given the stakes, I wish them luck with that.

Lobbyist Kevin Ring May Benefit from "Honest Services" Ruling

The Jack Ambramoff lobbying scandal ensnared several of his associates, including Kevin Ring. Unlike some, Ring didn't plead guilty. His first trial on honest services fraud charges ended in a mistrial. Now, in the wake of the Supreme Court's narrowing of the statute, his defense attorneys claim he cannot be convicted and should not face retrial, reports the Main Justice Blog.

SEC Cleaning House in the Wake of Madoff Fraud

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog notes that the Securities and Exchange Commission's staff has undergone a lot of turnover in response to its failure to detect the massive Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff: 15 of 20 enforcement attorneys and 19 of 36 examination staffers who dealt with Madoff are gone. No word on whether they were fired, quit to avoid firing, quit from shame, or otherwise left voluntarily. We can only hope their replacements are more competent.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Win Libel Suit

In another reminder of the differences between U.K. and U.S. free speech rules, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt won a lawsuit against a British tabloid that reported the couple was divorcing, reports the The New York Times. Such suits almost certainly wouldn't succeed here, although in some ways it would be nice if they could: Perhaps then we could get through a supermarket checkout line without being overwhelmed by headlines about the marriages and infidelities of the stars.

And in the Business of Law...

When convicted felon and former attorney Mark Drier defrauded Fortress Investment Group as part of his Ponzi scheme, some of his key tools were the "utterly false" opinion letters issued by the firm Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, Fortress claims in a lawsuit. According to the New York Law Journal, Ruskin was hired to be independent counsel, since Drier was involved in the deal, which involved promissory notes supposedly issued by companies controlled by real estate developer Sheldon Solow. However, Ruskin apparently didn't show much independence. Instead of speaking with the Solow companies about the deal -- which would have revealed there was no deal -- Ruskin seemingly relied on Drier's word. If these allegations are true, anyone relying on a Ruskin opinion letter might want to call the firm and verify what evidence underlies the opinions they are rendering. Or maybe not; Ruskin says the suit is baseless and looks forward to being vindicated in court.