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Archive for the 'Lawsuits' Category

Car washes agree to settle labor lawsuit for $3.4 million


Car wash and auto lube operators in Westchester County and New York City have agreed to pay employees $3.4 million in back wages and damages to settle a U.S. Labor Department lawsuit.

The case was filed after federal investigators found that the businesses violated government rules covering minimum wage, overtime and employee recordkeeping, according to the labor department.

A total of 1,187 current and former employees of the car washes and auto lube businesses are eligible for payments under the settlement.

“This case should be a loud wake up call to other employers of vulnerable workers that the U.S. Department of Labor will not hesitate to pursue them in federal court in order to compel them to pay employees properly for all hours worked,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a written statement. “Employers must be aware of their obligation to comply with all federal labor laws, and we are here to make sure that they do.”

Two Westchester companies will make payments under the settlement, according to the labor department — 613 Car Wash Corp. of New Rochelle and Lage Management Corp. of Pelham Manor. Representaives of neither business could be reached for comment.

The other comanies listed in the settlement are Atlantic Auto Care Center Inc. of Brooklyn; 109th & First Avenue Corp. of Manhattan; 3808 Boston Road Car Wash Inc., 2434 CW Corp. and Boulevard Car Wash of N.Y. Inc., all of the Bronx; and Michael’s Car Wash Inc. and Howard Beach Car Wash Corp., both of Queens.

The labor department said that earlier judgements in the case resulted in the recovery of more than $1.3 million in back wages, damages and interest for more than 200 employees.

The Labor Department said it is trying to locate several workers who are no longer employed by the businesses to pay them the back wages that they are owed. Workers who believe they are due back wages as part of the settlement should contact the New York district office at 212-264-8185.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
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Banks file another complaint against MBIA


A group of the world’s largest financial companies have followed up a lawsuit filed last month against Armonk-based bond insurer MBIA Inc. with an additional court filing that criticizes the New York State Insurance Department’s approval of a controversial restructuring at MBIA.

The insurance department and Eric Dinallo, the outgoing state insurance superintendent, are named as defendants in the newest complaint.

The filing cites Article 78 of the New York state civil code that allows parties to challenge decisions of public agencies.

The filing is designed to preserve “potential challenges to MBIA’s fraudulent restructuring before the expiration of any statutes of limitations,” Vince DiBlasi, a Sullivan & Cromwell LLP lawyer for the banks, said in a written statement.

The 18 financial instititions and policyholdres that are suing MBIA include JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and UBS AG. The banks’ original case, filed May 13 in in state Supreme Court, questions MBIA’s decision earlier this year to split its bond insurance business from its traditional municipal bond insurance business to isolate the riskier operations that brought on the company’s huge losses related to subprime mortgages.

As a result of the restructuring, MBIA’s insurance subsidiary is an “effectively insolvent shell company” and so undercapitalized that it has no means of paying existing policyholders’ future claims or writing new insurance policies, the lawsuit alleges.

MBIA declined comment. The state insurance department could not be immediately reached for comment.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
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Iona College to host intellectual property conference


Broad questions involving intellectual property rights will be explored at a two-day conference sponsored by Iona College in New Rochelle next week.
The Conference on Intellectual Property takes place Friday and Saturday, June 12-13. Keynote speakers are Joy Garnett, an artist who appropriates news and documentary photographs from newspapers, the Internet and other media and re-invents them as paintings, and Laura M. Quilter, an attorney and researcher in technology and information law and policy.
About 30 scholars from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America are expected to attend. The conference is being organized by Amy D. Stackhouse, associate professor of English at the college.
Fees are $125 per person with academic affiliation and $165 per person with non- academic affiliation. For more information or to register, visit www.iona.edu/cip.

Posted by Jerry Gleeson on Friday, June 5th, 2009 at 10:52 am |
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Policyholders file lawsuit against MBIA


MBIA Inc., the Armonk-based bond insurer that suffered heavy losses related to subprime mortgage debacle, faces a lawsuit from disgruntled policyholders who allege that a company restructuring enriched management at the expense of policyholders.

The suit filed in New York State Supreme Court questions MBIA’s decision to split its bond insurance businesses. MBIA announced the split in February as a way to separate its traditional municipal bond insurance business from riskier operations that brought on the company’s huge losses related to subprime mortgages.

But as a result of the restructuring, MBIA’s insurance subsidiary is “an effectively insolvent shell company” and so grossly undercapitalized that it has no means of paying existing policyholders’ future claims or writing new insurance policies, the suit alleges.

“MBIA’s decision to fraudulently strip $5 billion out of MBIA Insurance and render it effectively insolvent was a blatant attempt to enrich MBIA Inc. and its management at the expense of MBIA Insurance and its policyholders – with assets the company had no right to use in this way,” Vince DiBlasi, lead counsel for the MBIA Policyholder Group at Sullivan & Cromwell, said in a written statement. “Our lawsuit simply seeks to ensure that policyholders receive what they have paid premiums for: contractually guaranteed insurance protection.”

MBIA declined comment on the suit.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
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Appeals court upholds Wyeth ruling


A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling dismissing a race discrimination lawsuit a former employee of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in lower Manhattan let stand a ruling by the late U.S. District Court Judge Charles Brieant in the case of former Wyeth compliance officer Newton Paul.

Paul, who is black, worked at Wyeth’s Pearl River campus from 2000 to 2005. He claimed in a lawsuit that he faced discrimination in pay and promotions.

Paul is one of eight current and former Wyeth employees who sued the company for alleged race discrimination in Pearl River. Five of the lawsuits have been dismissed at the trial court level.

Posted by Allan Drury on Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 at 10:57 am |
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MBIA files lawsuit against Merrill Lynch


MBIA Inc. filed a lawsuit alleging that it faces several hundred million dollars in losses related to soured subprime mortgage investment products because of the misrepresentations by investment banking giant Merrill Lynch.

MBIA, an Armonk-based bond insurer, said that its insurance subsidiary is seeking damages from Merrill Lynch in the case filed in New York State Supreme Court.

“Today’s action is consistent with our intention to pursue all available remedies against those parties whose improper actions have directly resulted in substantial losses for MBIA and its shareholders,” MBIA Chief Executive Officer Jay Brown said in a written statement.

Merrill Lynch, now owned by Bank of America Corp., pursued a strategy to offload billions of dollars in souring subprime residential mortgages on its books by packaging them into collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), according to the lawsuit. That hurt MBIA because it had insured more than $5.7 billion of credit default protection on four of the CDOs based upon Merrill Lynch’s misrepresentations concerning the credit quality of these toxic products, the suit added.

Brown said that Merrill Lynch has unfairly benefited from the MBIA insurance coverage.

“Consequently, we are asking the court to rescind the contracts with Merrill Lynch and require them to compensate us for our payments to other counterparties,” Brown said.

MBIA’s shares plunged 79 percent during 2008 after the company was hobbled by the global credit crunch, a weak housing market and exposure to souring mortgage bonds.

Merrill Lynch declined comment.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Thursday, April 30th, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
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Lawsuit alleges overtime violations by Merrill Lynch


Two Merrill Lynch employees have filed a lawsuit alleging that the financial services giant violated federal law by failing to pay overtime to back office employees.

The workers, Ivey Moore of Mount Vernon and Andrea Levine of Staten Island, are employed as derivatives settlement specialists at the New-York based company, according to the suit filed Monday in New York federal court.

“We allege that Merrill Lynch egregiously violated federal wage and overtime laws,” said attorney Brian Schaffer, who represents the workers. “Many salaried employees work over 40 hours in a week, but are unaware they are entitled to premium overtime pay.”

Schaffer said he will seek to have the lawsuit certified as a collective action to recover unpaid wages, damages and other costs for current and former Merrill Lynch derivatives settlement specialists who have been employed by the company within the past three years and want to participate in the case.

The defendants in the case are Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, which recently bought Merrill Lynch. Representatives of neither company could be reached for comment.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
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Verizon wins $33.2 million court judgement


Verizon Communications Inc., the dominant telephone company in the Lower Hudson Valley, has won a $33.2 million court judgement against an Internet services company that was accused of confusing customers by using Internet names similar to Verizon trademarks.

The court decision stemmed from a lawsuit that Manhattan-based Verizon had filed against San Francisco-based OnlineNIC in June. In the case, Verizon alleged that OnlineNIC had engaged in “cybersquatting” by unlawfully registering at least 663 Internet domain names that were identical to or similar to Verizon online addresses.

“This case should send a clear message and serve to deter cybersquatters who continue to run businesses for the primary purpose of misleading consumers,” said Sarah Deutsch, Verizon vice president and associate general counsel. “Verizon intends to continue to take all steps necessary to protect our brand and consumers from Internet frauds and abuses.”

In the court ruling, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose, Calif., indicated that OnlineNIC’s registrations of Verizon names was intended to confuse Internet users who wanted to do business online with Verizon. The judge calculated a damage award based on $50,000 for each online name, according to Verizon.

Verizon said the case is the fourth cybersquatting court victory that it has won as it intensifies efforts to protect its brand name and trademarks.

Representatives of OnlineNIC could not be reached for comment.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Wednesday, December 24th, 2008 at 3:28 pm |
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Acticon Technologies settles patent case


General Patent Corp., a Suffern-based patent licensing and enforcement firm, said that its subsidiary Acticon Technologies LLC has settled a patent lawsuit against L-3 Communications Ilex Systems Inc., a California-based telecommunications company. Acticon’s federal lawsuit alleged that an L-3 product infringed on two of Acticon’s patents. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 12:15 pm |
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MasterCard, Visa to pay $2.75 billion in Discover settlement


Two weeks after MasterCard Inc. and Visa Inc. said that they would settle a lawsuit filed by Discover Financial Services, the companies announced that the total settlement cost will be $2.75 billion. The four-year-old lawsuit accused Visa and MasterCard of unfairly limiting competition in the credit card industry and hurting their smaller rival Discover.

The settlement was originally announced Oct. 14 shortly before the start of a scheduled trial in Manhattan federal court. The financial details were not released at that time.

Purchase-based MasterCard said that its share of the settlement will be $862.5 million. The company added that it will take an after-tax charge of $515.5 million in the third quarter related to the settlement.

Visa agreed to pay nearly $1.89 billion as its share of the settlement.

MasterCard General Counsel Noah J. Hanft said that MasterCard opted for a settlement “to avoid the uncertainty and distraction of a lengthy jury trial. This result, which is in no way an admission of liability, is in the best interest of our shareholders, our customers and our company.”

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 11:28 am |
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Judge dismisses Optionable suit


A federal judge dismissed a shareholder class action lawsuit against Optionable Inc., a Valhalla-based energy trading company whose problems last year included the collapse of its stock price, the loss of its largest customer and the resignation of a top executive with a criminal record.

The shareholder lawsuit alleged that Optionable executives made false and misleading statements about the company’s revenues, the quality of its brokerage services and other matters.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York in Manhattan dismissed the suit on Monday after concluding that the case was deficient.

“Many of plaintiffs’ factual allegations are not based on an adequate source or are unsupported by the purported source,” the judge wrote in an opinion on Sept. 15.

The case was one of several class-action suits that investors filed against the company after Optionable’s biggest customer, Bank of Montreal, suspended trading through Optionable’s brokerage services in May 2007. That decision came after the Canadian bank reported a pretax loss of up to $406 million from trades in natural gas contracts. Suspension of Bank of Montreal’s business was a blow to Optionable because the client accounted for a major part of Optionable’s business.

Optionable got more bad publicity when it was disclosed that former Chief Executive Officer Kevin P. Cassidy had previously been in federal prison for tax evasion and credit card fraud.

As investors reacted to the setbacks, Optionable’s shares plunged 97 percent in a matter of months. The shares rose 4 cents yesterday to close at 8 cents.

Kahn Gauthier Swick, a law firm with offices in New Orleans and New York City, filed the suit on behalf of Optionable shareholders. Attorneys at the firm could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Optionable also could not be reached for comment.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, October 21st, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
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MBIA sues GMAC unit


MBIA Insurance Corp. has filed a lawsuit alleging that it has suffered heavy losses because of reckless home mortgage lending practices by Residential Funding Co., a unit of GMAC.

Armonk-based MBIA seeks unspecified damages from Residential Funding in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. MBIA, which issued guarantees on mortgage-backed securities, said it has been hurt by Residential Funding’s approval of mortgages to borrowers who couldn’t repay the loans.

“The risks inherent in the portfolios were significantly higher than what (Residential) represented to MBIA,” the lawsuit read.

Residential Funding could not be reached for comment.

It is the second time in the past two weeks that MBIA has filed suit against a mortgage lender. MBIA earlier sued Countrywide Financial Corp., alleging that lax lending standards and fraud by Countrywide contributed to thousands of home mortgages going into foreclosure during the housing bust.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Thursday, October 16th, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
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MBIA sues Countrywide


Lax lending standards and fraud by the giant home lender Countrywide Financial Corp. contributed to thousands of home mortgages going into foreclosure during the housing bust, leading to major losses for bond insurer MBIA Inc., according to a lawsuit filed by MBIA.

MBIA alleges in the suit that its insurance unit incurred $459 million in costs related to the bad loans at Countrywide and that additional claims exceed several hundred million dollars.

MBIA seeks damages from Countrywide in the suit filed Tuesday at the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

“MBIA has been substantially harmed by Countrywide’s misrepresentations concerning the quality of loans it made. … MBIA has stated repeatedly that it will vigorously pursue all claims for improper practices by originators while continuing to meet its obligations to policyholders,” Kevin Brown, MBIA’s director of corporate communications, said in an e-mail statement.

MBIA’s insurance unit provided guarantees on billions of dollars of trust obligations of Countrywide mortgage-backed securities, but would have not done business with Countrywide if it had known about the lax standards, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleged that Countrywide abandoned its guidelines for loan origination as it aggressively pushed to expand its market share during the housing boom of recent years.

Countrywide’s questionable practices included “knowingly lending to borrowers who could not afford to repay the loans, or who committed fraud in loan applications, or who otherwise did not satisfy the basic risk criteria for prudent and responsible lending that Countrywide claimed to use,” the suit reads.

A spokeswoman for Bank of America Corp., which bought Countrywide earlier this year, declined comment on the case.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 at 6:16 pm |
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Patent fight pits Folgers against Maxwell House


Two of America’s biggest coffee brands are involved in a legal battle over the plastic containers in which they sell their products.

Procter & Gamble Co., which sells Folgers Coffee, has filed a patent lawsuit against rival Kraft Foods Inc., well known for its Maxwell House brand. Procter’s lawsuit alleges that new four-pound plastic containers for Maxwell House infringe on Procter & Gamble patents for Folgers. Procter said that it has been selling Folgers in plastic containers since 2003.

“Many innovations in this container are covered by P&G patents, which we believe Maxwell House has infringed,” said Steve Jemison, chief legal officer at Procter & Gamble. “We must protect our intellectual property.”

The lawsuit has interest in Westchester County because Kraft manages the Maxwell House brand in Tarrytown.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, seeks to stop Kraft from violating the patent and unspecfied monetary damages.

Kraft released an e-mail statement denying the allegations.

“We have not had a chance to review this lawsuit but Kraft does not infringe the valid patent rights of others,” Kraft said in the e-mail. “We will vigorously defend ourselves in this matter.”

Posted by Jay Loomis on Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
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Barr confirms patent challenge


Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. confirmed today that its Pomona-based subsidiary, Barr Laboratories Inc., has challenged four patents held by Amgen Inc. for its Sensipar drug, used by dialysis patients to treat side-effects of the treatment.

Barr said it filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application with the Food and Drug Administration on March 10, the first date the agency could accept such an application for the kidney drug.

On Monday, Amgen, along with patent partners Brigham and Women’s Hospital Inc. and NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., filed suit against Barr and Israeli drug-maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. for planning to sell generic Sensipar before the expiration of patent protection.

Sensipar recorded $377 million in U.S. sales during the 12 months ending May, Barr said.

Teva, the world’s largest generic-drug maker, is buying Montvale, N.J.-based Barr for $9 billion, the companies said jointly earlier this month.

Shares of Barr were down fractionally in noontime trading to $65.81 a share.

Posted by David Schepp on Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 at 11:11 am |
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Business in the Burbs is our online news blog about businesses based or operating in the Lower Hudson Valley. Visitors here will also find items of interest to consumers in the region. Most contributions are from business reporters and editors covering Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.


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