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  Business - Legal News


A Pennsylvania judge plans to rule in a couple weeks about whether and how a five-year consent decree that’s about to expire between two mammoth health care providers and the attorney general’s office can be modified.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on Friday scheduled a two-day hearing about the future of the fraught business relationship Highmark and UPMC.

The state Supreme Court earlier this week asked for the proceedings, and it’s all but certain that the justices will review whatever Simpson determines.

The consent decree the companies signed in 2014 is set to expire at the end of June, triggering higher costs for Highmark insurance customers who get treatment at UPMC’s vast network in western Pennsylvania. Simpson says he hopes to rule by June 14.



Fighting to maintain its access to major markets for next-generation communications, Chinese tech giant Huawei is challenging the constitutionality of a U.S. law that limits its sales of telecom equipment.

Huawei’s chief legal officer, Song Liuping, said Wednesday that Huawei filed a motion asking a court in Plano, Texas, for a summary judgment on whether a U.S. military spending provision that bars the government and its contractors from using Huawei equipment is constitutional.

The lawsuit comes as the U.S. and China are embroiled in a broader trade war in which both sides have imposed billions of dollars of punitive tariffs against each other’s products. Chinese state media suggested Wednesday that the country’s rich supply of rare earths — key elements for high-tech manufacturing — could be used as leverage against the U.S. in the dispute.

Huawei is the biggest global maker of network equipment and enjoys a lead in 5G, or fifth-generation, technology. It also is the No. 2 maker of smartphones. The Trump administration says the company could use its equipment to spy on behalf of the Chinese government and is thus a threat to international cybersecurity.

“This decision threatens to harm our customers in over 170 countries, including more than 3 billion customers who use Huawei products and services around the world,” Song said at a news briefing.

Huawei, whose U.S. headquarters is in Plano, launched a lawsuit in March against the U.S. national defense law, calling the provision a “bill of attainder” that selectively punishes Huawei and violates its due process by presuming its guilt without a fair trial. The summary judgment motion seeks to accelerate the legal process to give U.S. customers access to Huawei equipment sooner, Huawei said in a statement.

Song said the “state-sanctioned campaign” against the company will not improve cybersecurity.

“Politicians in the U.S. are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company,” he said. “This is not normal.”

Apart from the defense law provision, the U.S. Commerce Department recently placed Huawei on its “Entity List,” effectively barring U.S. companies from selling their technology to it and other Chinese firms without government approval. Huawei relies heavily on U.S. components, including computer chips, and about one-third of its suppliers are American.

The dispute centers on China’s longstanding huge trade surplus with the U.S. and complaints that Beijing and Chinese companies use unfair tactics to acquire advanced foreign technologies.

The most recent round of negotiations between Beijing and Washington ended earlier this month without an agreement after Trump more than doubled duties on $200 billion in Chinese products. China responded by raising tariffs of 5% to 25% on $60 billion worth of American goods.

DeVaney sworn in to South Dakota Supreme Court

  Business  -   POSTED: 2019/05/24 15:35

Patricia DeVaney has been sworn in as South Dakota's newest Supreme Court justice.

DeVaney took her oath of office in the state's Capitol Rotunda in Pierre Thursday, steps away from the Attorney General's Office where she spent much of her career.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem highlighted DeVaney's work as an assistant attorney general prosecuting one of South Dakota's serial killers, Robert Leroy Anderson. The Rapid City Journal says Noem also highlighted DeVaney's work defending the constitutionality of South Dakota's laws requiring "informed consent" prior to an abortion.

DeVaney remained with the Attorney General's Office until 2012, when former-Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed her to South Dakota's 6th Judicial Circuit. She fills the seat vacated by Justice Steven Zinter, who died unexpectedly last October.



Tesla's CEO Elon Musk is back in the spotlight for saying something when perhaps he should have remained quiet.

A federal judge will hear oral arguments Thursday about whether Musk should be held in contempt of court for violating an agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC says Musk blatantly violated the settlement in February when he tweeted about Tesla's vehicle production without a lawyer's approval.

It's unclear if Musk plans to attend the hearing. If he is found in contempt of court, Musk could face fines or even jail time.

Musk's 13-word tweet on Feb. 19 said Tesla would produce around 500,000 vehicles this year. But the tweet wasn't approved by Tesla's "disclosure counsel," and when the contempt-of-court motion was filed in February Musk had not sought a lawyer's approval for a single tweet, the SEC said.

Musk said his tweet about car production didn't need pre-approval because it wasn't new information that would be meaningful to investors. His attorneys say the SEC is violating his First Amendment rights to free speech.

The SEC says the arrangement doesn't restrict Musk's freedom of speech because as long as his statements are not false or misleading, they would be approved.

Meanwhile, Tesla's shares fell 8% in midday trading Thursday after the company said it churned out 77,100 vehicles in the first quarter, well behind the pace it must sustain to fulfill Musk's pledge to manufacture 500,000 cars annually.


A Japanese court has rejected a request by former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, released on bail last week, to attend the Japanese automaker’s board meeting on Tuesday.

Nissan dismissed Ghosn as chairman after his Nov. 19 arrest, but he remains on the board. The Tokyo District Court said it rejected Ghosn’s request on Monday but did not elaborate on the reasons.

It had been unclear whether Ghosn could attend the board meeting. The court’s approval was needed based on restrictions imposed for his release on bail. The restrictions say he cannot tamper with evidence, and attending the board meeting could be seen as putting pressure on Nissan employees.

Prosecutors had been expected to argue against his attendance. They were not available for immediate comment.

Ghosn has been charged with falsifying financial reports in underreporting his compensation and breach of trust in making payments to a Saudi businessman and having Nissan shoulder investment losses.

He insists he is innocent, saying the compensation was never decided or paid, the payments were for legitimate services and Nissan never suffered the losses.

Since his release on March 6 from Tokyo Detention Center on 1 billion yen ($9 million) bail, he has been spotted taking walks in Tokyo with his family, but he has not made any comments.

His attempt to exercise what his lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, called his “duty” by attending the board meeting signals one way he may be fighting back.

Hironaka has said Ghosn will speak to reporters soon. A date for a news conference has not been announced.


The fight over a Massachusetts Gaming Commission report on allegations of sexual misconduct against former casino mogul Steve Wynn will be back in a Nevada courtroom next month.

Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez on Thursday set a Jan. 4 court hearing on whether to extend an order blocking the report's release. It details an investigation into how Wynn Resorts handled the allegations and could affect whether the company keeps a gambling license for a $2 billion casino and hotel set to open near Boston in June.

Wynn has denied allegations of misconduct and sued last month to keep the report from going public. He argued that it contains confidential information obtained from his attorneys, which is protected by attorney-client privilege.

Wynn resigned from his company in February, and his name has been stripped from the new casino. It is now called Encore Boston Harbor.

Wynn Resorts attorney Patrick Byrne said Thursday that the company supports the investigation and is cooperating with Massachusetts regulators.

Ahead of the January hearing, Wynn's attorneys are negotiating with Wynn Resorts and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission over what interviews and documents his lawyers can review to determine if they're privileged.

The Nevada judge is expected to rule on areas where the attorneys can't agree.

The gaming commission's attorney, Michael Rawlins, questioned how much access Wynn should be given and whether the ex-mogul's lawyers would seek to review even more elements of the unpublished report.

Rawlins said in court Thursday that the commission wants to move forward quickly but "we do not want to open the investigative files of a law enforcement agency to the curious eyes of the person whose behavior is the subject of the investigation."

Judge Gonzalez said she understood why the commission was reluctant to share its information but that some documents needed to be disclosed to determine whether Wynn's attorney-client privilege was violated.


The Dutch Supreme Court has upheld the war crimes conviction of a timber dealer who was found guilty last year of selling arms to former Liberian leader Charles Taylor and of complicity in war crimes committed by Taylor's forces in Liberia and Guinea from 2000 to 2003.

Guus Kouwenhoven was first convicted of arms smuggling in 2006 but later cleared on appeal. He was convicted in April last year based on new evidence and sentenced to 19 years in prison.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an argument by Kouwenhoven's lawyer that Dutch courts couldn't prosecute him because of an amnesty Taylor proclaimed in 2003 shortly before stepping down as Liberia's president.

Kouwenhoven was detained last year in South Africa and is awaiting extradition to the Netherlands.

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