Wake Up Call: Top Crypto Coin Exchange Hires Steptoe Over ‘False Claims’

• The world’s biggest bitcoin exchange, Bitfinex, hired law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP to handle what it called “false claims,” among other things related to a Turkish man’s complaint that he couldn’t swap $1 million of the cryptocurrency “tether” for cash. The convoluted case highlights questions over a vow by Tether, the company behind the digital token “tether,” that the coins are backed by $814 million in cash. There are also questions about Bitfinex’s connection to tether. (Bloomberg) That case comes as online sites that exchange bitcoins and other digital assets look certain to face mounting legal and regulatory challenges in 2018. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)

• All eyes were on Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court case over a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. But the swing-justice didn’t give away which way he’ll land in the clash between Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws and free speech. (Bloomberg via BLB) The case drew crowds of fervent supporters from each side. (Bloomberg Law)

• Google took round one in the gender-pay class action it faced in California, as a San Francisco judge dismissed the case on grounds plaintiffs’ class was too broad, but leaving room for them to amend and refile. (The Recorder)

• Peter Robb, the National Labor Relations Board’s new general counsel, looks ready to steer the agency toward reversing many rulings that expanded workers’ rights during the Obama administration, on a board that recently flipped to Republican control. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)



• CVS Health Corp. could owe Aetna Inc. $2.1 billion if the drugstore chain’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of the health insurer fails, according to a merger agreement filed Tuesday. (Bloomberg) Federal regulators will likely want to closely scrutinize the planned merger, corporate lawyers said. (National Law Journal)

• The CVS-Aetna deal and Walt Disney’s talks with 21st Century Fox to buy its film studio and cable entertainment channels reflect the rise and influence of internet giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix. That’s why antitrust rules should be rewritten to take into account that influence, according to a writer. (Financial Times)

• Antitrust lawyers, tax authorities, privacy specialists, national-security experts and diversity advocates are bearing down on Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and other technology giants. (Bloomberg)

• Cozen O’Connor said its national and international corporate lawyers advised Luxembourg-based Eurofins Scientific SE, a world leader in bioanalytical testing, in its $780 million deal to buy San Diego-based EAG Laboratories, from affiliates of Odyssey Investment Partners. EAG is a global scientific services company that provides analytical testing and consulting to end markets including material and engineering sciences, agroscience, and biopharmaceuticals,  Cozen said. (Cozen O’Connor) (Business Wire)


Legal Actions

• Johnson & Johnson and Bayer AG are responsible for a woman’s injuries tied to the blood-thinning drug Xarelto and must pay almost $28 million in damages, a Philadelphia jury concluded in the companies’ first loss at a trial over the medicine. (Bloomberg)

• A former corporate insider who alerted the SEC to a widespread, multi-year securities law violation has been awarded a $4.1 million bounty, the agency said. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)

• U.S. law firm Pomerantz is investigating allegations that Naspers Ltd., Africa’s biggest company by market value, was involved in unlawful business practices related to a contract with South Africa’s politically connected Gupta family. (Bloomberg)

• Billionaire investor Bill Ackman is trying to beat a lawsuit by Allergan shareholders accusing him of illegal insider trading in his 2014 hostile bid for the company. (Bloomberg)

• U.K. pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca Plc faces a whistleblower’s lawsuit by the U.S. government, 27 states, Washington, D.C., and the city of Chicago over its antipsychotic drug Seroquel, which can be fatal if combined with methadone. (Bloomberg)


Regulators and Enforcement

• New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman urged the Federal Communications Commission to postpone its planned vote to roll back net neutrality rules, citing large numbers of allegedly fake electronically filed public comments about the agency’s effort. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)

• Acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney is looking to add more political appointees to the agency’s ranks in the near future, pairing them with senior civil servants in areas such as supervision, regulations, and enforcement. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)

• Richard Cordray, whose resignation as CFPB director sparked a battle over the agency’s leadership, officially announced that he’s running for governor of Ohio. (Bloomberg)

• A high-profile plan to prevent federal watchdogs from getting too cozy with banks they are supposed to police has been scrapped by President Donald Trump’s newest Wall Street regulator, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency chief Joseph Otting. (Bloomberg)



Russia Probes

• Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is said to have subpoenaed records of Trump’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank AG, as his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections widens. (Bloomberg)

• A top prosecutor for Mueller sent an email praising Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general fired by Trump, for refusing to defend Trump’s travel ban. (Bloomberg)

• The Mueller investigation has cost $6.7 million so far, according to a report. (Washington Post)


The Trump Administration

• The Trump administration’s nominee to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Scott Mugno, currently FedEx Ground’s vice president for safety, has been silent about his policy intentions. But he was due to break that silence yesterday in an appearance before a Senate committee. (Bloomberg Law)



Happening in SCOTUS and Other Courts

• A lawyer for Trump asked a New York state judge to dismiss a defamation case by a former contestant on his reality TV show who accused him of groping her and sued him for calling her a liar. (Bloomberg)

• Attorneys for a Turkish banker tried to undermine the credibility of a gold and currency trader who pleaded guilty and became the government’s star witness in the banker’s trial on charges that he laundered money for Iran and bribed Turkish officials to allow it. (Bloomberg)



• The software industry’s ability to easily create new products that are compatible with existing ones hangs on the outcome of a closely watched federal court case pitting Oracle America against Google. (Bloomberg Law)

• The website of outdoor apparel retailer Patagonia struggled to handle traffic after the company condemned  Trump’s move to remove federal protection from swaths of public land. (Bloomberg)

• With the fledgling space tourism industry getting ready for lift-off with passengers that will include essentially untrained astronauts, it’s safe to presume “accidents will occur” and end up in court, an attorney specializing in aviation and space law said. (Bloomberg)

Compiled by Rick Mitchell and edited by Casey Sullivan.