NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Did you hear the one about the comedy writer who’s suing U.S. talk-show host Conan O’Brien for allegedly stealing his jokes? It’s the latest case of creative types – from UK band Radiohead to software giant Oracle – using copyright protections to block others from building on their clever but often derivative ideas. Overly strict laws that stifle innovation are no laughing matter.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - “Stuff happens” is a legal principle worth preserving. Shareholders are increasingly using fiascos like tainted burritos sold by Chipotle Mexican Grill and BP’s oil-well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico to claim stock fraud. That’s misguided, because securities laws were designed to punish lies about significant financial risks, not failures to warn of unforeseen mishaps.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Wall Street’s top watchdog has a bad case of denial – about denials. As a condition of settling cases, the Securities and Exchange Commission typically bars alleged wrongdoers from later claiming they’re innocent. This so-called gag rule arguably violates free-speech rights, though. If a new lawsuit challenging it succeeds, the regulator may finally have to start – gasp! – proving its accusations.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Uncle Sam is finally delivering a spanking to company babysitters. The U.S. Department of Justice announced last week that it will cut back on hiring private monitors for corporate wrongdoers. Once trusted to keep the likes of Citigroup and Apple in line, these super-nannies have often turned out to be meddlers fond of excessive oversight and multi-million dollar fees.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - When it comes to free speech, Brett Kavanaugh is all business. President Donald Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court has favored allowing public companies to cut back on disclosure, internet service providers to discriminate against certain content and cable companies to block rivals’ programming. It’s a First Amendment message that investors and consumers probably won’t want to hear.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - The antitrust case against AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner may be over, but the trials of President Donald Trump’s top trustbusters may just be starting. The U.S. Department of Justice’s total loss in court batters the tough but savvy reputation earned years ago under President Barack Obama. Flimsy legal theories flummoxed experts while stalling other possible deals like a Comcast bid for assets of Twenty-First Century Fox. After Tuesday’s court decision, the watchdog can expect fresh charges of putting politics over the law.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - With $1,745-an-hour friends, who needs enemies? Law firm Kirkland & Ellis billed that astronomical amount in the Toys R Us bankruptcy. On Monday it added injury to insult by scoring a U.S. Supreme Court victory against workers’ right to save money by joining together in lawsuits. Even much cheaper firms, though, are often beyond Americans’ means. Ending attorneys’ monopoly on the legal business could bring more affordable justice.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Investors in crypto-currencies may be in for a surprise. To hear the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators tell it, many initial coin offerings – or ICOs – of digital tokens like bitcoin are actually securities, and subject to rigorous rules. That’s far from clear, though, judging from a handful of cases making their way through the courts. A ruling against the government could add to the confusion.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - With the law riding shotgun, Uber is on an open road to obfuscation. Whether the ride-hailing service illegally fixed prices, for example, may now remain a secret after a court last week ordered the issue resolved in arbitration. It’s the same deal with whether drivers were stiffed on expenses; sexual-harassment claims against the company are also subject to confidential proceedings. Making the $68 billion firm fess up is mighty tough when the courts and others allow it to operate in the shadows.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Three’s no charm for legal opponents of the American president. Some 200 Democrats in Congress on Wednesday filed the third lawsuit claiming Donald Trump violated a constitutional ban on accepting presents. All the accusers face long odds, though, of proving they were hurt directly or that the suits even belong in court. Impeachment is still probably the only way for Trump's opponents to get him to fold.