Marching on All Fronts

By August 7, 2008Briefly Legal, Economy

The Wall Street Journal’s opinion staff has been publishing very useful editorials and op-eds lately about the march of the special-interest litigators, the trial lawyers and the groups they fund who seek to expand the opportunity to sue on all fronts.

Today there’s a good piece on the proposed revision by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) on reporting of continent liabilities. Financial arcana perhaps, but a big deal. From “FASB’s Lawyer Bonanza“:

Under the proposed change, a company facing a lawsuit would have to list on its financial statement its best-guess estimate of what that litigation could end up costing — not just in attorney fees, but in any potential payout. For a company in high-stakes litigation, that means showing its hand to plaintiffs’ attorneys, allowing them to gauge management’s upper estimate of what the case is worth.

The deadline for commenting is Friday, and more on this soon.

The estimable Kimberly Strassel had a good column on the attorney general’s race in West Virginia, Dan Grear challenging incumbent AG Darrell McGraw. From “Challenging Spitzerism at the Polls“:

Mr. Greear is the 40-year-old Republican lawyer working to unseat West Virginia’s entrenched top prosecutor, Darrell McGraw. His quest has become a case study in the opportunities, and pitfalls, of an upstart reformer challenging an incumbent attorney general who, like New York’s Eliot Spitzer, has cemented his position through populism and political patronage.It’s also an insight into a new wave of reformist candidates across the country. As state attorneys general have become more brazen with their power, and as outside groups have started shining a light on their backroom practices, voters have become uneasy.

West Virginia consistently ranks as having a poor business climate (50th in business friendliness, CNBC reports), with the capricious, often abusive legal environment being a big reason. (The American Tort Reform Association’s Darren McKinney comments in a letter today.)

In “Justice and Milberg,” the Journal again questioned the sweetheart deal that the Department of Justice worked out with the law firm of Milberg, allowing convicted conspiring partner Mel Weiss to retain ill-gotten gain.

And last week the Journal editorialized about the just-passed H.R. 4040, the consumer product litigation and regulation act. From “Too Much, Too Late“:

Once President Bush signs the bill into law — which he’s expected to do in short order — state attorneys general will be allowed to sue on their own to enforce safety standards and can call on tort lawyers to help them. The law provides for a publicly available database of unsubstantiated consumer safety complaints — perfect fodder for entrepreneurial litigants.

Product safety then becomes a marginal concern to achieving political and pecuniary goals. But then, EVERYTHING’s a marginal concern to some in the plaintiff’s bar as they work to achieve political and pecuniary goals.

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