Donald Trump, former US President and current front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024, has been formally charged and will appear in court today. He will be the first former or sitting US President to face criminal charges. The charges stem from a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels; Trump denies any wrongdoing and will plead not guilty. Trump's lawyers opposed videography, photography, and radio coverage, but the judge ruled that five photographers would be admitted for a short time. Trump is expected to return to Florida and give remarks from Mar-a-Lago later today. The specific charges will be disclosed, and according to Yahoo News, Trump will face 34 felony counts for falsification of business records. Trump's lead has widened in the Republican Party's presidential nominating contest, as he has pulled ahead of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Trump faces several other legal challenges, including a criminal probe into whether he unlawfully tried to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia and two investigations by a special counsel over his handling of classified documents after leaving office.
Apple faces a billion-dollar lawsuit from medical devices maker, Masimo Corp., and co-plaintiff Cercacor Laboratories Inc., in relation to the theft of trade secrets, including technology that measures the oxygen levels in the bloodstream. The pair alleges that Apple used confidential information from two former executives it hired, one from each plaintiff, to design, build, and sell certain Apple Watch models. The trial will focus on the Series 4-7 and SE models of the Apple Watch, and up to $1 billion could be at stake. The outcome could also influence how the parties’ broader intellectual-property conflict shakes out, and whether a settlement resolving their many disputes is likely. The 10-day jury trial is set to begin on Tuesday in the US District Court for the Central District of California, with the potential for live testimony from Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook. Trade secrets cases are “especially onerous for defendants, meaning there’s a chance the parties could reach a deal before a verdict.”
The number of large law firm mergers completed in Q1 2023 has already matched the total number of such mergers in all of 2022, according to data from legal consultancy Fairfax Associates. Large mergers are defined as those in which both law firms have at least 100 lawyers each. Recent mergers include Holland & Knight with Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe with Buckley. While the number of large mergers in a given quarter or year may be coincidental, interest in large combinations among firms is "dramatically higher" than it was 10 or 20 years ago, according to Fairfax. However, challenges remain in bringing two large firms together, such as client conflicts and increasingly complex deal terms. Fairfax tracked 17 total law firm mergers to take effect in Q1 2023, an increase from 14 in the same period in 2022, but in line with Q1 2021. The firm said there were 46 completed mergers in 2022 as a whole, an increase from 41 the prior year. As with any other industry, consolidation in the law firm industry brings with it myriad risks – from potential conflicts of interest, as larger firms may have clients with competing interests – to decreased competition and higher prices for clients. In the short term, watch for consolidation to result in layoffs.
You know what I initially thought was a raccoon or feral cat that had snuck in here to the Minimum Competence offices is, in fact, my column for this week! Let me coax it over to me and take a look at it.
In this one I spoke a bit about auditor independence.
The Big Four accounting firms and consultants have come under fire following their roles in the high-profile collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, as well as the near-miss at First Republic Bank. Rightly so as KPMG signed off on the banks' financial statements and, while it is difficult to point out what should have been done to avoid the financial upheaval of the last few weeks, it is clear who should have done something. The solution? There needs to be liability placed on the accounting firm tasked with acting on behalf of a regulator when that organization fails to identify indicia of questionable financial health. Accounting firms have no incentive to draw attention to potential problems, rather than just explicit and clear problems, because it may trigger just what happened anyway–bank collapse. Another impediment to auditor independence is the revolving door of personnel between the major accounting firms and the banks they purport to audit. A blanket ban is necessary on a firm consulting and auditing the same client.