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Across the Nation: Law professor who wore blackface blasts school report

Feds: Trio hacked into law firms’ networks

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors have charged three Chinese nationals accused of profiting from insider information about mergers and acquisitions by hacking into the networks of law firms working on the deals, authorities said Tuesday.

The three men made more than $4 million in profits by buying stock in companies that were about to be acquired and then selling the shares after the acquisitions were announced, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Prosecutors say the trio got the insider information between April 2014 and late 2015 by hacking into the email systems of multiple international law firms with offices in New York.

One defendant, Iat Hong, was arrested Monday in Hong Kong and is awaiting extradition. Two others, Bo Zheng and Chin Hung, have not been arrested.

All three are being charged with multiple securities fraud, insider trading, computer intrusion and other offenses. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

“This case of cyber meets securities fraud should serve as a wake-up call for law firms around the world: You are and will be targets of cyber hacking, because you have information available to would-be criminals,” Bharara said in a statement.

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said the bureau “works around the clock to keep these types of alleged securities fraudsters and cyber criminals from trading on stolen information.”

Information about defense attorneys for the defendants wasn’t immediately available.

The defendants profited from deals including the acquisition of e-commerce company Borderfree by Pitney Bowes Inc. and Intel Corp.’s acquisition of circuit manufacturer Altera Corp., according to the indictment. Both were completed in 2015.

Prosecutors say Hong and Hung used insider information to buy 113,000 shares of Borderfree in the week before the Pitney Bowes-Borderfree transaction was made public on May 6, 2015.

They earned a profit of approximately $841,000 when they sold their Borderfree shares on May 18, 2015.

The law firms that worked on the deals and allegedly targeted aren’t named in the indictment.

 

Law professor who wore blackface blasts school report

EUGENE — A University of Oregon law professor who wore blackface to a Halloween party is harshly criticizing an investigative report by the university that found she violated the institution’s anti-discrimination policies and caused damage to the law school, a newspaper reported Friday.

In a statement released through a public relations firm Thursday, Nancy Shurtz said the investigation into her actions that was released by the UO earlier this week was a form of “supremely public retaliation” and amounted to a public shaming.

Shurtz said in the statement that the university’s investigation by two Portland-based attorneys includes errors and omissions that she tried to correct before it was released that take her actions out of context. She said she is consulting with an attorney.

In an earlier apology, Shurtz said she had dressed up as Dr. Damon Tweedy, a black psychiatrist who wrote a best-selling memoir called “Black Man in a White Coast” about his experiences with racism while in medical school. Her costume included black paint on her face and hands, the wig and a white doctor’s coat paired with a stethoscope.

The costume was intended to provoke discussion about racism and societal injustices, Shurtz has said.

The university’s investigation found that Shurtz’ right to free expression — even though she was in her home — did not outweigh the university’s interest in maintaining a lawful and orderly atmosphere.

It also found that some students felt compelled to attend the party because she was their professor — a claim Shurtz vehemently denied in her statement, citing her use of an “anonymous” grading system.

Investigators agreed that Shurtz did not intend to offend anyone, but said the costume had caused serious damage to race relations and deepened rifts that already existed at the law school. The reaction, including debates on social media, has caused anxiety among minority students at the law school, the report found.

As a result, some are skipping classes or altering their study habits and a few are considering transfers because of “a mistrust toward professors and faculty beyond just Shurtz,” investigators said.

“The open discussions in class have also resulted in racial hostility between the students,” investigators wrote.

Thirteen students, three faculty members and two alumni were at the party at Shurtz’s house, investigators wrote, but no one approached her about her costume.

 

Kentucky jury awards $200K for ‘false’ political ad

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Kentucky jury has ruled a former Democratic state senator knowingly aired a false TV ad in 2014 and has ordered him to pay his Republican opponent $200,000 in damages.

R.J. Palmer, the former Democratic minority leader in the Kentucky Senate, lost to Republican Ralph Alvarado in 2014. A week before the election, Palmer paid for a TV ad using courtroom footage to imply Alvarado, a medical doctor, was “getting rich off addiction” by unlawfully prescribing $3,000 worth of oxycodone to a criminal defendant. Alvarado said the footage was altered, adding the defendant had a valid prescription.

Alvarado sued Palmer and his political consultant, Dale Emmons, for defamation. The case dragged on for two years. Emmons settled the case in March and sent Alvarado a written apology. Palmer opted for a trial, and on Wednesday the jury unanimously ruled against him.

Alvarado called the verdict a “vindication.”

“I think there are other politicians who have been subject to this kind of attack during campaigns in the past, I’ve just been determined enough to spend the money to see it through to get a jury verdict on something like this,” Alvarado said. “I hope that it sends the message to people considering running in the future to consider the kind of words and ads they run on others.”

Palmer’s attorney John Hendricks said he and his co-counsel had just received the verdict Wednesday afternoon and they are reviewing their options.

Alvarado’s attorney Christopher Hunt said the jury awarded $125,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages. The verdict also found Palmer acted with malice, a required finding for defamation under Kentucky law because Alvarado is a public figure.

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