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March 2014 Archives

Recent Developments in the Rapidly Changing Bitcoin Market

On February 27, 2014, Fitch Law Partners LLP posted a blog article regarding the volatile market for Bitcoin and the rapid rise of the cryptocurrency over the past two-three years.  Over the past month, there have been several important new developments.

Massachusetts Partition Actions: Methods for Disposing of Partitioned Property

Massachusetts partition law provides four methods for partitioning real estate: physical division, private sale, public auction, and "set-off" (a buy-out of the entire property by one or more co-owners).  Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, as well as particular procedural requirements.  Any owner of real estate considering a partition action should decide on a method to pursue before filing a Petition for Partition.

Principle of International Comity Suffers a Setback in Chevron-Ecuador Case

Earlier this month, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York spun a new twist in the long-standing legal battle over environmental contamination in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador. In a 485-page ruling, Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that lawyers leading the Lago Agrio plaintiffs' prosecution of claims against Chevron (which acquired the alleged contaminator, Texaco) used corrupt means to secure an $18 billion judgment from an Ecuadorian court.  See Chevron Corp. v. Donziger et al, S.D.N.Y. 11-00691.

First Circuit Affirms Culhane, Woods, and MERS Assignments of Mortgages

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has reaffirmed its prior holdings in Culhane v Aurora Loan Services of Nebraska, 708 F.3d 282 (1st Cir. 2013) and Woods v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 733 F.3d 349 (1st Cir. 2013) regarding Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.'s ("MERS") assignments of mortgages.  The Court in Wilson v. HSBC Mortgage Services, Inc., 2014 WL 563457 (1st Cir. Feb. 14, 2014) found that while a plaintiff has standing to challenge a void assignment, they lack standing to challenge allegedly voidable assignments, and the MERS system for assignments comports with Massachusetts law.

No Expansion and No Contraction: The Scope of Judicial Review of Arbitration Awards

In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that parties cannot agree under a contract to limit the scope of judicial review of an arbitration award as delineated by the Federal Arbitration Act (the "FAA"). This ruling complements a 2008 Supreme Court case, Hall St. Assocs., L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576 (2008), where the Court held that a clause in an arbitration agreement providing for expanded judicial review beyond what was provided for in the FAA was unenforceable. In light of the Ninth Circuit's new ruling, parties also cannot go the other way and curtail the scope of review to which the parties are entitled under the Federal Arbitration Act.

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