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Friday, May 30, 2014

Clippers' Sale Price: Paying For An Asset, Or Paying For Publicity?

Reportedly, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has bid $2 billion to buy the Los Angeles Clippers. This is the team owned by Donald T. Sterling, the octagenarian recently banned for life from the NBA after his reported companion (reportedly named V. Stiviano) recorded someone sounding like (but not proven to be) Sterling saying something about wishing she did not bring her darker-skinned friends to Clippers games.

Note all my hedging. That is because none of the underlying facts have been proven or admitted. Everything is "reported." The reporting -- that is the fact. It's important to know the difference.

Two billion for the Clippers? What would the Lakers get?  

The Los Angeles Dodgers recently sold for about $2 billion. But the Dodgers are a much bigger enterprise. Is this a reasonable price or sheer madness.

For comparison to other major market NBA franchise purchases look to how Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokorov paid $300 million for the New Jersey Nets in 2009, which he then moved to the new Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn.

It seems like someone is overpaying.  Hopefully the positive publicity from rescuing a team from a disgraced owner will be adequate compensation for the grossly inflated price that is being reported. 

Apparently the best way to get an obscene price on your asset for sale is to make a comment likely to be considered irredeemably racist. In the business takeover world, this used to be called "greenmail." 

If that was the idea, then: Well played, Mr. Sterling. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Social Rejection As Excuse For Murder? The World Gone Mad

The recent murder rampage by California college student Elliot Rodger who decided to destroy what he perceived he couldn't have brings to light an old 2010 commentary about the Tyler Clementi suicide.

Clementi, you may recall, was the Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge in the wake of his humiliation from his romantic encounter with another man being captured on the webcam of Clementi's roommate and subsequently distributed.  Clementi, who was presumed but never proven to be gay (quick note: my point is not his sexuality -- an irrelevant issue -- but the unseemly preoccupation with establishing his sexual identity for purposes of group politics by others), apparently responded to his roommate's discomfort (taken as rejection) by committing suicide. 

From a different corner of the blogosphere: Here's one take on the therapy culture's supposed role in pushing Elliot Rodger to his end.

An interim point I will make: The theme of wanting to destroy what one cannot have (or achieve) is a dangerous one and deserves the highest scorn. The theme is destructive in its essence. Related emotions of envy and jealousy are percolating under the surface.  These emotions appear to have become more prevalent -- or at a minimum, more openly displayed and tolerated -- in today's social media dominated culture and these are troubling trends.

Friday, May 23, 2014

New Required Recording Of Interrogations Leaves Loopholes For Abuse

Following years of protests, the Justice Department announced yesterday (May 22, 2014) that starting July 2014 it will now require that interrogations be recorded of suspects taken into custody in certain instances. 

The change in policy is progress towards actual justice, and supports the inference that recording interviews can only promote the cause of justice by reducing the potential for abuse, inaccuracies or harmful errors caused by future reliance upon the potentially faulty notetaking of federal agents in question and answer sessions of suspects.

Despite the progress, this revised policy, however, leaves in place the potential for abuse identified by Eric Dixon in July 2011.  That concern centered around the fear that prosecutors could merely refuse to interview someone, whom they have not yet arrested and may never arrest or indict, when they were afraid that the interview would exonerate or exculpate that person. In such instances, refusing to interview a target, witness or subject of an investigation would preserve the prosecutors' plausible deniability and allow .

In plain English, it means that prosecutors can still engage in pressure and other questionable investigative tactics against some pretty innocent people as long as they never arrest them or interview them. Once arrested, 

In legal circles, this is called "willful blindness" and sometimes is used to show the criminal intent or state of mind of the accused which is a necessary element for proving a crime. Wouldn't prosecutors' refusal to interview witnesses similarly show their state of mind in consciously avoiding actions which would tend to uncover or exonerate their targets?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why You Must Talk About Politics, Religion, Other Uncomfortable Topics

Thirty seconds of psychobabble here. It is said that one should never discuss politics or religion in polite company. I disagree totally. Those issues go to the heart of one's values. There is no better way to judge the genuineness of your relationships and the character of the people than to discuss these core issues. If you still feel uncomfortable discussing those issues, maybe the real issue is that you need new friends.

This is not to say that people with whom you disagree cannot or should not be your friends. Of course they can. The issue is that of respect. That is the core element of any successful relationship whether it be personal, professional or otherwise.  Do people respect you as a person even if you disagree?  The reaction they have tells it all.

When people impute the worst character traits to you in response to disagreeing with you, do not take that as admonishment. Take it as a blessing, the blessing of the revelation of their character. Such people are not friends. You have no relationship with them. You have just discovered you are in a transaction with them, a one-way street where your interaction with them and acceptance by them centers around -- no, it requires -- your unconditional agreement with them on the issues and values they hold dear. For these people, it is about them.  You do not matter to them and you have just found this out.  You have just discovered they are frauds. You have just discovered they have been engaging in a huge deception, a deception as big on a personal scale as the huge financial frauds.  Your discovery is not to be dreaded but should be welcomed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dinesh D'Souza's Campaign Finance Crime

Conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza admitted in Manhattan federal court Tuesday to committing campaign finance fraud by funneling campaign contributions through straw donors to the campaign of an unsuccessful Republican Senate candidate (Wendy Long, from New York) in 2012.

D'Souza's actions were a clear evasion and violation of the campaign finance laws limiting individual contributions to a candidate. As such, he broke the law.

Is campaign finance fraud prosecuted? You bet it is. Just recently, associates of now-former New York City Comptroller John Liu and Congressman Michael Grimm were successfully prosecuted by the Justice Department for the same type of straw donor violation. (Liu himself has never been charged with wrongdoing, while Grimm was recently charged with unrelated federal crimes stemming from an investigation that may have originated from the probe into his campaign finance activities.)

Because D'Souza is an outspoken conservative, some people immediately cried that the investigation and prosecution of D'Souza was partisan, political and unwarranted.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

D'Souza broke the law that everyone else obeys. Even if you choose to believe politics played a role in his investigation and prosecution, and by extension that his was a trumped-up charge, his politics are neither relevant nor an excuse.

One problem. D'Souza admitted to a felony. Anyone persisting in holding he is a victim of "the system" faces an embarrassing quandary. Either he's an admitted felon, or he committed perjury in open court. (As to the latter, others get away with lying to judges all the time -- I caught one of them -- but others' success at breaking the law does not entitle anyone else to break it.) So D'Souza's either an admitted felon or a prospective repeat felon. 

The partisans defending his actions are shredding their own credibility.

Eric Dixon is a New York corporate lawyer who handles election law and investigative matters in both New York and New Jersey.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Conquering The New Economy: The Courage Of Your Convictions

In law and in politics, the visible argument often obscures the real argument that is underlying, that is unspoken and that sometimes is even hard (or unpleasant) to articulate. 

I get at the real argument. Once you conquer that argument, everything else becomes vulnerable. 

In a recent debate about illegal immigration, immigration policies in general and the specific proposal to discard the concept of birthright citizenship, the real issue was never addressed.  (You read that right, and if you're inferring that I am not even talking about immigration, you're right. That's because it's not the real issue!)

The essence of possession is that you get to decide who uses it, who comes in and who doesn't. The minute you don't get to make that decision, it's not your property any more. The compassion argument underlying the immigration no-standards-open-borders position, and numerous other positions on all sorts of issues, is really a way to make it hard to attack the attack on the concept of property. 

The enemy of that argument is nothing less than self-esteem!

That's right. Self-esteem.

If you have the courage of your convictions, the guts to say, "This is mine! I deserve it! I own it!" even in the face of withering personal criticism, even when people call you all sorts of names and impute to your character the vilest of motives, then you have self-esteem. 

If you think that is remarkable, just consider all the people who are pushovers, doormats, walkovers. They're the majority of the population. They're the ones obsessed with who "likes" them on some social media site. 

They're the ones whose lives are ruled by the one overriding emotion of fear.  Fear of rejection. Fear of loneliness. Fear of being called a bad name. What they fear is secondary; it's the raw basic emotion that counts. 

In the litigation context, the people who win aren't always the ones with the facts on their side, or even the law. It's often the people who have the guts to fight and make the other side blink.  

In the economic context, it's the same thing. Fear is what is driving Western society. The ones who succeed are the ones who can both conquer their own fears and recognize and exploit them in others. 

Eric Dixon is a New York corporate lawyer who, among other things, helps people deal with extreme stress in situations like investigations and other crises. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Republican Attack On First Amendment Political Speech

Nothing degrades the political process and imperils the core constitutional right of free political speech more than lawsuits which seek to punish (not merely chill) speech with which one disagrees. This is usually the province and practice of hard-core totalitarian radical leftists whose actual idea (not their stated position) of free speech is a monopoly for them on speech and coerced faux enthusiasm for their speech by you and I. It is with those thoughts in mind that I view a new defamation lawsuit by candidate Thomas MacArthur against opponent Steve Lonegan as the centerpiece of a contested Republican primary for the New Jersey 3rd District open House seat being vacated by Jon Runyan (the primary is June 5th).  

The defamation lawsuit arises from allegations contained in recent press coverage of the establishment-favored candidate MacArthur's ties to the insurance industry. It's captioned MacArthur v. Lonegan and was filed last Thursday in State Superior Court, Ocean County, Docket L-1314-14.  However, the lawsuit also names, for good measure, the Lonegan campaign, Lonegan's pollster Arthur Finkelstein and campaign manager Chris Santora, and even journalist Charles C. Johnson.

This lawsuit is not a waste of time, not if you intend to fight it. The ramifications of political lawsuits are serious.  These lawsuits are not just an abuse of the legal process. They threaten to narrow actual constitutional rights. Such lawsuits weaken the political process -- hell, they degrade the legal profession, too -- but also threaten to narrow our ability to enjoy the constitutional rights we still have.  

As for the actual relief sought by the plaintiff, consider that this case will not even get an initial hearing until after the primary, and a full hearing may not occur until after the November general election.  The negative ramifications of this case, however, may be far-reaching and long-lasting. This story bears watching.

It would be interesting if an independent expenditure group came in to help fight this lawsuit, if only to spare the defendants (the Lonegan campaign and individual staffers) the expense and hassle of defending themselves, or if other political groups were interested in filing amici (amicus curiae, or friend of the court) briefs to help settle the troubling legal issues here. 

Eric Dixon is a veteran corporate and election lawyer who practices primarily in New York but handles New Jersey cases as well. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Real Reason NBA Wants To Kick Out Donald Sterling

WEALTH CREATION. The real reason the NBA wants to get rid of Donald Sterling is not racism. It's that Sterling has been a passenger on the NBA's wealth creation bus the last 30 years. When Sterling acquired the then-San Diego Clippers, it was a team that drew 5,000 fans on average. (Again, this was the Bird-Magic-Dr.J NBA.)  It was a different league. 

The pre-Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks routinely played before half-empty arenas. (Look it up.) Since then, the star power transformed the league, but Sterling did virtually nothing to improve his own franchise. He just rode the bus.

The other owners must view him as a parasite. But a sale of his Clippers franchise to a motivated owner would help the league continue the exponential growth it enjoyed in the last 25-30 years. That, in turn, will increase the values of all other franchises. 

Now you see what's at stake.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Why Liberals and Progressives Beat Conservatives

There you have it. Nice provocative headline.

Liberals and progressives beat the stuffing out of conservatives in political elections because they have much more commitment to winning. (By the way, apologies are in order for these labels, which are too often too broadly used and do not account for nuanced positions. They are used here for the sake of ease for you, the reader.)

Of course, conservatives want to win.

Everyone does. Presumably.

But activists on the "left" generally outwork and outcontribute their opponents.  

As the legendary -- if infamous -- college basketball coach Bob Knight said:
"The key is not the will to win. Everyone has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important."
Being in a coffee klatsch or talking to the same twelve people who are already in your corner is not advancing the ball.

Real political work involves knocking on doors, picking up the phone and connecting with real people. A Facebook blast, while cost-effective, is not the same as real effort. It just isn't.

Progressive organizations overachieve because -- in a seeming paradox -- they borrow the unyielding "eat what you kill" and "survival of the fittest" mentality sometimes seen (and often criticized) in the private sector. They have high and sometimes unyielding expectations for their members. You are expected to -- no, you must -- produce. You must turn out the vote. And you must contribute, and several hundred dollars, no matter what.  And some activists, already having no hesitation generally to make unfair judgments about the motives or character of those with whom they disagree, are very good at pressuring their underlings to produce and contribute even at considerable personal sacrifice.

When was the last time you could say that about any Republican candidate or conservative activist?

Eric Dixon is a New York corporate lawyer and strategic consultant for businesses, political groups (across the spectrum), political candidates and civic and nonprofit organizations, mostly in the New York and New Jersey markets. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fearing Government Power vs. Coveting Government Power

For discussion: The new ideological dividing line may not be Democratic vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative, socialist vs. capitalist. What if it is the following:
Do you fear government power?
Or covet it?
(And what if it's not new at all?)
This paradigm might explain a lot of the inexplicable cronyism (a/k/a the kleptocracy) we see, feel and sense. 
But what do YOU think?

Meaning To Do Nothing: Nigerian Girls Still Missing

Nothing is more frustrating than people pretending to do something meaningful when they mean to do nothing at all.

Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton had a real point when he recently exclaimed that "weakness is provocative." 

Whatever you think of his foreign policy positions or those of the people who appointed him, he does seem to have a point.  


Global Warming: The Real Issue Is Future Of Energy

Proper analysis of a situation, whether as a lawyer analyzing or investigating a situation or as a business analyst trying to negotiate a deal, requires getting at the hidden but true motives of the target. You see, the best arguments across a conference room table or even in the courtroom are the ones which identify and then address the actual -- and often intentionally well-hidden -- issue at stake.

The global warming issue is no different. 

The global warming debate -- and a degree of hysteria on both sides -- is not really about whether climate change is occurring or likely to occur as predicted. 

The paradigm holding that global warming has occurred, is continuing and is even accelerating (and this is all open to much legitimate debate) is really about justifying restrictions on the exploration for, production of and use of fossil fuels, on the premise that fossil fuel use is causing global warming.  One can reasonably predict the issue will lead to the eventual ban on -- or confiscation of -- fossil fuels. Such goals may even be the "end game" of the environmental crowd arguing that global warming has occurred.  

My point here is not to take a stance either for or against the global warming argument. It is to question why we are hearing little about the true concern that bedevils industrial society: the gradual depletion (at whatever rate) of a nonrenewable resource upon which the world is increasingly dependent. Raise your hand if you remember the last time you heard anyone talk about subjects such as the "peak oil" theory. Better yet, ask someone to define the theory. 

Once you identify the real issue (if you agree), then you see that the global warming debate for its true role in the larger, the real and the frankly quite difficult debate that industrial economies have yet to address.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Honest Services Deprivation Indicated By New Bridgegate Testimony

The Bridgegate hearings might be glossing over the real abuse of power.

In the politically-charged environment surrounding the New Jersey Joint Investigative Committee hearings into various scandals (that's the press term, not mine) about "Bridgegate," "Sandygate" and anything else, some stray comments by former Intergovernmental Affairs Office (IGA) official Christina Renna may lead to an explosive line of new questions for subsequent witnesses.

Under questioning by State Senator Loretta Weinberg about how the IGA determined who were the "hands off mayors," Renna said the following:
"if there was reason to believe someone was under investigation or about to be indicted...we weren't told they were going to be indicted..."
And there's more:
[we were] told, absolutely no contact...for the protection of the Governor."

Renna then backtracked, or tried to, claiming that as to the "mayors under investigation," she used that phrase "as an example."  But the cat is out of the bag, even if no one sees the cat or hears it scratch.

This leads necessarily to the essential line of questioning:

How did the Governor's Office (and through it, its subsidiary, IGA) know who was about to be indicted?

This is information you know only if you are privy to an ongoing federal grand jury inquiry, which is supposed to be confidential. Of course, the New Jersey Governor used to run the United States Attorney's Office and presumably has lawyer and non-lawyer allies still populating the Rodino Federal Buiilding.)

Also, how did the Governor's Office know who was under investigation?

While the simple answer is that press coverage indicates what is going on, such coverage is not foolproof. Just look at the ample press coverage in the months leading up to last week's federal indictment of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island, NY).  All the press coverage speculated on a campaign finance fraud charge (in fairness, Grimm's associates were previously indicted on such a charge), but the actual charges (twenty in all, so far) avoided campaign finance and instead centered on tax fraud. It is educated speculation, but speculation nonetheless, making for a good story but by no means conclusive or dispositive.

The logical suspicions have to concern all fans of good government and transparency:

1.  There are systemic leaks in the United States Attorney's Office and/or federal court system in the District of New Jersey, or;

2.  There is an established back-channel between Governor Chris Christie's state government office and his former federal office, through which the federal government and state government are improperly influencing one another, because:

3.  Renna admitted in her testimony that her department, IGA, avoided anyone "under investigation" or "about to be indicted," thus depriving the constituents of anyone subject to this inside information (accurately or fairly or not) of fair and equal treatment by their government.

Or as some prosecutors used to argue, of the "honest services" of their elected officials.

Eric Dixon is a corporate and investigative lawyer who handles transaction research, financial research and opposition research in a variety of contexts.