"Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is
long but it bends toward justice."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

U.S./U.K. Legal Services

RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC provides U.S. legal advice and representation to clients in Europe and the United States.

Learn more

Class Actions

Class actions are pursued on behalf of a class or group or collective of people with a common issue of law or fact.

Learn more

Arbitration

RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC is capable of representing parties in arbitration proceedings under the rules established by ...

Learn more

Tweets For Justice:

RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC is a law firm registered in Seattle, Washington with a branch in The Hague, the Netherlands.  The firm was established by American lawyer Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. while he was studying complex litigation in Europe under a Fulbright grant.

Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. Bids Farewell to Maynooth, Ireland

November 16, 2013 @ 3:14 pm
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

On November 16, 2013, Robert J. Gaudet, Jr., resigned from his post as lecturer at the National University of Ireland Maynooth to pursue other activities including his international legal practice, RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC, with offices in Seattle and The Hague.  Mr. Gaudet served as lecturer in the Department of Law from February 2012 until November 2013 and as Director of the Master of Legal Science (“MLS”) program in 2012.  He was also elected to the Executive Committee of the Maynooth branch of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (“IFUT”).  “I was greatly impressed by IFUT and their hard work at protecting employees during this difficult time of austerity,” said Mr. Gaudet.

 

Mr. Gaudet in front of Pugin Hall at National University of Ireland Maynooth after graduation ceremony for law students on 30 October 2013.

Mr. Gaudet taught European Union Law and International Human Rights to undergraduates and post-gradutes in the LL.M. and MLS programs.  One student, Patrick Field, reported, “Mr. Gaudet gave great encouragement whilst lecturing in EU law.  His Socratic style of lecturing was engaging and beneficial.”  Guest lecturers in Mr. Gaudet’s course included former European Commissioner Charles McCreevy and Member of European Parliament Mairead McGuinness.

“It was a privilege to teach students at Maynooth and contribute to the public dialogue in Europe over access to justice,” says Mr. Gaudet.  With the support of Members of European Parliament Marian Harkin, Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, and Daniel van der Stoep, Mr. Gaudet organized a conference inside the European Parliament that took place from 12-13 November 2012, titled “Increasing Access to Justice With E.U. Class Actions: A Conference For Litigators and Policy-Makers.”  The conference was jointly presented by Maynooth’s Department of Law with the American Bar Association Section of International Law and law schools in Portugal, France, and Spain.  The keynote speaker was a former Vice-Chair of the European Parliament, Diana Wallis.

While in Ireland, Mr. Gaudet was elected to the position of Counsel of Democrats Abroad Ireland which is a Country Committee of the Democratic Party Committee Abroad with the purpose of advancing the cause of the Democratic Party.  Mr. Gaudet worked with James Connell to prepare revisions to the bylaws of Democrats Abroad Ireland.  The revisions should clarify certain voting procedures and bring the bylaws up-to-date with changes to the Democrats Abroad Charter.  The revisions are expected to be considered by the membership at an annual meeting.

Mr. Gaudet will continue to advocate for increased access to justice in Europe and work on behalf of clients in human rights and international law cases.  He currently represents clients in employment discrimination, business litigation, and product liability cases before United States federal courts.

 

Joseph P. Federici, Accomplished Lawyer & Naval Academy Coach, Joins Firm

October 11, 2013 @ 3:52 pm
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC is pleased to announce that Joseph (“Joe”) P. Federici recently joined the firm as Of Counsel. Mr. Federici will assist the firm with various cases. Mr. Federici is an American lawyer, licenced in New Jersey.  He is based in Afghanistan.  From that base, he conducts legal research, works on briefs, provides legal advice, and leads a committee of over 600 lawyers belonging to the American Bar Association’s International Human Rights Committee.

Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. is glad to have Mr. Federici as a colleague.  Mr. Gaudet says, “Joe has all the qualities of a great lawyer: he’s detailed, calm and creative. From past experience, I can say Joe is reliable and a hard-worker. And of course, we share a common interest in Human Rights. He is a great guy.”

Ingrid Detter de Frankopan, Robert J. Gaudet, Jr., Karin Asmus, Joseph P. Federici at a conference on class actions in the European Parliament, Brussels, November 2012.

 

Mr. Federici and Mr. Gaudet met through the International Human Rights Committee, which is part of the Section of International Law of the American Bar Association. Mr. Gaudet was co-chair of the committee when Mr. Federici joined several years ago.  In the past couple of months, Mr. Federici became co-chair of the committee. Mr. Federici met members of the firm at a two-day ABA conference on “Increasing Access to Justice Through E.U. Class Actions: A Conference For Policy-Makers and Litigators” that Mr. Federici and Mr. Gaudet organized within the European Parliament in Brussels in November 2012. Karin Asmus, who also helped organize the conference, met Mr. Federici over the phone during preparatory meetings and, later, in person in Brussels. Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter de Frankopan, who is Of Counsel, moderated a panel discussion on Class Actions to Enforce Environmental Law.

 

Joseph Federici making closing remarks at the Brussels conference on class actions.

 

Mr. Federici graduated from Rutgers School of Law in 2008 and, then, served as a law clerk to the Hon. Benjamin C. Telsey, J.S.C.  Mr. Federici previously worked for The Williams Law Firm, P.A. and Wise and Donahue, PLC.  Mr. Federici currently works for the American University of Afghanistan.   From 2008-2012, Mr. Federici was the head coach of the University of Delaware Men’s Lightweight Crew team.  He was recognized as “Mid-Atlantic Coach of the Year” by the American Collegiate Rowing Association.  From 2012-2013, Mr. Federici served as the assistant coach of the United States Naval Academy lightweight rowing team in Annapolis, Maryland.  His biography is available at this link.

Joseph Federici inside the European Parliament buildings in Brussels, Belgium.

 

Mr. Federici has assisted RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC with a complex litigation against over 20 defendants in a federal court in California.  He has conducted legal research and drafted a brief in opposition to a dispositive motion.  According to Mr. Gaudet, “I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with Joe.  He thinks clearly and identifies issues that require closer inspection. He is easy to work with.”  The members of the firm are enthusiastic to have an opportunity to share their interest in human rights and advocacy with Mr. Federici.

Banking By Mobile Phone in the Developing World

August 8, 2013 @ 2:53 pm
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

Banking By Mobile Phone – Transferring Funds via Text Messages in the Developing World

By Aoife Keenan[i]

I.            BACKGROUND

“Mobile payments” refers to a method by which subscribers can transfer money in real time via text message.[ii]  It has become the “new” way of banking in the developing world over the past ten years.  In poor, rural areas of the developing world, there is limited access to banking services.  Lack of infrastructure and funding, geographical constraints,[iii] illiteracy, a lack of basic requirements such as relevant paperwork, the danger of travelling to deposit money (considering highway robbery occurs frequently), a lack of security and collateral for loans and mistrust of banks and their bureaucracy have left a massive proportion of the world’s population unbanked.  Their unbanked status has created a niche for mobile payments.

Mobile payments allow unbanked people to avail themselves of banking services at their doorsteps without necessarily requiring access to any bank account.  This method permits the direct transfer of money from one mobile telephone number to another.  Withdrawals and deposits are made in a variety of locations, including corner shops and pharmacies that sell prepaid mobile phone credits.[iv]  It is possible to make transfers over large distances, saving customers time and money, as well as negating the risks of travelling with money.  Groups who previously travelled to pay off micro-finance loans can now do so via mobile payments, eliminating time, cost and danger.

II.           REGIONAL EXAMPLES

Mobile payments have been used in a variety of different countries, including but not limited to Kenya,[v] South Africa, Philippines, India and Nigeria.  See Table I infra.  The widespread use of the mobile payments method indicates its success.  The success, however, varies in each place depending on a number of varying factors such as: (1) alternative means of banking and making payments; (2) regulations; (3) the number of mobile phone users; (4) type of financial institutions in place; and (5) implementation plan.  However, on the whole, it appears the model is successful in developing countries.  The method has not been as successful in developed nations, such as the United States, where there are other options and banks are easily accessible.  In Japan, however, mobile payments are used.

In Kenya, M-PESA originated as a person-to-person funds transfer service but has diversified into other areas, such as salary and bill payments.  M-PESA also enjoyed a 4,627 percent increase in monthly transactions over two years, which led to growth in the value of monthly transactions in Kenya by 3,671 percent.  It has also created job opportunities in the form of agents across the country.[vi]  MTN mobile money in Uganda has over 1 million customers and 1,500 agents and has transferred over $245 million.[vii]  These statistics show that although mobile payment models have encountered many obstacles, they have been successful in many developing countries.

TABLE I

Companies Providing Mobile Payment Services

Mobile and Card-Based Technologies for Remittance Transfers and Payments

Company Description How It Works
Company: Celpay  SIM-based mobile phone payment systemCountries: Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo ‘A Celpay SIM card provides the Celpay menu.  Funds are deposited in a Celpay account, using the cell phone to transfer from a bank account or, if the user is unbanked, depositing cash at a partner bank.    Purchases can be made via SMS by entering the amount to be paid into the phone and authenticating the transaction with a PIN.  The service provider instantly transfers the money to the merchant’s Celpay-enabled account.  Merchants pay a commission of 3.4 percent of the total transaction amount.’  (UK DFID & USAID, at 2.) 
Company: G-Cash  Mobile phone-based money transfer service provided by Globe Telecom (GTel)Countries: Philippines, in partnership with Bahrain, Hong Kong, Italy, Singapore, Taiwan, and U.K.  ‘GTel mobile phone subscribers register via text message.  Funds can then be deposited and cashed at G-Cash affiliates and GTel offices throughout the network.  Funds transfers (from sender to recipient and from G-Cash account to payout in cash) are communicated via text message.  A 1 percent processing fee is charged both to deposit and to receive funds (i.e., 2 percent total for a remittance transfer).’  (UK DFID & USAID, at 2.) 
Company: SMART Money   Description: Mobile phone-based SMS money transfer service and linked debit card.  Smart Padala is a branch of SMART Money.Countries: Philippines ‘SMART Money is provided by SMART, a mobile phone company in the Philippines, in partnership with MasterCard.  The service enables users to transfer money from a bank account to a SMART Money account.  Subscribers can then use a SMART Money card like a debit card to pay for goods and services at a network of retail stores and restaurants, or to make withdrawals from ATMs.  The service also allows users to transfer cash from one SMART Money card to another via SMS.  For remittances, workers outside the Philippines can deposit funds at any of the phone company’s remittance partners in 17 countries.  A 1 percent processing fee is charged.’  (UK DFID & USAID, at 2.) 
Company: SVA  Countries: Currently pilot testing in Ecuador, El Salvador, and Mexico; planned expansion to Asia, Caribbean, East Africa, and South/Central America; signed alliance agreement with Banco Solidario to link payout locations in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru  ‘Funds from SVA (closed system) cards can be transferred in real time to bank-issued debit (open system) cards, which can be used for ATM withdrawals, signature based purchases, and card-not-present transactions. Also allows for direct deposit of payroll checks and for bill payment without a bank account.’  (Mendoza & Vick, at 556.) 
Company: NTT-DoCoMo i-Mode FeliCa  Description: Cell phones with embedded multi-application smart chipsCountries: Japan ‘Phones are loaded with cash deposits at terminals.  The phones can be used as pre-paid electronic cash, credit cards, travel tickets, access control cards, authorizations to access corporate networks, or entry cards such as for club memberships or loyalty programs.  Selected information— the remaining electronic cash balance, for example, or transaction records—can be displayed offline on the cell phone.  Transactions are completed at POS terminals that deduct the amount of a purchase or read other information from the embedded chip.’  (UK DFID & USAID, at 2.)
Company: WIZZIT  Wizzit is a mobile banking provider. It provides a bank account that is accessible via mobile phone and card.Countries: South Africa ‘Customers use their mobile phones to make person-to-person payments, transfer money, purchase prepaid electricity, and buy airtime for a prepaid mobile phone subscription… Partner banks equip small shops, such as lottery outlets, post offices, supermarkets, petrol stations, and other retail outlets, with a point-of-sale (POS) device, such as a card reader or PC connected to a mobile phone. At these outlets, customers can open or access a variety of accounts, including savings, credit, insurance, money transfers, government benefits, and bill payments.’  (Mendoza & Vick, at 556.)
Company: E-ZWICH  Description: E-zwich is a mobile banking providerCountries: Ghana ‘The mobile-banking platform combines payments, banking and real-time, two-way data transmission for on-the-move, ubiquitous access to financial information and services.  This concept of providing financial access to the poor through mobile-banking services is similar to the e-zwich services introduced by the Ghana Inter-bank Payment Systems (GIPS).  E-zwich is an electronic platform that enables loading and spending of e-cash, and also allows the settlement of inter-bank claims in addition to online transactions.  The mobile-banking platform aims at bridging the gap between the banked and the unbanked consumers in Ghana.’  (Hinson, at 328.)

Sources: UK DFID & USAID, at 2; Hinson, at328; Mendoza & Vick, at 556.

III.          LEGAL FRAMEWORK

In legal terms, mobile payments have been enabled by companies’ internal rules; inter-company private contractual agreements;[viii] company/ consumer contracts; guidelines of NGOs; and domestic, financial, advertising and internet and computer technology[ix] regulations.  In the corporate world, there is evidence of a reluctant and conservative approach to the development of mobile payments.  Directors have a duty to spend money wisely for shareholders, which may be seen as counter-acting any investment in mobile payment services due to the high level of perceived risks.  Fortunately, challenge funds[x] can be used to launch mobile payments projects.[xi]  Partnerships between mobile phone network operators, micro-finance institutions (“MFIs”) and banks enable mobile payment services, by combining the expertise of each institution to create a valuable service.

Company/ consumer contracts create barriers for network providers attempting to set up mobile payments services in countries with weak legal systems.  Where there are weak legal systems, enforcing contracts can be difficult and risky.  Small loans without collateral or guarantees are also at high risk.  This can deter institutions from investing in micro-finance or mobile payments ventures.  Network providers have overcome these barriers by attempting to create new and innovative contract terms.  These contract terms include group loans whereby individual loans are given to each person in a group with the liability falling on other group members if one member defaults.  Peer pressure and social standing encourage members to keep up with repayments.  This method has proven successful.  Furthermore, some MFIs collect money from service users in public, making transactions more transparent and again encouraging customers to make repayments through fear of embarrassment in front of peers.  Mobile payment services and MFIs can run without a banking license.[xii]

In order to enable the provision of mobile payments, a complex structure can be put in place in which a project is run locally but owned, hosted and developed by another company.  Therefore, the operation might take the form of a trust in which a local institution works on behalf of a bigger company, such as Orange and Vodafone, that initiates the provision of services.  The bigger company, such as Orange, might set up a trust and pool the various assets of the local institutions into a single trust account.  The trust does not make money from the interest on consumer savings.  However, the trust does make it possible to hold all of the collective funds in a single account to guarantee the transactions.

In countries where mobile payment services do not pose a great threat to the business of established banks, [xiii] many of the financial regulations of the banking industry do not have much of an impact on mobile payments except that customer security and financial reporting requirements are imposed on the mobile payments system as well as ordinary transactions.[xiv]  In countries where mobile payments are perceived to pose a risk to banks, contracts can be drafted to enable partnerships between banks and network providers to minimize the risks to the participating banks.[xv]  Table II, infra, describes some of the different national regulatory systems that support or limit mobile payment services.

TABLE II

National Regulations Affecting Mobile Payments

COUNTRY REGULATION
Kenya In order to enable mobile payments, Kenya issued a new regulation in 2010.  This regulation allows banks to partner with retail outlets and enables retail outlets to promote products and handle transactions on behalf of banks.  M-PESA used retail outlets as a channel to reach unbanked customers since customers of M-PESA deal with small retail outlets throughout the country.  These agents might not have been legally entitled to enter into such transactions if the 2010 financial regulation had not been passed.
India The Central Bank in India blocked moves by several network providers, such as Vodafone, who wished to set up mobile payment services in India.  It was adamant that banks must be directly involved.  This stems from perceived issues, such as: financial fraud, account misuse and complexity of use of mobile payment systems.[xvi]  India is taking a protectionist approach and has not created a regulation to enable nonbank mobile payment services.  The Central Bank of India has set a standard whereby only a licensed bank with a presence in India can launch a mobile payments service.
South Africa In South Africa, mobile banking services are not entitled to carry out monetary transactions unless they are partnered with a bank, as set out in the Position Paper on Electronic Money.[xvii]
Nigeria Service providers in Nigeria have no constitutional right to carry out monetary transactions, or facilitate mobile payments, without being partnered with a bank.  As in South Africa and India, banks are at the centre of the evolving mobile payments industry.  The Bank of Nigeria is responsible for maintaining high standards of banking and financial stability under the country’s Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 1991.  Therefore, they are reluctant to allow mobile payment services to operate without a bank in case banking standards are not maintained.
Philippines The Philippines’ Central Bank issued a resolution in 2004 approving mobile payments services.  Although circulars have been passed to limit fraud and increase the responsibility of financial institutions running the payments services, ultimately, regulation in the Philippines has enabled mobile payments.(It may also be worth acknowledging that, G-Cash, one of the main mobile payment operators in the Philippines, is regulated by the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission by virtue of their listing on the Philippines National Stock Exchange.) 

IV.          UTILITY FOR MFIs

In the appropriate legal environment, MFIs might enter into an agreement to provide financing for a partner that issues credits through mobile payments.  The existing system of mobile payments has diversified into a variety of services such as (i) allowing Party A to payback Party B for services rendered by repaying a loan owed by Party B to a third Party C, (ii) keeping funds safe overnight, (iii) paying salaries, (iv) paying bills, (v) providing low cost international remittances, (vi) checking account balances and (vii) making deposits and withdrawals.  A cursory literature search does not suggest any major impediments, aside from perceived risk and management of logistics.[xviii]

Any MFI attempting to set up a mobile payments venture should ensure that its partner honor any relevant national regulations, internal company guidelines, and contractual agreements.  It would also be advisable to partner with a local network provider in order to gain expertise in this area[xix] and to ensure the process runs effectively.  It is highlighted in the literature on micro-finance that inter-company partnerships and agreements can have either detrimental or beneficial results in the mobile payments sector.  Therefore, it would be wise to assess potential advantages and disadvantages of contractual agreements in this sector.

M-PESA in Kenya is an example of a beneficial result.  In Kenya, there was no need to partner with local banks that might have had conflicting ideals.  M-PESA consisted of a partnership between Vodafone and Safaricom.  Both entities were linked and they worked together to achieve similar goals. This contributed to M-PESA’s success.

Due to national regulations, in India, it is necessary to partner with banks.  Conflicting ideals between banks and mobile service companies can cause major problems due to different end-goals and processes for achieving the goals.  In the case of Vodafone, these requirements had the detrimental effect of preventing Vodafone from setting up a mobile payments service in India, ultimately limiting access to consumers and profits.

V.           CONCLUSION

Mobile payments are playing a monumental role in developing countries by providing services to both the unbanked as well as to end consumers of micro-finance.  The service is making MFIs more accessible.  Therefore, a mobile payments partnership might be useful for any MFI with benefits for end users, saving them time and money when paying off their loans

VI.          REFERENCES

[For a full list of references and footnotes, please see the full version of this article at this link.  Thank you.]

 

 

Civil Rights Lawsuit Served on Port of Seattle

July 25, 2013 @ 11:16 am
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

SEATTLE – July 25, 2013.  An employee of the Port of Seattle, Cecilia Anitei, has sued the Port for violating her civil rights under federal and state law.  The complaint and summons were served this week.  Mrs. Anitei says, “I truly hope that my story will convince more women to come forward and seek justice in the face of the male-dominated culture and aversion against minorities at the Port.”

 

Mrs. Anitei was held back in promotions and opportunities due to her gender, disability, national origin, and her filing of complaints with Human Resources.  She says, “I felt humiliated, discouraged, and put down by constant harassment, injustice and statements about the fact that I have young kids.”  Mrs. Anitei’s salary ranks at the bottom of a group of 25 colleagues, rising only above a “College Intern” and an “Archive Systems Administrator,” despite strong performance over 11 years.  The Port refuses to recognize her BS in Engineering because it was awarded by a university in Romania.  She has a Master’s in Engineering but males with fewer qualifications are promoted ahead of her.

 

She received “outstanding” and “accomplished” evaluations up until she refused to perform an underdock inspection due to her hydrophobia and discomfort with a former supervisor who groped her knees and shoulders and continues to stalk her.  In May 2012, he called her home number and spoke the Romanian word for “penis.”  The Port has refused to move Mrs. Anitei a safe distance away or to a building at SEA-TAC.  “The sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact endured at work caused me to suffer anxiety, intense emotional distress, and humiliation,” says Mrs. Anitei.

 

A male colleague called her a “hot chick with a funny accent” but was subsequently promoted into management and, now, refuses to provide assignments to her within his division because she complained to Human Resources about his comment.  As a native speaker of Russian and Romanian, she was called a “Russian spy” whose husband is a “KGB agent.”  The Port took no action in response to Mrs. Anitei’s complaints.  She is a mother of two, loving wife, and active member of a local church.

 

The complaint is available here.

 

About RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

Mrs. Anitei is represented by Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. of RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC with offices in Seattle and The Netherlands, telephone (206) 855-6679, email robert@rjgaudet.com.  Mr. Gaudet served as co-chair of the American Bar Association SIL International Human Rights Committee and was a member of the Washington State Bar Association Civil Rights Committee.

Judging the Telders Moot Court Competition in the Peace Palace

June 6, 2013 @ 4:26 pm
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

Judging the Telders Moot Court Competition in the Peace Palace

By Karin Asmus

 

Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter de Frankopan served as a judge at the prestigious 36th annual Telders Moot Court Competition held from 25 until 27 April 2013 at the Peace Palace in The Hague.  The student team from Leiden University in the Netherlands won the competition.  Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter de Frankopan was asked to serve as a Judge for the Semi-Finals. She is the longest serving Judge for the Semi-Finals and has been voted Best Judge several times.

 

Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter de Frankopan with Judges for the Finals (from left to right) ad hoc ICJ Judge John Dugard from South Africa, ICJ Judge Kenneth Keith from New Zealand, and former President of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands Mr. Willibrord Davids.

The first Telders Moot Court Competition took place in 1977, when only four universities took part. Now, over 40 universities compete in national rounds. Only the most successful teams may represent their country in the international rounds held at the Peace Palace in the Hague.

 

Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter de Frankopan with the French team.

Each year, student-teams are presented with a case involving a fictitious dispute between two states. This dispute is put before the United Nations’ most important legal organ, the International Court of Justice. It is up to the student-teams to defend the two states to the best of their ability. Each student-team has to represent the states substantively both in writing and through pleadings before so-called moot courts. This year, the participants pleaded the Varsho River Dispute, which once was a real dispute regarding the Varsho River and a freshwater lake which serve as the boundary between two States. Both (actors within) the States had their own ideas of how to use the river and the lake, which raised some environmental concerns and questions about each State’s rights and obligations under international law.

 

Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter de Frankopan with the Italian participants.

The aim of the Telders Competition is to prolong the legacy of Professor dr. Benjamin Marius Telders, who became a professor of international law at Leiden University in 1937. Telders was intensely interested in why and how law operated. Professor Telders was respected for his sharp mind and had the honour to represent his country frequently, including before the Permanent Court of International Justice. Even during the Second World War, Telders stood up for his belief in the rule of law and civil society, and as a result was sent to the concentration camp at Bergen Belsen, where he later died in 1945.

 

Prof. Dr. Detter de Frankopan is Of Counsel at RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC, a firm based in Seattle with a branch in The Hague and an address in London.  The firm works on international legal matters.

Peace Palace Turns 100 Years Old

March 13, 2013 @ 5:08 pm
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

This year, the Peace Palace in the Hague turns 100 years old.

The Peace Palace houses the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. It also contains the largest international law library in the world which is accessible to any researcher who approaches the gate and says they wish to visit the library.  The library’s books are borrowed by judges in the International Court of Justice and lawyers in the ICTY and other international criminal tribunals.  In short, these resources help craft a new generation of decisions in public international law.

Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie built the Peace Palace in 1913, 100 years ago.  As he wished, the resources of the Peace Palace have been used to develop the rule of law and contribute to world peace.  For students and practitioners, the Peace Palace is also home to the Hague Academy of International Law where a crash course in public international law and a separate crash course in private international law are available every summer for a small tuition fee.

To celebrate the Centenary, the Peace Palace will host the following events in 2013, under a provisional schedule posted by the Peace Palace:

April 11 Commemoration of Thomas Mawson,architect of the Peace Palace gardens.*
June 27 Hague Prize of International Law *
August 28 Official Commemoration, Unveiling of Buste Bertha von Suttner, Presentation of Book 100 years Peace Palace
August 28-29 Conference by The Hague Institute for Global Justice: “Justice in Post Conflict States”
September 2-3 Symposium on Modern Philanthropy, in the footsteps of Andrew Carnegie
September 11 Musical “Peace of Me”, Koninklijke Schouwburg
September 13 Conference “Cartooning for Peace” with cartoonist Plantu
September 14 Model United Nations for Young Professionals
September 17-18 Conference UPEACE on International Water issues
September 19-20 Conference “Lessons Learned from Peace Treaties”, organised by Carnegie Foundation
September 21 United Nations Day of Peace, International Day of Peace
September 22 The Hague Peace Marathon

* on invitation


RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC maintains a branch in The Hague, minutes away from the Peace Palace by tram or taxi.  The legal professionals at RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC have experience with private international law, public international law, the representation of sovereign nations and States within the United States, and international human rights.  The firm has used the resources of the Peace Palace library to conduct research and write briefs.  (The source of information in this blog is the Peace Palace’s own website and a newsletter circulated by the Peace Palace library.)

Speaking on Irish Radio About Class Actions, Horse Meat, Google’s Cookies

February 1, 2013 @ 7:16 pm
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

Inside the Near fm radio station in Dublin, Ireland.

 

Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. appeared on Irish radio on January 31, 2013 to talk about EU class actions, horse meat in Irish hamburgers, and Google’s cookies in an interview that is available on podcast at this link.  (Mr. Gaudet’s conversation starts halfway into the 1 hour program).

Mr. Gaudet explained what class actions are and how they could be used in a country like Ireland, for example, by consumers who purchased “100% hamburger” patties from a grocery store but discovered that part of the meat was horse meat and pig meat.  This news was recently disclosed in Ireland.  As a result, Burger King has sought different suppliers for its beef and Tesco has removed frozen patties from its shelves.  Since there is no class action system in Ireland, consumers are not likely to receive any compensation.

Radio show host and barrister Andrew Robinson asked Mr. Gaudet about a class action filed in the United States in Delaware federal court against Google for evading the Safari internet browser with cookies.  Mr. Gaudet reported that a number of cases in the United States were consolidated in a MDL, or multi-district litigation order, before the federal court in Delaware for the purpose of pre-trial proceedings.  A motion to dismiss on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction is pending but has not been decided.

Barristers Andrew Robinson and Peter Leonard, hosts of “The Brief,” a community radio talk show, with Robert J. Gaudet, Jr..

Mr. Gaudet noted that the Google case is a good example of our global economy since Google is based in California but users are spread around the world.   Similar issues are being addressed in Europe through the Digital Single Market with a focus on cyber-security and data protection, all of which will be discussed during Ireland’s presidency of the EU Council of Ministers over the next six months including at the Digital Agenda Assembly in Dublin in June 2012. There was also a lawsuit filed against Google in the UK over the same cookies that violate privacy.

(Although not discussed during the radio show, it appears that the US class actions do not represent the interests of European users of Apple’s Safari internet browser – just US users – so it might be useful for a European user of Apple’s Safari to step forward and file a class action on behalf of Europeans in a federal court in California to ensure the privacy interests of Europeans are represented in the US litigation.)

Mr. Robinson asked Mr. Gaudet what he foresees in the future for class actions in Europe.  Mr. Gaudet said he was optimistic and that he thought, in the long-run, opt-out class actions would be available in Europe because they are the best way to distribute damages and hold defendants accountable.  In the short-run, class actions might not be available due to industry lobbying and the failure to recognize any sooner, as in Sweden, that the opt-in class action devices are not working in those EU countries where they are currently available.  A package of reforms that addresses the loser pay’s rule and removes the risk for victims to serve as class representatives will have to be made in order for class actions to become a useful reality in Europe.  After Mr. Gaudet’s interview, in the same program, Texas lawyer Jeff Tillotson spoke about his attempts to recover $12 million in bonuses paid to Lance Armstrong.

The radio program, The Brief, airs live on Thursday nights in the Dublin area on Near fm 90.3.  It is picked up by Barristers and solicitors who practice in Dublin.  Near fm is run by a non-profit community project and it broadcasts 24 hours/day and every day of the year with the goal of encouraging development work.

Representing Micro-Finance Institution in $10 Million Credit Line Agreement

September 25, 2012 @ 11:03 pm
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC was honored to have the opportunity in early 2012 to represent Oikocredit in a $10 million credit line agreement to another Micro-Finance Institution (“MFI”) in support of small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world.  In August 2012, Oikocredit released Facts and Figures about its worldwide operations which you can download at this website.

 

Roughly 83 percent of Oikocredit’s clients are women, which helps address gender inequality in the developing world.  Read more about Oikocredit at this link.  The Oikocredit Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society was founded in 1975 as a result of a 1968 meeting of the members of the World Council of Churches with the goal “to encourage social justice.”  Its headquarters are in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.  Oikocredit manages 522 million Euros through 864 partners and 26 million clients.  The funds are used to fight poverty, promote fair trade, and respect the planet’s resources.

 

For the most recent transaction in which he represented Oikocredit, Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. conducted due diligence in accordance with standard practices in the finance industry, drafted the credit line agreement, liaised with the legal and management personnel at Oikocredit, exchanged communications with the counter-party, and provided a legal opinion.  The credit line agreement was based on New York law and the firm cooperated with co-counsel in New York City.  It was the third transaction for which Mr. Gaudet represented Oikocredit.

 

RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC is proud to represent Oikocredit and other socially responsible clients who work hard to make the world a better place.

Brussels Conference on EU Class Actions: November 12-13, 2012

September 7, 2012 @ 10:02 pm
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

Registration is now open for an exceptional conference on E.U. class actions that will take place in Brussels within the committee rooms of the European Parliament on November 12 – 13, 2012.  Seating within the European Parliament is limited so spaces should be reserved now.

The list of speakers is extraordinary and includes a lawyer who drafted Poland’s law on opt-in class actions; the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Ireland Michael McDowell; former vice president of the European Parliament Diana Wallis; Boston lawyer Jan Schlichtmann who was portrayed by John Travolta in the film “A Civil Action”; Prof. Laura Caraballo of Spain; Prof. Rachael Mulheron of Queen Mary University, London; Michele Carpagnano, co-author of a recent report on class actions for the European Parliament’s Economic & Monetary Affairs Committee; and many others.

European Parliament Building in Brussels

The location is the European Parliament with a few of its committee rooms, graciously hosted by Members of European Parliament McGuinness, Gallagher, Harkin, and Van der Stoep.

European Parliament Committee Room Booked For the Conference

The topics that will be discussed include Access to Justice as a Human Right; How to Prosecute a Class Action; How to Defend a Class Action; The New Paternalism in Europe: Why Some Prefer Governments and NGOs Over Private Plaintiffs; the Opt-Out Mechanism versus the Opt-in Mechanism; and numerous other topics.  The conference will provide a balanced look at some of the critical issues that Brussels is thinking about in deciding whether to design a system of collective redress for the entire E.U.  The speakers will discuss class action mechanisms that already exist in certain Member States such as Sweden and Italy as well as any lessons to be learned form the United States experience with class actions.

To register, please go to this link as soon as possible to save your space, since seating in the European Parliament is limited, and to book a room at the nearby Renaissance Hotel at a reduced rate.

Numerous organizations are jointly presenting the conference including the Netherlands Bar Association, the French-speaking Brussels Bar Association, Union Internationale des Avocats, AIJA (International Association of Young Lawyers); National University of Ireland Maynooth Department of Law; New York State Bar Association International Section; Catholic University of Lyon Department of Law; PEOPIL (Pan-European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers); American Bar Association Section of International Law; and others.  You can view the complete list of cooperating entities at this link.

For more information, please check the link above or feel free to contact Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. who is a member of the planning group.

UK Might Adopt Opt-Class Actions for Competition Law

August 27, 2012 @ 1:00 pm
posted by RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC

The UK Government signaled that it might adopt opt-out class actions in the UK.  On March 15, 2012, the UK Government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced reforms to help business, consumers, and the economy.  The proposals recognize that vigorous enforcement of competition law is good for consumers as well as other businesses.

 

The proposals seek to increase growth by enabling consumers and businesses to seek redress for violations of competition law.   Among the features in the reforms is the introduction of an opt-out class action mechanism which, in Europe, is often called “collective redress” although it has the same conceptual meaning as “class action.”  The UK’s recognition of the benefits of the opt-out class action is a giant leap of progress for European consumers, small businesses, and medium-size businesses who bear the brunt of competition law violations.

 

The UK’s proposal contrasts with widespread concerns in Europe about the opt-out mechanism.  In the past several years, lobbyists and even Member State governments have said that opt-outs are foreign to European legal culture.  The Commission’s impact study accompanying the White Paper on private enforcement said that opt-outs should be rejected because they brought principal-agent problems and excessive compensation for lawyers.

 

However, it must be recognized that several Member States already feature the opt-out mechanism.  Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway all feature the opt-out mechanism in their unique systems of collective redress.  All of these nations make it difficult or impossible for private parties to use the opt-out mechanism to initiate and prosecute claims for damages.  The proposals in the UK could mark the first time that a European victim might actually be able to file an opt-out class action on behalf of herself and all other claimants (except for those who opt-out of the action) to obtain compensatory damages.

 

In the Netherlands, the opt-out mechanism is available only for settlement. It can be used as a shield by defendants seeking a global release from liability, but it cannot be used by plaintiffs.  In Denmark, only the Consumer Ombudsman can file and prosecute an opt-out class action because the authorities apparently do not trust private citizens and their lawyers to prosecute opt-out class actions.   The UK reforms take a step away from through this paternalistic approach by allowing private victims (or “claimants”) and their lawyers to prosecute opt-out class actions instead of relying upon public authorities to take action.

 

The Department for Business Innovation & Skills announced that a consultation in which private and public parties can express their views was opened on April 24, 2012 and closed on July 24, 2012.  More information is available at the Department’s website.  Over 100 responses were received by the Department of Business Innovation & Skills in the consultation.  A Government Response to the submissions is expected by the end of October 2012.  Read more at this link.

 

If the political will exists, then it might be possible to introduce legislation in the fall of 2012 that would permit opt-out class actions in England through an amendment to the Competition Act 1998 with supplementary CAT rules in support.

 

RJ Gaudet & Associates LLC stays up-to-date on developments in class actions in Europe and has the ability to file lawsuits in England with the assistance of Prof. Dr. Ingrid Detter de Frankopan, an English Barrister who is Of Counsel to the firm.

 

A conference hosted by the American Bar Association Section of International Law in cooperation with the Pan-European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers; Netherlands Bar Association; AIJA (International Association of Young Lawyers); Union Internationale des Avocats; and other entities will explore the latest developments in E.U. class actions.  One of the panels at the conference will specifically discuss the opt-out mechanism with experts from across the E.U.  Registration is already open and further information is available at this link.