NATIONAL BRIEFING

Friday, July 18, 2008

LEGAL

Mattel Wins Round in Bratz Battle

Mattel, maker of the Barbie doll, won a jury verdict concluding that a former employee made original drawings of MGA Entertainment's Bratz dolls while he still worked at Mattel.

A federal jury in California agreed that designer Carter Bryant made most of the first sketches of the pouty, multiethnic Bratz characters while he was employed by Mattel in 1999 and 2000. The verdict could clear the way for Mattel to seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for copyright infringement from closely held MGA.

The jury found that Bryant had conceived the Bratz characters and name while he was employed by Mattel and that MGA and its chief executive, Isaac Larian, were liable for intentional interference with Bryant's Mattel contract.

"The real issues will be flushed out" in the trial's next phase dealing with Mattel's copyright-infringement claims, MGA lawyer Thomas Nolan said outside the courtroom. "We've always taken the strong position that the 3-D Bratz dolls do not infringe on Carter Bryant's drawings."

BANKING

Wachovia Unit Gets Subpoenas

Wachovia's securities division was inspected by a team of regulators from more than five states who delivered subpoenas as part of an investigation into the company's sales of auction-rate bonds.

Investigators searched the unit's St. Louis headquarters to seek information about sales practices, internal evaluations of the auction-rate securities market and marketing strategies, Missouri's Securities Division said. More than a dozen subpoenas were issued.

As much as $218 billion of auction-rate bonds sold by student-loan providers, municipalities and closed-end mutual funds remain frozen after firms abandoned their role as buyers of last resort in February. Investors have filed more than 70 formal complaints with the state against various institutions in the past four months, representing more than $40 million of frozen assets, according to the statement.

Wachovia spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown said, "Most securities firms, including Wachovia, are responding to inquiries from regulators about the auction rate securities industry. The discussions that are occurring today are a part of this ongoing process."

UBS Limits Offshore Services

UBS is no longer providing offshore banking and securities services to U.S. residents through its branches in Switzerland, the bank says, responding to accusations that it helped wealthy Americans avoid paying taxes.

A UBS executive told the Senate subcommittee on investigations that the bank now provides such services to U.S. residents only through companies licensed here and that it was working to identify U.S. clients who might have engaged in tax fraud.


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