Category Archives: Litigation

Two Firms Overcharge Californians In Energy Crisis

In a 219-page ruling released in April charging Shell Energy North America and Iberdrola Renewables of price gouging, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Judge Steven A. Glazer said,

The public was clearly, palpably, seriously harmed by the energy crisis.

Two Firms Overcharge Californians In Energy Crisis

California’s 2000-2001 energy crisis cost the state and its utility customers a lot more than it should have. This 219-page ruling charged Shell Energy North America and Iberdrola Renewables gouged the state of $779 million and $371 million respectively.

Mike Florio, of the California Public Utilities Commission was pleased with the decision.

After 15 years of fighting in regulatory and court proceedings, we’re finally getting relief.

Power shortages and market manipulation pushed prices so high in 2000-2001 that California’s two largest electrical utilities were forced into insolvency. The California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) stepped in to negotiate contracts with various sellers to provide power.

Alleged overcharging by many of the companies led to eventual “settlements of $7.7 billion in cash and re-negotiations of long-term contracts and $4 billion in shorter-term contracts that went to the California Department of Water Resources,” which has been refunded to utility customers in the form of lower rates.

Energy North America and Iberdrola Renewables are the last two companies involved. Although the case is not over – parties involved have 30 days to file briefs and an additional 20 days to submit subsequent filings – if the FERC commissioners vote to uphold the ruling, the $1.1 billion involved would be distributed in the same way as the previous $7.7 billion.

Click here to read Rob Nikolewski‘s article in the Los Angeles Times.



Sea Monkey Legal Battle

From a legal standpoint, the Sea Monkey legal battle is no laughing matter: an ongoing conflict between Yolanda Signorelli von Braunhut, widow of Sea Monkeys “inventor” Harold Nathan Braunhut, and Big Time Toys. Yes, that’s really the company’s name – at least it’s not “Acme.”

Sea Monkey Legal Battle

The backstory, however, is something that Federico Fellini might have created in one of his more eccentric moments.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Ms. von Braunhut now lives in poverty on an estate on the Potomac River, frequently without heat, electricity, or running water.
  • She is being represented by William Timmons, who years ago attended legendary Halloween parties hosted by Ms. von Braunhut’s father, opera singer Maestro Signorelli. It was at these events that Timmons met Yolanda, Signorelli’s second-youngest daughter.
  • In the 1960s, Ms. von Braunhut began a career in bondage films, appearing in “Venus in Furs,” “All Women Are Bad,” “Too Much Too Often!” “Death of a Nymphette,” and “Assignment: Female.” When asked to comment on her film career, Ms. von Braunhut observed:

In those days, they might have been racy, but today? I don’t think so.

  • Husband Harold was quite a unique individual as well. He took out patents on 196 different inventions during the 1950s and 60s, was single-handedly responsible for the products advertised on the back page of comic books, raced motorcycles under the name the Green Hornet, worked as a magician called the Great Telepo, and high-dived into a wading pool filled with 12 inches of water.
  • On the opposing side, Sam Harwell, chief executive of Big Time Toys, is married to Beth Harwell, Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Regardless of the legal outcome, the cast of characters in this legal matter make it well worth following.

Click here to read Jack Hitt’s delightful and informative article in the New York Times.