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Investing In Lawsuits Beats the Street

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the some-dare-call-it-champerty dept.

The Courts 203

guga31bb sends word on the next wave of investment in a slow market: bankrolling others' lawsuits. The practice sounds on the face of it indistinguishable from champerty. "Juris typically invests $500,000 to $3 million in a case, Mr. Desser said. He would not identify the company's backers, but said that 'on the portfolio as a whole, our returns are well in excess of 20 percent per year.' He added, 'We're certainly beating the market.'"

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203 comments

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Investing in goatse beats the lawsuits (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193187)

Or at least will require you to beat them off with a stick [goatse.fr] .

DO NOT CLICK LINK (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193283)

Mod parent troll

Re:DO NOT CLICK LINK (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193449)

You must be new here.

Ah yes. (5, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193207)

Treating the legal system as a business opportunity is not new, but to base a business model on it?

You guys should start cutting down on lawyer fees, fast.

Unethical, but not illegal (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193261)

There are many things that people do as professions that are ethically questionable but undoubtedly legal. Not to harp on Maggie Sanger, but the ethics of abortion are intensely debated. However abortion remains legal in the U.S.A. Telemarketing is almost universally reviled, but people still make a living at it.

You would expect that ethics would take a big role in how the legal system is formulated, and for the most part you'd be right. But due to the creativity of human beings, the fruitful edges of legality and ethics can be sought out and exploited.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (5, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193317)

You would expect that ethics would take a big role in how the legal system is formulated, and for the most part you'd be right.

I don't care about ethics. The problem is, the whole system is geared towards requiring lawyers to function. Unclear laws, obscure precedents, etc. Not to mention the special powers the lawyers' associations have, like automatic trust of a member judge.

In order to change this, laws should be written at least as unambiguous as RFC's, for starters.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (4, Insightful)

Guido del Confuso (80037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193355)

You can't make laws as clear as technical documents. That's a quixotic notion held by those who fail to appreciate that other people see things vastly different from how they do. The difference between an RFC and a law is that you can reasonably expect people to follow the RFC because it is in their own best interest to do so. A law, on the other hand, will always have an exception, a border case, or some other mitigating circumstance that will require interpretation. That is the job of the courts and lawyers.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (2, Insightful)

dword (735428) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193425)

You can't make laws as clear as technical documents. That's a quixotic notion held by those who fail to appreciate that other people see things vastly different from how they do.

But isn't that the whole reason for which we have laws?

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (4, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193457)

You can't make laws as clear as technical documents.

Of course you can. Rule #1: Follow the intent, not the letter, And then make the intent as clear as humanly possible.

The difference between an RFC and a law is that you can reasonably expect people to follow the RFC because it is in their own best interest to do so.

Laws are not optional. They're protected by force and imposed on everyone in the area. And they have penalties, too.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (4, Insightful)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193567)

Of course you can. Rule #1: Follow the intent, not the letter, And then make the intent as clear as humanly possible.

I don't know if making laws that vague would solve anything, instead it would probably make things much more worse. All those lawyers would have a field day in arguing that the intent of a law is something different to what the rest of us think, or use the intent of one law to negate a completely different law.

Things aren't perfect as they are, but the legal system isn't this complex merely due to the lawyers. All these laws have to be as clear as possible, in intent and letter, which is the task the legislative branch has when coming up with a law.

The problem is that each year many laws are added to the system (because the legislative branch has to keep up the act) but there is very little incentive to actually remove laws to simplify the system. The more laws there are in the system, the harder it will be for a layman to understand even a portion of these laws and the more ammunition lawyers have in the courtroom.

Or to continue the analogy, what if you had 100 non-deprecated RFC's that define a simple protocol like SMTP? You would get a whole branch of IT workers through whom you would have to dictate your emails, because the whole system is so complex.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (4, Interesting)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193875)

Have you heard the expression "your right to swing your fist ends where my face begins"? Well I imagine if that were put into law the process would go something like this:

Legislator 1:I want to ban people hitting other people's faces with their fists.

Legislator 2: What about a light tap with a closed fist as a sort of, "Go get 'em champ!" endearing sort of thing? Do you really think that should be illegal?

Legislator 1: Sure, I buy it. We could put an exemption for that.

Legislator 3: I'm more worried about people hitting other people in the face with things other than fists.

Legislator 1: Like what?

Legislator 3: Well this guy slammed a door on my brother's face and broke his nose.

Legislator 2: Ouch...

Legislator 1: Sure that should be illegal too.

Legislator 2: Wait, what if it wasn't on purpose? What if, like, you were holding a door open for someone and then slipped and slammed the door in their face?

Legislator 1: Well that wouldn't count.

Legislator 3: You would still be responsible for being clumsy.

Legislator 1: Yeah, I guess that makes sense. You should have to at least pay for medical bills or something, but it's not like we're going to lock people up in jail over that.

Legislator 2: What if it's a windy day and the wind blows the door closed and it breaks someone's nose and the guy thinks that it was you slamming the door?

Legislator 1: Well if it was really the wind and not you, then you aren't responsible.

Legislator 3: Wait, how do you prove it was the wind?

Legislator 1: Well... ...And so on and so forth.

The moral of this story is that we don't just throw out old laws because we don't want to go through the trouble of hashing out all of the minutia in them over again. The law is never going to be not complex, because the essential logic that it needs to express is complex.

So long as the concerns that motivated the original law are still essentially valid (which, of course, is not always true), then it's generally better to amend the existing law and build off the work that has already been done, rather than attempt to rewrite them completely.

The law has the difficult task of objectively resolving disputes with subjective elements. When you think about it, that's a problem roughly equivalent to Hard AI. Over many centuries, law has developed heuristics for dealing with this problem. If you take the time to learn about them, you'll find that although they don't produce justice with algorithmic certainty, they do tend to produce reasonable results more often than not.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (2, Interesting)

swilver (617741) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194081)

All of these examples however differ in just one thing. Intent. Did you intentionally break someone's nose or was it an accident?

The law therefore could simply state: intentionally breaking someone's nose is illegal.

Trying to extend the text of the law to provide a fail-safe method on how to prove intent is futile. It's not possible to establish intent without cooperation from the suspect. The most we can hope for is a good guess. I mean, I could take a swing at someone intending to stop just short of breaking their nose to give them a scare. If I stumble or the target makes a sudden move, you could have dozens of witnesses seeing me break someone's nose seemingly without cause, while it was never actually my intent.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (3, Insightful)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194355)

That's what I meant when I said the law has to objectively resolve disputes with subjective components. Intent is subject to interpretation, and the law specifies mechanisms for testing for intent.

What is and isn't illegal is simply the first question. The second question is, how should mitigating factors be considered in answering the first question? The third question is, how is a violation punished? The fourth question is, to what extent should mitigating factors be considered in determining the intensity of punishment used?

A system that doesn't attempt to consider all elements of the case is tyranny.

So how do you weigh all of the pertinent considerations against each other? Is one of them always most important? Or maybe one of them should only be important when it crosses a certain threshold.

The whole point is that the legal system is an attempt by humans to establish methods for making good guesses which take into account as many relevant factors as is possible. Since they're at best good guesses (and sometimes bad guesses) bad results do sometimes occur. However, it's better than the binary alternatives of either not punishing any crimes or punishing all suspects.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (4, Interesting)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193645)

Of course you can. Rule #1: Follow the intent, not the letter, And then make the intent as clear as humanly possible.

What a good idea.

Which is exactly why any half-decent judge interprets according to the spirit of the law.

Where a problem occurs is when the spirit isn't clear but the letter is - and the most obvious interpretation of the letter is pretty bad.

Myself, I think laws should have something akin to the preamble section in the GPL - a short paragraph which explains in clear English exactly what the law hopes (and doesn't hope) to achieve - in order to aid understanding the spirit.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (1)

Burpmaster (598437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194629)

Myself, I think laws should have something akin to the preamble section in the GPL - a short paragraph which explains in clear English exactly what the law hopes (and doesn't hope) to achieve - in order to aid understanding the spirit.

Won't stop people who haven't read the preamble from making bogus claims about the intention of the law, just like they do with the GPL...

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (0, Troll)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193653)

I have mod-points, but your PoV is so damnably immature, under-developed and ill-considered that I can't find a mod-category strong or chastising enough to express the uselessness of your post.

Not only are you obviously NAL, your dearth of other posts against this story demonstrate that you're probably not even an adult. Your whole commentary smacks of "someone should fix it to make it right, and then someone should enforce it with an absolute mandate."

Grow up. Study law. Study psychology, or sociology, or philosophy. Study anything that will open your eyes to the human condition and how best to cope with it as a society. Just please, understand that having an opinion is not the same as having something to contribute.

g0 fuk y0ur$e1f (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193849)

In this letter, I will do my best to make my arguments against Tygerstripes clear and articulate. I plan to utilize numerous examples and maybe even some occasional humor so as not to strain your patience as I delve into immense detail about how only those individuals who are able to accept evidence and think clearly about it can inculcate in the reader an inquisitive spirit and a skepticism about beliefs that Tygerstripes's surrogates take for granted. Before I launch into my main topic, I want to make a few matters crystal-clear: (1) I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every person who on the platform or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity strives to throw down the gauntlet and challenge Tygerstripes's subalterns to bring meaning, direction, and purpose into our lives, and (2) as a result of that, he should just exercise some common sense and some common decency. Now that you know where I stand on those issues, I can safely say that there is one crucial fact that we must not overlook if we are to perceive our current situation as it is, rather than in the anamorphosis of some "ideology" such as cannibalism or escapism. Specifically, the biggest difference between me and Tygerstripes is that Tygerstripes wants to inject even more fear and divisiveness into political campaigns. I, on the other hand, want to examine the warp and woof of his mottos. The quest to skewer me over a pit barbecue is the true inner kernel of his philosophy, insofar as this figment of an obdurate brain can be designated a "philosophy". Why do I tell you this? Because these days, no one else has the guts to.

Tygerstripes complains a lot. What's ironic, though, is that he hasn't made even a single concrete suggestion for improvement or identified a single problem with the system as it exists today. Actually, an axiom among his associates is that women are spare parts in the social repertoireâ"mere optional extras. Now, I could go off on that point alone, but repeating something over and over does not make it true. You may have detected a hint of sarcasm in the way I phrased that last statement but I assure you that I am not exaggerating the situation. When I was little, my father would sometimes pick me up, put me on his knee, and say "Sometimes the best course of action will be obvious, sometimes not."

Tygerstripes's the type of person who will trump up any lie for the occasion, and the more of a thumper it is, the better he likes it. From what I understand, Tygerstripes and his emissaries are sleazy, narrow-minded muttonheads. This is not set down in complaint against them, but merely as analysis.

If the human race is to survive on this planet, we will have to ensure that we survive and emerge triumphant out of the coming chaos and destruction. Permitting longiloquent humanity-haters to base racial definitions on lineage, phrenological characteristics, skin hue, and religion is tantamount to suicide. What's my problem, then? Allow me to present it in the form of a question: Do brusque fruitcakes like Tygerstripes's minions actually have lives, or do they exist solely to spew forth ignorance and prejudice? The complete answer to that question is a long, sad story. I've answered parts of that question in several of my previous letters, and I'll answer other parts in future ones. For now, I'll just say that Tygerstripes had promised us liberty, equality, and fraternity. Instead, he gave us nativism, careerism, and favoritism. I suppose we should have seen that coming, especially since Tygerstripes's tricks have experienced a considerable amount of evolution (or perhaps more accurately, genetic drift) over the past few weeks. They used to be simply repressive. Now, not only are they both grungy and ill-bred, but they also serve as unequivocal proof that the irony is that Tygerstripes's most foul-mouthed shenanigans are also his most beastly. As the French say, "Les extremes se touchent."

The two things I just mentionedâ"the way that it is a cardinal principle that much of Tygerstripes's behavior is not rationally calculated to be of benefit to the indecent caitiffs whom Tygerstripes claims to be trying to help and the fact that his jeremiads are a cancer that gnaws away at the national psycheâ"may sound like they're completely unrelated, but they're not. The common link is that you, of course, now need some hard evidence that his ideals are just an outcropping of his hatred of us. Well, how about this for evidence: It's sniffish for Tygerstripes to deploy enormous resources in a war of attrition against helpless citizens. Or perhaps I should say, it's ungrateful. Now that you've reached the end of this letter, let me leave you with the key take-away message: Tygerstripes is a bit teched.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193951)

Laws are not optional. They're protected by force and imposed on everyone in the area. And they have penalties, too.

He didn't say that it's in a company's best interest to break the law. He said that it's in their best interest to do a certain action which is legally dubious probably because it harms other people while simultaneously following the letter of the law. Thus, it is in their best interest to twist and tangle the law to meet their own interests. In a technical document, however, you want to get the result that the manufacturer intended, so you don't try to find loopholes in the technical document.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193659)

You can make clearer laws than the present ones for sure.

Problem being, the status quo is perfect for powerful people: more lawyers means more loopholes found, and a judge who must choose between interpretations is more vulnerable to corruption.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193663)

RFC has some precise definitions that allow such exceptions.

The device MUST implement X.
The device MUST either implement X or fall back gracefully to Y
The device MAY implement X. Presence of implementation of X is recognizable by Y.
The content of field X is undefined and subject for proprietary extensions. If the content is not recognized, the device should ignore it..

Law is a set of inclusive specs: whatever isn't forbidden, is allowed. Thus, if a case is not covered by law, it's no-case.

And border cases are precisely the reason of various injustices. They are a subject of personal interpretation of the judge, so guy X gets away with something harder and guy Y goes to prison for something lighter strictly because they were in the "border" area and their respective judges had some "gut feelings" about whether it is a crime or not. Borders should be defined strictly. If they are not, the law is faulty and needs to be fixed.

Besides, at least _some_ practices should be introduced, definitely.
- unified diffs to changes in laws. (Paragraph 1: "the word 'will' in paragraph 25 line 5 chapter XXIX tome III is to be replaced with the word 'won't'. Goddamnit, the lawmakers should be fired for publishing stuff like this as actual law.)
- one centralized, public, quickly accessible fully cross-referenced searchable source for _all_ laws. Including relevant precedents. With all the back revisions etc, repository style.
- url-like address for any law entry. Finding a referenced line can take half a hour in current style.
- strict list of priorities of laws. A quick and efficient process of resolving internal conflicts in law, without requiring plaintiffs presence. It cannot be that a government organization internal regulations overrides the Constitution.and you must obey unless you sue - you should just notify a proper body about the conflict and they should overturn the regulation within 7 days without your interaction.
- a strict list of keywords of invocation/revocation of privileges. It cannot be that the policeman asks two questions and your answer "yes" to one may be interpreted as waiving your constitutional right about which the second one is.
- FUD is evil. The law enforcement organs should be totally illegal to give false legal advice. Their job is to prevent violation of laws, and by telling the citizens falsehoods about their laws they operate strictly against their purpose. Any offers to the arrested should be considered valid legal contract offers, with equal consequences of failure to uphold it (you can sue a cop for failing to "help you out" in exchange for testimony and require all the punitive damages equal to your jail time)

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28194699)

I am in fact working on something like this as a hobby. A github style site for creating legislation, it is still in planning and VERY early coding stages but and opinions would be welcome on my site

http://jeff.jones.be/technology/projects/open-source-country/

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193787)

The difference between an RFC and a law is that you can reasonably expect people to follow the RFC because it is in their own best interest to do so. A law, on the other hand, will always have an exception, a border case, or some other mitigating circumstance that will require interpretation. That is the job of the courts and lawyers.

That's the genius of Microsoft: they apply these same principles to things like RFCs and protocol specifications.

Legal Hackers (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194351)

Good lawyers are actually legal hackers. They look for the edge cases where the law is broken for the good of their client. There's really a lot in common between programmers and lawyers.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (1)

priegog (1291820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194535)

Sure you can make laws (almost) as clear as technical documents. In civil law systems (which according to wikipedia is the most prevalent one in the world) the outcome of a trial isn't up to a bunch of manipulable people (jury) or to a potentially corrupt judge. The laws are written as explicitly as possible and in most cases, it's pretty clear what the outcome in any lawsuit should be. Not saying it's a perfect system, but common law isn't the only (and arguably even the better) system out there, and laws CAN be pretty straightforward. Inferring the system is as it is because it couldn't possibly be done any better (or making up excuses for it) is precisely the reason common law prevailed in aglophone countries even though it shouldn't have when written law was introduced into the system.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193451)

I don't care about ethics

Oh good. So we'll not take your advice on how "...laws should be written..." then.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (1)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193877)

The problem is, the whole system is geared towards requiring lawyers to function. Unclear laws, obscure precedents, etc. Not to mention the special powers the lawyers' associations have, like automatic trust of a member judge.

With most politicians being lawyers, is it any wonder that they would write unclear laws with loopholes to exploit to benefit themselves and the "industry" they came from?

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28194395)

Letting lawyer politicians write laws is like letting the convicts design their own prison...

If lawyers needed to sign off on RFCs . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194209)

In order to change this, laws should be written at least as unambiguous as RFC's, for starters.

. . . we would have no Internet today; we would still be waiting.

IETF: "We plan to have ARP through legal by 2012. TCP and UDP might make it sometime around 2050."

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193327)

The whole point is that this is illegal in most everywhere in the world.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (3, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193335)

The whole point is that this is illegal in most everywhere in the world.

So is the death penalty, but I don't see how something illegal elsewhere makes an iota of difference here.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (4, Funny)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193363)

It's funny, I've never heard it this way round before.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193387)

Umm.. by "here" do you mean New Jersey? Cause that's the only place in the US that doesn't consider champertous contracts illegal (Bigelow v. Old Dominion Copper Mining & Smelting Co.)

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (2, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193491)

So is the death penalty

Most everywhere? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193753)

Some how I wouldn't be so content that the US is bundled along the Middle East, Northern Africa and China...

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28194477)

sorry he meant all 1st world countries and most civilized places (Europe, japan, even most of south America and Russia), but hey its "the American way" to kill people so I'm sure you'll jump to its defense!

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193337)

This is however, very borderline. It is, if not illegal, very close, depending on the exact wording of the contracts, and the exact nature of the particular cases (and also depending on the jurisdiction).

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (2, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193627)

This is however, very borderline. It is, if not illegal, very close, depending on the exact wording of the contracts, and the exact nature of the particular cases (and also depending on the jurisdiction).

You mean like Microsoft paying an "undisclosed sum" /to fund litigation/ .. cough .. for Unix licenses.

Of course I meant SCO (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193701)

I should have said:
You mean like Microsoft paying SCO an "undisclosed sum" /to fund litigation/ .. cough .. for Unix licenses.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193555)

I don't think so. What's legal and what's ethical are two completely different questions. Sometimes the answers to both questions are the same, and sometimes they're not.

I don't think they -should- be the same either, because there's a large set of actions that are unethical, yet the damage from laws against them would be significantly higher than the damage from the actions themselves, so it'd be a net loss for society to have such laws.

Re:Unethical, but not illegal (2, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194247)

True, but nobody is legally compelled to listen to a sales pitch or to be involved in an abortion.

Should anyone try in a similar way to not participate in the civil court system, the judge will practically rip the shirt from their back and give it to the plaintiff.

Lack of ethics in sales is harmful to society, but lack of ethics in the legal practice can actually unravel the fabric of society. IMHO, the courts and legislature are being quite careless about that currently.

Re:Ah yes. (2, Insightful)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194353)

Once upon a time, our elected official were people who had built their own businesses - people who knew how hard it sometimes was to make payroll - and people who knwe how hard it occasionally was to be unable to make payroll. We had laws that encouraged growth, which requires someone, somewhere to voluntarily invest something, whether it be his own time or someone else's discretionary nickel. When something worked it was praised, encouraged, duplicated and expanded, and when something didn't, it was simply discarded. Today, our electees are basically all lawyers - and we have an economy in meltdown, archaic business efforts are kept around, and even subsidized because it buys votes, and we have a financial system where one can do better with destruction rather than construction. One wonders at correlation ...

returns are well in excess of 20 percent per year (2, Funny)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193211)

well if that doesnt ring any alarm bells!

  maybe we should introduce Bernake to these people :D

Re:returns are well in excess of 20 percent per ye (1)

Guido del Confuso (80037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193379)

20% per year is not outrageously high. If a business makes 20% profit per year, it would be doing fairly well, but not spectacularly. The problem is with GUARANTEEING that rate of return to others. That's when it becomes fraud. But simply stating that you're making that much, especially when it's true, is perfectly legitimate.

Re:returns are well in excess of 20 percent per ye (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193455)

And even an idiot can have a good year in the lawsuit world. Like the stock world, you print the statistics that make you look best to encourage more investors, and you don't want to admit that if you role a fair dice 3 times, for 12.5 % of the people who do it it will win every time, and for 12.5% it will lose every time. You, as the salesmen for the investment services, make your money from the transaction fees (and the bribes and kickbacks ans shwag), not from the investors winning or losing.

Fire Sale (5, Insightful)

siloko (1133863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193217)

Investing in cultural naval gazing more like. When the process of legal shikanery yields better returns than investing in real world products then it is apparent that the our culture has run aground . . .

Re:Fire Sale (3, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193243)

When the process of legal shikanery yields better returns than investing in real world products then it is apparent that the our culture has run aground . . .

No, it's just the logical conclusion of a culture of worshipping money.

Re:Fire Sale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193531)

Worshiping other people's money rather than your own, you mean.

Re:Fire Sale (4, Insightful)

malkavian (9512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193609)

No, it's the logical conclusion of a culture that considers ethics of no consequence.
You can worship money all you like, and still create a fantastic environment (run your own company? In a company that you enjoy being in? They're not there for the express purpose of making your life fun, they're there to chase money. Ethical companies make a great place to work, the leeches will burn you out and leave you broken). However, all this activity boils down to is parasitic behaviour. When you can make more by discarding ethics, not producing anything and basically sucking the life out of anything that does produce, then the problems start.

Re:Fire Sale (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194067)

sounds like description of majority of financial institutions to me. However 'not producing anything' is not necessarily a bad thing - services work that way and as long as there are customers willing to pay for the service it is fine. The problem is if one branch of economy bubbles out of proportions and creates inbalances which make the economy crash - lawyers and wizards of finance are two such examples in western world.

Re:Fire Sale (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194361)

That may be why the world's major religions call for strong limits (or ban outright) barratry and usury.

Re:Fire Sale (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193623)

No, it's just the logical conclusion of a culture of worshipping money.

And lawyers are the new priesthood.

Re:Fire Sale (1)

moeinvt (851793) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194039)

If lawyers are the new priesthood in the cult of money worship, bankers must be the deities and demi-gods.

Re:Fire Sale (1)

teh.f4ll3n (1351611) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194485)

What about the guy flipping the "on" switch on the money printing machine? Where does he fit in all of this?

Blackwhite (1)

Tenebrarum (887979) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193825)

When the process of legal shikanery yields better returns than investing in real world products then it is apparent that the our culture has run aground . . .

No, it's just the logical conclusion of a culture of worshipping money.

Begging your pardon; where's the dichotomy?

Re:Fire Sale (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193777)

Investing in cultural naval [dict.org] gazing more like.

What's wrong with watching ships in the water?

Re:Fire Sale (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194015)

The real problem here will start where every situation takes a turn for the worst - when everybody and their grandmother start borrowing money to get into the "surefire profit" business and get into debts, scams popping left and right to provide investment opportunities and toxic assets (like our good friend Lionel Hutz) getting into the business to collect some of the windfall. The market will collapse, leaving most small investors holding an empty bags while the usual rich people run off with the leftover money. Don't believe me? Just look at the internet .com bubble and the recent housing market collapse.

Re:Fire Sale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28194381)

try "chicanery" [http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/chicanery] instead.

So what's the big deal? (5, Insightful)

Guido del Confuso (80037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193229)

According to the article, they only invest in cases that are pretty much a surefire win for the plaintiff. This makes sense, because if they're in it to make money, then cases that are likely to be questionable are a bad investment.

Seems to me that they're actually doing a public service, by allowing little guys who can't afford to take on big corporations who have clearly done them wrong to proceed with a potentially expensive lawsuit. No longer can the party with deeper pockets simply fight a war of attrition and hope to run the other guy dry. If the plaintiff ends up winning he gets more than he would have gotten had he simply given up, and if somebody else makes a buck off it as well, then so much the better.

Re:So what's the big deal? (5, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193281)

Seems to me that they're actually doing a public service, by allowing little guys who can't afford to take on big corporations who have clearly done them wrong to proceed with a potentially expensive lawsuit.

They're solving a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place: the legal system is a capitalist enterprise, with heavy price fixing by the lawyer community.

Oh, and a perverted enough legal system that lawyer skill actually matters in a case.

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

Guido del Confuso (80037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193325)

Even accepting your statement about what is or isn't the problem with the legal system, it is the way it is and that's not going to change in the near future. Is your proposed solution simply not to solve the problem?

And of course the skill of the lawyers matters. It has always mattered. That's why we don't let just anybody be a lawyer. In case you didn't realize, being an effective lawyer requires a great deal of skill. The ability to analyze a case, compare points of law between present and past cases, and present a compelling argument are all talents that are learned. As much as you would like to believe that the facts are always completely self evident and are the only thing that should matter, that's just not the case. If it were, everybody would have exactly the same political opinion about everything. Or would you say that our political system so perverted that leadership skill actually matters?

Re:So what's the big deal? (4, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193431)

Is your proposed solution simply not to solve the problem?

My proposed solution:

1. abolish legally binding precedent. The accepted interpretation of a law should be a consensus among the legal community, not a decision of one moron 150 years ago.
2. Hire someone competent [faqs.org] to rewrite the laws, aiming for clarity and precision.
3. Law should be treated like software: any and all changes should be incorporated into the text, not distributed as amendments. The current legal system looks like Linux 0.01 with all the patches distributed separately up to 2.6.30, and you can win a case by confusing the judge and your opponent into forgetting a critical patch.
3. Make the up to date text of every law easily accessible and searchable by anyone.
4. If you find there is no law for something new, like, say, the internet, say so. Don't torture existing unrelated laws fo fit the new situation.
5. Arguments should be based on merit, not qualifications and the overuse of jargon.

I'm sure there's more we could do, but these should solve the big problems.

Re:So what's the big deal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193477)

Your proposed solutions do not make sense.

This is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it; that does not make sense!

Re:So what's the big deal? (5, Interesting)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193517)

Is your proposed solution simply not to solve the problem?

My proposed solution:

1. abolish legally binding precedent. The accepted interpretation of a law should be a consensus among the legal community, not a decision of one moron 150 years ago. 2. Hire someone competent [faqs.org] to rewrite the laws, aiming for clarity and precision. 3. Law should be treated like software: any and all changes should be incorporated into the text, not distributed as amendments. The current legal system looks like Linux 0.01 with all the patches distributed separately up to 2.6.30, and you can win a case by confusing the judge and your opponent into forgetting a critical patch. 3. Make the up to date text of every law easily accessible and searchable by anyone. 4. If you find there is no law for something new, like, say, the internet, say so. Don't torture existing unrelated laws fo fit the new situation. 5. Arguments should be based on merit, not qualifications and the overuse of jargon.

I'm sure there's more we could do, but these should solve the big problems.

All your points pretty much described a conversion from the Common Law [wikipedia.org] system as it is practiced in the UK and its former colonies (US, India, Pakistan, Oz etc) to the Civil Law [wikipedia.org] system that has been introduced practically everywhere else and has been used since the times of Hammurabi and the Romans.

However, the problem is that such a conversion cannot happen while there is a large establishment built on it - the judges would have to re-learn, the lawyers would have to re-learn, the legislators would have a gargantuan task of creating a whole corpus of laws without bad loopholes... It would only happen after a revolution. (The German-style civil law was introduced in China, Japan and Korea in the early 20th century, but the power situation were very different from the status quo in the US today...)

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193689)

All your points pretty much described a conversion from the Common Law system as it is practiced in the UK and its former colonies (US, India, Pakistan, Oz etc) to the Civil Law system that has been introduced practically everywhere else and has been used since the times of Hammurabi and the Romans.

I was actually describing an idealized version of the Hungarian system. The real one has its flaws, of course, like the overuse of references. The whole thing looks like a wiki on paper. And the distorting of old laws for new situations happens here as well.

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194617)

It's interesting that after the US helps rebuild a country, we give it a better constitution and legal system than what we have. This is how it should be, but it's obvious that we should backport the best of the new legal systems to our own.

This doesn't happen of course, because vested interests are making money from the current systems. If the inefficiencies are fixed, they might have to find a new job. To quote the movie "Risky Business", "You don't f*ck with a man's livelihood." People will fight you tooth and nail, and even try to kill you if you try to interfere with their way of life. (No matter how good or bad that way of life is, they want it to remain the same)

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

psmears (629712) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193619)

3. Law should be treated like software: any and all changes should be incorporated into the text, not distributed as amendments. The current legal system looks like Linux 0.01 with all the patches distributed separately up to 2.6.30, and you can win a case by confusing the judge and your opponent into forgetting a critical patch.

3. Make the up to date text of every law easily accessible and searchable by anyone.

This exists (for both of your item 3s :-), for the UK at least [statutelaw.gov.uk] ...

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

iserlohn (49556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193827)

Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it. This is part of the problem that "Precedent" solves in Common Law jurisdictions. If every judge interpreted law without "Precedence" as a guide, then you have a problem with consistency.

The other part of the problem is that no law can cover every conceivable situation. Sometimes bad laws are made, that's the reason that Jurisprudence is importance. In Common Law countries, it is a flexible system that allow lawmakers to make laws which are applied to specific situations by the judicial system.

In any case, the problem with inaccessible law is not specific to the Common Law, there is a lot of statutes which are equally hard to understand and apply.

A more realistic solution would be to introduce a summary of the existing legal situation on common law and statutes every year from the government that is brief and simple to understand but detailed enough to be useful. This should be accessible to everyone, and the relevant case law around this published and available on the Internet for free.

Basic legal education should be mandatory at the high school stage. Courts should be simplified so that technicalities are kept to a minimum.

Re:So what's the big deal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28194325)

Sometimes bad laws are made

And that's what we're complaining about here. By reducing the need for a judge to solve the Sorities paradox [wikipedia.org] for every case (see also: Miller), it produces an environment where people can know, in advance, that if they do X, they will/won't be arrested.

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194711)

see also: Miller

Which one?

Add two more... (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194137)

6. Laws must be written in a way that is understandable to laymen. If the IRS can do it, so can the legislators.

7. The total text of all laws applying to individuals cannot exceed one million words (that's about 10 normal novels, or four really thick ones). For businesses, you get another million.

There are so many laws of such complexity that no layman can possibly be aware of them all - much less understand them. If "ignorance of the law is no excuse" then it must be possible for a normal person to actually know what the law is.

Re:Add two more... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194329)

If the IRS can do it, so can the legislators.

Unfortunately, the IRS can't do it. They can't even write it in a way that's completely understandable for experts. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is the gazillions of changes to the tax code that get passed every year to make sure that such-and-such-organization gets a break.

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

pacinpm (631330) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194251)

6. Make sure all set of laws (all of them) weights no more than 200KB. If you want to introduce new law which will cross the limit than you have to remove older one.

Re:So what's the big deal? (2, Informative)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194651)

3. Law should be treated like software: any and all changes should be incorporated into the text, not distributed as amendments. The current legal system looks like Linux 0.01 with all the patches distributed separately up to 2.6.30, and you can win a case by confusing the judge and your opponent into forgetting a critical patch. 3. Make the up to date text of every law easily accessible and searchable by anyone. [...] 5. Arguments should be based on merit, not qualifications and the overuse of jargon.

These three, at least. are already the case in the US, at both federal and state level. Your second 3 is not yet implemented by all counties and municipalities, but they're getting there. As for your first 3, while changes in statutes are passed as "diffs" by the legislature, generally, the patches are applied after they're passed, and the up-to-date version of the law includes a footnote that it was changed and on what date, but the text you read is the "patched-up" version.

I do think it would be very cool if legislators adopted source code management tools to manage the legal code. I think it would work very well, and would make the whole process much more visible to everyone. Imagine github for the legal code!

Hmm... Maybe I should download my state laws and publish them via github. Hmm.

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194661)

Doh! Sorry for not fixing up the formatting in your text. It seems like the slashdot "quote" feature used to work better than it does...

Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193357)

It's cases like this where it shows most clearly that our legal system has little to do with justice.

Re:So what's the big deal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193557)

Great, I for one, welcome our new legal system arms race overlords.
[quits the country]

This can get out of hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28194045)

According to the article, they only invest in cases that are pretty much a surefire win for the plaintiff.

But what happens when a win is not a certainty at all? What if the real purpose of the suit is to harass the defendant or coerce them into settling? Would it be OK to provide 3rd-party funding for the RIAA lawsuits? Most of their cases are too flimsy to go to trial. But for the most part, these cases throw off enough cash to justify the investment. Just as "junk bonds" often have high yields, "junk lawsuits" might offer a good return on investment.

And what happens when the 3rd-party funding is for a questionable case whose main goal is to impede a competitor, coincidentally for the benefit of the funding source? Microsoft's involvement with SCO is one example.

In those cases where the defendants prevail, the "litigation investors" losses are capped at 100% their investment as far as I can tell. The actual plaintiffs may lose more. In fact, they may even go bankrupt, leaving the defendant with an uncollectible judgment. I wish there was a way for the litigation investors to share in the downside of a loss. Using SCO vs. IBM as one example, Why shouldn't Microsoft have to pick up the tab for SCO's liability, proportional to their funding of the scheme?

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194211)

Surefire win for the plaintiff does not mean that the plaintiff's complaint is just, true, or morally upstanding. It just means that prior plaintiffs with the same situation have done well in the same venues. I see a parallel to the American phenomenon of two drug stores on every corner - if the first one makes it, it can be studied and shown that another one will also survive in the same place - not that that's the best place to put a new store, just the lowest risk.

Re:So what's the big deal? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194443)

If justice requires rounding up investors, then the society of laws is already on it's deathbed. It also does a great injustice to anyone who probably should prevail but is not certain to by creating a legal services bubble. Just like the real estate bubble, this will likely drive up the costs of legal services. There are very good reasons such practices are generally considered unethical and in many legal systems, actually criminal.

It also has the unfortunate effect of encouraging 'sure thing' lawsuits that should NOT prevail. For example, the RIAA threaten and settle model. They are sure to get many settlements (since they demand less than the cost to even begin fighting the suits).

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193255)

I'm not quite sure, but I want to say it's a good thing, since it in a small way reduces the problems for people who should win a case but do not due to lack of funding...

how is this news for nerds? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193267)

how does this relate to "your rights online" or "news for nerds?"

Patents on software... (4, Informative)

pieterh (196118) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193343)

It relates because the business of software patents is very close to this. Patent litigation in the software sector is much higher than in any other sector and much of that litigation is speculative and funded by exactly the kind of VC TFA is talking about.

I'll stick to betting on horses (-1, Offtopic)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193329)

people can get emotionally attached to horses unlike lawyers. And I can make more than 20%

Re:I'll stick to betting on horses (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193443)

And I can make more than 20%

Really? That's great! I always thought that the odds people would offer you were so bad that you'd have to be extremely lucky to make even a small profit (in the long run of course). But that is not the case, you say? What about the efficient market argument, that if horse betting was such a golden opportunity, lots of people would exploit that until the odds were adjusted so that the opportunity vanished?

Re:I'll stick to betting on horses (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193533)

Fortunately most people think its a mugs game which unless you know what you are doing it most certainly is. However all the information on how to pick your bets is already in the public domain. Just do the maths and make sure the betting system you use can sustain 19 losing bets in a row and still give you your required ROI % for each bet when the 20th bet comes in. If you go more than 20 bets without a winner then either even the FSM hates you or you are dumber than the average American president

Re:I'll stick to betting on horses (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193795)

Fortunately most people think its a mugs game which unless you know what you are doing it most certainly is. However all the information on how to pick your bets is already in the public domain. Just do the maths and make sure the betting system you use can sustain 19 losing bets in a row and still give you your required ROI % for each bet when the 20th bet comes in.

But suppose a few people did the maths and bet accordingly. Wouldn't that drive the odds in a direction that made the profitability very small?

Re:I'll stick to betting on horses (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194113)

Nah the bookies like people who win if only because they are such a small proportion that they don't impact profits significantly and it's good advertising. There are plenty of people doing the maths already the bookies make their money out of the ID ten T's that are looking for that one big win. Trust me I lose a lot of money betting I just make more on average.

Re:I'll stick to betting on horses (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193587)

Y'all want to know why you have so many losers at gambling? Because they try to force a bad hand. In the past I've sublimated my income playing poker and have seen it time and time again. I would know within the first 30 minutes if I was gonna get into a groove or not and I didn't bet decent until I knew whether the groove was there. Its like programming, where you get into the zone and everything just falls into place.

Where you get the big losers, and I've been happy to take their money time and time again, is when they simply refuse to accept they ain't gonna hit the groove. instead of doing as i would and simply walking away they will ALWAYS try to "force" their way into a streak, usually by throwing good money after bad because they are just sure they'll pick up the groove next round. but they never ever do.

That is how you can tell the good poker players from the losers. A good poker player when he sees that either he isn't gonna hit his stride or that he has lost the groove simply picks up his money and says "well boys, its been fun" and walks away. As long as the loser has money or access to credit he is just gonna keep pushing it hoping lady luck will stop by on the next round which of course she never does. So it really ain't brain surgery. it takes a little skill, a little luck, but most importantly it takes the ability to accept that not every night will be yours and to walk away when that bad night is upon you. You'd be surprised how many out there lose their shirts because they can't accept that simple fact.

Re:I'll stick to betting on horses (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193703)

Spot on! Another reason people lose big time is because they bet stupidly I know people who bet their whole salary as soon as they get it hoping to get lucky. Personally I don't believe in luck I try to get 1 bet in 3 (or better) right but the stakes I play at are so small compared to my overall pot that I can cope with 19 losers in a row.

Fmylife.com of the times (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193397)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swynfen_will_case [wikipedia.org]

Got promised 1.3mil to win a case, the first case I've run. Had sex with the hot beneficiary. Won the case. Didn't get paid. She married someone else and sued me for misconduct. My life sucks.

Derivatives (0, Troll)

Breakthru (1343201) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193401)

Finally some sound business! We'll make derivatives stocks based on the outcome of such lawsuits, you know, people always like to bet. Ok so now I'm just missing a quote system.. oh, hang on, there's bookkeeping in football, we can use that

The Sophomore Class (2, Interesting)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193501)

The trial attorney's primary asset is his experience in court - his ability to win cases.

But that makes it difficult to hit a bank for a loan.

So he - like generations of skilled craftsmen and professionals before him - seeks financing outside the normal banking system.

There is the side issue of collection from the client who isn't paying his bill. Corporate litigation at the highest level tends to more rather more work and expense than the collision at Third and Main.

Gah. Does the phrase "independent contractor" ring a bell with anyone here? Or are you all still living in the Dorm?

NEWSFLASH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193529)

we're certainly beating the market

Lemonade stand beats the street. Fuck, when looking at the past 2 years, anyone who made $1 profit "BEAT THE STREET".

Maybe this isn't so bad? (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193779)

We all bemoan how the non-moneyed are at the mercy of the wealthy in the legal system.  Perhaps "angel investors" in a legitimate case are not such a bad idea?

Re:Maybe this isn't so bad? (-1, Offtopic)

bcmm (768152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193967)

  • You use annoying formatting.

The consequences (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193913)

As the US turns to heavy litigation, the targets flee. Start-ups consider greener pastures.

Want proof? The country that led the industrial revolution is now a service industry nation.

As consumer protection lawsuits pervail, industry leaves. Small planes, diving boards, vaccines, and other products are not made in the US simply because of litigation and the threat of litigation.

The risks to the nation are huge including massive trade defecits, collapse of the economy due to devalued hard currancy, and shortages of supplies in time of need as we depend on overseas manufacturing. The latest risk is the swine flu. Nobody in the US makes the vaccine. In a pandemic, demand in the home country may cut supplies off entirely as the limited capacity is used elsewhere. This is the result of runaway litigation.

I worked in a shop at one time where the owner refused to provide service to laywers. They were the second most likely bunch to not pay, or demand second and third services unpaid. Only on other group exceeded laywers in not paying for services.

Welcome to a litigious society.

Re:The consequences (1)

swilver (617741) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194205)

I see it the same way. Legal services are just an economic drain on productive society. They cannot exist without the other making them similar to leeches. Having too much resources tied up in legal technicalities will eventually be a bad thing for your economy. Legal services are also something that is pretty hard to export, so they basically only hurt yourself not your "competitors".

Re:The consequences (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194263)

Our small company (based outside the US) was advised by our lawyer to never sell to a customer in the USA. Even if your company has no local presence beyond an accessible website, local courts will use the long arm statute [wikipedia.org] to claim jurisdiction. It doesn't matter that your contract specifies the legal jurisdiction. It doesn't matter that you have no local presence. Local lawyer plus local judge = right-to-do-whatever-they-damn-well-please. And you know those foreign corporations are just rolling in dough...

It is theoretically possible to purchase legal liability insurance. However, legal liability insurance generally excludes the US as simply to risky.

Despite the legal advice, we did sell to one customer in the USA whom we though we could trust. A couple of years later things apparently went south. Their lawyer thought "Quick, who can we screw out of some cash?" We got this registered letter in the mail...

Lovely legal system you guys have, just lovely.

p.s. The outcome was good for us, but only because I personally know a couple of lawyers in the US, and one of them helped us out. For most foreign companies, this could have been very, very expensive. If you choose not to show up at the courthouse in Podunk City, the judge will enter a default judgement against you, which will hang around your company's neck like an albatross.

American Dreams (2, Insightful)

moeinvt (851793) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193949)

Old American Dream: Rugged self reliance, hard work and innovation lead to success and propserity.

New American Dream: Have the government take care of you while you attempt to win a lawsuit or the lottery.

no surprise here (1)

caldodge (1152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194451)

When robbery is permitted (or, at least, can be carried out with little risk) it will flourish, since it's easier to steal something than to create it. This is why Somali pirates are so successful at present.

The enactment of "loser pays" laws would reduce this activity by increasing the cost of this sort of theft.

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