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🕵️ Mafia bust

Good Monday afternoon. As Legit. closes in on 1.5k subscribers, I wanted to take a moment to thank ou
Legit.
Good Monday afternoon. As Legit. closes in on 1.5k subscribers, I wanted to take a moment to thank our most loyal subscribers.
You were instrumental in helping us get Legit. up and running and are the reason we’ve come so far in such a short amount of time. If you were one of our first subscribers, I’d love to hear about a project you’re working on - and if there’s any way I can help.
In today’s issue:
  • Deplatforming Parler.
  • The Hendrix family feud.
  • Visa & Plaid break up.
  • Italy’s huge mafia trial.

TECH
Deplatforming Parler
In a lawsuit filed on Monday, Parler accused Amazon Web Services (AWS) of breaking antitrust laws when it unplugged Parler in the aftermath of the Capitol siege.
The play-by-play. After Twitter banned Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity announced the President had joined Parler – a niche Twitter rival known for its laidback approach to content moderation. Trump supporters began to flock en masse to Parler, propelling the alt-tech platform to the top of the App Store.
Then, Parler went dark. It was banned by Apple and Google on Jan. 9th for failing to moderate hate speech. Later that day, Amazon suspended Parler from AWS – removing it from the web entirely.
Now… Parler is saying the suspension was a politically loaded attack aimed at “reducing competition” for Twitter’s benefit.
In an attempt to resuscitate the platform, Parler’s lawyer – who thought it was prime time to announce he’s never been on social media and doesn’t quite understand it – said shutting down Parler “is the equivalent of pulling the plug on a hospital patient.”
The other side. In a legal filing, Amazon said Parler was used to plan “the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.” Examples of Parler content:
  •  “White people need to ignite their racial identity and rain down suffering and death like a hurricane.“
  • "After the firing squads are done with the politicians the teachers are next.”
AWS says Parler has been “unable and unwilling” to moderate this type of content since November.
THE TAKEAWAY
Parler probably doesn’t have enough evidence, if any, of a Twitter-Amazon collusion to win this case. But deplatforming Parler has raised prickly questions about Big Tech:  
  • Are tech giants private companies or public utility companies that need independent regulation?
  • Does unplugging Parler set a dangerous precedent for platforms (who haven’t been democratically elected) to selectively police companies and individuals?
Zoom out. A flurry of other lawsuits are on the horizon, with Rumble suing Google and ADL urging the FBI to open an investigation into right-wing network Gab for mobilizing the Capitol riots.
TRADEMARK
Jimi Hendrix’s Family Can’t Stop Suing Each Other
Jimi Hendrix’s brother and niece have been found in contempt of court for using the Hendrix name.
Background. The rights to Hendrix’s music, name and likeness are held by two companies created by the rock icon’s father, Al Hendrix. Al handpicked certain family members to help manage the estate and “expressly excluded” Jimi’s brother, Leon Hendrix, from that team. Since Al’s death, both companies have been run by Janie Hendrix, Al’s adopted daughter.
In 2017, Leon Hendrix was sued for using the Hendrix name on “cannabis, edibles, food, wine, alcohol, medicines and electronic products.” He was ordered to pay $400k and an injunction was taken out preventing him from using Hendrix’s name or likeness.
But… Leon said YOLO. He and his daughter, Tina, violated the injunction by running a music school called Hendrix Music Academy, selling memorabilia, and organizing Hendrix-branded events.
THE TAKEAWAY
Family feud. Leon and Tina have been ordered to recall and destroy all apparel and merchandise and change the name of the school.
Tina has criticized the ruling, telling Billboard:
  • “Why should we be silenced and prevented from telling our family’s history when we are the only ones who could ever tell it?”
Elsewhere in music law … 2020 was a weirdly active year for copyright, with artists across the board being pulled into the courtroom (Nicki Minaj, Led Zepplin). Now, for the first time, a small claims tribunal is being set up in the US to enforce copyrights that aren’t valuable enough to take to federal court.
M&A
Hasta la Visa
Image: Giphy
Image: Giphy
Visa and Plaid called off their merger agreement on Wednesday.
The backstory. Plaid is a fintech API startup that connects bank accounts to finance apps e.g. Robinhood and Venmo. One year ago, Visa announced it was acquiring Plaid at a $5.3bn valuation.
Two months ago… the Department of Justice – whose been crushing monopolies left, right and centre – filed an antitrust suit to kill the deal. It argued Visa is a “monopolist in online debt” and the merger would “eliminate the nascent but significant competitive threat” Plaid posed to Visa.
It appears the DoJ’s suit was too big a hurdle for the lovebirds, with Visa announcing the “protracted and complex litigation” would take too long to iron out.
THE TAKEAWAY
Blessing in disguise. Plaid won’t lose any sleep over the foiled acquisition; it’s seen an “unprecedented uptick in demand” since the merger announcement, telling TechCrunch its consumer base has soared by 60%.
To everyone in the fintech world, this is unsurprising. Consumers flocked to neobanks and stock trading apps at the onset of the pandemic and, as the industry boomed, it became clear Visa was getting Plaid for a bargain:
  • $5.3bn is chump change compared to the valuations of major fintech players (Stripe is reportedly raising capital at a $100bn valuation).
Bottom line: stepping out from Visa’s shadow gives Plaid a great trajectory as an independent company. Bankers and venture capitalists are predicting the startup will IPO or get SPAC’d soon.
COURT
The Biggest Mafia Trial in Decades
In the greatest mob bust in years, Italy opened a huge trial linked to the powerful ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate in the southern region of Calabria on Wednesday.
The details. The ‘Ndrangheta – headed by the infamous Mancuso family – are one of the world’s most powerful drug-trafficking syndicates, controlling over 80% of Europe’s cocaine trade.
A study by the Demoskopika Research Institute found the syndicate is richer than Deutsche Bank and McDonalds combined, bringing home an annual revenue of $55bn.
But the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed the traditional realm of drug trafficking, using shell companies to reinvest illegal gains in the legitimate economy. Federico Varese, criminologist at Oxford University, says the mob infiltrates every area of life in Calabria:
“If you want to open a shop, if you want to build anything, you have to go through them. They are the authority.” 
Who’s on trial? 325 people. At a pre-trial hearing, it took over three hours to read the names of all the defendants. The list includes leaders of the ‘Ndrangehta, national politicians, civil servants and white collar professionals. The most high profile defendant is 66-year-old clan leader Luigi Mancuso, nicknamed “The Uncle”.
Prosecutors are hoping the trial, codenamed Rinascita (‘Rebirth’), will untangle an intricate web of crime - including murder, extortion, money laundering and drug trafficking.
THE TAKEAWAY
Historic. This is the most far-reaching action against a criminal organization in Italy since the Sicilian mafia trials in the ‘80s. Those same trials that led to the Sicilian mafia’s decline helped clear the way for the 'Ndrangheta’s rise.
Looking ahead… the prosecution’s biggest obstacle is ‘snitches get stitches.’ They’re hoping having a high-profile trial will encourage witnesses to come forward and break the culture of silence surrounding the ‘Ndrangheta.
The star witness so far is Emanuele Mancuso, nephew of mob boss Luigi, who’s been revealing the clan’s secrets under police protection. He’s set to testify against his uncle.
Also under police protection is the chief prosecutor, Nicola Graterri. Despite several plots to kill him, Gratteri remains undeterred in his aim:
  • “To make more livable a region that has been martyrized for over a decade.”
LEGIT ONE LINERS
  • General Electric accuses rival Siemens Energy of using stolen trade secrets to rig contract bids.
  • France is taken to court in landmark climate inaction case.
  • Former Michigan health chief is charged with 9 counts of manslaughter in Flint water crisis.
  • UK Supreme Court says businesses can receive insurance payouts for COVID lockdown losses.
  • Tesla registers in India.
  • Bumble files to go public.
  • Meghan Markle will ask a High Court judge to grant summary judgement in her privacy case against the publishers of the Mail tomorrow.
  • Three new Big Tech patents filed this week.
THE FUTURE OF LAW
As weird as 2020 was, it was an exciting year for law.
We think 2021 will be even better, so have put together a collection of essays on where the legal industry is heading this year - covering legal tech to SPACs and everything in between.
Want to see ‘em? Just refer 2 friends to Legit and we’ll send The Future of Law your way.
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