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360° Analysis:
Navigating the Latest Legal Developments

August 26, 2015

Morgan Lewis offers comprehensive services and stays on top of trends in a broad range of business and law matters. We invite you to explore the latest insight offered by our lawyers in Law360 ’s expert analysis series. This round-up covers a recent appellate ruling in a plutonium contamination case, the latest actions by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), court rulings affecting the False Claims Act’s seal requirements, and Pennsylvania’s energy sector at a time of dropping natural gas prices.

Environment

Partners Stephanie Feingold and John McGahren analyze a recent US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit decision in a case stemming from the handling of radioactive waste at Rocky Flats, a nuclear weapons production facility near downtown Denver, involving the Price-Anderson Act and state nuisance law. Stephanie and John write in “10th Circ. Pushes Back On Preemption In Plutonium Case” that the ruling signals a marked departure from all other federal circuits that have addressed the issue and say that, if adopted by other courts, would represent a significant expansion of potential liability for operators in the nuclear energy industry.

Enforcement

The SEC recently brought two separate settled enforcement actions against the chief compliance officers (CCOs) of investment advisory firms for allegedly being “a cause” of their respective firms’ compliance failure. Partner Peter Chan writes that this “hair-trigger” approach against CCOs is inconsistent with the commission’s historical policy and could create a “chilling effect” that would discourage the best talent from taking on compliance roles in the financial industry. Read about Peter’s recommendations to the SEC, to CCOs, and to counsel representing CCOs in SEC enforcement actions in “SEC's Friendly Fire Against CCOs — And How To Avoid It.”

False Claims Act (FCA)

Partner Bob Sherry analyzes the impact of two recent court of appeals decisions—US ex rel. Cori Rigsby et al. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.[4] and Smith v. Clark/Smoot/Russell—on the standards of dismissal related to breaches of the FCA’s seal provisions. In “Confusion Over FCA’s Seal Requirements Continues,” Bob explores whether the decisions, when taken together, create more uncertainty about when a court will find that an FCA seal breach requires dismissal.

Energy

In an article about recent gas royalty litigation, partners John Gisleson and Kenneth Komoroski take on the suggestion that one of the results of court rulings in Pollock v. Energy Corporation of America may be a growing wave of discontent among landowners over energy companies’ royalty practices. Read how these decisions impact major stakeholders in the full article, “Parsing Post-Production Energy Costs In Pa. Leases.”