February 8, 2013 4th Circuit published opinions

Vitol, S.A. v Primrose Shipping Company Ltd

Vitol attached a ship operated by Primrose in an attempt to satisfy a judgment against another, related shipping company. The judgment was issued by the Commercial Court of England. Primrose moved to dismiss the complaint and to vacate the attachment. The district court granted both motions. The panel affirmed. It held the district court had jurisdiction as the underlying judgment was obtained for an admiralty claim as evidenced by the expert testimony from both sides experts that the underlying claim could have been brought in England’s admiralty court. The judgment itself was enforceable as a decree from a sister admiralty court. As to the merits, the panel applied a reasonable belief standard for the admiralty supplemental rule issue and the plausibility standard for the civil procedure issue. It held that the verified amended complaint failed to meet either standard as the facts alleged (loans between entities, shared office space and the fleets similar looking paint jobs) only proved a close business relationship, not lack of corporate formalities, dominion or fundamental unfairness.

Bareano v United States

Bareano was convicted of mail fraud. At this trial in 1994, the jury was instructed on both pecuniary loss fraud and honest services fraud. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. After the United States Supreme Court held the honest fraud statute unconstitutional outside of bribes and kickbacks, which were not present in this case, Bareano sought coram nobis relief. The district court denied his motion. The panel affirmed. Noting that the government confessed error as to the honest fraud charge, the panel held that the jury could only have convicted Bareano if it found he sent false billings to clients and received money from those clients. Thus, the panel found beyond reasonable doubt that the erroneous charge was harmless and affirmed the denial of the motion.

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