Lies, Spies, and Videotape

REMEMBER THE MARIS CASE? Let’s review: A-B terminated Florida distributor Maris, who then sued A-B for wrongful termination damages. Maris hired grandstanding attorney Willie Gary of Florida and his lieutenants Madison McClellan and Tricia Purks Hoffler, while A-B relied on Peter Moll, who all got rather nasty with each other during the three month trial. A jury verdict gave Maris $150 mm but Judge Buzzy Green reduced the ruling to $50 mm plus $22.6 mm in interest. A-B is, of course, appealing.

BUT THAT’S NOT THE END OF LAWYERS’ BICKERING. Stephen Van Drake of the South Florida Business Journal fronts a remarkable story claiming that the Florida Bar found probable cause to charge Gary, McClellan and Hoffler with misleading the court, misrepresenting evidence, staging a press conference to influence jurors, uttering profanity in the courtroom, and disparaging witnesses and defense attorneys.

SPECIAL MASTER. The charges stem from Buzzy appointing Gainesville attorney Stephen N. Bernstein as “special master” to secretly investigate all lawyers for bad behavior. Bernstein found that all of the lawyers left something to be desired in being gentlemanly in the courtroom. Bernstein concluded both legal teams were rude and that Gary, McClellan, Socias and Moll violated ethical rules. Buzzy cited Gary and Moll for contempt of court and expelled both from the courtroom at various times. Moll swore at Green, then apologized. Gary used the word “bullshit” twice. He also apologized.

DENIAL AND FINGER-POINTING. Gary and his cohorts deny the charges by the Florida Bar. “I put no validity in the special master’s report,” Gary said. He wonders why the Bar did not charge Moll with misconduct. Gary also contends that even Judge Buzzy Green swore. Gary claims he said, “My God almighty, damn, I rode the elevator with you and your people.”

STEAKS AND BEER. McClellan accused Moll of courting witnesses against the orders of the judge by hosting a beer and steaks party for them. Bernstein suggested the court should “admonish” Moll. Gary, for his part, said he will file a detailed grievance against Moll with the Florida Bar.

Moll accused Gary of hiring investigators to tail him and videotape his activities, and Moll hired a private eye to check it out. Gary denied this.

FEMSA MAY COMBINE BOTTLER/BEER OPERATIONS. Mexican brewer and bottler Femsa, soon to become the largest Coca-Cola bottler in Latin America, is looking at combining its beer and soft drink operations in various Latin American markets to gain a competitive edge. “Integration is a real possibility in some of the markets where we operate currently and where we hope to operate in the future once their acquisition of Panamco is completed,” Femsa’s chairman Jose Antonio Fernandez said in a recent annual report.