RICO Act – History and Current Practice

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Congress sought a way to curb organized crime in America, holding numerous hearings that discussed how mob bosses and Mafia-affiliated families manipulated the system to avoid punishment while leading vast syndicates. The legislation that grew out of these hearings, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a part of the larger Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, enabled criminal and civil charges to be brought against the leaders of these organizations by establishing the existence of a criminal enterprise and a pattern of illegal behavior. However, while these racketeering charges were largely successful at defanging the Mafia, the current use of RICO in civil suits has become somewhat controversial.

In trials featuring names like Paul Castellano, “Fat Tony” Salerno, and Carmine “The Snake” Persico, RICO succeeded in taking down many of the country’s most infamous mob bosses. While the act has been instrumental in the fight against organized crime, the wide range of racketeering activities, which includes everything from murder or theft to copyright infringement or securities fraud, along with the broad definition of “enterprise,” has created an environment in which civil actions using RICO have become increasingly popular, creating debate among legal professionals and business leaders. Civil actions that involve RICO award treble damages, creating incentives for plaintiffs to uncover possible racketeering violations during discovery; and the pretrial asset and property seizure injunctions, originally designed to target Mafia shell corporations, place what some consider an undue burden on defendants.


St. Thomas More Law Honor Society: Celebrating Service and Scholarship

Since its founding at Loyola Law School, in Los Angeles, the St. Thomas More Law Honor Society has sought to recognize academic excellence, bring attention to important moral and ethical issues related to legal topics, and share the expertise of its student members and alumni with the school. The society invites students ranking in the top 15 percent of their class to become members between their second and fourth years at the school. It provides everything from forums devoted to the current state of legal affairs to tutoring services for first-year law students; it also proffers the Medallion Award, an honor recognizing exemplary contributions to the legal community.

Like other similarly named organizations throughout the country, the St. Thomas More Law Honor Society takes its title from the English lawyer and humanist Sir Thomas More, who was sainted in 1935. As a secular figure, he was called to the bar in 1502; he joined parliament only two years later and served as an advisor to King Henry VIII and as chancellor. However, his Roman Catholic faith created conflict with King Henry, and before the end of the Reformation, he had been martyred.

Companies Advised to Be Cautious in “Green” Product Descriptions

Winston & Strawn partner Neal Marder, an attorney with extensive experience defending groups against class action lawsuits, notes that “greenwashing” is an upcoming trend as more and more companies make false or misleading claims about their products’ environmental friendliness. As companies attempt to capitalize on consumers’ growing interest in earth-friendly products and services, Neal Marder advises businesses to be careful in choosing words and symbols to describe their products that will not mislead consumers and prompt a successful class-action lawsuit.

Two recent cases litigated in California illustrate the importance of properly representing a product’s “green” features. In Koh v. SC Johnson & Son, Inc., a judge concluded that a “seal of approval” label with a green background highlighting “Greenlist ingredients” on Windex products could lead a consumer to believe the cleaners were endorsed by a third party. The plaintiff has been certified for a class action lawsuit. In another case involving Fiji bottled water, a judge ruled that a plain “green drop” symbol on water bottles was not enough to suggest that an outside group approved the product’s environmentally friendly features.