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Q&A With Nossaman's Carl Blumenstein

04/22/2013 Law360

Nossaman Partner Carl Blumenstein was profiled in Law360 as part of its popular Q&A series.  Mr. Blumenstein's full Q&A can be found below.


Carl L. Blumenstein is a partner in Nossaman LLP's San Francisco office. He specializes in complex business litigation, primarily insurance coverage, antitrust and employment law disputes. For more than 20 years, he has provided counsel and representation to clients in trial and appellate courts and in many disputes. Presently, he is representing AU Optronics in a criminal and civil antitrust proceeding.

Q: What is the most challenging case you have worked on and what made it challenging?

A: The antitrust community has been understandably focused on our representation of AU Optronics in path-breaking criminal and civil prosecutions. The case has presented a range of challenges, from guiding a Taiwan-based corporation through the mystifying processes of the American legal system, to helping the client achieve closure, even amidst the seemingly unending investigations, prosecutions and lawsuits brought in multiple jurisdictions here and abroad, and with allegedly injured claimants at all levels and places in the complex distribution chain for these ubiquitous products. Then, of course, is the nature of this very complex litigation — difficult strategy decisions, cutting-edge legal issues, talented and persistent litigation adversaries and crafting a defense strategy in collaboration with differently situated parties with conflicting interests.

Q: What aspects of your practice area are in need of reform and why?

A: While all agree that cartelized price-fixing should be prohibited, it is high time to consider the nature and extent of penalties that are appropriate to deter that conduct and compensate victims. The prosecutions and litigation arising from the auto parts, cathode ray tube, airline freight and TFT-LCD conspiracies exemplify the need for reform. With the increasing globalization of business, cartel participants are often subject to administrative, criminal and private claims in multiple and overlapping jurisdictions, creating the real risk of multiple penalties for the same conduct. In the United States, there is also the prospect of being subject to monetary damage awards to multiple participants in various levels of the distribution chain and far in excess of any actual economic harm. To take a simple example, if Best Buy purchases a notebook computer containing a price-fixed component, it makes no economic sense for both Best Buy and its customer to recover treble the overcharge on that component.

Q: What is an important issue or case relevant to your practice area and why?

A: What is glaringly missing is alignment. Legal regulations and their enforcement only make sense and have value if they are meaningfully aligned with society's policy and economic goals. Trade policy and regulation are struggling to keep up with an economy and trade relationships that are dynamically changing at an unprecedented rate and in unfathomable ways.

It is important to ask ourselves: What are the trade and policy goals that we are trying to achieve, for the economy and for businesses, in their country and globally? Are the regulations and incentives/punishments properly calibrated to achieve those goals? These are difficult and fundamental questions that must be addressed, and must also transcend parochial interests fueled by the desire to enrich public coffers or to permit windfall paychecks for plaintiff counsel.

Q: Outside your own firm, name an attorney in your field who has impressed you and explain why.

A: Francis Scarpulla of Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP. Fran is a legend of the plaintiff's antitrust bar in San Francisco, and beyond. He has spent more than two generations tenaciously representing his clients, usually consumers. Having had the honor to have Fran as opposing counsel representing the indirect purchaser class in the TFT-LCD antitrust litigation, I was impressed by his diplomatic skills in marshaling the various constituencies of plaintiff counsel, his practical approach to litigation and settlement, all in service to the interests of his clients.

Q: What is a mistake you made early in your career and what did you learn from it?

A: As a young lawyer in a fast-paced practice, it was easy to get lost in briefs, depositions and billable hours. With time and experience, I've learned the critical importance of forging a personal connection with my clients — a phone call is better than an email, and meeting face-to face is better than a phone call. Especially with difficult conversations, it's a huge benefit if you can sit down and have a constructive conversation.

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