EVERY NO W AND THEN, I POINT THE CAR NORTH WARD AND
take I-87 all the way up through New York state. If
you’ve never done it, you should; the section north of
Albany through the Adirondacks is a terrific drive, even
if it seems to encourage extralegal speeds.
Somewhere north of Plattsburgh, I cross the border
into the province of Québec, and suddenly, I’m in an
alternate-universe version of America. As I head into
Montreal, a lot of what I see is familiar—the cars, the
office buildings, the Starbucks shops everywhere. But
the coffee shops there have signs saying “Café Starbucks
Coffee,” the people are even more stylish than hipster
New Yorkers (better eyeglasses, Gallic attitude) and
everywhere are these stores labeled “SAQ.” That stands
for Société des Alcools du Québec, and they are the
province-run wine and liquor shops.
There are lots of unfamiliar delights in those shops,
especially for a Francophile wine drinker. It’s not just
unfamiliar wines, though: You’ll see an aged rum on
the shelves called Havana Club. It’s produced in Cuba
by a Cuban government-owned company, and because
of the U.S. embargo, it isn’t sold in the United States.
Havana Club is also the subject of years of trademark litigation, and our intellectual property reporter
Lisa Shuchman brings us up to date on the latest
developments. A quick and dirty summary: The family that produced the
original Havana Club left Cuba and
let the mark lapse. The government
started to produce rum, registered
the trademark. Meanwhile, Bacardi
wanted to use the name, and did so
on some rum. The inevitable happened, with both sides
claiming the evocative
The saga continues, and the détente between the
United States and Cuba hasn’t led yet to a cessation of
legal moves. The twists and turns were so complicated
that Shuchman needed her sources to walk her through
a chronology step by step. Turn to the story in the IP
Insider column on page 54.
Somewhat less convoluted is the cover story on page
54 by Sue Reisinger. She was intrigued by the massive
bank mortgage settlements. The Department of Justice
came down on the big banks for what they said were bad
mortgage practices, and it mandated relief for besieged
borrowers. Reisinger wanted to see if the borrowers got
much of that relief.
The jury is still out on this. It’s probably safe to say
that a lot of the relief came too late. But there was one
facet of the settlements that was better than the norm.
Monitors were put in place at the banks, and their
reports were made public, unlike a lot of the monitor
reports made by monitors in deferred or nonprosecution
agreements (DPAs/NPAs). Reisinger was able to see the
reports; the story is the result.
We’ve had trouble in the past gaining access to
monitor reports. Yes, seeing them would give us better stories, so you could say that we’re self-interested.
But there’s a larger issue here. Many of these DPAs and
NPAs involve important public issues, and the public
does have a right to know how companies are improving their efforts to do the right thing. Or not.
RUM, MORTGAGES AND MONITORS