By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Members at the booth weren't much better. Shortly after Richey said he joined YCT because of its activism, because it knew the issues it protested, Albert Martinez approached the booth. Martinez is a senior in social science. It took six years for his family to enter the United States legally. After minutes explaining his family's plight to Richey, how difficult it can be to get papers processed and how much more money can be made for one's family if only one sneaks across the border, Richey had had enough.
"If I was in that position," Richey conceded to Martinez, "I'd probably break the law, too." --Paul Kix
There's a lawsuit out right now that claims 44 mutual fund managers could have claimed $2 billion for their investors but chose not to. The law firm that filed the nationwide suit, Baron & Budd, is Dallas-based, and its spokesman, Randall Pulliam, says a win could drastically change the mutual fund industry's accountability.
Here's what the suit alleges: In the 1990s, securities class-action lawsuits against publicly traded companies were filed one after another. (The current suit counts 1,517 federal class-actions brought between 1996 and 2003.) Many of these suits were resolved through settlements, big settlements, intended for investors. Since mutual funds are themselves stockholders in publicly traded companies, they became de facto plaintiffs in the suits, and later, after the settlements, the only entity that could claim the money on behalf of regular investors. But mutual fund managers--including Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo and Janus--failed to file claims, leaving, over the course of many years, some $2 billion on the table, Pulliam says.
Why? One argument, says James Cox, a law professor at Duke University, is that the money manager one institution has in 1999 is often not the same it has in 2005. And the new one may not have the records the old one had when it's time to file claims on behalf of investors.
Jill Fisch, a law professor who specializes in financial law at Fordham University in New York, says it also might cost mutual funds more money to file the claim than their share is worth. "I think the lawsuit, to a certain extent, is advantageous," Fisch says.
"No, I don't believe that to be true," Pulliam says. For one, "A mutual fund doesn't know how much money a claim is worth until it goes through the process [of filing]." --Paul Kix
East Lawther Drive, the stretch of pavement popular with joggers and bikers that meanders along the eastern shore of White Rock Lake, is a refuge from the traffic and noise of the city--but not from the iron grip of the law. Just ask Mike Harris.
Harris, a founder of the Dallas Flyers, a 25-member in-line skating club, was on a training run in the park in December when he was confronted by one of Dallas' finest. "She pulled her car in front of me at an angle like I was some pervert culprit," Harris recalls. He was violating Dallas' Ordinance 14584, which brands as a culprit (though not a pervert) any person who, "while on roller skates, or riding in or by means of any coaster, toy vehicle, or similar device...goes upon any roadway." The Flyers are well-acquainted with the ordinance: Over more than a decade of practicing at White Rock, officers have often admonished them to stick to the narrow paved jogging path that roughly parallels Lawther.
Trouble is, if they did, they'd kill themselves. Stretches of the trail are buckled and pitted to the point that hiking boots seem more appropriate than skates. "I tell you, somebody's going to get seriously hurt," Harris says. The Flyers use the trail where they can, but for a third of the 6-mile route that they cruise at upward of 20 mph, they use Lawther's smoother surface for sheer self-preservation.
Harris' plea, usually effective with sympathetic cops, fell on deaf ears this time, and in court a few weeks later he forked over $130. The incident prompted the Flyers to ask the White Rock task force last month to look into getting East Lawther excepted from the ordinance. The city's response? No way--the liability if someone were hurt would be too great. The irony of forcing the Flyers to use the more hazardous trail surface is not lost on Harris. "If you let people skate on that trail, you're begging for a lawsuit," he says.
The district park maintenance chief, June Howard, concedes that the trail is in rough shape and says plans are afoot to fix it--sometime in the next decade. "And at that point we'll have to start over where we began," Howard says. --Rick Kennedy