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Terra Firma v Citigroup: Michael Moore fans not allowed

By | Published on Wednesday 3 November 2010

So, the main development in the Terra Firma v Citigroup trial yesterday was that the latter decided, three weeks in, that it didn’t like one of the jurors. The bank found her furious note taking disturbing, because the last thing you want in court is a juror paying attention. 

Actually, it was Donna Gianell’s involvement in a Michael Moore film that got the bankers worried. One of Citi’s lawyers discovered this week (via a Google search no less) that Gianell, a dance teacher and circus performer by trade, is thanked at the end of ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’, Moore’s 2009 film on the economic meltdown of 2008. That, Citigroup declared, made her a bad juror for a case that revolves around banking and investment. 

Citigroup’s legal man Ted Wells told the court yesterday the juror’s link to Moore was “scary in the context of this case”, adding: “Out of nine people, the one associated with the Michael Moore movie is the one taking notes like a person possessed. That’s what concerns my client”. 

Quite why disliking the unscrupulous money-grabbing cunts that run the City would make Gianell any more biased towards Terra Firma than Citigroup I’m not sure. Not that I’m saying Terra Firma is run by unscrupulous money-grabbing cunts. They’re all lovely people, I’m sure. I heard one once saved a bunny rabbit from a burning house. Well, I made that up, but I’m sure it’s the sort of thing they would do. But my point is: if you hate everything the financial services industry stands for, then surely you’ll hate both parties in this case equally, and therefore not be a biased juror. 

That said, Citigroup did come in for some specific criticism in Moore’s film and, either way, Judge Jed Rakoff said yesterday that Gianell’s links to the Moore film were enough to cause some doubt in the minds of the general public regarding the fairness of the ruling in this case, and that was enough of a reason to remove her from the jury. Rakoff also noted that Gianell had been heard discussing the case with fellow jurors during a lunch break, something you’re not meant to do until deliberations begin. 

So, anyway, Gianell is gone. And now the legal reps from both sides can present their closing arguments before said jury deliberations begin. As much previously reported, Terra Firma accuses Citigroup of tricking it into bidding too high and too soon to buy EMI in 2007. Since acquiring the music major the equity firm has seen its investment turn bad, and wants Citigroup – which provided a multi-billion loan to enable the 2007 takeover, as well as advising on the deal – to shoulder some of the blame and carry some of the losses.