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Grapevine: Port Authority suit could grow

Jersey City's looming $400 million lawsuit against the Port Authority has the potential to get much larger, one insider said. Newark, Hoboken, Weehawken and Elizabeth may all get involved.

"It's very probable," the insider said. "It's just a matter of how. They might file their own suit or jump aboard one after another.

"They all are kind of watching to see how it goes and if there's a positive reaction, look for them to get involved."

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said last week that he planned to sue the bistate agency for $400 million, citing "economic damages caused by the Port Authority's unfair and outdated tax agreements with the city." He claimed the agreements for scores of Port Authority properties have cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue over several decades, and that agency officials have been "completely unresponsive" to his outreach efforts since he took office in July.

All told, city alleges the Port Authority pays $2.2 million annually for properties whose current assessments should generate more than $18 million in taxes.

Port Authority Chairman David Samson strongly disagrees, telling NJBIZ last week:

"We usually do not comment on threatened or pending litigation, but I can tell you the Port Authority is in compliance with its legal and contractual obligations."

More EO13 changes coming

The business community is going to have to be patient for some modifications it's requesting to the Economic Opportunity Act, the long-awaited incentives overhaul which Gov. Chris Christie signed into law in September.

According to one source close to the bill, a handful of business groups have identified a series of technical clarifications to the law they'd like to see resolved and were initially under the impression those changes would be included in the latest round of follow-up legislation coined the Economic Opportunity Act II of 2013, which cleared the Senate Economic Growth Committee last week.

That wasn't the case, as the bill was introduced Thursday without out any mention of technical clarifications and solely focused on promoting a series of additional business incentives.

However, the source said that an amendment featuring the clarifications is expected to soon be taken up by the Senate Budget Committee, which will also now receive the incentives bill.

The requested modifications are mostly "technical in nature," and are designed to fill in any gaps left by the law's joining of several former incentive programs together, the source said.

The goal for the amendment will still be to have it heard and agreed upon by the end of the lame-duck legislative session.

"Time is of the essence," the source said.

J&J fines may have lasting impact

Coming off potentially two multi-billion dollar legal settlements within weeks, an academic source who studies the pharmaceutical industry said Johnson & Johnson's image could take a hit along with its pocketbook.

"With two settlements in such quick succession, it's more likely that this will penetrate public consciousness," the source said. "This is not an all-or-nothing determination, but two in a row would likely have more of an effect than just one."

J& J on Nov. 4 agreed to a $2.2 billion settlement of civil and criminal charges with the Department of Justice, which accused the company of marketing schizophrenia drug Risperdal and other drugs for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, allegations that the company denied.

That settlement was followed by a Bloomberg report Nov. 13 that the company had agreed to pay $4 billion to settle lawsuits regarding recalled hip implants sold by its DePuy unit.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

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