Houston Firm is Now Wright Close & Barger With New Name Partner

Jessica Barger

Appellate and civil litigation law firm Wright & Close LLP has changed its name to Wright Close & Barger LLP, adding the name of partner Jessica Zavadil Barger along with the names of firm founders Tom Wright and Howard Close.

“We are very happy to recognize Jessica’s legal talents and business acumen through this name change,” said Wright. “She has been an outstanding leader for this firm and an outstanding fighter for her clients. Renaming the firm to include her is well-deserved.”

Barger has experience handling both trial and appellate cases, handling a variety of commercial disputes including insurance defense and coverage matters, product liability, premises liability and personal injury defense. She is Board Certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Read the article.



Appellate Court Tosses $2.9M Judgment in Breach of Contract Case

Houston civil trial lawyer John H. Kim, founder of The Kim Law Firm, and attorney Tim Rothberg persuaded a Texas appeals court to drop a $2.9 million judgment against energy clients High Cotton Holdings LLC and Ranger O&G Operating LLC last week, according to a post on the website of Androvett Legal Media and Marketing.

The Texas 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio found that the lawyer retained by the two energy companies prior to The Kim Law Firm filed an agreement in a breach of contract lawsuit without signing it, and failed to keep the companies apprised of court events. Due to those actions, both High Cotton and Ranger were not served with the complaint or made aware of the $2.9 million default judgment.

The 4th Court of Appeals reversed and rendered the judgments and remanded the case to state court for trial on the merits.

Read the article.



Regulatory Whirlwind 2018: What’s Ahead for Third-Party Risk Management?

NAVEX Global will present a complimentary webinar on recent and anticipated enforcement and regulatory changes as they relate to third-party risk.

The online event will be Thursday, Jan. 25, at 1 p.m. EST / 10 a.m. PST.

Michael Volkov, renowned FCPA and third-party due diligence expert, will help participants learn about new FCPA policies and DOJ advice, data privacy regulations coming in May and more.

Participants also will learn what’s ahead in the world of anti-bribery, corruption and third-party risk management efforts.

Anyone who can’t watch the live online event may register to receive a recording of the webinar afterwards.

Register for the webinar.



Biglaw Firm Hit With $300 Million Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Above the Law reports that Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart nonequity shareholder Dawn Knepper has hit her employer with a $300 million purported class-action suit alleging gender discrimination and unequal pay.

In her complaint, Knepper alleges: “Through formal policies and widespread practices, [Ogletree’s] male leadership interferes with, limits, or prevents female shareholders from receiving the appropriate credit for the business they bring to the firm and their hard work in running complex and demanding cases day-to-day.”

Kathryn Rubino writes that the complaint also alleges that on average, women shareholders make  to to $110,000 less than their male counterparts. And the complaint notes that while women represent about 58 percent of associates at Ogletree, a mere 32 percent of shareholders are women.

Read the Above the Law article.




Suit By 22 State Attorneys General Seeks to Block FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal

A group of 22 Democratic state attorneys general, including those from California and New York, filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of tough net neutrality rules for online traffic, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The AGs’ complaint argues that the vote last month by the Republican-controlled FCC was an “arbitrary and capricious” change to regulations, writes reporter Jim Puzzanghera.

“The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers, allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do and what we say online,” said New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman, who is leading the suit.

Read the LA Times article.



Workplace Lawyers Race Against the Trump Clock

Litigators are settling more cases as labor agencies and federal courts fill up with business-friendly appointees, reports Bloomberg.

“While employers across the U.S. paid a record amount in settlements for workplace violations last year, don’t expect this to mark the beginning of a trend. Think of it more as the storm before the calm, as labor lawyers rush to lock in payouts ahead of a shifting legal landscape,” writes Rebecca Greenfield.

She quotes Paul DeCamp a lawyer at Epstein Becker & Green who represents employers:

“I think that what we see is a race to settle. I’ve seen it in my practice. Cases that plaintiffs’ counsel felt very strongly about and seemed more bullish and willing to go to trial—since the election they were more eager to settle those cases.”

Read the Bloomberg article.





Download: How to Prepare Your Business for 2018 GDPR Requirements

Zapproved has published a report providing insights from a PREX17 summary on meeting the new GDPR rules by May 2018. The summary may be downloaded free of charge.

In May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will go into effect, requiring companies that do business in Europe to adjust their strategies for data management. The GDPR standardizes data protection law across the member countries, but it doesn’t specifically address preservation and discovery for U.S. legal proceedings.

The PREX17 session summary, “Data Privacy, the GDPR and Security All in One” explores the practical considerations for this transition with insight from Intel’s Dan Christensen, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte and Jeane Thomas, Partner at Crowell & Moring LLP.

It discusses strategies to address:

  • Article 30 requirements for detailed record keeping
  • U.S vs EU perspectives on cross-border discovery and personal privacy rights
  • ISO2l701 certification

Download the summary.



Corporations May Dodge Billions in U.S. Taxes Through New Loophole: Experts

Taxes - IRS - Internal Revenue ServiceReuters is reporting that a loophole in the new U.S. tax law could allow multinational corporations like Apple Inc to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes on profits stashed overseas, according to experts.

Reporter David Morgan explains that the loophole involves the tax rates — 15.5 percent or 8 percent — that companies must pay on $2.6 trillion in profits they are holding abroad.

Stephen Shay, a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School, said the loophole clearly is the result of rushed legislation. He explained that a U.S. multinational could manipulate its foreign cash positions and potentially save  money by shifting profits to the lower rate from the higher one.

Read the Reuters article.



Judge Fines Environmental Attorneys $52,000 for ‘Frivolous’ Injection Well Suit

fracking-drilling-oil-gas-wellA federal judge has ordered a pair of attorneys for an environmental group to pay $52,000 in legal fees to an energy company because, the judge said, they filed a “frivolous” legal challenge to a fracking waste injection well in Pennsylvania, according to a report by StateImpact, a reporting project of NPR member stations.

“U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter of the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled the attorneys, Thomas Linzey and Elizabeth Dunne, should pay part of Pennsylvania General Energy’s (PGE) legal fees for advancing a “discredited” legal argument that had already been defeated in prior decisions,” writes reporter Reid Frazier. “In addition to the fine, the judge referred Linzey to the state Supreme Court Disciplinary Board for additional discipline.”

In her opinion, Baxter wrote:

The continued pursuit of frivolous claims and defenses, despite Linzey’s first-hand knowledge of their insufficiency, and the refusal to retract each upon reasonable request, substantially and inappropriately prolonged this litigation, and required the Court and PGE to expend significant time and resources eliminating these baseless claims.

Read the StateImpact article.



Webinar: Contractors and the New Era of Cyber Compliance

Washington Technology will present a complimentary webinar on Jan. 25, 2018, to discuss new compliance requirements for securing government data contractor networks. The webinar will begin at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Speakers for the one-hour event will be Ron Ross of NIST; Maria Proestou, CEO of Delta Resources; and Susan Cassidy, partner, Covington & Burling.

Government and industry experts will:

  • Offer advice and guidance on what contractors should be doing to ensure compliance.
  • Provide insights on best practices in areas such as training, risk management and planning for in the future.
  • Help to prepare attendees for meeting this requirement and maintaining compliance for their government customers.

Register for the webinar.



Earning Trust in Contract Negotiations

Dennis Garcia, an assistant attorney general of Microsoft Corp., offers a collection of best practices that all lawyers can embrace to help earn trust during the contract lifecycle.

“In our rapidly changing and highly competitive legal and business environments, earning trust is more important than ever—especially during contract negotiations as that may be the first opportunity for parties to work with each other,” Garcia writes for Bloomberg Law.

He discusses several practices under the headings: actively learn about the other party, be empathetic, provide thoughtful rationales on contract issues, meet face-to-face, embrace smart risk-taking, don’t over-lawyer, little things mean a lot, small and empowered negotiating teams, always keep your cool, and post-contract signing.

Read the article.



Former American Airlines General Counsel Recalls Turbulent Years

A new book by the former general counsel of American Airlines tells the story of the company’s journey from the brink of insolvency following the loss of two of the airline’s jets in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks through the most successful corporate bankruptcy and restructuring in U.S. history.

The Dallas Business Journal, with The Texas Lawbook, has an advance copy of Gary Kennedy’s “Twelve Years of Turbulence: The Inside Story of American Airlines’ Battle for Survival,” scheduled for release in February.

According to writer Mark Curriden, the book reveals that American Airlines paid lawyers and financial advisers involved in the bankruptcy proceedings $300 million – or $500,000 a day. It also goes behind the scenes of the terrorist attacks of 2011.

Read the Dallas Business Journal article.



Timing of $24 Million Stock Sale by Intel CEO Draws Scrutiny

Brian Krzanich
Image by AP Photo/Intel Corporation,Bob Riha, Jr.

Two U.S. lawmakers are calling for an investigation into whether Intel’s chief executive, Brian Krzanich, improperly sold company stock after learning of a serious security flaw in the tech giants’ microchips before it was publicly disclosed, reports The Washington Post.

Intel’s stock price went down after the announcement of the flaw.

Reporter Renae Merle writes: “Intel learned of the security flaw in June and several months later, in late November, Krzanich exercised and sold nearly 900,000 company shares and stock options, making about $24 million, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The sales reduced Krzanich’s holdings in company stock by 50 percent to the minimum number of shares he’s required to own, according to Intel corporate policy.”

Read the Post article.



Uber Ex-GC Involved in Data-Hiding System to Foil Police Raids: Sources

Salle Yoo, who resigned as general counsel of ride-hailing giant Uber in September, reportedly came up with an idea to foil government raids on the company’s computers: set up a system to wipe the data when the cops come through the door.

Bloomberg, citing three people with knowledge of the system, reports that, between spring 2015 until late 2016, Uber used a system designed to thwart police raids in foreign countries.

When authorities showed up at Uber offices, employees could page a number that alerted specially trained staff at company headquarters in San Francisco.

Citing a raid in Montreal, the report says, “When the call came in, staffers quickly remotely logged off every computer in the Montreal office, making it practically impossible for the authorities to retrieve the company records they’d obtained a warrant to collect. The investigators left without any evidence.”

Read the Bloomberg article.



International HR – Offer Letters and Employment Contracts

When a U.S. company decides to hire an employee in another country, the question of whether to send the applicant an offer letter inevitably arises, writes Samina Weil in the Fisher Phillips Cross Border Employer Blog.

“Sending an offer letter prior to the final contract is normal practice in the US. But this is not the case in other jurisdictions, and for good reason,” she explains.

She describes how some U.S. employment practices differ from those in foreign jurisdictions and how to approach the problems those differences can cause.

“Do not be tempted to send an offer letter (or seek legal advice before doing so), but have a contract drawn up for the position for which you are hiring and personalize it to the individual you want to hire,” she warns.

Read the article.



Defend, Indemnify, Hold Harmless – What This Contract Language Means for A/E Professionals

J. Brandon Sieg of Vandeventer Black LLP addresses the question of what is meant when a contract requires an architect or engineer to “defend, indemnify, and hold harmless” the project owner for specific (or not so specific) types of claims that might arise in the future.

Regarding duty to defend, he explains that: “If you agree to similar language in your design contract, then you are agreeing to hire the project owner’s lawyer to defend a lawsuit filed against the project owner.”

He also covers responsibilities that go with indemnification and “hold harmless.”

Read the article.




Vendor Risk Management as Applied to Fintech Contracts

Regulatory compliance is an area of fundamental concern – not only for strategic investors – but also for financial institutions contracting for services from financial technology providers, warns Adam Chernichaw, a partner in the New York office of White & Case.

“Where a financial institution classifies a product or service being procured as an ‘outsourcing,’ its vendor risk management (VRM) function will carefully scrutinise the proposed relationship,” Chernichaw writes. “The VRM function will usually take the position that regulators will look at the service provider as an extension of the institution. Accordingly, the institution is required to impose contractual obligations on the provider so that the provider acts as the institution itself would act when it comes to compliance.”

In his article he emphasizes the importance of parties to align on the contractual VRM requirements that will be sought by the financial institution, and whether the fintech provider can meet those obligations.

Read the article.




Legal Blogging for Business Development

Legal blogs are a relatively low-cost way for lawyers to promote their expertise and demonstrate their knowledge to clients, prospective clients and referral sources, points out Amy Boardman Hunt of Muse Communications.

“Blogging is also an excellent way for solos and small firm lawyers with niche practices to spur business development and raise their profile in a competitive marketplace,” she writes on her firm’s blog.

She warns against posting content that amounts to thinly veiled self-promotion: “Not only will smart readers see through this ruse, most readers will quickly exit such a page. That kind of ‘bouncing’ isn’t good for your search engine optimization.”

In her post, she walks the reader through the nitty-gritty of writing compelling content that ranks high in online search results.

Read the article.




Scandals Prompt New Approaches to Sexual Harassment Training

High-profile sexual harassment scandals involving the entertainment, politics and media fields are spurring businesses everywhere to take a closer look at their policies and training programs, according to a post on the website of Androvett Legal Media & Marketing.

In many cases, employers are finding that generic policies with cut-and-paste legal text and one-size-fits-all instructional videos are simply not doing enough to connect with employees and address key issues.

With careers at stake – not to mention the reputations of entire companies – employers are re-examining workplace culture, training, complaint procedures and everything in between, says employment attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas’ Munck Wilson Mandala. For example, businesses are finding that live training provides a more interactive experience that resonates with workers. “Previously, many employers thought showing an off-the-shelf training video would be sufficient, but the interactivity of live training does a better job of ensuring that key concepts are fully understood.”

In addition, training is moving beyond a focus purely on harassment to address problems including rudeness, poor judgment and disrespect toward co-workers. States are moving in a similar direction with a recent amendment to California law requiring harassment training to include bullying.

“I am a big fan of moving beyond a recitation of the applicable law to delving into actual examples to help workers begin to understand where the line is between acceptable and unacceptable behavior,” says Mross, who frequently makes presentations to businesses on workplace policies and employment law. “I’ve found that this is what triggers an ‘aha’ moment for many, and often individuals will speak up and share their own experiences with their peers in the training session. When attendees are hearing the message from both the trainer and their fellow workers, it really starts to resonate.”



Download: ‘Comprehensive E-Discovery Workflow Guide’

Exterro has published its “Comprehensive E-Discovery Workflow Guide,” which can be downloaded at no charge.

This resource compiles four checklists documenting best practices for each stage of the e-discovery process.

The guide includes:

  • 4 e-discovery checklists covering (1) Preservation and Legal Holds through (2) Preparation for Discovery, (3)Search and Collection, and (4) Review and Production
  • 32 workflow steps to ensure your e-discovery process is efficient and defensible
  • How to communicate across teams inside and out of your organization

Download the guide.