With Its 2018 Tax Cut, Wells Fargo Could Pay Its $1 Billion Fine 3 Times and Still Have Cash to Spare

The $1 billion fine levied by federal regulators against Wells Fargo is unlikely to hobble or even slow down the bank, thanks to the massive corporate tax cut passed by Congress last year, reports The Washington Post.

Reporter Renae Merle explains: “Just in the first quarter, Wells Fargo’s effective tax rate fell from about 28 percent to 18 percent, saving it more than $600 million. For the entire year, the tax cut is expected to boost the company’s profits by $3.7 billion, according to the Goldman Sachs report.”

“Despite its regulatory headaches, Wells Fargo remains massively profitable. The bank reported Friday that although the fine drove down its first-quarter profits by $800 million, it still netted $4.7 billion,” Merle writes.

Read the Post article.




Term Royalty Interests Survive the Rule Against Perpetuities in Texas

The Supreme Court of Texas recently examined the intersection of the rule against perpetuities and the oil patch in ConocoPhillips Co. v. Koopmann, No. 16-0662, writes Thomas G. Ciarlone Jr. in Kane Russell Coleman Logan’s Energy Law Today blog.

The rule provides “that no interest within its scope is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than twenty-one years after some life in being at the creation of the interest.”

Ciarlone discusses the Koopman case and explains that it represents a positive result for the industry, one which will promote certainty in deed construction and therefore encourage robust exploration and development activities.

Read the article.



What to Do When You’re in the Sexual Harassment Hot Seat

Meritas will present a webinar titled “When #MeToo Means #YouToo: What to do when you’re in the sexual harassment hot seat.”

The event will be Wednesday, May 2, 2018, at 1 p.m. CDT.

“The #MeToo movement has many employers uncertain about the best ways to protect themselves from sexual harassment complaints and the right way to respond after a complaint has been made,” the firm says on its website. “This seminar will explore how our definitions of sexual harassment have evolved in the age of #MeToo and the misconceptions that have formed around this issue.”

“Participants will come away with actionable advice they can put to use to avoid the damage that such claims can create, not just in terms of liability but also in workplace culture, employee attraction and retention.”

Register for the webinar.




Could Be Forced to Pay Billions Over Alleged Violations of Illinois Biometrics Law

A federal judge’s ruling means Facebook could face billions of dollars in damages if the court finds the company violated Illinois residents’ privacy rights with its facial tagging feature, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Reporter Ally Marotti explains that the potential penalty stems from a federal lawsuit filed in Illinois in 2015 that alleges the social media giant violated a state law protecting residents’ biometric information, such as data from facial, fingerprint and iris scans. Illinois has one of the strictest biometric privacy laws in the nation.

Facebook has argued that if its collection of biometric information did not harm individuals, they do not have grounds to sue under Illinois’ biometrics law. But the judge in the case determined that an alleged invasion of privacy was injury enough to allow users to sue.

Read the Tribune article.



Judge Says No to Law Firm on NFL Concussion Settlement

The Associated Press reports that a federal judge has denied a law firm’s request to be added as an administrator of the NFL’s estimated $1 billion concussion settlement.

“U.S. District Judge Anita Brody rejected an attempt from the Locks Law Firm to join the process that compensates former players for head injuries they sustained during their careers. The firm had claimed that the process was going too slowly,” according to the AP report.

Nearly 400 claims that could pay out more than $416 million have already been approved.

Read the AP report.



Trump Alleged Scandals Turn a Harsh Spotlight on This Beverly Hills Lawyer

The growing scandal involving women who were paid during the 2016 presidential race to keep them quiet about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump has turned a harsh spotlight on Beverly Hills lawyer Keith M. Davidson.

The Los Angeles Times reports that two of those women once represented by Davidson have wound up firing Davidson and hiring new lawyers to get their nondisclosure deals voided.

Reporter Michael Finnegan writes: “Affable and streetwise, he operates on the fringe of entertainment law. His niche is extracting money from celebrities for clients threatening to release sex tapes or share embarrassing stories with the media.”

Now Davidson faces lawsuits alleging extortion.

Read the LA Times article.




Dallas Lawyer Who Planted Niece in Government Job As a ‘Mole’ Gets 10-Year Max for Medical Fraud

Dallas lawyer Tshombe Anderson had his niece obtain an internship at the U.S. Labor Department so she could snoop through claims files, learn the system and act as a “mole,” prosecutors say.

The Dallas Morning News reports that on Thursday a U.S. district judge sentenced Anderson to the maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and ordered him to pay more than $26 million in restitution minus what the government has already collected from him.

“Anderson stole patient information from over 200 injured federal workers and then used the information to fraudulently bill OWCP [workers’ comp], enriching himself and others with taxpayer dollars intended for the treatment of injured federal workers,” said Steven Grell, Special Agent in-Charge for the Dallas Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General.

Read the Dallas News article.



Is It Time for Form NDA Spring Cleaning?

It is important to periodically review form agreements to ensure that the provisions that were favorable or represented your company’s position in the past continue to accurately protect your company’s interests, and that includes a company’s nondisclosure agreements, according to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

Michael L. Pillion and Jessica M. Pelliciotta are authors of the article.

They discuss in some detail the subjects of parties, terms, the definition of “confidential information,” disclosure of information, standard of care, the obligation to report misuse, and the return of confidential information.

Read the article.



Is Your Agreement Non-Exclusive in Name Only?

Recent case law and enforcement actions have made clear, contractual language addressing the issue of exclusivity, while obviously relevant, is not always determinative, write E. John Steren and Patricia Wagner for Epstein Becker & Green’s Antitrust Byte blog.

The authors explain: “Instead, and regardless of the contractual language between the parties, the courts and enforcement agencies look at whether the parties operate, in practice, as if the relationship is exclusive or not. Regarding network participation, the enforcement agencies will look at whether competing networks exist and whether network members actually participate in those competing arrangements. For payor contracts, the enforcement agencies will look at whether payors actually contract with competing providers—and if not, why not.

Read the article.



DOJ Stomping Out ‘No Hire’ Agreements Among Competitors

A recent article published by Goodwin Procter describes a Department of Justice challenge to an agreement between two of the largest rail equipment suppliers in the world that prohibited them from competing to hire each other’s employees, often referred to as “no poach” or “no hire” agreements.

“The negotiated settlement requires the Defendants to cease participation in these agreements and imposes a slew of onerous compliance obligations to assure no conduct of this sort occurs in the future,” according to the article. “This is a notable harbinger of the DOJ’s future enforcement intentions. Companies with any such agreements with competitors – be they written or informal – should consult with counsel immediately to assess their potential exposure. Agreements that are reasonably necessary to achieve a legitimate business transaction or collaboration between or among companies remain lawful.”

Read the article.



Dual Language China Contracts: Don’t Get Fooled

Dan Harris of Harris Bricken’s China Law Blog writes that when foreign companies sign dual language contracts without knowing exactly what the Chinese language portion of their contract says, they are engaging in risky business.

He explains: “Many dual language Chinese-English contracts are silent on which language controls. For some unknown reason, foreign companies far too often just assume that the English language portion controls or they just assume that it does not matter because the meaning of both the English and the Chinese portions is exactly the same. Wrong, wrong, wrong.”

He writes that Chinese companies love using a contract with an English portion that is more favorable to the foreign company than the Chinese portion and then relying on the English speaking company to assume that the English language portion will control.

Read the article.



Rose Walker Adds Transactional, Corporate Attorney Holly Clarke

Business trial law firm Rose Walker has added transactional and corporate attorney Holly Clarke to the firm.

“Holly has a rare combination of high-level contracting, international transactions and in-house counsel experience,” says Rose Walker founding partner Marty Rose. “Her background and experience certainly fit the direction we would like to take in the development and growth of our firm, and I look forward to our future with her in our Dallas office.”

Clarke has experience in structuring international government contracts. She has served as in-house counsel at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., L-3 Communications Aerospace Systems and Caterpillar Inc., handling legal issues related to contract procurement, negotiation, performance, close-out, and disputes. At the state and federal levels, she has represented clients with contracts involving the U.S. Department of Defense, including the Army, Air Force and Navy, as well as NASA, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the General Services Administration (GSA).

The firm said Clarke has served as lead negotiator and lead counsel on numerous international transactions, with representative transactions, including a $120-plus million direct-commercial sale contract with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence to develop certifiable unmanned aircraft systems for the UK, several VVIP aircraft interior contracts valued in excess of $500 million with multiple international customers, the direct commercial sale of services to the Republic of South Korea, the FMS sale of transport aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force, and an avionics upgrade contract with the New Zealand Air Force.

“I am excited about the opportunities someone with my background has at a firm that is as established and respected as Rose Walker is in the Dallas legal community,” says Ms. Clarke. “I look forward to being a part of the Dallas office for many years to come.”

Clarke joined the firm April 9.




The Biglaw Firms Potentially Caught in the Cohen Raid

Above the Law reports that the names of some of the biggest law firms in the country have come to light after the Department of Justice seized records from the home and office of Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

“The first Biglaw firm caught up in the mess is Squire Patton Boggs. Last year the firm announced a strategic alliance with Cohen, but as the heat’s been turned up, they’ve sought to distance themselves,” writes editor Kathryn Rubino.

Other firms’ materials could have been caught in the raid, including Morgan Lewis, Gerstman Schwartz Malito, and Cole Schotz, the article states.

Read the Above the Law article.



Lawyer Convicted of Abetting Tax Evasion By Wall Street Executive’s Adult Children

The lawyer who taught New York’s first family of tax evasion the tricks of the trade might be spending his golden years in prison, according to Crain’s New York Business.

A Manhattan jury found Michael Little, 67, guilty of helping the adult children of a Wall Street executive tap into their Swiss bank accounts, which held millions in inheritance money, without alerting the IRS.

Reporter Aaron Elstein writes that the case appears to mark the end of an extensive government crackdown on wealthy families and their advisers who avoided paying taxes by parking money offshore. Federal authorities have charged more than 60 account holders with tax evasion and 30 bankers or lawyers with enabling them during the past eight years.

Little’s troubles began in 2001 when the children of Harry Seggerman, who’d made his fortune at Fidelity investing in Japanese and later Korean companies wanted to access their late father’s $24 million estate, about half of which was tucked away in a Zurich vault.

“Little advised the Seggermans that they could get their inheritance dollars back into the United States without alerting authorities by taking ‘little chunks’ using travelers checks or disguising transfers by saying they were related to sales of art or jewelry,” writes Elstein.

Read the Crain’s article.



Sandy Hook Parents Accuse Alex Jones, InfoWars of Defamation, Seek Damages

The parents of children who died in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., have accused conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and InfoWars of defamation and seek damages in excess of $1 million, reports the Austin Statesman.

Plaintiffs in two lawsuits filed in Austin, Texas, allege that Jones and his media organization spread false information related to the tragedy, according to reporter Mark D. Wilson.

The Los Angeles Times reports: “The lawsuits allege that Jones defamed the parents by constantly calling them ‘crisis actors’ and insisting the shooting was a ‘false flag’ operation; they also claim Jones’ accusations have led to death threats against the Sandy Hook families by Jones’ followers.”

Read the Statesman article.



Carrington Coleman Partner Named to Governing Board of National Construction Law Group

Construction attorney Cathy Altman, a partner in the Dallas office of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, LLP, has been elected to the Governing Committee of the ABA Forum on Construction Law.

She is one of four new members elected to the 12-member Governing Committee during the Forum on Construction Law’s annual meeting April 11-13 in New Orleans. Each member serves a three-year term, representing the group’s estimated 6,000 members and associates.

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected for a leadership role in an organization that is committed to building the best construction lawyers in the country,” said Ms. Altman, chair of Carrington Coleman’s construction group. “I look forward to working with this dedicated group of lawyers in supporting professionalism and knowledge in construction law.”

Focused on education and professional development, the Forum on Construction law is the largest organization of construction lawyers in the world. Its members represent all segments of the construction industry, including owners, developers, design professionals, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, construction managers, lenders, insurers and sureties.

“Cathy is a proven leader within our firm and the business community,” said Carrington Coleman Managing Partner Bruce Collins. “It is not surprising to any of us who have worked with her that she has been selected by her peers to serve on the Governing Committee.”

Before joining the governing board, Ms. Altman served as chair of the Forum’s Construction Owners & Project Finance division and as chair of the Forum’s Trial Academy. In addition, she serves on the Construction Industry specialty panel of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) National Roster of Arbitrators and Mediators. She also is the 2018 Chair of the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of the North Texas Commission.




Ward, Smith & Hill Helps Secure $502.6M Patent Infringement Win Against Apple

A jury has awarded internet security software company VirnetX $502.6 million, finding Apple Inc. willfully infringed on four patents used for VPN on Demand and Facetime in Apple products.

The finding that Apple willfully infringed on four VirnetX communications patents could lead to higher damages. The liability and damages verdict was returned on April 10 at the end of a seven-day trial, and the willful infringement finding was returned the following day. It is the third jury verdict in the past two years that lawyers with East Texas-based firm Ward, Smith & Hill, PLLC, have secured for VirnetX in its long-running legal battle with Apple.

Judge Robert W. Schroeder III heard the case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division. The dispute involved U.S. Patent Nos. 6,502,135; 7,490,151; 7,418,504; and 7,921,211.

VirnetX was represented at trial by Ward, Smith & Hill name partner Johnny Ward and Caldwell Cassady & Curry attorneys Brad Caldwell, Jason Cassady, Austin Curry and Chris Stewart.

In September 2016, Ward played a key role in securing a $302 million patent infringement verdict for VirnetX. Seven months prior to that verdict, Ward and attorney Claire Abernathy Henry assisted with a $625.6 million patent verdict win against Apple, the firm said in a release.

The case is VirnetX Inc. et al v. Apple Inc., case 6:12-cv-00855, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.



Best Practices: Uncover the Full Potential of CLM Implementation

Conga and Forrester have published a new report titled “Best Practices: Uncover the Full Potential of Your CLM Implementation.” The report on contract lifecycle management can be downloaded from Conga’s website at no charge.

In promoting the report, Conga makes three points:

  1. Customers are leaving money on the table by not fully implementing CLM. Fewer than one in five of all CLM customers interviewed captures all the strategic values a CLM implementation can bring.
  2.  Engage early with stakeholders and manage their expectations. It’s critical to start working with general counsel and other key stakeholders early when developing a business case. Having a holistic plan that ties benefits to stage and to stakeholder will keep the implementation on track.
  3. Have a solid and funded business case that drives the later stages of implementation. More than 70 percent of CLM customers interviewed stopped at stage 2 of the implementation. Having funds, resources, and support enables the latter stages of CLM optimization.

Download the report.

‘Tax Case of the Millennium’ Hits High Court: A Primer

Oral arguments in the biggest U.S. Supreme Court tax case in years are just days away, reports Bloomberg Law.

Oral arguments in South Dakota v. Wayfair are scheduled for Tuesday, April 17.

Reporter Ryan Prete writes that the case directly challenges the 1992 decision in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, prohibiting states from imposing sales tax collection obligations on vendors lacking an in-state physical presence.

“The case has set off perhaps the largest amount of state and local tax-related activity in the past decade as states have tried to ‘kill Quill’ as online commerce has replaced traditional brick-and-mortar markets,” according to Prete.

He quotes Max Behlke, director of budget and tax at the National Conference of State Legislatures, as saying the South Dakota case is the “tax case of the millennium.”

Read the Bloomberg article.



Sexual Misconduct and D&O Claims

Kevin LaCroix, writing in The D&O Diary, discusses a recent scholarly article that takes a detailed look at director and officer claims arising out of allegations of sexual misconduct.

The University of Chicago Law School article examines the potential bases of liability, and considers the relative social utility of this kind of litigation, as well as the practical implications for corporate boards and their organizations.

LaCroix writes: “The authors conclude that ‘in some instances, corporate fiduciaries will indeed be liable to shareholders when workplace-sexual misconduct occurs at companies.’ In light of this conclusion, it would be prudent for companies and their executives to take steps to reduce their potential exposure to these kinds of suits.”

Read the article.