News

Committees Move Campaign Finance Bill, Asset Forfeiture, Probate Clean Up

Tennessee House and Senate committees both moved forward with legislation that would double the number of campaign finance audits, the Tennessean reports. Also at the legislature, the asset forfeiture bill, as amended in the House, was recommended for adoption in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The TBA-backed probate clean up legislation, sponsored by Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntington), cleared a Senate committee with minor changes.
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TBA Members Pleased with Business Court Pilot Project

TBA members say they are pleased with the Business Court pilot project, which is just completing its first phase. “We have heard nothing but positive feedback from our members who have used the program,” said TBA President Jason Long. “We look forward to the implementation of Phase II.” Since its inception, nearly 90 business cases have been transferred to the docket. Here’s a look at what will take place in Phase 2.
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Business Court Pilot Project Moves to Phase 2

The Tennessee Supreme Court is launching Phase 2 of the Tennessee Business Court Docket Pilot Project, following the success of the initial phase of the program, which began in 2015. Since its inception, nearly 90 business cases have been transferred to the docket. “In addition to assisting businesses by providing a specialized docket to address complex business disputes, it also helps cases involving citizens of our states by speeding up other dockets,” Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins says of the program. Tennessee is one of 29 states with a specialized court for complex business issues.
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Energy Investment Business Fined $170K for Fraud

A former Nashville-based energy investment business was fined $170,000 for selling securities that were not registered; selling securities without being registered as a broker-dealer or an investment adviser; and engaging in a scheme to defraud investors, the Nashville Post reports. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Securities Division announced the punishment for Royal Energy of Tennessee and its operator, John G. Westine, today. Westine currently resides in a federal penitentiary due to federal criminal prosecution in Kentucky.
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Uniform Limited Partnership Bill Passes Committee

The Tennessee Uniform Limited Partnership Act of 2017, drafted by a joint committee of the Tennessee Bar Association’s business and tax law sections, passed its first committee today with unanimous support in the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee. This legislation coordinates the limited partnership statute with those governing corporations and limited liability companies, updates the law for limited partnerships to operate in the modern business environment while allowing current limited partnerships to operate under existing law. This bill is the first of the TBA’s legislative package to be on a legislative calendar and is sponsored by Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, in the House and Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Brentwood, in the Senate. You can learn more and show your support via TBAImpact.

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Resolution to Retaliate Against California Clears Senate Panel

A resolution to condemn California’s ban on state-funded travel to Tennessee has passed a state Senate panel, the Times Free Press reports. The resolution requests Gov. Bill Haslam and the legislature to retaliate in kind. California instituted the state-funded travel ban against states with laws that were deemed discriminatory towards LGBT persons. The Tennessee resolution, sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, received criticism from fellow Republicans for what it could mean for economic development with the Golden State, which boasts the world's seventh largest economy.
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Next Week: Corporate Counsel Forum

Join your colleagues March 3 for the 2017 Corporate Counsel Forum, with topics ranging from technology's influence on the modern law practice to recent developments in employment law. Speakers will address cyber security and privacy, as well as productivity tools for the present-day corporate counsel. Another session covers the EEOC's new rules on what incentives employers may provide to employees who provide medical information as part of a wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
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Filing Deadline Changed for Certain State Tax Returns

The due date for certain Tennessee franchise and excise tax returns, business tax returns and Hall income tax returns will be April 18, instead of April 15, to be consistent with the Internal Revenue Service federal income tax filing deadline, the state Department of Revenue says. For more information, please see the department's website.

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Pilot Flying J Informant Claims Company Cheated Feds

The Pilot Flying J diesel rebate fraud scheme cheated not just trucking companies across the U.S. but also the federal government, according to a former Morgan Stanley broker who claims he helped the FBI in the original case. Knownews reports that John Verble, who is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a request for federal whistleblower protection, alleges that Pilot Flying J swindled the U.S. Postal Service out of large sums in promised fuel rebates. Pilot’s attorney said the accusation is not true.
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
 
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
 
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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State Faces Legal Challenge Over Online Sales Tax

Tennessee is facing a legal challenge to the state requirement that online vendors collect state and local sales tax, according to comments from Gov. Bill Haslam reported by the Times Free Press. Haslam said that the legal challenge was a welcome opportunity to bring the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court. Details surrounding the proceeds are secret, with a Haslam official citing state confidentiality laws regarding taxpayer information.

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Settlement Requires Western Union to Develop Anti-Fraud Program

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced today a multistate settlement with the Western Union Company, following an investigation which focused on complaints from consumers who used Western Union’s services to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers. The settlement requires Western Union to develop and put into action an anti-fraud program. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement. Read more here.
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Firm Names New Memphis Managing Partner

Bass Berry and Sims announced that John Golwen, who has been with the firm since 2004, has been appointed managing partner at the firm's Memphis office, according to the Nashville Post. Golwen has had a more than 25 year legal career, during which he worked on business litigation and related disputes. He also chairs the firm’s business disputes practices group.
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ABA Section of Antitrust Law Releases Presidential Transition Report

The American Bar Association Section of Antitrust Law released its Presidential Transition Report today, outlining current state and federal antitrust and consumer protection law and policy, as well as recommendations for ways the Trump administration might consider strengthening policy and enforcement. The report includes calls for more transparency and consistency in investigations, concern about the competitive effects of emerging financial regulations, criticism of civil-penalty assessments and support for the importance of international engagement. 
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Price Fixing Milk Suit Means Cash for Tennesseans

If you bought milk in Tennessee or one of 15 other states in the past 13 years, you might be eligible for part of a settlement from a class-action suit alleging dairy co-ops conspired to reduce the size of their herds to raise the price of milk. A $52 million pool will be divided among lawyers and consumers who sign up at www.boughtmilk.com. The deadline to register is Jan. 31, WJHL reports.

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Takata Workers Indicted Over Air Bag Defects

A federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted three former employees of Takata Corp., charging them with concealing deadly defects in the Japanese company’s automotive air bag inflators, the Associated Press reports. The indictments on six counts of conspiracy and wire fraud were unsealed Friday, just hours ahead of a Justice Department news conference to announce a corporate penalty against the company. The FBI has been investigating allegations that the company deceived federal regulators and tried to cover up the air bag problems.

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VW Reaches $4.3 Billion Deal to Settle Civil, Criminal Charges

Volkswagen has agreed to a $4.3 billion settlement to resolve civil and criminal investigations into the German automaker's diesel emissions cheating, Reuters reports this afternoon. U.S. prosecutors also charged six Volkswagen executives and employees for their roles in the nearly 10-year conspiracy to mislead regulators and customers about diesel emissions from VW cars. Volkswagen had previously agreed to spend up to $17.5 billion in the United States to resolve claims by U.S. regulators, owners and dealers and offered to buy back nearly 500,000 polluting vehicles.

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International Law CLE Set for Jan. 19

TBA’s International Law Section is hosting its annual CLE on Jan. 19. This year’s program will address new changes in international law and the evolving landscape of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Lawyers can attend in person or tune in via live webcast.

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Report: Hagerty to be Named Ambassador to Japan

Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty is reportedly President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to be ambassador to Japan, according to multiple sources. As commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Hagerty helped bridge multiple business deals with Japanese companies, including Bridgestone Americas. He also spent three years in Tokyo while working with the Boston Consulting Group. He currently works in private equity and has been helping the Trump transition team with presidential appointments. His own appointment is expected to be announced today, the Tennessean reports.

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Trump Picks 'Big Law' Lawyers for Key Posts

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Robert Lighthizer, a partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, as his nominee for U.S. trade representative. Lighthizer served as deputy U.S. trade representative in the Reagan administration and has been critical of China’s trade practices. At Skadden, he has represented companies seeking access to foreign markets and litigated antidumping and other trade cases. The ABA Journal has links to several stories on the nomination. Trump also has nominated Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, News Channel 9 reports. Clayton is a partner in the New York City office of Sullivan & Cromwell.

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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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Banking, Estate Planning ... and a Business Relationship with Santa

There's still time to catch the December Tennessee Bar Journal -- in this issue, columns include banking law, estate planning and one man’s long-term business relationship with Santa. Nashville lawyer Kathryn Reed Edge writes in her column Bank On It, about preventing insider fraud and abuse; Knoxville lawyer Eddy Smith's column, Where There's a Will, is "Report for Duty: Protecting Against Fiduciary Liability"; and in his column, Memphis lawyer Bill Haltom reveals the secrets of Santa's changing role over the years.

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Deal to Repeal N.C. 'Bathroom Bill' Hits Snag

A deal to kill North Carolina's HB2, dubbed the “bathroom bill,” was still in flux today as Republican leaders stalled action on a compromise bill, the Charlotte Observer reports. Outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory had called legislators back to the Capitol to repeal the law, which excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from antidiscrimination protections and requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. As part of the deal to get the bill passed, the city of Charlotte had earlier repealed its transgender bathroom ordinance, which had led the state legislature to pass HB2 in the first place. Following that action, some legislators changed course, offering amendments that would essentially make it impossible for cities to pass nondiscrimination laws.

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Judge Revives Nashville’s Airbnb Law

Davidson County Circuit Judge Kelvin Jones had a change of heart last week, the Tennessean reports. Jones previously had ruled that Metro Nashville’s law regulating short-term rental properties like Airbnbs was too vague to be understood by citizens and thus unconstitutional. Metro continued enforcing the law anyway, while asking Jones to stay his decision so better regulations could be written. Last week, Jones agreed with Metro attorneys that his ruling needed to be amended to only apply to Rachel and P.J. Anderson, the couple that filed suit against the rules. That means the city can enforce the law for everyone except the Andersons.

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Internet Sales Tax Survives 1st Legislative Test

Gov. Bill Haslam's proposed rule requiring out-of-state Internet retailers to collect sales tax from Tennessee customers passed its first legislative test yesterday, the Times Free Press reports. Opponents, who had sought to add a “negative recommendation” to the bill, failed in that effort during the Joint Government Operations Committee session. The rule now becomes part of an omnibus bill covering proposed rules across state government. The next step will be the individual House and Senate Government Operations Committees, where opponents could try to strip the rule from the bill.

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