News

Hispanic Bar Creates Cuba Task Force

The Hispanic National Bar Association this week announced a new Cuba Task Force designed to provide legal analysis and policy recommendations connected to the revitalized relationship between Cuba and the United States. “We must ensure that the policy changes that are advanced not only improve business and economic opportunities between our nations, but also promote the civil and human rights of all Cubans on the island,” bar president Robert Maldonado said in announcing the entity. Among the task force members is Annie Hernandez, president of the Cuban American Bar Association. Read more from Associations Now.

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Insurance Commissioner: Health Exchange ‘Very Near Collapse’

Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak proclaimed the state’s health exchange “very near collapse” yesterday after signing off on significant premium hikes in a bid to keep the platform viable. The rate approvals were necessary to ensure healthcare options in every part of Tennessee, McPeak said. Tennessee is seeing a steady decrease in the number of insurance companies selling plans on the federally run exchange, the Tennessean reports. In 2017, 57 of the state’s 95 counties will have only one insurance company serving their area.

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VW Likely to Face Criminal Penalties

Volkswagen is expected to face criminal and civil penalties for circumventing Clean Air Act standards, but prosecutors have not yet decided the specific criminal charges they might bring against the automaker, according to the Wall Street Journal. The paper reported today that the Justice Department is negotiating a settlement with the car maker but those familiar with the matter said there will be “significant” financial penalties. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has a summary of the article.

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State Wants to Collect Sales Tax from All Internet Sellers

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has proposed a rule that would require out-of-state businesses to collect and pay state sales tax if their sales exceed $500,000 in Tennessee, the Tennessean reports. Under current federal court rulings, only those sellers who have a physical presence in the state must collect state sales tax. The Tennessee Department of Revenue estimates that the state has missed out on $300 to $450 million in annual sales tax from out-of-state sellers. A number of states have proposed similar measures in hopes Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court will provide a nationwide solution.

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VW Settlement Gets Preliminary Court Approval

A federal judge gave preliminary approval today to a sweeping settlement between Volkswagen, U.S. regulators and owners of VW diesels who will receive thousands of dollars in compensation, the Tennessean reports. Judge Charles Breyer with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, set the settlement in motion, allowing the automaker to begin collecting information from 475,000 consumers who bought cars that were rigged to cheat emissions standards. Final approval of the settlement could come at a hearing set for Oct. 18. .

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Judge Rules Bitcoin Not Money, Tosses Laundering Case

A Miami judge has found that bitcoin is not the same as money and therefore tossed criminal charges against a man accused of selling $1,500 worth of the virtual currency to undercover agents. The case is believed to be the first money-laundering prosecution involving bitcoin and was “closely watched in tech, financial and legal circles,” according to the Miami Herald. Nashville lawyer Kathryn Edge wrote about bitcoin in the August 2014 issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. She says the decision may prompt lawmakers to figure out how to regulate bitcoin and similar means of exchange. The ABA Journal has a synopsis.

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State Joins Suit to Block Anthem Acquisition of Cigna

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced today that the state has joined a federal lawsuit to block the merger of health insurance companies Anthem and Cigna. Slatery said that the transaction, valued at $54 billion, would increase concentration and harm competition in Tennessee. The suit is being brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and 11 other states.

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Court Adopts New Standard for Shareholder Lawsuits

In a case involving claims between siblings who were shareholders in a closely held family corporation, the Tennessee Supreme Court today adopted a new standard for when a shareholder can file a direct lawsuit on claims that concern the corporation. The decision overturned a ruling by the Court of Appeals and set aside Tennessee’s prior standard. In its place, the court adopted a standard used in Delaware that “is clear and easily understood” and “should facilitate consistent and predictable outcomes in disputes involving shareholder claims.” Chattannoogan.com has the story.

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Check Out Franchise Online CLE Offerings

Did you miss the 2016 Franchise forum? You can still stream high-quality online videos on the TBA website from this year's program. CLE sessions cover the default and termination process, practical tips for representing franchisees and a general regulation overview. Check them out at the links above.

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BancorpSouth Fined for ‘Redlining’ in Memphis

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have fined Mississippi-based BancorpSouth $10.6 million for deliberately discriminating against minorities in its lending practices. The action alleges the bank avoided construction of branches in minority neighborhoods in Memphis and charged higher interest rates on loans made to minorities than to non-minorities. The Daily Times has more from the AP.

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Lee: Court Continually Seeking to Improve Services

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee spoke to the Sevierville Rotary this week to update the community on ways the court is modernizing and striving to make itself more accessible. According to the Mountain Press, she highlighted efforts such as allowing e-filing of court documents, improving access for indigent clients, exploring increased pay for indigent representation, consolidating complex business matters in one court, and streamlining the juvenile court system. Lee told local leaders that the court is committed to continually improving its services. “We need to be looking at how we do things to see if we can do them better,” she said.

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Court Rejects Visa, MasterCard Antitrust Deal

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today overturned Visa and Mastercard’s $7.25 billion antitrust settlement with retailers, which sought to resolve charges that the companies improperly fixed credit-card swipe fees. A three-judge panel ruled that the settlement was tainted because lawyers representing the retailers did not do enough to protect their clients’ interests, and provisions barring merchants from opting out of the settlement and suing separately were unfair. The ruling could potentially renew years of litigation with millions of U.S. merchants. Bloomberg News has the story.

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Tennessee Eligible for $55M from VW Settlement

Volkswagen will pay $570 million to compensate American consumers and buy back or fix falsely-marketed diesel vehicles, the Tennessee Attorney General announced today. Under the deal, car owners in Tennessee will be eligible to receive $12.6 million. Volkswagen also will spend $2.7 billion on programs to reduce nitrogen oxide, $2 billion to develop zero-emission cars and $20 million to compensate states for their legal costs and pay for future investigations into emissions violations. The settlement ends a multistate action brought by 43 state attorneys general on grounds that Volkswagen sold more than 570,000 diesel vehicles in the United States with devices intended to circumvent emissions standards. Learn more about submitting a claim.

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Haslam Pushing Expansion of Internet Sales Tax

Gov. Bill Haslam wants Tennessee to join a growing group of states seeking to revisit rulings preventing collection of sales taxes from out-of-state online retailers, the Times-Free Press reports. State Department of Revenue officials will hold a rulemaking hearing in August on a proposed rule that would require out-of-state online companies with more than $500,000 in annual sales in Tennessee to collect and remit sales taxes starting July 1, 2017. At least a dozen states also are pushing a patchwork of laws or rules they hope will pressure Congress to act or, more likely, force the issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Starbucks Suit More Than Froth, Judge Rules

A class-action suit alleging Starbucks underfills its latte drinks will proceed after a California judge last week refused to dismiss the lawsuit, the Columbia Daily Herald reports. The judge found the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged three legal theories – 1) Frothy milk atop the drink should not be factored in to total volume; 2) Fill-to lines on cups are below advertised amounts; and 3) recipe cards instruct baristas not to completely fill cups.

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E-books Settlement Payments to Begin This Week

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced yesterday that Tennessee residents who purchased electronic books (e-books) could begin receiving account credits or checks this week. Payments are the result of the successful prosecution of a price-fixing case against Apple in 2013. Apple is obligated to pay $400 million in nationwide consumer compensation. Tennesseans will share $8.5 million. A toll-free number (866-686-9333) and website have been set up for consumers with questions. Read the AG's release.

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Prosecutors Drop FedEx Prescription Drug Case

Criminal charges alleging FedEx knowingly delivered illegal prescription drugs to dealers and addicts were dropped suddenly last week after prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss all charges. FedEx was indicted in 2014 and the trial began last Monday. In court on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said FedEx was “factually innocent” and had repeatedly attempted to identify the customer in question but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was unwilling or unable to provide the information. The Times Free Press has more.

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Federal Judge Extends Volkswagen's Settlement Deadline

A federal judge in San Francisco is extending the deadline for attorneys for Volkswagen to reach a final settlement proposal, citing the “highly technical nature” of the proposed settlements. Bloomberg News reports that the new deadline, June 28, will deny Volkswagen the opportunity to present a conclusion to investors at its annual shareholders meeting on June 22. Without the settlement, the German carmaker’s efforts to navigate out of the crisis remain incomplete nine months after admitting to rigging the exhaust systems in some 11 million vehicles worldwide.

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Avenue, Pinnacle Outline Class-Action Settlement

Avenue Financial Holdings and Pinnacle Financial Partners have signed a memorandum of understanding with plaintiffs in a class-action suit that claims Avenue’s board of directors put their personal interests ahead of Avenue shareholders in Pinnacle’s proposed acquisition of the bank. The Nashville Post reports the MOU requires the two companies to disclose more information about the strategies and talks leading up to their $200 million deal announcement. 

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Learn About New Overtime Rule in 1-Hour Webcast

Nashville attorneys Stanley Graham and Andrew Naylor, both of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP, will explain the new federal overtime rule in a one-hour webcast CLE on June 28 at noon CST. The changes include increasing the minimum salary required for exempt employees from $23,660 to over $47,000 per year. The course, approved for one CLE credit, will replay on July 21. 

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Nashville Business Court Reaches One-Year Mark

What’s next for Davidson County's business court? The Nashville Business Journal revisits its headline from a year ago and takes a look at the state of the Tennessee Supreme Court's business litigation pilot project created in May of last year. According to a report from Davidson County Chancery Court, 57 cases have requested transfer to business court as of the end of March. 

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Doctor, Drug Testing Lab Settle False Claims Act Case

The Nashville Post reports Jonathan Oppenheimer, who ran drug testing laboratories OURLab and OPKO Lab, will pay more than $9.3 million to settle False Claims Act allegations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee yesterday said that the Nashville company violated anti-kickback statutes by placing certain conditions on the financial support they were giving physician practices investing in electronic health records systems.

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Vonore Business Man Faces Federal Fraud Charges

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Phillip Michael Huddleston, co-owner of Protech Metal Finishing in Vonore, faces federal charges for allegedly defrauding the U.S. Department of Defense of $1.2 million, forcing employees to cover up environmental violations and threatening to fire whistle-blowers. Huddleston's attorney, David Eldridge, said his client maintains his innocence.

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ABA Committee to Survey on LLCs, Partnerships and Unincorporated Entities

The American Bar Association's committee on LLCs, Partnerships and Unincorporated Entities needs your help with a short survey on the ability to merge, enter into interest exchanges, convert and domesticate for each of the five major entities (general partnerships, limited partnerships, LLCs, corporations and nonprofit corporations).

The committee is currently reviewing these acts and the general state of the law regarding these types of transactions so that attorneys know how to address certain issues being raised with respect to these transactions in various states.

Visit this site to take part in the survey.

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