News

Get Ready for Changes to Tennessee Nonprofit Law

Effective Jan. 1, Tennessee lawyers will see big changes to the Tennessee Nonprofit Corporations Act. Three online video CLE courses offer insights into these changes and are available for viewing now. Choose from courses on disclosure and conflict of interest rules; charter and bylaw provisions; or entity conversions, membership exchanges, charitable assets and public benefit transactions.

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Nashville Firm Closes Music Industry Deal

Round Hill Music has acquired the song catalog of Nashville-based Big Loud Shirt Industries, which consists of more than 30 number one Billboard airplay songs, Billboard Magazine reports. The transaction also included the purchase of Big Loud Bucks, a worldwide music administration company. Going forward, the companies will operate as a joint venture. The deal, handled by the Entertainment Practice Group in the Nashville office of Dickinson Wright, complements earlier moves Round Hill has made in the Nashville market, including acquisition of song catalogs from Roots 49 Music and Big Tractor Music. Read more in a release from the firm.

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EPB Loses Bid to Dismiss Whistleblower Suit

The Electric Power Board (EPB) today lost its initial bid to dismiss a $10 million whistleblower lawsuit brought by former city contractor Don Lepard, who claims the utility overbilled taxpayers for years and then tried to cover it up by bullying his company, Global Green Lighting. At a hearing this morning to rule on EPB's motion to dismiss Lepard's suit, Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth said that it comes down to whether EPB is one and the same with the City of Chattanooga. If EPB and Chattanooga are found to be the same, "this case is over," said Hollingsworth, citing state laws that prevent the city from suing itself. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story.

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Business Attorney Launches New Firm

Veteran Nashville business attorney Bob Mendes has launched Waypoint Law, a practice that will handle transactions, litigation and insolvency cases. Mendes left Frost Brown Todd 30 months after merging his former MGLAW firm into the regional player. Mendes and Mark Donnell, who also has left Frost Brown Todd, will look for opportunities to help clients through the broader "change management challenges" that often crop up in bankruptcy or restructuring situations. The Nashville Post has more.

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Buffet Expert, Clayton Center Founder to Speak at UT Law

Best-selling author Lawrence Cunningham will visit the University of Tennessee College of Law on Monday to discuss his new book "Berkshire Beyond Buffet: The Enduring Value of Values." Joining Cunningham will be UT Law alumnus Jim Clayton, the founder and former CEO of Clayton Homes Inc., which Berkshire Hathaway acquired in 2003. Clayton established the Clayton Center for Entrepreneurial Law at UT Law. Admission is free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to RSVP to Sophia Brown before Nov. 3. Learn more about the event.

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The New Business of Law

The new wave of legal and law-related services has added to the complexity of practicing law. Explore the many angles of fee-sharing with nonlawyers, work product protection and new challenges to confidentiality during "The New Business of Law: Attorney Outsourcing, Legal Service Companies & Commercial Litigation Funding" on Nov. 12. Visit TBA CLE for more information.

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NBJ Names 'Most Admired CEO'

Two lawyers were honored by the Nashville Business Journal as "Most Admired CEO" last week. Dickinson Wright managing attorney Thomas M. Donnell Jr., is one of two winners in the “Local Office or Operation” category of the awards, which recognizes top local executives of national companies.  Robert Patterson of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP was a winner in the category of "Private Companies (101-500 Employees)."  The Journal solicited nominations from the public, and nominees then voted on one another by category.

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Court Will Not Hear Phone Records Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from a civil liberties group that had wanted access to an internal Justice Department memo that allegedly gave the FBI permission to obtain records from phone companies in terrorism investigations. The justices on Tuesday let stand an appeals court ruling that said the Justice Department could refuse to release the 2010 memo under an exception to the Freedom of Information Act, according to the Associated Press. The Electronic Frontier Foundation had argued that the public has a right to see the memo, while the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the document was part of the government’s internal deliberations and therefore exempt from disclosure. WRCB-TV has more.

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Group Granted Class Action Status in HCA Lawsuit

Plaintiffs who filed a securities fraud case against HCA Holdings Inc., the Nashville-based hospital giant, on Monday were granted class-action status in a suit stemming from the company’s $4.3 billion initial public offering in 2011, the Tennessean reports. The claim, brought by New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension Fund as lead plaintiff, alleges HCA failed to disclose the company was experiencing a decline in Medicare and Medicaid revenues and had improperly accounted for previous reorganizations in a “false and misleading” initial public offering registration statement. The list of defendants includes HCA’s top executives as well as several high-profile investment banks and a private equity group.

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AG: Liquor License Residency Requirement is Unconstitutional

Outgoing Attorney General Robert Cooper has found that a two-year Tennessee residency requirement for getting a liquor license is unconstitutional despite a provision included in the wine-in-grocery-stores bill that attempted to justify it. “The residency requirements facially discriminate against nonresidents and the intent expressed in [the 2014 provision] does not establish a local purpose sufficient to justify the discriminatory licensing provisions,” the opinion finds. However, Cooper suggested that residency requirements can be valid “if they serve a legitimate local purpose that cannot be achieved by less discriminatory means.” Knoxnews has more.

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What Business Can Expect from a GOP Attorney General

New Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is expected to bring “consistency and predictability” —  two keys the business community looks for in the judiciary, Nashville attorney Gif Thornton tells the Nashville Business Journal. Marc Hill, the chief policy officer at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, stressed the importance of “knowing where the new attorney general comes from,” pointing to Slatery’s role with Haslam’s administration. “Tennessee has had a reputation as a business friendly state across administrations, both Democrat and Republican,” Hill said. “Beyond the partisan label, what business folks are most focused on is that the new attorney general comes from an administration that believes in creating a prosperous business environment across the state.” Slatery will be the first Republican to fill the position in nearly 150 years.

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State Liquor Laws Are ‘Weird, Confusing, Frustrating’

An article in this week’s issue of Metro Pulse looks at the often “confusing and contradictory” state laws governing the sale of alcohol and related products, and catalogues the most confounding provisions. Nashville lawyer Rob Pinson with Bone McAllester Norton says he “would love to rewrite all of Title 57.” He also says that even if no laws get tweaked next year, the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission needs a bigger budget. “I think they’re severely underfunded. If they had more staff, there wouldn’t just be more enforcement, they could offer more education so maybe there would be less confusion over some of these laws.”

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FCC Attorney to Lead SBA Office of Advocacy

President Barack Obama has tapped Gilberto de Jesus, a senior attorney at the Federal Communications Commission, to be chief counsel at the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, the Nashville Business Journal reports. If confirmed by the Senate, de Jesus would succeed Winslow Sargeant. Unlike Sargeant, de Jesus is an attorney. He also has Capitol Hill experience, having served as a senior legislative fellow in the office of Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. His business experience includes serving as a consultant for the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and as a board member of the Baltimore Development Corp. and the University of Maryland Medical Systems.

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Business Groups Support Amendment 2

Top business organizations from across the state are urging their members and supporters to Vote YES on 2 this November. Amendment 2 would continue the current system of gubernatorial appointment of appellate court judges, while adding legislative confirmation. “Our ability to attract and keep businesses in our state relies in part on having a stable, fair and impartial judiciary,” said Clay Thompson, Chairman of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and President of Caterpillar Financial Insurance Services in Nashville. “Amendment 2 gives voters the chance to put an end to the legal challenges the current process has faced which threatens to destabilize our judiciary and weaken our state.”

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Why Some Business Owners Want New Justices

Among the legal community there is concern that the campaign to remove three of Tennessee's Supreme Court justices poses a threat to the independence of the judiciary and the predictability businesses expect from the high court, but some in the business community argue the opposite, suggesting that appointees from a Republican governor would create greater certainty, the Nashville Business Journal reports. “For business owners, predictability of legislation that’s been passed is critical. Tort reform is a prime example,” said Bill Lee, CEO of Franklin-based Lee Company, a provider of heating, air-conditioning and other facility services. “It’s business-friendly and Tennessee-citizen friendly legislation. The only danger to that continuity is the [state] Supreme Court overturning it, which may well happen with the existing judges in place.”

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New Vanderbilt Program Offers Joint JD and Master’s in Finance

Students can now earn a law degree concurrently with master's in finance degree through a new program offered this fall by Vanderbilt Law School and the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. “For lawyers heading to Wall Street, understanding markets is critical to building a successful career in financial service,” said M. Eric Johnson, the Ralph Owen Dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. Prospective students should apply for admission to the J.D. and M.S.F. programs simultaneously. Spaces in this three-year joint degree program are limited.

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FedEx Could Face New Drug Charges

FedEx could face new charges related to the alleged distribution and conspiracy to distribute drugs for illegal Internet-based pharmacies, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Last Friday, federal prosecutors in California said they intend to present a "superseding indictment" by Aug. 28, which would modify or add to the original indictment. The first indictment, filed July 17, included 15 counts of shipping or conspiracy to ship drugs to questionable online pharmacies.

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Pilot to Pay $92M, Avoid Prosecution

Pilot Flying J has reached a deal with federal prosecutors to avoid criminal charges against the company, Knoxnews reports. Under the deal made public today, Pilot must pay a $92 million penalty over two years and cooperate with an ongoing criminal investigation into diesel fuel rebate fraud. Federal prosecutors said in a news release that the Criminal Enforcement Agreement “expressly states that it provides no protection from prosecution to any individual” in connection with the case. A criminal investigation against individual employees is ongoing with 10 already pleading guilty to charges.

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Mergers, 'Kaley' Ruling, Seersucker and More Covered in July TBJ

Kathryn Reed Edge gives the details of what a merger entails in the July issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. Enjoy TBA Convention photos and stories in the printed version -- and read new TBA President Jonathan Steen's column, "If Not Us, Then Who?" Wade Davies explains the recent Kaley ruling about criminal defendants using their earnings to retain counsel (spoiler: they can't). And if you are wavering about buying a Seersucker suit this summer, read Bill Haltom's column for a nudge in favor of the cool, cotton ensemble.

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Court: Companies Can Refuse Contraception Insurance

A divided U.S. Supreme Court today ruled the contraceptive mandate in the federal health care law violates the religious freedom rights of corporate owners who object to providing coverage in employee insurance plans. Justice Samuel Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said “closely held” for-profit corporations cannot be required to provide the coverage under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires the government to use the “least restrictive” option when placing a burden on the exercise of religion. Opponents of the decision warned it would be used by companies to avoid a host of regulations. Law.com has more.

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President to Name Lawyer to Lead NTSB

The White House says the president will nominate a lawyer with a history in aviation and transportation safety to head the National Transportation Safety Board, News Channel 5 reports. Christopher Hart joined the board as vice chairman in 2009 and became acting chairman in April. Hart has held high-level posts in the FAA, including deputy director for air traffic safety oversight and assistant administrator for system safety. He served as deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before moving to the FAA in 1995. Hart is a licensed pilot with commercial ratings. His great uncle is James Herman Banning, who in 1926, became the first African-American to receive a government-issued pilot's license.

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6th Circuit Reverses Libel Verdict Against Website

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a $338,000 libel verdict awarded to a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader saying that while the allegations made against her on a gossip website were defamatory, the company that operates the site is not liable because third parties posted the content. The lower court had sided with Sarah Jones saying the company was not entitled to protection because it played a significant role in developing the material. The ABA Journal has more on the decision.

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Chattanooga Attorney Elected to International Business Law Board

Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel shareholder Dana Perry has been appointed to the Board of Directors for Meritas, a global alliance of independent business law firms. The board is comprised of 21 lawyers from its member firms around the world. Perry will serve a three-year term, during which time she will also serve on the group's Finance Committee. The Hamilton County Herald has more.

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Pilot President, VP Depart While Legal Cases Continue

As a federal investigation into Pilot Flying J continues, the CEO of the Knoxville-based chain of truck stops disclosed that two high-ranking employees have departed, Knoxnews reports. In an email to employees yesterday, CEO Jimmy Haslam said the company’s president and vice president of national accounts left the firm effective immediately. In April 2013, federal agents raided Pilot’s headquarters, seeking information about an alleged scheme to defraud trucking customers of diesel fuel rebates. Ten employees subsequently pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the case. A criminal probe is ongoing.

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Bone McAllester Norton Opens Drone Practice

Bone McAllester Norton is expanding its emerging law group with a practice focused on the commercial use of drones, the law firm announced Thursday. James Mackler will lead the firm’s drone practice, which will focus on company formation, trademark registration, privacy issues and other areas associated with their usage by private companies. The Nashville-based firm’s first client in this field is Alamo, Tenn.-based Farmspace Systems, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

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