News

Steen: Bridge the Generation Gap With Clear Communication

In his Tennessee Bar Journal column about how different generations communicate, TBA President Jonathan Steen points out how important good communication skills are -- and why sending a text late at night to a senior partner may not be the best way to make contact. In the April issue's other columns, Eddy Smith covers IRA beneficiaries and creditor protection; Katy Edge explains how banking works for legal marijuana sales; and Bill Haltom comments on Justice Ginsburg’s recent nap before the president’s speech.

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Nashville Lawyers Form New Firm

Four Nashville lawyers have joined together to form the law firm of Surber, Asher, Surber & Moushon. The firm will focus on personal injury, business and construction law, professional liability and insurance defense, and probate and conservatorship law. Joel Surber, Garrett Asher and Matt Moushon were formerly partners at Parker, Lawrence, Cantrell & Smith. Jennifer Surber formerly served as counsel to the Davidson County Probate Court and as Special Probate Master for the Seventh Circuit Court.

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Governor Signs 2 TBA Bills

Two pieces of the TBA’s legislative package were signed by Gov. Bill Haslam last week. SB877/HB1183, which originated with the TBA’s Construction Law Section, makes changes to two sections of the Mechanics’ and Materialmen’s Liens statute that are clerical and procedural in nature. SB144/HB620, which proposed technical changes to the for-profit and non-profit corporations code, was signed into law and has been enacted as Public Chapter 60.

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Reminder: State Business Taxes Due April 15

In Tennessee, April 15 is the due date for business, franchise and excise taxes for companies that report on a calendar year basis. In addition, taxpayers subject to the Hall income tax must file and pay that tax by next Wednesday. More information is available on the Department of Revenue’s website. The department also has extended call center hours through April 16. Taxpayers may call (615) 253-0600 or (800) 342-1003 for assistance from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central.

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TBA Legislative Initiatives Head to Governor for Signature

SB877/HB1183 passed the House chamber this week and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature. The bill makes changes to two sections of the Mechanics’ and Materialmen’s Liens statute that are clerical and procedural in nature. The proposal originated with the TBA’s Construction Law Section. In addition, SB144/HB620, which proposed technical changes to the for-profit and non-profit corporations code, passed both chambers this week. Finally, SB161/HB609, which would treat pension benefits the same as other marital property in divorce proceedings, passed the Senate and is set for a House vote on April 1. Find out more about important bills in the legislature at TBAImpact.

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House Panel Approves Digital Assets Bill

A state House subcommittee has approved legislation setting rules for access to digital information after death or disability, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” has drawn opposition from representatives of Facebook, Google and Amazon on the grounds that it would declare company policies void if they conflict with state law. The bill gives the legal representative of a deceased or incapacitated person authority to decide how pictures and postings on a site will be disposed of, even though the user once gave the site the right to control such things. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur said many social media sites put such provisions in the fine print of their sign-up contracts, which has led to unfortunate situations. Knoxnews has the story.

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FedEx: Shipments Protected by Carrier Law

FedEx Corp. said it shouldn’t be prosecuted for delivering drugs dispensed through Internet sales without prescription because its actions are protected under federal law, the Commercial Appeal reports. The Memphis carrier is fighting money-laundering and drug-trafficking charges that it delivered drugs for online pharmacies, supplying pills to customers who were never examined by doctors. FedEx is also accused of knowing its actions violated federal and state drug laws.

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Court Limits Securities Suits Over Deceptive Comments

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that investors can't sue companies for making misleading statements of opinion prior to a public stock offering just because those statements ultimately turn out to be wrong, WRCB reports. However, the narrow ruling said some opinions in registration documents might omit important facts that could mislead investors, giving them a right to sue for securities fraud.

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AG: Proposed Fees on Commercial Trucks Unconstitutional

Legislation that would impose new fees on trucks traveling Tennessee highways is unconstitutional because the levies would apply disproportionately to trucks owned by out-of-state companies, Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in an opinion. SB354, introduced by Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, would impose a new "surcharge" on diesel fuel and a "highway maintenance fee" per mile traveled within the state for each commercial motor vehicle weighing 60,000 pounds or more. Slatery says that arrangement violates both the commerce clause and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state companies. Knoxnews has more.

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Judge OKs $10 Million Settlement in Target Data Breach

Target Corp. will pay $10 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over a massive data breach in 2013 that exposed details of as many as 40 million credit and debit card accounts, the Memphis Daily News reports. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson granted preliminary approval of the settlement, allowing people to begin filing claims ahead of another hearing for final approval, which he'll hold in late October or early November.

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‘For-Profit Benefit’ Corporations Set for Senate Committee

Legislation advancing “for-profit benefit corporations” in Tennessee is on Tuesday's calendar for the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. SB972/HB767 would enact the “For-Profit Benefit Corporation Act,” requiring such an entity to identify at least one specific public benefit in order to maintain its status. The bill was heard in the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee this week, where it was strongly backed by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. Mike Yopp, chair of the TBA Business Entity Study Committee, also testified as the TBA has serious reservations about the act as written.

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New Business Court Will be Model for State

A new Business Court in Davidson County will provide “more predictable, consistent results, and more timely resolutions of business disputes,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee said in announcing the pilot project. Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle will preside over the court and help develop best practices for future business courts.

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Agency Revamps Business Registration Form

The Tennessee Department of Revenue recently revamped its business registration application with the goal of making it easier to understand and use. The new form also allows users to save their work, exit and return later to any content they previously entered. Demonstration pages that show how to use the application also have been updated. The form should be used to register a new business, notify the department of an address change or pay a range of taxes, including the franchise and excise tax, sales and use tax, television and telecommunications tax, automobile rental surcharge tax and business tax.

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ABA Urges Corporations to Fight Labor Trafficking

The ABA called on Fortune 500 companies this week to help eradicate human rights abuses by adopting and implementing anti-human trafficking policies consistent with its Model Business and Supplier Principles. The group also unveiled a new database to assist companies in this effort. In a letter to CEOs and general counsels, ABA President William C. Hubbard reiterated the need: an estimated 21 million people are subjected to forced labor around the world and 168 million children are in situations of child labor. Read more from group.

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State Agency to Hold Hearing on New Securities Rule

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance will conduct a rulemaking hearing April 22 on a new rule to be known as the “Invest Tennessee Exemption.” The proposed rule would be an addition to current rules governing securities registration and exemptions. The hearing will take place at 2 p.m. Central in Conference Room 8C of the Davy Crockett Tower, 500 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville 37243. Read the full notice, which also includes the text of the proposed rule.

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Vandy Law Prof Weighs in on Licensing Boards Ruling

States have three options to react to a Feb. 25 U.S. Supreme Court ruling making state licensing boards more vulnerable to antitrust lawsuits, say two law professors whose research was cited in the decision. Rebecca Allensworth, associate professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School, and Aaron Edlin, the Richard Jennings Professor of Law and professor of economics at UC Berkeley, argue that states can change the composition of licensing boards, increase supervision of the boards or do nothing. News@Vanderbilt has more.

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Panel OKs TBA Fixes to Business Organization Laws

The TBA bill (SB144/HB 620) to make housekeeping changes to last year’s Nonprofit Corporation Act and the Business Corporation Law moved out of the state Senate Commerce Committee today by a vote of 9 to 0. The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and in the House by Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also met today and recommended passage of amendments to the Rules of Appellate Procedure (SR13) and Rules of Criminal Procedure (SR12), which previously were adopted by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

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Pilot Whistleblower Sues for Wrongful Termination

A Morgan Stanley executive who apparently was a key confidential source in the FBI investigation into Pilot Flying J filed a whistleblower lawsuit in federal court last week alleging he was fired after his role in the investigation was discovered, the Tennessean reports. Financial planner John Verble filed the suit in federal court in Knoxville. He is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and personal brokerage funds.

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AG Joins Challenge to Sysco, US Foods Merger

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has joined with 10 other attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction preventing the proposed merger of Sysco and US Foods pending a FTC administrative proceeding. The group alleges the merger would significantly reduce competition nationwide and drive up prices for food service customers, the Daily Times reports. In Tennessee, US Foods has a distribution center in Alcoa while Sysco has a facility in Knoxville. Read more in the AG’s press release.

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Judge Rules Against AmEx in Antitrust Suit

A federal judge today ruled that American Express’ rules for merchants violate antitrust law, the Wall Street Journal reports. The case stems from a 2010 lawsuit in which the Justice Department contended that AmEx’s rules for merchants inhibit competition and drive fees higher for consumers. The government wasn’t seeking monetary damages in the case, but instead was trying to force AmEx to drop its restrictions.

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Attorneys Form Green Hills Law Firm

Three Nashville attorneys, including the former legal counsel to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, have opened a law firm in the Green Hills area of the city. Trajan Carney, Steve Elkins and Leslie Curry have created Carney|Elkins|Curry PLC at 3817 Bedford Ave. in Bedford Commons. The firm will handle general civil litigation and appellate practice, with a focus on construction law, general business litigation, administrative and regulatory law, and labor and employment law. It also will offer estate planning and probate services. The Nashville Post has more on the story.

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Holder Sets 90-Day Limit for Cases Against Bankers

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that he has given federal prosecutors 90 days to determine whether they can bring criminal or civil cases against individuals for alleged involvement in the 2008 financial crisis. The announcement comes amid criticism over a lack of prosecutions or even civil cases against bankers and other financial industry executives, even as the government extracts record civil penalties from banks, Bloomberg News reports. Recommendations will be turned over to Holder’s successor Loretta Lynch to determine if any cases should be brought.

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Baker Donelson Partners with ETSU Innovation Lab

Baker Donelson is partnering with East Tennessee State University's Innovation Laboratory and the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association to recruit international companies to the area and provide market entry assistance, the Chattanoogan reports. The Innovation Laboratory is a full service small business incubator that offers an array of business services for foreign firms entering the U.S. market.

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Butler Snow Acquires Nashville Litigation Firm

Butler Snow is acquiring locally based litigation firm Walker Tipps & Malone, according to the Nashville Business Journal. The deal will boost Butler Snow's Nashville office to more than 60 attorneys, expanding its practice lines, which currently specialize in health care, commercial litigation and business services. Walker Tipps & Malone brings along civil and business litigation as well as personal injury practices.

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S&P Settlement Means $25M for Tennessee

The U.S. Department of Justice, 18 states (including Tennessee) and the District of Columbia have reached a settlement with Standard & Poor’s Financial Services (S&P) resolving allegations that the company took part in a scheme that inflated the credit ratings of structured finance securities, hiding their true risk. The settlement requires S&P to pay $1.38 billion to the states and the Department of Justice, National Public Radio reports. Tennessee will receive $25 million for its role as a lead state in the enforcement action, according to state Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

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