News

Judge Rejects Cope’s Insider Trading Plea Deal

U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger yesterday rejected a plea deal agreed to by Murfreesboro lawyer and former Pinnacle Financial Partners board member James Cope. Trauger said the fine was too low compared to how much Cope is worth, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Under the deal, Cope was to pay a $55,000 penalty and serve two years of probation. He pleaded guilty in October to buying shares of Avenue Financial Holdings shortly before the Nashville-based bank announced its merger with Pinnacle, making more than $56,000 in the process. “What seems more appropriate to me is $200,000,” Trauger said about the penalty.

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Report Looks at Trump’s International Businesses, Possible Conflicts

The Washington Post has prepared a list of President-elect Donald Trump’s global business dealings with respect to potential conflicts of interest as well as potential targets for attacks. At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia and the Middle East, the paper reports. There is no law that specifically requires a commander in chief to remove himself from his business interests, but presidents traditionally put their assets in a “blind trust” to avoid problems. So far, Trump has refused calls to sell or turn over his business interests to an independent manager. 

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Deposition Date Set for Jimmy Haslam

Jimmy Haslam, CEO of Pilot Flying J, will sit down for a videotaped deposition on Dec. 13 in a variety of lawsuits brought by trucking companies that did not settle with Pilot as part of a nationwide settlement, Knoxnews reports. The remaining companies argue that Pilot conspired to shortchange customers on promised diesel fuel rebates. The suits follow a federal criminal investigation that led to charges against 18 Pilot employees, 10 of whom pleaded guilty and eight of whom still face trial. Pilot’s board of directors has admitted legal responsibility for the fraud but Haslam has maintained that he did not know anything about the scheme. Pilot paid $92 million to settle with the U.S. Department of Justice and $85 million to settle the class-action suit.

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Implicit Bias Conference Draws 150+ in Memphis

The University of Memphis School of Law played host to more than 150 attendees today for a program called “Implicit (Unconscious) Bias: A New Look at an Old Problem.” Panelists explored the social science of implicit bias; examined the manifestations of bias in education, law enforcement, the media and business; and offered thoughts on a way forward. For more on the program visit the school's website.

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CoreCivic Shares Rebound with Trump Win

Donald Trump’s presidential win yielded a strong rally for embattled prison operator CoreCivic, the Nashville-based company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America. The Tennessean reports that company shares rose 43 percent Wednesday, halting several weeks of steep declines that had followed the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to stop using private prison operators. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had said that she would end federal contracts with private prisons and immigration detention centers. In the first presidential debate, she also said states should end their use of private operators as well.

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Judge Merges AT&T, Comcast Lawsuits

U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp has granted Metro Nashville’s request to merge two lawsuits it is facing from AT&T and Comcast, and given the city until Monday to respond to the complaints, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The city was sued by the two companies after approving One Touch Make Ready, a utility-poll access policy that had been pushed by Google Fiber to speed up its local rollout.

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UT Law Professor Authors Book on Digital Economy

Harvard University Press has published a new book by University of Tennessee College of Law Professor Maurice Stucke. The book, "Virtual Competition: The Promise and Perils of the Algorithm-Driven Economy," is co-authored by Ariel Ezrachi, a University of Oxford law professor. The book looks at today’s “app-assisted paradise of digital shopping” where big data and algorithmic pricing threaten antitrust laws, and analyzes whether the benefits to consumers outweigh the risks to competition, democratic ideals and economic well-being.

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Info Session Friday for Patent Pro Bono Program

The TBA will host an information session and happy hour this Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. for those interested in learning more about Legal Assistance Volunteers for Patent Applicants (LAVPA), a program that helps under-resourced inventors and small businesses with their patent legal needs. The event is part of the TIPLA CLE and is sponsored by Patterson Intellectual Property. It will be held at Patterson’s office at 1600 Division St. # 500 in Nashville. For more information about the program, contact LAVPA Coordinator J. Scott “Skip” Rudsenske, 615-277-3207.

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State to Share in $41M Fuel Economy Settlement

Tennessee will receive more than $965,000 as part of a $41.2 million multi-state settlement with Hyundai and Kia, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced today. The agreement resolves claims that the automakers misrepresented mileage and fuel economy ratings for some 2011, 2012 and 2013 model vehicles. The settlement, reached between attorneys general in 33 states and the District of Columbia and the Hyundai Motor Company, Hyundai Motor America, Kia Motors Corporation and Kia Motors America, concludes a multi-state investigation into the fuel economy estimates during a period of especially high gasoline prices.

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Judge Approves $15B Volkswagen Settlement

A federal judge has approved one of the largest consumer settlements in U.S. history, a nearly $15 billion deal that sets in motion a massive vehicle buyback program and environmental remediation effort. According to the Tennessean, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer approved the sweeping agreement between consumers, the government, California regulators and the German automaker Volkswagen. The settlement comes about a year after the company admitted rigging 11 million vehicles worldwide with software designed to evade emissions standards. The company is still facing investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors, which could lead to additional financial penalties and criminal indictments. Those impacted can visit VWCourtSettlement.com for more information.

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Comcast Sues Nashville over Utility Pole Ordinance

Comcast is suing Metro Nashville over its “One Touch Make Ready” ordinance, which is aimed at helping Google Fiber expand its gigabit Internet to the city. The law passed last month allows companies that need to attach to utility poles to move competitors’ equipment. AT&T also sued over the law last month. Both companies say the city does not have the authority to regulate utility poles in the way it is trying to do. The Nashville Business Journal reports on the development.

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High Court to Review Business Court Docket

The Tennessee Supreme Court is celebrating the success of its pilot Business Court, which has been operating as part of the Davidson County Chancery Court since last year. According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, more than 100 cases have been considered for transfer to the Business Court, with 87 of those being granted. The Supreme Court now says it will stop accepting new cases after Oct. 31 so it can conduct a review of the program and make any refinements necessary to move toward statewide implementation. Comments about the business docket can be submitted to the court via email.

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Case Studies in Captive Insurance

Did you miss the TBA CLE course on captive insurance earlier this month? If so, you can watch a webcast of the session for up to a year. Watch as Andrew Rhea and Benjamin Whitehouse provide a brief overview of the field of captive insurance and use real life examples to illustrate how businesses conduct feasibility studies to determine how to structure a captive.

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Learn More about New FAA Drone Rules

Did you miss the Oct. 6 TBA CLE webcast with James Mackler talking about new drone laws set by the FAA? Good news! The video is available for one year on the TBA website. The session covers the use of drones in business, government and by hobbyists, as well as the unique regulatory environment related to each. The course also looks at state laws, privacy and trespass issues, liability and insurance issues and current litigation.

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Transactional Practice CLE Set for Nashville

A CLE on transactional practice will be held Oct. 14 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Sessions will provide lawyers with the information, tools and tips needed to successfully handle transactional and traditional business matters. Speakers will cover probate matters, mergers and acquisitions, corporate and LLC formations and real estate transactions. Learn more or register online.

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AG Announces $133M Settlement with USA Discounters

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III and attorneys general from 49 other states and the District of Columbia today announced a settlement with retailer USA Discounters, also doing business as USA Living and Fletcher’s Jewelers. The settlement resolves claims that the company engaged in unfair, abusive, false and deceptive acts and practices. USA Discounters sold consumer products, including furniture, appliances, televisions, computers and jewelry, principally on credit, and typically marketed to members of the military and veterans. The total value to consumers is estimated at $95.9 million, which will primarily benefit active service members and veterans. Read more from the attorney general's office.

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HHS Prohibits Forced Arbitration by Nursing Homes

The federal Department of Health and Human Services today issued a new rule that will prohibit long-term care facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid from forcing residents into arbitration. Nursing homes and patients can still enter into arbitration if they choose, but contracts may not be written to automatically compel both parties into arbitration. The rule is part of a major revamp of consumer protections at long-term care facilities, Consumerist reports. The rule will go into effect Nov. 28 and have no effect on the “enforceability of existing pre-dispute arbitration agreements” according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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CCA Announces Nashville Layoffs

Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) plans to cut between 50 and 55 jobs at its headquarters as part of a restructuring and cost-reduction plan, the company announced today. The decision follows a rough stretch for CCA, whose stock price plummeted last month after the Justice Department announced it would stop using private prisons like the ones the company owns and operates. The Nashville Business Journal has more on the company’s restructuring plans.

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Suit Challenges New Overtime Rules

More than 50 business groups and 21 states have filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas to stop new overtime rules imposed by the Department of Labor. The suit alleges that the department unconstitutionally overstepped its authority when it established a federal minimum salary level for white collar workers. The rule, set to go into effect Dec. 1, doubles the salary threshold under which workers qualify for overtime pay, from $455 per week to $913 per week. The Labor Department estimates the rule will impact an additional 4.2 million workers. KIII-TV 3 of South Texas has the story.

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State AG Joins Multi-State Opioid Treatment Suit

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III joined with attorneys general from 35 other states last week to file suit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction. The suit alleges that the companies engaged in an anti-competitive scheme to block generic competitors and cause consumers to pay artificially high prices. “Opioid abuse is a serious problem and we need to make sure those addicted to opioids have treatment available,” Slatery said. “Putting a stop to anticompetitive and deceptive practices is one way to accomplish that.” Read more in this release from the attorney general's office.

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Blue Cross Pulls out of Insurance Exchange in 3 Cities

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will not sell insurance plans on the federal exchange in the state’s three largest metro areas next year, the Tennessean reported today. The healthcare giant is grappling with hefty losses and ongoing uncertainty in the marketplace, despite winning state approval to increase its rates. The decision means that consumers in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville will have to look to another insurer for coverage in 2017. The paper estimates the decision will impact nearly 115,000 people.

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Gas Shortage Leads to Hundreds of Complaints

An ongoing gas shortage has prompted hundreds of price gouging complaints statewide, the Tennessean reports. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance reports nearly 600 consumer complaints came in over the weekend related to gas issues and prices. Most of the complaints came from Nashville drivers and involved gas prices that were under $3 a gallon, but some consumers said retailers were charging $9.99 a gallon. In response, Gov. Bill Haslam issued an executive order that would allow longer hours for fuel truck drivers so they can bring oil from refineries further away. 

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Regions Bank to Pay $52M in Mortgage Loan Case

Alabama-based Regions Bank has agreed to pay more than $52 million to resolve allegations that it improperly handled mortgage loans, federal officials announced this week. The bank was accused of approving mortgage loans, insured by the Federal Housing Administration, that failed to meet requirements designed to protect homeowners. As part of the settlement, Regions acknowledged it failed to follow several federal guidelines. Authorities said that as a result, the government insured hundreds of loans approved by Regions that were not eligible for mortgage insurance. WRCB-TV has the AP story.

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Airbnb Drawing Attention of State Lawmakers

In town for the special session this week, senators also are discussing another emerging controversy: how to regulate Airbnbs and other short-term rentals. The possibility of a new state law has localities watching closely, since many already have enacted regulations about tax collection, official permits and penalties for disruptive tenants. Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, says he is concerned there is a “hodgepodge” of laws across the state, Nashville Public Radio reports. The Senate will hold a hearing Thursday at 9 a.m. on the issue. According to NPR, only Arizona has taken statewide action. The legislation there stripped regulatory powers away from localities and imposed a single tax collection system.

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VW Challenges NLRB Union Ruling

Volkswagen last week challenged a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling allowing a small group of skilled-trades workers who maintain and repair machinery to be represented by the United Auto Workers union. The board had ruled that Volkswagen was engaging in unfair labor practices by refusing to bargain with the union. The car maker has argued that labor decisions should be made by the plant’s entire workforce of 1,400 hourly employees. That group narrowly rejected UAW representation in 2014. Knoxnews has the AP story.

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