News

CFPB to Address Collection Practices Through Email, Texts

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says it plans to issue new debt collection rules in coming weeks and intends to address the use of text and emails by collectors, The Washington Post reports. According to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger, the organization will “modernize the legal regime for debt collection” by reducing “unwarranted” regulatory burdens, a move that detractors argue will add additional avenues for harassment. If approved, this will be the first revision of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in more than 40 years.

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7 New Job Postings on TBA’s Joblink

See who is hiring in Tennessee. Recent job postings this month offer opportunities in litigation, real estate, health law and more. See full listings or post positions in your firm on TBA’s Joblink.
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Register Now to Get Early Bird Rate for TBA Convention in Nashville

The Tennessee Bar Association returns to Downtown Nashville's Renaissance Hotel for its Annual Convention June 12-15, with even better programming, exhibits and fun! Register NOW and receive:

  • Free Access to ALL 9 Hours of CLE, including the Bench Bar Program, co-sponsored by the Tennessee Judicial Conference
  • Opening welcome reception
  • Bench Bar Luncheon (featuring keynote speaker, Ken Starr)
  • Law School and General Breakfasts
  • Lawyers Luncheon (featuring special honor for Sen. Lamar Alexander)
  • Thursday night joint reception sponsored with TLAW and TABL
  • Thursday night Dinner/Dance Party featuring My So-Called Band
  • Friday night TBALL/YLD Party
  • Access to activities and programming designed for well-being including massages, contemplative space and more.
  • Access to TBA's sponsorship hall to meet with exhibitors, participate in our special TBA Wellness Corner and win prizes.
• QUESTIONS: Just email convention@tnbar.org to get help.
 

Early Bird Registration ends April 30, so register now to save $$$

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TBA Recap: 16th Annual Bankruptcy Forum

The Tennessee Bar Association's Bankruptcy Law Section recently held its 16th Annual Bankruptcy Forum in Gatlinburg. Over 50 practitioners attended the forum, from across the entire state of Tennessee. Attendees enjoyed top notch programming, including two days of small group sessions led by prominent bankruptcy judges. The TBA would like to thank the section's Executive Council members for their time and assistance creating a unique and successful program. 


 

OFFICERS
Laura Ketcham, Section Chair, Miller & Martin PLLC
Marvin Clements, Chair Elect, Office of Tennessee Attorney General
 
MIDDLE TENNESSEE DELEGATES
Mike Abelow, Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison
Erika Barnes, Stites & Harbison PLLC
 
WEST TENNESSEE DELEGATES
Jeb Bailey, Butler Snow LLP 
Joel Giddens, Wilson & Associates, PLLC
Ruthie Hagan, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
 
EAST TENNESSEE DELEGATES
Margaret Fugate, Attorney at Law 
David Fulton, Scarborough & Fulton 
Joe Kelly, Tennessee Business Mediation LLC 
Greg Logue, Woolf, McClane, Bright, Allen & Carpenter, PLLC 
John Newton, Law Offices of Mayer & Newton 
 
AT-LARGE DELEGATE
Michael McCormick, McCalla Raymer Leibert Pierce, LLC 


Thank You, 2019 Sponsors


                           

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Help4TNDay Kicks Off Saturday

Tennessee lawyers are invited to participate in Help4TNDay activities throughout the month of April. Events will bring attention to the ongoing need for free and low-cost legal services and highlight the groups that provide these services to disadvantaged Tennesseans. Opportunities include volunteering to help clients in need through Tennessee Free Legal Answers (TFLA) or at a local legal clinic. The events kick-off this Saturday with a statewide virtual legal clinic, where attorneys across the state will answer questions on TFLA from noon to 2 p.m. Simultaneously, the TBA will host an on-site TFLA Clinic and Luncheon in Nashville. To participate in the TBA event, contact Liz Todaro. Help4TNDay is a joint effort by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, the Administrative Office of the Courts, Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association. 
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PG&E Creditors Propose $35 Billion Bankruptcy Exit Plan

Pacific Investment Management Co., Elliott Management Corp., and Davidson Kempner Capital Management have been in private discussions with California lawmakers and stakeholders over a $35 billion plan that would allow PG&E Corp. to emerge from bankruptcy within a year, Bloomberg reports. These creditors represent an ad hoc committee of PG&E’s senior unsecured noteholders. Included in their proposal is establishing a $14 billion cash trust to pay claims related to the 2017 and 2018 wildfires. Additionally, the creditors are recommending that California legislators establish a $13 billion statewide wildfire fund to be financed by California utilities, including PG&E, statewide bonds and other state funding sources. Contributions totaling $8 billion would allow the company to recapitalize and refinance its debtor-in-possession loans and other maturities. Creditors would provide around $18.5 billion in funds and the proposal claims to be neutral for consumers and their respective electricity rates. PG&E would be exiting bankruptcy by March 2020 under this proposal. 

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Registration Now Open for TBA Convention in Nashville, June 12-15

 
The TBA's annual Convention returns to downtown Nashville this summer! Mark your calendars for June 12-15 and prepare for four days of CLE, networking, entertainment and more at the Renaissance Hotel, 611 Commerce Street. Registration is officially open, with early bird rates available until April 30.
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Purdue Pharma Considers Bankruptcy

Facing numerous lawsuits over its role in the U.S. opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma is considering filing for bankruptcy, USA Today reports. As the first trial date is nearing in hundreds of lawsuits aiming to hold the company accountable for its role in the nationwide crisis, bankruptcy proceedings would likely pause litigation. A federal bankruptcy judge would have wide discretion on how to proceed with the claims against the company and other drugmakers and distributers. Hundreds of claims from local and state governments that have sued the company could be impacted. While Purdue's role is just one aspect of the litigation, critics assign a lot of blame to the company because it developed OxyContin and pursued an aggressive marketing strategy for the drug. 

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Brookhaven Retreat Abruptly Closes and Files for Bankruptcy

Brookhaven Retreat in Seymour, Tenn. closed its doors without warning earlier this month and filed for bankruptcy, Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The private facility treated women with addiction and mental-health issues. Around 40 employees reported they were left unpaid for three to four weeks of work. The retreat made national news in 2016 when it housed singer/actress Selena Gomez. A 30-day stay at the facility cost between $40,000-$50,000 and advertised fine dining, equine therapy, gardening and other benefits. 

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Retreat to the Mountains at the 16th Annual Bankruptcy Forum, April 5-7

The 16th Annual TBA Bankruptcy Forum will take place April 5-7, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Gatlinburg. Make plans now to join us in this wonderful and relaxing setting for an informative, unique retreat that is applicable to a wide variety of bankruptcy attorneys. Ten hours of CLE credit are available for this program, including 3 hours of ethics.
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Business Law Annual Forum – May 9 in Nashville

 

Register now for the TBA Business Law Forum 2019.
 
This program will help business lawyers learn and refresh their knowledge about issues that may arise when drafting an LLC operating agreement. Topics will include an overview of the two extant Tennessee LLC acts and a comparison of those acts with the Delaware LLC Act; other distinctions of Tennessee law that impact the operating agreement; drafting key provisions, including distribution and allocation, employee and member compensation, and exit rights; and ethical considerations for lawyers drafting LLC operating agreements.
 
When: Thursday, May 9. Registration begins at 9 a.m.
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville

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Court Seeking Comments on Proposed Rule 46A

The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering the adoption of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 46A, which would govern the electronic service of papers that are e-filed, and it is seeking comments from the legal community and the public on the proposed rule. The deadline for submitting written comments is March 22. Comments should be e-mailed to appellatecourtclerk@tncourts.gov or mailed to: James M. Hivner, Clerk, Tennessee Appellate Courts, 100 Supreme Court Building, 401 7th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37219-1407.
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Gov. Lee Provides Avenue for Public Feedback on Legislation

Gov. Bill Lee has taken an additional step in his commitment to “an open and transparent government,” creating a webpage for the public to view and provide feedback on legislation that has been submitted to him for consideration. Lee maintains that involving Tennesseans into the process more directly will increase accountability in how laws are made. The site will be updated regularly, as bills pass the Legislature and land on his desk.

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TBA to Introduce Legal Document Generation

The TBA will soon launch a new subscription-based product for Tennessee lawyers — automated legal forms. The initiative will use HotDocs, a custom documentation generator that creates form templates and speeds up the preparation process based on client and case data. In order to provide this valuable resource to our members, we hope to obtain your comments and ideas on forms you deem beneficial for replication. With across-the-board participation, we can comprise a substantive, comprehensive database where subscribers will have access to forms submitted by all TBA sections. Please send suggestions and comments to TBA Membership Director Mindy Fulks.

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Southeastern States Continue to Lead in Bankruptcy Filings

Data compiled for the American Bankruptcy Institute shows that Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia again led the nation in the per capita rate of bankruptcy filings for last year, the Times Free Press Reports. While bankruptcy filings decreased nationwide, the city of Chattanooga saw an increase for the second consecutive year, specifically a 1.8 percent increase with 6,011 total cases filed. One Chattanooga bankruptcy attorney attributes the increase to wages not increasing enough to keep up with the rising cost of living. The article notes that 59 percent of the filings in Tennessee were Chapter 13 petitions. Despite average job growth in Tennessee over the past year, the state’s bankruptcy filings were twice the nation’s per capita rate. 

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Woodbridge Ponzi Scheme Involves East Tennessee Victims

Dozens of Woodbridge investors from East Tennessee fell victim to a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme involving Richard Fritts of Farragut-based Fritts Financial, Knox News reports. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed charges last month against Fritts because neither he nor his company were registered to sell securities in Tennessee, a legal requirement. He claims that he believed the loans did not qualify as securities. Fritts earned over $800,000 in commissions between July 2014 and November 2017. Regulators with the SEC have filed civil charges against 18 people and 10 companies for their roles in recruiting investors; the SEC is seeking fines and repayment of commissions. Bankruptcy proceedings for Woodbridge are ongoing, so it is unclear how much money, if any, the investors will recoup.

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20 Gymboree and Crazy 8 Stores to Close in Tennessee

Change this to - Gymboree Group Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on January 16 and indicated it will close over 800 total stores in the United States and Canada — including 20 in Tennessee, the Daily News Journal reports. A press release from the company said it will conduct an auction by February 25. It also revealed that it has received a commitment for debtor-in-possession financing. The company plans to sell its Janie and Jack business, including its 139 stores, as well as the intellectual property and online platform for Gymboree. The music and art classes by Gymboree Play & Music were split from the company in 2016 and should not be affected by the court proceedings.

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Meditation Apps Help Incorporate Mindfulness Each Day

Consider a meditation app for your phone to help incorporate mindfulness into your day. The accessibility and variety of meditation apps can make them beneficial and easy to try. Some, such as Mindbody, Stop, Breathe & Think, 10% Happier, Breethe, Omvana, Insight Timer, Sattva Meditations & Mantras, and Smiling Mind (which can be tailored to different age groups) are free. Others, such as Calm, Headspace, and the Mindfulness App, have free trials and can be upgraded to a paid subscription. Comparisons of various apps are available on www.healthline.com or www.bestproducts.com.
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Creditors File Motion Challenging Lampert’s Bid for Sears

Attorneys representing Sears’ unsecured creditors filed a motion last week challenging Sears Holdings chairman Eddie Lampert’s $5.2 billion bid to buy the company, USA Today reports. The creditors’ committee claims to have uncovered facts that demonstrate misconduct committed by Lampert and his hedge fund, ESL Investments, which contributed to the retailer’s downfall. The bid needs final approval from a bankruptcy judge at a hearing currently slated for Feb. 1. Sears maintains that the sale will prevent liquidation and preserve 45,000 jobs; however, the creditors allege that the deal is part of a pattern that enriches Lampert by acquiring the company at a discounted rate. The court filing claims Lampert engaged in two controversial and complex financial transactions in which he acted as both lender and borrower. One of those deals occurred in 2015; 235 of the most valuable Sears store properties were transferred to the real estate investment trust Seritage Growth Properties, where Lampert is the biggest shareholder and chairman. According to a public filing, in 2017, Sears paid Seritage $109 million in rent, $43 million in expenses and $35 million in lease termination fees. The creditors would like to recover the value of the properties transferred to Seritage. ESL stated that all business transactions involving Sears were done in good faith and on fair terms with the approval of the Sears Board of Directors.

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Will AI Technology be the Next Disrupter in the Legal World?

There is a growing prevalence of AI (artificial intelligence) technology being utilized in the legal sector, Crain’s Cleveland Business reports. Some fear that this technology will replace attorneys with computers. However, the Cleveland office of Baker Hostetler experienced an increase in lawyers a couple of years following the partnership of its bankruptcy practice and IBM’s ROSS intelligence. This technology was able to divert mundane and tedious tasks from the attorneys, such as legal research and case law analysis. Baker’s bankruptcy practice is using the AI technology to track case law and make predictions on the outcome of current cases. While Baker is open to partnering with various legal tech companies, the American Bar Association’s 2018 legal tech survey only found that 10 percent of attorneys polled utilized AI technology in some way. In addition to firms incorporating new technology, Cleveland-based law school Case Western University is also exploring ways to slowly incorporate programming, AI and blockchain technology into its curriculum in order to stay ahead of the disruptive curve.

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PG&E Plans to File Bankruptcy Amid Mounting Liability Costs

Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. announced last week plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as the company faces liability claims in excess of $30 billion as a result of the deadly California fires, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although the company has stated that it does not believe the filing would affect the 16 million customers served, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has formed a task force to evaluate steps the state can take to help Californians amid the potential bankruptcy. Customers experienced added costs with the company’s previous bankruptcy filing in 2001. The article notes that Senate Bill 901 which took effect Jan. 1 allows the California Public Utilities Commission to oversee future fire-related bond issues by the utilities. Depending on how the bankruptcy plays out, an intervention may be necessary in order to prioritize the claims of the fire victims since they would likely be classified as unsecured creditors.  

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Sears Closures Add Millions of Square Feet to Commercial Real Estate Market

Beleaguered retail behemoth Sears is considering liquidation, which would add an estimated millions more square feet of unused commercial space nationwide, Forbes reports. Since it announced bankruptcy last October, Sears has either closed or plans to close 260 of its 700 retail locations. In 2015, Sears Chairman and former CEO Eddie Lampert created the real estate investment trust Seritage Growth Properties, seeking to capitalize on the real estate value of Sears’ holdings; however, there is no indication if this was done in light of bankruptcy considerations. 

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A Review of 2018's Notable Business Bankruptcies

Several large retail businesses declared bankruptcy in 2018. This NBC News article reviews some of the highly publicized cases, including Toys R Us, Sears, Mattress Firm, Nine West and more.  A retail analyst also provides a grim outlook for retailers struggling with debt in 2019.

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Blog Reviews Most Important Legal Tech Developments in 2018

LawSitesBlog.com has published a roundup of the 20 most important legal tech developments in the past year, eschewing the traditional Top 10 list due to the overwhelming number of significant changes. Included on the list were analytics becoming an essential part of the legal practice, investments in legal tech topping $1 billion, the end of Avvo and the new American Bar Association rule emphasizing the duty of lawyers to be up-to-date on legal technology.
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Regular Memphis Pro Bono Clinic Has Served 12K Since Inception

Since its beginnings over a decade ago, a Memphis-area pro bono legal clinic has gone on to serve roughly 12,000 individuals in need, The Daily Memphian reports. The Saturday Legal Clinic, sponsored by Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) and the Memphis Bar Association, has been held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library once a month since November 2006. Firms and associations work to promote the event to ensure that 30 to 40 attorneys attend each month.
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