Corporate Counsel Section Adds Delegates to Executive Council

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Corporate Counsel Section in its most recent meeting voted to make several additions to the body’s executive council. There was a great response from members interested in joining the section’s leadership, with the following delegates assuming roles on the council:

Aaron Gentry is a corporate attorney for JTEKT North America, a global leader in engineering and manufacturing automotive systems, bearing solutions and high-performance machine tools. Gentry handles commercial and transactional advice and guidance as well as general legal counsel to JTEKT.

Daina Bray is the General Counsel for Mercy For Animals, an international nonprofit with offices in 16 countries and an annual budget of $80 million. Bray has extensive international law practice experience and serves as the Vice Chair of the ABA TIPS Corporate Counsel Committee.

Jason Little is the In-House Corporate Counsel and Privacy Officer for the Carlstate Group, LLC, located in Franklin. Little provides in-house legal advice and support in transactional and litigation matters involving commercial agreements, M&A, employment, and information technology, as well as corporate compliance and oversight of regulatory matters.

Justin Hayden is a Shareholder at Smythe Huff & Hayden, PC. Hayden practices creditor litigation, construction law, collections, foreclosures and representation of creditors in bankruptcy.

Katie Atkins is the Senior Operations Counsel at NaviHealth, Inc. of Brentwood. She has over seven years of experience as a lawyer in the health care sector and was previously an attorney with the Tennessee General Assembly.

Melissa Leigh is General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of Keystone Peer Review Organization (KEPRO), Inc in Nashville. Leigh oversees strategic and tactical management of legal and compliance teams and advisement to the Chief Executive Officer Board of Directors and executive leadership of KEPRO.

Robert Dennis Is the General Counsel & Managing Member for Tennessee Fitness (TF), LLC located in Murfreesboro. TF owns and operates 7 Gold's Gym fitness centers in the greater Nashville and middle Tennessee area.

Please join the TBA in welcoming your new Corporate Counsel Section delegates.

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Spring Hill GM Plant Workers Go on Strike

Workers at the General Motors (GM) plant in Spring Hill went on strike last night, walking out of the plant and holding protests at its entrances, The Tennessean reports. This comes after stalled negotiations between GM and the United Auto Workers (UAW) regarding stagnant wages, idle plants and the rising cost of health care that led 50,000 union workers nationwide to go on strike. The strike has not affected Ford or Fiat Chrysler, whose UAW contracts were extended while the union tries to negotiate a deal.

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U.S. Dept. of Treasury, IRS Propose Changes Regarding Net Operating Losses

The U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service last week proposed new regulations regarding application of certain rules under Sections 382 and 383 of the Internal Revenue Code. The new regulations would lessen the ability of companies to use net operating losses and other tax saving measures by changing the “annual limitation” on the ability of a company to apply pre-change tax attributes to offset post-change taxable income. You can read more about these changes and submit a formal comment here. The deadline for comment on these proposed changes is November 12.

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UT Knoxville to Host Summit for Opioid Addiction and Response

The University of Tennessee in cooperation with Knox County, the City of Knoxville Mayors' All4Knox Initiative, East Tennessee State University, One Tennessee Health and the Tennessee Judicial Opioid Initiative will host the Summit for Opioid Addiction and Response (SOAR) in Knoxville Aug. 1-2. The summit seeks to bring together stakeholders of all backgrounds and areas from across the state to discuss opioid-driven addiction in Tennessee, and to identify solutions that can be used across the state. The two-day summit is a free event. You can learn more and register here.

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VW Workers in Tennessee Vote Against Unionization Efforts

Volkswagen (VW) workers in Tennessee recently voted down efforts to instill a labor union, The New York Times reports. Out of approximately 1,600 workers polled just over half opposed unionization, which the United Automobile Workers has been pushing since 2014. The chief executive in VW’s Chattanooga plant, Frank Fischer said of the move “Our employees have spoken … We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with elected officials and business leaders in Tennessee.” Gov. Bill Lee lobbied against unionization to workers at the plant, saying that the presence of a union would make it harder for the state to attract other businesses.

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Ageism and Multinational Corporations

Lawsuits against major corporations like Ikea and Volkswagen (VW) alleging discrimination against older adults are putting the ostensible practice of ageism under the microscope, according to a recent piece in Forbes. Multinational companies are becoming a lightning rod for such lawsuits, likely because of more stringent legal protections for American workers. IKEA is currently facing at least five age discrimination lawsuits, with four VW employees at its Chattanooga plant recently filing a lawsuit maintaining the company’s “Pact for the Future” program — touted as making VW “slimmer, leaner and younger” — is, in fact, a labor campaign designed to eliminate 30,000 jobs of employees mostly born between 1955 and 1960. Ageism can have more dire consequences in the U.S. compared to other nations, particularly European, where retirees enjoy subsidized pensions and universal health care.

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Mexico Becomes First Country to Approve New NAFTA Deal

Mexico recently became the first nation to ratify the new North American free-trade agreement (NAFTA), with its Senate approving the proposed rules in a landslide 114 to 4 vote, The Washington Post reports. Mexico remains a strong advocate of the program, which has been a huge boon to its economy, allowing 80 percent of its exports to flow into the U.S. Canada is also on board with the new NAFTA proposal, but is waiting to see how the agreement shakes out with leaders in the U.S. as ratification is pending on an agreement between the Trump administration and Congress. Mexico is currently the number one trade partner of the U.S.

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Ballad Health Provides New Details Regarding NICU Plans in East Tennessee

Ballad Health has issued a new response to the Tennessee Department of Health regarding questions about its proposed changes for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in two east Tennessee hospitals, the Johnson City Press reports. In its response, Ballad provided specific details and statistics requested by former Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner. Under the proposed plan, newborns requiring Level III NICU services will be transported to Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City instead of current Level III hospital Holston Valley Medical Center, which will be downgraded to a Level I provider.

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Pilot Flying J Execs Sentenced to Probation

Four former Pilot Flying J sales executives who pleaded guilty to fraud charges will receive probation for their crimes, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Curtis L. Collier on Wednesday ordered that Kevin Clark, Michael Scott Fenwick, Chris Andrews and Katy Bibee serve probation in lieu of jail time because of their cooperation with law enforcement and the fact the defendants suffered from “the shame, the embarrassment, the loss of jobs” that come with their conviction. Former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood so far has received the harshest punishment in the case, after Collier ordered him to serve more than 12 years in prison.

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Walgreens Assumes Operations of Fred's Pharmacies

Memphis-based discount retailer Fred’s has completed its multimillion-dollar deal with Walgreens, which will assume operations of pharmacies in 179 Fred’s stores, The Memphis Business Journal reports. Fred’s received $156.1 million in cash proceeds and an additional $20.6 million for its pharmacy inventory in the agreement, announced last September. According to a Jan. 24 filing with the SEC, “the company continues to use the proceeds received in the transaction to pay down the company’s existing indebtedness or for general corporate purposes.”

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