November 22, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 4:46:30 pm CEO Churn: Is Mandatory Retirement Age for CEOs Legal?
Executive employment attorney Joe Ahmad sees an interesting trend in the recent retirements of IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and Freddie Mac Chairman John Koskinen. In both cases, the high-profile executives cited their companies’ mandatory retirement age policies as the reason for their departures.
In his most recent blog post, Ahmad examines the common belief that these mandatory retirement clauses are legally enforceable. He writes:
The truth is, most of them aren’t. Neither IBM CEO Sam Palmisano nor Freddie Mac Chairman John Koskinen had to retire this week. If they wanted to stay, and they wanted to press the point, chances are the courts would have been on their side. That’s because most mandatory retirement policies are, with relatively few exceptions for safety (such as airline pilots) and some institutions of higher education, a blatant violation of the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967.
Ahmad's full post can be found at the Legal Issues in the Executive Suite blog.
November 17, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 2:19:37 pm Texas Exoneree Fee Dispute Lawsuit Settles
The Dallas Observer’s Unfair Park blog has an update to its August 2011 cover story about Lubbock “high-powered” personal injury lawyer Kevin Glasheen and his work to improve compensation for the growing number of Texas prisoners who have been released following wrongful convictions.
In the latest update, staff writer Brantley Hargrove reports on a settlement between Glasheen and three Texas exonerees who had sued him over the standard contingent fee agreement. The settlement comes after a partial summary judgment from District Judge Ken Molberg that deflated a portion of the plaintiffs’ claims.
As noted in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the judge’s motion stressed that Glasheen’s work was not inconsequential. “Almost literally, Glasheen pulled Phillips’ ox out of the ditch, and Phillips’ lethean indulgence of the facts is unpersuasive,” Molberg wrote.
The settlement also comes following lead plaintiff Steven Phillips’ felony drug possession arrest, which if it results in a conviction, could erase a lifetime of monthly payments that he’s set to receive.
Terms of the settlement are confidential.
Writes Hargrove: Wielding the threat of civil litigation,Glasheen lobbied the state legislature successfully on behalf of Texas exonerees, raising compensation rate from $50,000 a year for every year spent in prison on a bogus conviction to $180,000 in 2009.
Glasheen’s work significantly improved the benefits that Texas exonerees receive for health, education and other areas. Glasheen also successfully persuaded the IRS to discontinue its practice of taxing exonerees at a 33 percent rate. And thanks to changes implemented in the 2009 and 2011 sessions of the Texas Legislature, most exonerees no longer need extensive legal representation to collect fair compensation, which was not the case when Mr. Glasheen was hired.
Glasheen tells Unfair Park he voluntarily refunded portions of his fees to all of the men he represented, not just those who took him to court:
"I contacted all the other clients and gave them a similar refund of some fees, because I didn't want them to be treated any differently than the guys who made claims," Glasheen tells Unfair Park. "It was gratifying to me when some of them said 'You don't need to do that. We thought the fees were fair.’”
November 14, 2011 by Amy Hunt at 2:04:27 pm Tips for Approaching First Post-Divorce Holiday Season
The holidays are a difficult season for many people, but the recently divorced facing their first post-divorce holiday have special challenges. When, where and how do you celebrate Thanksgiving? Who will the kids stay with on Christmas Eve? Will mom and dad reunite for a Norman Rockwell Christmas morning?
For couples about to experience their first holiday season as single parents, these and many other issues can cause serious angst. After all, most parents want to make the holidays special for their children. But how much togetherness and accommodation of their ex-spouses can most people handle at an already stressful time?
Carmen Eiker, a partner in the family law firm McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing, L.L.P., suggests that newly divorced parents focus on the Three C’s: Cooperation, Communication, and (Staying) Calm.
“Remember, this is new for everyone involved and a certain level of anxiety is only natural,” she says. “Cooperate with the other parent as much as possible to make the children’s holiday time with that parent as good as it can be. This is not a competition. Telling your children what they will be missing at your house while they are with the other parent is not the holiday memory you want them to have.
“Communicate with the other parent,” she continues. “Bad weather, heavy traffic, and delayed flights happen and are no one’s fault. With email and texting it’s easy for parents to stay in touch in real time to work out the logistics of the hectic holidays.
“And stay calm,” she concludes. “Avoid the tendency to overreact if things don’t live up to the picture-perfect concept of what the holidays should be. No one’s holiday lives up to that. Your children won’t remember minor mix-ups unless you make an issue of them. But they will remember forever a parent’s anxiety or anger. Instead, give them holiday memories of their parents cooperating, communicating, and staying calm. They will remember and thank you forever.”
November 8, 2011 by Dave Moore at 4:56:31 pm Dallas trademark and copyright attorney Dyan House: Newspaper copyright plaintiff lacks standing in court
There’s no doubt that the newspaper industry has been on the ropes since roughly 1999, when the public increasingly accessed the publications’ copyright-protected content using internet search engines, instead of buying copies of the publications via subscription or single copies.
Adding insult to injury are websites and aggregators that lift news stories wholesale without authorization or attribution to their original sources.
The combined effect has resulted in the rapid downward spiral of newspapers across the country, with 14 publications ceasing existence since March 2007, and another eight that have become hybrid operations or strictly online publications, according to NewspaperDeathWatch.com.
Seeing a possible opportunity in this conflict, a firm named Righthaven built its business around the notion of suing individuals or companies that post copyright-protected news stories online without consent of the content producer.
Righthaven has busily followed that business model, filing 275 cases since 2010.
That effort saw a major defeat recently, when a federal judge ordered Righthaven to pay a defendant in one of its cases almost $120,000 in attorneys’ fees, and earlier orders in other cases to pay legal fees ranging from $5,000 to $34,000. “The flaw in Righthaven’s business model is that the company doesn’t hold any exclusive rights under the copyrights for which it is attempting to sue,” said Dyan House of Dallas’ Munck Carter. Section 501 of the Copyright Act says that only the legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under copyright law may sue for infringement, she explains. “Righthaven simply lacks standing.”
November 8, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 3:20:23 pm Marcos Ronquillo Named Among Nation’s Top Hispanic Leaders
Looking at the 2011 list of “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States,” it’s hard to tell which of Dallas attorney Marcos Ronquillo’s accomplishments and contributions might have caught the attention of the national publication’s editorial staff first.
In selecting Mr. Ronquillo to the influential list, editors at HispanicBusiness Magazine cited his thriving law practice that counts governmental agencies and Fortune 500 companies among trusted clients. But it wasn’t just professional accomplishments that tipped the balance, the publication also noted Mr. Ronquillo’s lifetime of public service and leadership in corporate boards and community organizations. Earlier this year, for example, Mr. Ronquillo was named president of the Julian Samora Legacy Foundation Board. Meanwhile, Texas Lawyer has named as one of the "Extraordinary Minorities in Texas Law," while the Dallas Business Journal has included him among the top minority business leaders in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Mr. Ronquillo joins impressive company on the 2011 list, which also includes Chiquita Brands International CEO Fernando Aguirre, MicroTech CEO Tony Jimenez, and GameStop CEO Paul Raines.
November 4, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 2:13:11 pm Obama Executive Order Targets Scarcity of Vital Drugs, Collusion by Pharmaceutical Companies
A new executive order signed this week by President Obama addresses the growing problem of shortages affecting vital drug and pharmaceutical supplies, some of which have caused increased medical expenses due to gouging of scarce supplies and serious health problems and deaths.
Writes the Associated Press: Patient deaths have been blamed on the shortages, which tend to affect cancer drugs, anesthetics, drugs used in emergency medicine, and electrolytes needed for intravenous feeding. Hospitals have been forced to buy from secondary suppliers at huge markups. Surgeries and cancer treatments have been delayed.
Notes NewsHour, The executive order from the White House called on the FDA to broaden its reporting of potential drug shortages, speed up the review of applications from companies wishing to change production of drugs facing a potential shortage, and pass along more information to the Justice Department regarding instances of suspected collusion or price gouging.
Houston trial attorney Mark Lanier, who has handled many of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical cases, says pharmaceutical companies should not be permitted to collude in order to increase drug prices.
"If collusion causes a shortage of life-saving medicines, patients likely can bring federal antitrust and state unfair business practices lawsuits against the offending businesses," Mr. Lanier says. "For more than 120 years, federal law has prevented large companies from fixing supplies, prices or market shares, and most states have similar laws forbidding unfair business practices. Reporting possible price gouging and collusion certainly should help reveal to the American public the true cause of medicine shortages."
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