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Androvett Blog

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:00:00 pm

Houston attorney and corporate compliance consultant Thomas Fox recently spoke about the Yates Memo one year after the Department of Justice issued the memorandum. That document advised federal prosecutors to hold individuals accountable for corporate wrongdoing and ordered companies to provide “all relevant facts” on culpable individuals in order to get credit for cooperating with the government. Mr. Fox is the former general counsel for an international oilfield services company and now works as an independent consultant advising companies on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Listen as he discusses the Yates Memo and its impact on corporate corruption.

 

 

Tom Fox explains additional changes in the original article here.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:35:00 am

New legal challenges are impacting the ongoing probate process stemming from the death of former Chesapeake Energy founder Aubrey McClendon. Attorneys representing Ryan Turner, an executive for American Energy Management Services, have filed claims against the McClendon estate seeking to uphold profit-sharing agreements made by Mr. McClendon to key executives at the firm, including Mr. Turner. American Energy was formed by Mr. McClendon in 2013, after he left Chesapeake.

Daniel Charest, co-managing partner of Burns Charest in Dallas and attorney for Mr. Turner, says:

“As chief investment officer, Ryan Turner played an essential role in building the value within the American Energy structure and seeks the benefits he earned from his hard work.”

The probate action is pending in the State District Court of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. To date, the Court has approved some asset sales and scheduled evidentiary hearings related to distributions from the McClendon estate.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:37:00 pm

The iconic jewelry store Tiffany & Co. is a model for trademark enforcement by aggressively and successfully policing its brand in the courts. Last year Tiffany & Co. filed litigation against Costco, claiming that the warehouse giant sold more than $6 million of ersatz Tiffany engagement rings and improperly used the jeweler’s name on at least 200,000 in-store signs. That trial began this week in federal court in New York. 

Chris Schwegmann, a partner at Lynn Pinker Cox Hurst in Dallas, who focuses his practice on intellectual property litigation, says:

“This type of litigation not only discourages counterfeiters, but also ensures that Tiffany’s luxury brand doesn’t get diluted over time. I find it interesting that Costco argued that ‘Tiffany’ represents a generic term used to describe a ring setting, and not just a brand name. That’s a tough case to make against a company that aggressively defends its brand.

“If this case goes as I expect, it is unlikely that other companies in the industry will try to make the same the same arguments against Tiffany & Co., which is a benefit of aggressive trademark enforcement.”

Read more about the case here.

For more information or to set-up an interview, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:42:00 am

Amid reports that Brad Pitt is being investigated for some form of alleged child abuse, there are clues in Angelina Jolie’s divorce paperwork that may be consistent with such an allegation, says Dallas Family Law attorney Keith Nelson, a partner in the Family Law boutique Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP. Chief among them is Ms. Jolie’s request for sole physical custody of the couple’s six children, while allowing joint legal custody.

“These are two very specific distinctions. With sole physical custody, although there will be visitation, the child resides primarily with one parent. With joint legal custody, both parents will likely have a say in decisions related to education, health care and general welfare.

“Many of the initial media reports made it clear that it was the well-being of the couple’s six children (ages 8 to 15) – not infidelity or other issues – that was the primary concern. The fact that she included a request for sole physical custody should be a bit of a red flag that she may not consider him a proper influence on the children or she may claim that he is engaging in risky behaviors – such as substance abuse – that could potentially put them in danger. Her request for sole physical custody, may also signal a desire on her part to have the right to live with the children without any geographic restriction."

If Mr. Pitt wants to counter this request, one of his first moves, says Mr. Nelson, could be to ask for a full-scale custody evaluation, which could include a psychological and substance abuse assessment of both parents.

“Sometimes, the parent asking for sole custody will have mitigating issues of their own that will be vetted out in such a custody evaluation, which can impact the evaluator’s ultimate recommendations to the court.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:08:00 am

Mexico’s energy reform has opened that country’s oil and gas sector to private companies, generating widespread interest among U.S. oil and gas companies and other businesses. But working under a foreign legal system can cause some unexpected snags for U.S. companies that are not properly prepared.

Houston-based, Mexican-licensed lawyer Jaime A. Treviño of J.A. Treviño Abogados, or JATA, which is headquartered in Monterrey, Mexico, represents U.S. businesses in their dealings in Mexico. His firm has produced a “Practical Handbook” outlining that country’s energy reforms and some of the challenges confronting foreign-based companies. Mr. Treviño explains:

First, most land in Mexico is not private property, so it cannot be easily sold. Much of Mexico’s territory is classified as an ‘ejido,’ a collective group of people that live and work as a community. This land first must be converted into private property before it can be sold, and special negotiations with a whole community are often required. There are horror stories in which communities refuse to cooperate and halt entire projects, or cases where investors have taken advantage of people, particularly indigenous communities. It is critical to have expert legal advice to deal with these situations and negotiations properly.

“Second, much is made of Mexico’s cheap labor. But job protections are ironclad for virtually all full-time Mexican workers. It is difficult to fire an employee, but most of all, it’s costly. Mexican law requires 90 days of paid salary for an employee, even if he or she has worked just a single day. It is critical to structure labor relationships in a manner that is best for each company or project, and in compliance with Mexican labor law.

“Then, there are the excruciatingly detailed requirements of the Mexican legal system when a company is dealing with the government. Every form must be filled out in an exacting way. Simply abiding by the spirit of the law does not cut it. For example, something as seemingly simple as a company director needing power of attorney must comply with requirements that are not standard when doing business in the U.S.

“It is essential to have the legal advice of a lawyer who completely understands the formalities of the Mexican legal system. That is what led us to produce our energy reform handbook.”

For more information about Mr. Treviño and JATA, please contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:40:00 pm

Dallas attorney and private investigator Wes Bearden says actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt will need some particularly creative evidence if they decide to fight for custody of their six children.

Ms. Jolie reportedly cited irreconcilable differences in a court filing yesterday that seeks to end the couple’s two-year marriage. The actress is requesting sole physical custody and joint legal custody of their six children, giving Mr. Pitt visitation rights.

Mr. Bearden, founder of the Bearden Investigative Agency, says one of the more intriguing parts of the superstar divorce can be found in the unique lifestyles of the couple’s children, including the role their parents play in their less-than-traditional upbringing.

“Since both Jolie and Pitt are involved in the movie business and face many of the same time-away-from-home issues, they could arrange a 50/50 agreement,” says Mr. Bearden. “But if they decide to wage a custody fight, then they will both have to come up with some pretty compelling arguments for why one would be a better custodial parent than the other. These are two of the most famous actors in the world who are consistently on movie sets and probably not taking care of their children all the time. More issues will develop as this case moves along in terms of not only who will be taking care of the kids, but where they will live and where they go to school.”

 

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:09:00 pm

Two Gulf Coast oilfield services and marine staffing firms recently agreed to pay more than $500,000 in fines to settle federal lawsuits that alleged they skirted employment rules and overtime laws by improperly paying workers as contractors to reduce overtime costs. The penalties are the latest reminders to Texas employers of the consequences of a continued federal and state crackdown on employee misclassification, says Dallas attorney Audrey Mross, who leads the Labor & Employment section at Munck Wilson Mandala.

Such enforcement efforts have gained steam in 34 states, including Texas. These states signed on to an initiative to share information and aid the feds in identifying and punishing employers who fail to properly classify workers as employees. In addition, the National Labor Relations Board recently found that a trucking company improperly classified its truck drivers as independent contractors, which interfered with their rights to join labor unions.

“Businesses that are not on top of this issue are operating in perilous territory,” Ms. Mross says. “Any employer using independent contractors should analyze whether workers are properly classified and regularly re-evaluate those relationships. Violators face a long list of economic penalties, including fines, back pay, IRS penalties and legal fees.”

For more information, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:54:00 am

It’s been a year since the Department of Justice issued the Yates Memo. That document advised federal prosecutors to hold individuals accountable for corporate wrongdoing and ordered companies to provide “all relevant facts” on culpable individuals in order to get credit for cooperating with the government. Houston attorney and corporate compliance consultant Thomas Fox says the jury is still out on the Yates Memo’s impact on corporate corruption. Mr. Fox is the former general counsel for an international oilfield services company and now works as an independent consultant advising companies on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“First, there’s the corporate response,” says Mr. Fox, who also founded and operates the FCPA Compliance Report website. “In a speech in May, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates said companies are now presenting ‘Yates binders’ when meeting with the government. The binders hold information on individuals that the government can use in prosecutions.

“While some general counsel are uneasy having to investigate their own employees and turn over that information to the government, a positive effect has been that corporations set their investigation protocols to more quickly and efficiently respond to allegations of wrongdoing. Many companies are now moving to use outside counsel, who generally are more seasoned than in-house counsel when dealing with internal investigations.

“The government’s response has been equally interesting. It’s too early to see a trend, but the recent prosecution of Volkswagen engineer James Liang and his guilty plea for helping create the device that cheated air pollution tests may be a harbinger for the impact of Yates. It will be instructive to see if the U.S. government continues to prosecute others at VW for their conduct.

“The key will be whether the government is willing to prosecute a senior manager or board member for their role. If the Yates Memo is only going to be used to go after the little guy, then it will be seen as a meaningless gesture by corporate America.”

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:00:00 am

When a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Oklahoma shook that state and several others over Labor Day weekend, regulators in the Sooner State ordered 37 oil and gas wastewater disposal wells to shut down because of previous connections to quakes.

There also have been earthquakes in Texas that some researchers believe are tied to disposal wells used for wastewater fluids resulting from hydraulic fracturing/fracking operations. While state regulators continue to question a definitive link between these wells and earthquakes, some major oil and gas producers are already taking steps to try to avoid problems.

“The more sophisticated producers are already beginning to use technologies to recycle water used in fracking and to develop new formulas that substantially reduce both water usage and the amount that must be disposed by subsurface injection. Those changes will provide numerous benefits, which may include reducing the potential for seismic activity,” said Leonard Dougal, an environmental lawyer with Jackson Walker LLP in Austin who is also a former petroleum engineer.

“In most cases, however, the disposal of wastewater is contracted out to other service companies, and many producers aren’t involved in decisions about where those wells are drilled or how they are operated. But that separation may not totally free producers from a potential lawsuit given the recent widespread publicity about earthquakes. Producers also should take steps to reduce liability by avoiding use of disposal wells or contractors working in areas of known seismic activity.” 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:35:00 am

 

The billion-dollar Bayside resort development at Lake Ray Hubbard in Rowlett, Texas, has been partially held up for more than a year as part of a lawsuit filed by a marina operator. But now, the project is moving forward after attorneys from Fish & Richardson led by Dallas managing principal Tom Melsheimer recently convinced a Dallas state district court to throw out the lawsuit. Melsheimer’s client, Bayside Land Partners, purchased the marina property in 2015, but the operator refused to leave even though his prior concessions contract with the city of Dallas had expired years earlier. Melsheimer, fellow firm principal John Sanders and co-counsel filed a motion for summary judgment. The judge agreed with their arguments and ruled in favor of Bayside, dismissing every claim filed by the marina operator and ordering him to pay court costs. “This is a victory for the citizens of North Texas who will enjoy the tremendous benefits of a world-class recreational, retail and housing development for years,” Melsheimer says.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:37:00 am

The producers of motion picture “Middle Men,” a drama about the birth of the business of internet pornography, filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Paramount Pictures claiming the movie studio failed to properly promote, distribute, and pay royalties on the film. 

The movie was set up for success with director George Gallo and well-known actors Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, and James Caan. Despite buzz around the film at Cannes, the lawsuit explains that Paramount purposely depressed the film’s box office performance by withholding marketing and only releasing the movie in limited cities – showing only one screening of the movie in New York City on a Sunday afternoon for opening weekend.  

In addition to failing to fully uphold a $7 million marketing agreement, Paramount sold the movie to the premium cable channel EPIX for streaming to services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. Paramount holds a 43-percent stake in EPIX. The lawsuit says that Middle Pictures Inc., the film’s producers, have not received their fair share of the profits from streaming “Middle Men.”

“We plan to prove that when Paramount agreed to distribute ‘Middle Men’, it only saw the film as an opportunity for their own financial gain at the expense of the independent film company,” says Jeffrey Simon of Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC, which represents Middle Pictures Inc. “Evidence shows us that the studio simply bundled the critically-acclaimed film with other Paramount products.”

Simon says the movie studio giant either can’t or won't show auditors in full detail  if, or how, the $6.8 million that Middle Pictures provided for marketing was spent. 

For more information on this lawsuit and to request an interview with Jeffrey Simon, contact Mark Annick: mark@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:35:00 pm

Dallas employment attorney Rogge Dunn says Fox News’ quick resolution of Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit shows how eager the network is about distancing itself from former chairman Roger Ailes.

21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, has offered a public apology and announced a settlement with Carlson for a reported $20 million. Carlson filed her claims in early July, and Ailes was fired nearly two weeks later. Now her case is off the books altogether.

“Given how quickly this case was settled, Fox News obviously is eager to put the Roger Ailes era behind them. These kinds of cases can go on for years, but this one settled in two months, which is significant on several levels,” says Mr. Dunn of Dallas’ Clouse Dunn LLP. “Ms. Carlson has been the most visible among those who have accused Mr. Ailes of inappropriate conduct, so resolving her case was very important for Fox News in terms of public perception.”

To interview Rogge Dunn, please contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or Sophia@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:40:00 am

Two years after the disappearance of 23-year-old Christina Morris from a Collin County shopping mall, investigators are treating the mystery like a homicide investigation. But when 12 Collin County jurors convene next week for the trial of Enrique Arochi, the charge facing the 26-year-old will be kidnapping – not murder.

The lesser charge resulted from the fact that Ms. Morris’ body has not been found. But Dallas criminal defense attorney John Teakell says a lot people don’t realize that Texas law applies the same range of penalties for both murder and first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping – up to life in prison.

Mr. Teakell, a former federal prosecutor who is not involved in this case, says prosecutors likely felt pressure to provide a speedy trial for Mr. Arochi, who was indicted last December. And since there is no statute of limitations for a murder charge, authorities can always choose to refile charges should Ms. Morris’ body be found.

“With Christina still missing two years later, prosecutors will use all of the forensic evidence and surveillance footage they have collected to build a case highlighting Mr. Arochi’s conflicting statements while attempting to draw a straight line between him and this suspicious disappearance,” he says.

To interview Mr. Teakell, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.