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Androvett NewsWire: August 23, 2012: Cyberattacks | Back-to-School | Life Settlements
 
August 23, 2012 11:36 am

Top Concern for Corporate Leaders: Cyberattacks
Data security and cyberthreats are now the top legal concern of business leaders and general counsel, according to a recent national survey. While acknowledging the data security threat, a majority of corporate leaders revealed that their companies either didn't have or weren't sure if they had a data security response plan. "Corporate America is slowly recognizing that protecting sensitive data is just as important as locking the door of the warehouse," says international data security expert Erin Nealy Cox of Stroz Friedberg in Dallas. "Many companies are not allocating the resources to be more proactive in this area until it's too late, and they are suffering from a costly compromise. My hope is that it's not going to take more high-profile and damaging cyberattacks before real change occurs, but I suspect it will." For more information, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.

Communication is Key for Divorced Parents
Back-to-school time can be tough for newly divorced couples, but a little planning and a lot of mutual consideration can go a long way toward smoothing the path for parents and kids alike, says Mary Jo McCurley, a partner in the Family Law firm of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing L.L.P. "Everybody should sit down together with a calendar and make sure all the important dates are recorded," she says. "Visits with their non-custodial parent, after-school activities, recitals, trips to Grandma's, dentist appointments – everything that will occupy the children's time needs to be recorded and shared with both parents." Parents also need to make sure that they are included in school, team and scout troop communications. "Making sure that both Mom and Dad receive all email correspondence from a teacher or coach may seem trivial, but staying in the loop on daily activities is critical for both parents to maintain a healthy relationship with their children," she says. For more information, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

Firms Can't Ignore Chick-fil-A Lessons
While the Chick-fil-A maelstrom over gay marriage finally may be in the general public's rearview mirror, employers still might find themselves vulnerable to lawsuits if such debates are allowed to rage at the workplace, says Dallas employment attorney Billy Hammel. "Neither Title VII of the Civil Rights Act nor Texas state law recognizes sexual orientation as a characteristic that's protected from discrimination," says Hammel, a partner at Constangy Brooks & Smith LLP. "However, an experienced employee-side attorney could assert retaliation claims following such workplace debates in a way that would probably be covered by Title VII," he says. For those wanting to avoid media firestorms like the one Chick-fil-A faced after its president and chief operating officer made statements against gay marriage, Hammel advises companies to enact policies that outline what types of public comments are permissible for all employees. For more information, contact Dave Moore at 800-559-4534 or dave@androvett.com.

EPA Turned Back Over Clean Air Act Scope
After two defeats in the nation's appellate courts in less than a week, the Environmental Protection Agency is learning that it can enforce – but not expand – its statutory role in administering the Clean Air Act. Houston attorney Richard O. Faulk, chair of the Litigation Department at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, welcomes the developments, noting that it is "high time" that the EPA learned that its powers as an "unelected bureaucracy are limited by the people's elected representatives in Congress." As these court decisions recognize, Congress insisted that EPA and the states work cooperatively to control air pollution, says Faulk. Unless the EPA wants to try its luck with the U.S. Supreme Court, it now must "collaborate and defer to state expertise," according to Faulk. "The EPA should now sit down and talk with the states – instead of leading with a sledgehammer. The EPA can tell you there's a problem, but nothing allows them to tell you how to fix it. That's the responsibility of each individual state." For more information, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

When is a Boat Not Really a Boat?
Whether a floating structure can be considered a "vessel" is an important legal question that is usually easy to answer, says maritime lawyer Cory Itkin of Houston's Arnold & Itkin LLP. "Congress and the courts have broadly defined a vessel as any watercraft capable of practical transportation on water, a fairly easy test," says Itkin. However, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear Lozman v. Riviera Beach may undo the existing threshold, he warns. In Lozman, a Florida man whose houseboat was seized by the City of Riviera Beach, Fla., claims his boat shouldn't be considered a vessel because he didn't intend to use it for transportation. He is arguing that the court should ignore Congress' definition and instead look to whether the owner intended the structure for transportation. "The other side argues that this test is too subjective and could lead to improper manipulation, and that it makes more sense to rely on the current objective test that cannot be as easily manipulated," says Itkin. For more information, contact Alan Bentrup at 800-559-4534 or alan@androvett.com.

Ten Commandments Case Results Vary
A federal appellate court recently allowed a 5-foot-tall Ten Commandments monument to remain at the Dixie County courthouse in Florida although judges around the country have issued orders to remove similar expressions of religion from government buildings. "The court tossed this case because the man who sued was from another county and merely passed the monument while driving, which is quite different from the atheist Houston lawyer who walked by a monument to enter the courthouse where she worked," says David Furlow, a partner at Thompson & Knight in Houston and an expert on First Amendment issues. "All Bible monument cases are not created equal. Courts usually dismiss weak cases and typically order the removal of monuments that reflect a local government's support for one particular faith above all others. Many of those same courts also prohibit the use of taxpayer money to support one religion at the expense of others." For more information, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

‘Life Settlement' Policy Debate Renewed
A lawsuit filed last week by the Texas Attorney General's Office against Waco-based Life Partners Holdings Inc. includes claims that the publicly traded company is selling unregistered securities to investors. Life Partners provides lump-sum payments to customers in exchange for the proceeds from their life insurance policies. Attorney Geoff Weisbart of Austin's Weisbart Springer Hayes has extensive experience representing plaintiffs who have had problems with these so-called "life settlement" policies, including work on behalf of numerous senior citizens and retirees. "Anyone purchasing an interest in a life settlement should be a very sophisticated purchaser who really knows what they are doing and recognizes the related risks," says Weisbart. "Likewise, any group selling life settlement interests must understand that courts are ruling that these policies are securities, requiring compliance with securities laws." For more information, contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

History on Debtors' Side in Texas
Many of the strong homestead protections enjoyed by Texas landowners are a result of early state history, says bankruptcy attorney Frances A. Smith of Dallas' Shackelford Melton & McKinley. "Early leaders wanted to settle the state as quickly as possible," says Smith. "To encourage settlers to move to Texas, founders advertised generous homesteads, which were protected from creditors." As a result, Texans' homesteads – the land and house they occupy – always have been exempt from general creditor claims. This generally covers up to 10 acres of urban land, and up to 200 acres of rural property. "Texas doesn't cap the value of your homestead," adds Smith. "Some states will say you get your homestead up to $25,000 or $30,000, but Texas does it by the land area, so it doesn't matter what the dollar value might be. Whether your 200 acres is worth $2 million or $200,000, it doesn't matter. Each of your 200 acres is protected." For more information, contact Dave Moore at 800-559-4534 or dave@androvett.com.


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