Articles Posted in Business Disputes

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Family disputes can turn nasty, as can business disputes, but there are few things worse than business disputes between family members.

Recently, Robert F. Tigani Jr. and his brother, Chris Tigani, filed a lawsuit against their father, Robert F. Tigani Sr., for allegedly abusing his position as trustee to divert funds and assets away from his children for his own benefit.

Tigani Sr. is a chairman of N.K.S. Distributors, a franchise of Anheuser-Busch for Delaware that was founded in 1960. The lawsuit alleges he took advantage of his position as chairman, and as trustee of an irrevocable trust that was created by his parents (who founded the company) to ensure the company remained in the family.

According to the complaint, when the trust was created in 1986, Tigani Sr. owned 42% of N.K.S. shares and 58% were set aside to benefit Robert Jr., Chris, and their children, with Tigani Sr. appointed trustee. But the lawsuit alleges Tigani Sr. abused his position to issue himself extra shares of the company, giving him a controlling interest in the distribution company. He allegedly concealed the improper issuance of these funds from his sons, and when they suspected him of misconduct, he allegedly refused to show them company records of the transactions. Continue reading

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Storms weather and can bring about the best and worst in people.  When damage occurs, the test of resilience, character, friendship and trust are all evaluated.  The process is not any easier when there is an Insurance company that one has to deal with and when there is the lurking possibility that they are handling thousands of claims at the same time.  All damages are subject to scrutiny, including the damage that takes place after storms.  Disputes arise in the context of property damage and to its extent. This firm is willing to assist as an All-American firm working for its citizens.  In the doing of so, we write and will consider assistance via phone if necessary.  Not all are easily able to navigate as emotions such as shock are still being overcome.

The competing interests that an insured and insurer have in the filing of a claim also makes it more painstakingly difficult.  Some perceive the insurance claims process as adversarial.  The insurance representative cannot guide to what is best in representation on the matter. This is since Insurance companies appear to be in a Business.  As such, the expectation to be fairly compensated is questionable.  While many pay on time and premiums it does not mean that what you give is what you will get back.  At times, adjusters may become overwhelmed in working on multiple cases that are catastrophic in nature and make mistakes or overlook damage.   That is why having an attorney best helps.   For those reasons, we have compiled a list of items that should be attended prior to discussing a case with an attorney or Insurance company.

Please ensure compliance with the following:

  1. By making a timely reporting of claim, as a failure to do so may result in its denial. This can normally be done via phone or online.  The claims process normally begins at this point: initial contact with the insurance company, an evaluation of your claim, negotiations, and a resolution/settlement.  At this point, an adjuster is normally assigned.
  2. Documentation of all video and photos of the damage, if possible.  It would even be better if those included prior and after.  Possible electronic receipts of any purchases made.
  1. The obtaining of independent quotes by contractor receipts in putting a price on the extent of the loss.  These may be challenged or questioned by the Insurance company, but are a good start and utilizing them may assist you in deciding whom you wish to use for the final repair.  Sometimes, supplements are required for damage that is hidden.  If disputed, the burden of proof can then move from the insurance company to the insured if the contractor estimate does not reflect the true damage sustained.

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Disputes are a normal part of any relationship: be it business, personal or professional.  When business mixes with family, disputes would seem an unavoidable part of the deal.  For such a reason, litigation would be a route that most would want to avoid due to cost, time and the tensions placed on parties involved.  In general, most suits settle prior to trial and a majority of these via mediation.  Judges also recommend that parties settle prior to trial.

As we have discussed on our previous blog posts, Mediation is a way to appoint a neutral third party, often a retired judge or attorney with a vast amount of experience, who will resolve the dispute between both parties utilizing a problem-solving approach.  These sessions are confidential and a way for parties to explore and resolve issues.

For privacy reasons, and for a quicker resolution method, it would appear that such measures are more viable if a dispute was to occur within a family owned business.  Such cases may involve the ownership or management of a family-owned business are at issue, settlement agreements also can include provisions requiring, for example, transfers of shares, changes to corporate governance processes, or changes to a family member’s employment or other involvement with the company. Even if the parties begin to litigate their disputes, but then proceed to mediation, a judge will typically enforce a settlement agreement reached by the parties through mediation. Continue reading

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Although most he said/she said cases can be difficult, if not impossible, to prove which side is in the right, when hearing a case against a person for allegedly acting inappropriately, consideration can be given to how strongly the accuser appears to believe what they’re saying, rather than what actually happened.

In the case of the charges David Mueller filed against Taylor Swift, her mother, and one of her managers, Judge William J. Martinez, of the United States District Court in Denver, dismissed the pop star from the complaint.

The allegations involve a meet and greet Swift gave before a concert at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Mueller and his girlfriend at the time, Shannon Melcher, posed for a photo with the pop star, at which point Swift claims Mueller put his hand up her dress and onto her bare buttock.

Out of shock and surprise and an unwillingness not to ruin the whole evening for the rest of her fans, Swift did not immediately react. But after her meet and greet was over, she allegedly informed security she had been groped, at which point they escorted Mueller and Melcher out of the building. Continue reading

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If a new musical was a hit in places like Vienna, but can’t get the funding to start on Broadway, is it fair to assume it’s the fault of the producers or the publicist? Or is it just another case of bad luck in a notoriously difficult industry?

Producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza poured millions into getting their new musical, “Rebecca,” on the Broadway stage, but it looks now as if that will never happen.

The ill-fated musical, based on the gothic novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, first started experiencing problems when the producers put their faith in Mark C. Hutton, a stockbroker who promised Sprecher and Forlenza he would deliver investors. After Hutton claimed to have investors who would put $4.5 million into the project, the producers moved forward with their planning of the show without ever meeting any of the investors Hutton said he had lined up. Hutton then sent them a message saying one of the investors had died and all the money had been lost. It later came to light that none of the investors had ever actually existed and Hutton was arrested for committing fraud. Continue reading

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently put the kibosh on the proposed mega merger between health insurance giants Anthem, Inc. and Cigna Corporation, two of the nation’s four largest insurers. The court concluded that Anthem failed to show how proposed cost efficiencies would offset the harm to competition in affected markets. (United States, et al., v. Anthem, Inc. and Cigna Corp., No. 17-5024 (D.C. Cir. 2017)).

In 2015, Anthem, the second-largest health carrier, which operates the Blue Cross Blue Shield brand in 14 states, agreed to merge with third-largest Cigna, in what would be the biggest-ever merger of health insurers. It would leave Anthem as the surviving company with a controlling share of the merged company’s stock. Within Anthem states, existing Cigna customers could remain with Cigna, but the two insurers would otherwise no longer compete in those states.

The U.S. Department of Justice and several states successfully sued in district court to block the merger on the ground it would substantially lessen competition in affected markets, in violation of the Clayton Act. On appeal, Anthem argued the merger’s efficiencies would outweigh its antiicompetitive effects by reducing the costs of medical claims through lower provider rates, thus lowering Cigna’s rates. The government plaintiffs had argued these projected savings were unverified, not specific to the merger, and would not result in true efficiencies. Continue reading

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Getting taken to the cleaners by a dishonest employee or contractor is headache enough for any business, but having  no fraud coverage insurance coverage is a world of hurt.  Businesses are well advised to analyze their policies carefully to make sure they have proper coverage.

In the case of an Indiana telecom company called Telamon, its two different insurance policies provided no relief, according to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Telamon Corp. v. Charter Oak, No. 16-1205, 7th Cir. (2017)). Telamon engaged independent consultant Juanita B. to provide services, and her role eventually expanded well beyond the original agreement. She was named vice president of major accounts and became senior manager for the company’s business in New York and New Jersey. In that capacity, she oversaw the removal of old telecommunications equipment from AT&T sites to sell to salvagers. Juanita pocketed the profits, for a total of $5.2 million in losses for the company by the time it discovered her scheme.   Continue reading

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Stock options exercised by railroad employees are a form of monetary compensation taxable to the employer and employee under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act, according to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Wisconsin Central Ltd., et al. v. United States, No. 16‐3300 (7th Cir. 2017)).

In 1996, three Midwestern railroad subsidiaries of the Canadian National Railway Company began including stock options in their employees’ compensation plans. In its appeal from a district court ruling, the railway argued that income from the exercise of stock options that a railroad gives its employees is not a form of “money remuneration” to them and is therefore not taxable to the railway under the Act, which defines “compensation” as “any form of money remuneration paid to an individual for services rendered as an employee… .”

The Railroad Retirement Tax Act of 1937 is the railroad industry’s version of the Social Security Act; it imposes a payroll tax on both employer and employee to pay for pensions and other benefits.

The question before the Seventh Circuit was whether the tax should be levied on the value of stock options exercised by employees when the market price reaches a certain level. The Internal Revenue Service argued that it should, and in a 2-1 decision, the court agreed.

Writing for the majority, Judge Richard Posner stated: “Stock has so well‐defined a monetary value in our society that there is no significant economic difference between receiving a $1,000 salary bonus and a share or shares of stock having a market value of $1,000.” Continue reading

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A recent shareholder suit challenging the sale of a Chicago-based company to IBM was dismissed by a Delaware chancery court because the merger was supported by an informed and uncoerced vote of 80% of stockholders. When IBM acquired healthcare software developer Merge Healthcare, Inc., in 2015 for $1 billion, a group of Merge stockholders brought a class action complaint against Merge for what they charged was an improper sale process. The plaintiffs alleged the directors breached their fiduciary duties of loyalty and care due to self-interest in the transaction. (In Re Merge Healthcare Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Consol. C.A. No. 11388-VCG, Del. Chancery Court, 2017.)

The class action sought damages resulting from IBM’s acquisition of Merge’s publicly owned shares, which was supported by nearly 80% of Merge stockholders. On August 6, 2015, Merge’s board entered into an agreement granting the company’s common stockholders $7.13 in cash for each of their shares, a 31.8% premium to the market price. Preferred stockholders received $1,500 cash per share. The merger was completed on October 13, 2015, at an approximate value of $1 billion.

As part of the merger, certain Merge managers, including one of the defendant board members, entered into employment or transition arrangements with IBM. Continue reading

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Peter Doig isn’t exactly a common name, but the world-famous painter of that name had the bad fortune of bearing a similar name to that of Peter Edward Doige, who is apparently the true creator of a landscape painting at the center of a highly unusual lawsuit that was recently filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois.

Doige, not the painter Doig, served a short sentence in an Ontario correctional facility for LSD possession in the mid-1970s, which is where he met Robert Fletcher, who was allegedly serving as his parole officer. Fletcher said he watched Doige create a landscape painting that bears some strong resemblances to the paintings Doig is famous for and that regularly sell for $10 million or more. Fletcher said he bought the painting for $100 as a way to help Doige stay on the straight and narrow and helped him get a job.

The painting in question hung on a wall in Fletcher’s office for 40 years before a friend noticed it and told him it was by a famous painter: Peter Doig. Fletcher said he watched a talk Doig had given at a university and recognized his mannerisms as belonging to the man he helped all those years ago. Fletcher then got into contact with an art dealer in Chicago and they began making arrangements to sell the painting. Continue reading