Estate plans should account for the disbursal of all assets, lest they become marooned in probate purgatory.  People are forgetting that they have digital assets that need to be accounted for.

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Protecting Your Digital Assets

Digital assets like cryptocurrency, social media accounts, e-commerce and online accounts need to be cared for just as much as conventional ones, so that family members are able to account for and access them as property, wealth and assets are transferred from one generation to the next.

Chicago-Business-Lawyer-George-Bellas-300x177A Legal Guide to Holiday Parties

Alas, the holiday season is upon us!  It’s time to celebrate the successes of the prior year with a festive holiday party, where employees can let off steam, socialize and spread cheer.  So, who should you contact first? A caterer… or a DJ… or your friendly Chicago business lawyer?  Although it may not sound like the most fun way to kick off celebrations, calling your company’s lawyer to discuss legal guidelines and potential liability pitfalls may be a good idea.  We don’t mean to be scrooge and kill the fun, but times have changed.

To ensure that your holiday party is memorable for the right reasons, this guide may help understand some concerns are and how to avoid potentially troublesome situations.

In late September, the social media behemoth Facebook told the World Wide Web that about 50 million accounts had suffered a security breach. Hackers had stolen password tokens for signing into Spotify, Instagram, Yelp and thousands of other third-party applications.

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Facebook Security Breach

Facebook automatically logged out the 50 million users directly affected and another 40 million who might have been implicated, and the company said that passwords weren’t compromised. But the incident serves as a warning to all who have multiple passwords across the various sites and accounts they use—in other words, virtually everyone in the First World, and certainly business owners—to take this opportunity to better manage account security.

Few would argue that President Trump engages in what could be described colloquially as “rhetorical hyperbole” when logged on to his Twitter account.   But a recent court finding that dismissed a defamation suit filed against Trump by porn star Stormy Daniels, on the grounds that a tweet by the president could legally be described in those terms, rather than as potentially factual statements—defamation cases require that a statement be factually false—could have a significant effect on how libel law applies to social media going forward.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges that she and her daughter were threatened on the street in Las Vegas for agreeing to participate in an In Touch magazine article about her past relationship with the president. “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,” she was allegedly told in May 2011.

Trumps-Stormy-Tweet-wasnt-defamation-300x199After Trump’s election, Daniels commissioned a sketch artist to create a rendering of the person who had threatened her, and she released the sketch publicly on April 17, 2017.  On the next day, a tweet from @RealDonaldTrump read, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for fools (but they know it)!”

Workers Classification – Employees or Independent Contractors

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Independent Contractor or Employee?

As a business owner or an employer, when you hire a new worker, you will be reintroduced to the question – should you classify the worker as an employee or an independent contractor?  In order to make this huge business decision, you need to fully understand the difference between an employee and an independent contractor and the importance of classifying them correctly.

Generally speaking, illegal immigrants have the same protections under labor laws as American citizens, with some minor exceptions.

Minimum Wage Laws:  addition to federal laws, each state has its own minimum wage requirements; where federal and state laws differ, the higher wage applies.  Minimum wage laws apply to all workers the same, regardless of immigration status. Minimum wages in the U.S. are primarily set forth by the federal government, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  But virtually every state has its own minimum wage law as well.  Though the federal law trumps the state law, if state law mandates greater benefits, the employer must pay the higher rate.

Importantly, the FLSA makes no exception for illegal immigrants.  They’re therefore entitled the same benefits as American citizens.   Currently, the FLSA minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for non-exempt employees, and the New York minimum is the same. The minimum under Illinois law is $8.25.

In case you missed it, on June 21 the Supreme Court of the United States passed a judgment that states were now allowed to impose taxes on online sales.  This overrules its previous decision to rule out tax collection on stores that did not have a physical presence in that state.

So what does this law means and how is this going to look for your online business?

Before we go further into the South Dakota vs. Wayfair Inc. ruling, it is important to be familiar with how sales tax on online purchases used to work until now. The previous verdict from 1992, also known as Quill Corp. vs. North Dakota ruling, set forth that online retail merchants only had to impose taxes on their online sales in states where they had a physical presence or a “nexus.”   This means that the customers were required to pay the tax on the purchase to their home state directly.

self-driving-uber-300x165The recent deaths of a motorist and a pedestrian in separate incidents in California and Arizona, respectively, both of which are under National Transportation Safety Board investigation, raise the question of whether autonomous driving technology has become safe enough for day-to-day roadway use.

A man from Peninsula, California, died when his Tesla Model X, which data from the vehicle log showed was in autopilot mode at the time, crashed into a concrete barrier on Highway 101 in nearby Mountain View.

Other Tesla drivers reported similar experiences near this same reeway barrier and others, corroborating accounts of the overall unreliability of the autopilot system near such dividers. At least one Tesla owner who drove near the barrier in question posted several videos showing autopilot steering to the left—straight toward the divider.

bitcoin-1056983-300x169Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been spreading like cyber-kudzu during the past couple of years in certain corners of the online investing world. More cautious investors still might be hanging back to make sure they’re not a crypto-bubble. And now all investors have a reason to hesitate: a series of legal and regulatory investigations that call into question their stability as investments.

Among the recent developments that could give would-be investors pause:

  • The U.S Securities and Exchange Commission in May announced that it had secured injunctive relief to halt alleged “ongoing fraud” by an unregistered, non-exempt Initial Coin Offering (ICO) that had raised as much as $21 million in cryptoassets. Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services, Inc., EHI Internetwork and Systems Management, Inc., and Michael Stollery, a self-described “block chain evangelist,” were collectively accused of fraud in connection with purchase, offer or sale of securities under both the Securities Exchange Act and the Securities Act. The SEC alleged that the defendants created a digital asset known as BAR and TBAR tokens, orchestrated a social media campaign based on false corporate relationships—including, most egregiously, a supposed link with the Federal Reserve Bank—and false testimonials to show their supposed expertise. The complaint further alleged that the group of defendants had generated demand by offering various incentives and creating a sense of urgency, then inflated the price of the tokens on the secondary market in a “pump and dump,” or “create and inflate” scheme. Such schemes are seen as a widespread problem on crypto-exchanges.

By: Jillian Tattersall

George Bellas Business AttorneyWill the #MeToo era herald a new day in court for women who file gender discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuits against prominent people or institutions?

The 2017 deposition of a former vice president of investment banking for a major Australian bank operating in 34 countries including the U.S., illustrates what women can face.  The woman, who worked in the bank’s New York office for two years, was one of two women in her department and one of four black people in the 100-person office. She sued for race and sex discrimination in federal court in 2016, two years after being let go. Her lawsuit alleges that her male colleagues constantly commented about the size of women’s breasts and their own physical assets in addition to asking the woman about her sex life. The woman also alleges that a former manager called her a “monkey” on numerous occasions.