Neiman Marcus Facing Creditors In Court

The cost of litigation is a huge challenge for businesses of all sizes. Large companies can threaten litigation in an effort to force opposing parties to drop claims against them. This is not only an extremely unfair practice, but it is against Texas law. Retailer Neiman Marcus has been accused by creditors of filing frivolous lawsuits in an attempt to stifle legitimate claims made by creditors.

Neiman Marcus is over five billion dollars in debt, which has created a contentious fight between the retailer and its creditors, specifically Marble Ridge Capital. Creditors have accused Neiman Marcus of moving around its assets to protect them from creditors. Marble Ridge Capital filed a lawsuit against the company, which in turn filed a countersuit claiming Marble Ridge was spreading harmful and incorrect information about the company. Now, both companies are waiting for a judge to decide whether or not Neiman Marcus’s countersuit can be dismissed under Anti-SLAPP laws.

Anti-SLAPP laws are meant to protect individuals and companies from frivolous lawsuits. What makes the lawsuits against Neiman Marcus and Marble Ridge Capital interesting is that their outcome could set a precedent for future creditors and debtors. If debtors are allowed to bully their creditors by filing additional lawsuits, it could give debtors an unfair advantage.

Getting Help With Anti-SLAPP Lawsuits

Anti-SLAPP lawsuits exist to ensure individuals and companies with more resources don’t trample over the rights of others. No one should be able to use his or her power and influence to deny someone else’s day in court. At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys are experienced at helping individuals and businesses fight against larger adversaries. We use Texas Anti-SLAPP laws to dismiss frivolous lawsuits that were only filed to intimidate our clients.

If you or your business needs help with a legal matter, do not wait to contact one of our experienced lawyers today. We have extensive experience in a wide array of litigation matters, and we can protect your interests. Our attorneys can craft a personalized and efficient strategy to obtain a successful resolution for your case. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

New Law Could Prevent Crypto-Currency Fraud

The word “fraud” usually conjures up ideas of identity theft, writing bad checks, or selling a misrepresented item. However the reality is new types of fraud are constantly occurring in inventive ways. One of the most recent types of fraud is crypto-currency fraud; with the increasing interest in crypto-currencies, fraud is rising in this area. A new law aims to prevent crypto-currency fraud in Texas.

House Bill No. 4371 is relatively brief compared to other bills, but it could have huge implications for Texans. The bill, which was recently introduced to the Texas Legislature, would create new regulations for crypto-currency transactions. Specifically, the bill would require the identification of any individuals looking to send crypto-currency payment. This means anyone receiving crypto-currency would be responsible for verifying the identity of the sender.

This requirement might not seem like much, but it’s actually incredibly powerful. Imagine the login credentials for your bank account get stolen and the thief uses it to transfer money out of your account to another account. Sounds like a nightmare, but there are laws and procedures in place to identify, investigate and prosecute this crime. The same cannot currently be said of crypto-currency. Because it’s an extremely young form of currency, lawmakers have yet to catch up with the protections necessary to keep users safe from fraud when using crypto-currency as a payment option.

Getting Help After Fraud

While the new bill could help make crypto-currency safer, the reality is fraud still occurs. Businesses can be particularly susceptible to fraud, which can have monumental consequences. Business fraud occurs anytime an individual or company intentionally falsifies records or perpetrates lies with the intent to deceive. What makes fraud particularly devastating is the volume of victims involved. While victims of fraud might feel helpless, they can seek to protect themselves and pursue justice by filing a lawsuit.

Houston Fraud Attorneys

Many victims of fraud do not come forward because they are embarrassed, but there is no reason to put any blame on yourself. The Houston fraud attorneys at Feldman & Feldman can work with you to investigate the situation and file a lawsuit against the deceptive party to obtain compensation for the money lost and damages caused by the fraud. If you’ve been a victim of fraud, no matter what type, the Houston fraud attorneys at Feldman & Feldman are equipped to investigate your claim and pursue compensation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Google Ends Forced Arbitration For Employees

As one of the most prolific and important companies in the technology industry, Google’s actions are watched closely. Up until recently, Google (like many companies) was forcing arbitration agreements upon employees; the company recently decided to end this practice, giving rights back to its employees.

Arbitration agreements are a common occurrence in employment contracts. These force employees to resolve any lawsuits against the company in arbitration rather than in a public court. The main problem with arbitration? Since it is not a public process, the details of the lawsuit are kept secret. This secrecy helps protect companies from additional scrutiny, but can be extremely harmful to employees.

The practice of forced arbitration is facing a lot of criticism in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Because arbitration keeps matters of a lawsuit secret, companies can much better protect executives and both the individual’s reputation as well as the company’s image from criticism of the public at large. This in turn enables individuals who sexually harass other employees to continue their behavior without fear of repercussions. Last year, employees at Google were so fed up with the forced arbitration agreements they staged a walk out. The walk out gained national attention and put significant pressure on the tech giant. In response to growing pressure, Google announced its plans to get rid of arbitration agreements for all current and future employees. This will allow employees to settle any type of work dispute in a court if necessary.

Understanding Workers’ Rights

No one should be subject to discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Companies that use arbitration agreements are empowered to hide their wrongdoings in private arbitration proceedings, which take away workers’ voices. While Google has returned this power to employees, many companies still utilize arbitration agreements. Regardless of whether or not companies have arbitration agreements in place, workers still have rights and can seek compensation when these rights are violated.

Houston Employment Lawyers

At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys have represented scores of victims who were subjected to discrimination and harassment in the workplace. If you are experiencing discrimination or harassment, don’t wait to contact us. We can help you understand your rights and legal options. Call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our Houston employment lawyers.

Southwest and Mechanic’s Union Nearing End of Six Year Long Negotiation Battle

It’s not uncommon for airlines to reschedule or cancel flights. For Southwest Airlines, however, some of the cancellation and rescheduled flights over the past six years stem from a dispute between the company and its Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. The contentious fight between Southwest and its mechanic’s union appears to be nearing its end according to both parties who have reached a tentative agreement.

The long-running dispute arose out of a failure to agree on a labor contract. While it is not unusual for unions to have disputes over wages and compensation with companies, the Southwest dispute resulted in two lawsuits. The company sued the mechanic’s union alleging the mechanics were flagging minor maintenance issues that caused planes to be brought in unnecessarily for maintenance. These maintenance issues caused many planes to be grounded, resulting in cancelled and rescheduled flights. In turn, the mechanic’s union filed a lawsuit against the company and its Chief Operating Officer claiming defamation.

The dispute was causing serious concerns in the industry and eventually caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA warned Southwest the contentious relationship between the company and its mechanics could undermine the company’s safety-management system. Feeling the heat from the FAA, both sides worked to reach a resolution. The tentative contract needs to be voted on by the mechanic’s union members, but if approved, the five-year contract would give the mechanics a 20% raise and $160 million in bonuses.

Representing Unions In Complex Disputes

Many people are unaware of how unions operate in the legal system and what rights both unions and their members are entitled to. Any legal dispute involving a union or other trade organization is very complex, and should only be handled by lawyers who have a track record of success in these matters. At Feldman & Feldman, our lawyers have successfully represented numerous unions, including firefighters unions and police unions.

If your union is encountering legal problems, do not hesitate to contact us. We can provide aggressive representation and innovative strategies to achieve a successful resolution. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.

How A 2015 Texas State Law Could Allow The State To Takeover HISD

The Houston Independent School District has been subject to much criticism and controversy regarding the school board’s handling of underperforming schools. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has stated the school board needs to be taken over to replace ineffective leadership – and a 2015 state law could allow this to happen.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is the state agency responsible for overseeing public schools. TEA has the authority to take over leadership of schools if the school has been labeled “improvement requirement” for five consecutive years. TEA has exercised this authority in the past in a number of ways.

In recent years, TEA has closed down underperforming schools and even entire school districts; however, the agency has never taken over a school board. Doing so would be particularly unusual because voters elect school board officials. In 2015, a law was passed that gave TEA the authority to impose sanctions on school districts with schools that are consistently not meeting state standards. If the TEA decided to take over the Houston Independent School District, the agency could control the school board for two years or even longer until TEA decides the school district has met academic standards.

School board officials have criticized the idea of a takeover and instead blame the district’s underperforming schools on a lack of funding from the state. It’s currently unclear whether or not TEA will takeover HISD, but current HISD board members would likely put up a legal fight if the agency did. Educational entities have certain protections from liability, which means any legal action taken against them quickly becomes complicated.

Understanding Lawsuits With Educational Entities

Because of local and state regulations regarding educational entities, any lawsuit involving an educational entity will hinge on understanding and applying them. At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys have successfully represented educational entities in the past and we continue to provide unparalleled legal services to educational entities. Our attorneys understand the nuances and complications of lawsuits of this nature and can help educational entities navigate legal issues to a successful resolution. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.

Texas Open Meetings Act Provision Struck Down by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

The Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) is included in Chapter 551 of the Government Code. It states that governmental bodies must hold open meetings unless there is an authorized reason for a closed session. Public access to the proceedings and decision-making processes of both local and state governmental entities is an essential element of a properly functioning democracy. Despite its important public interest goals, a significant provision of the government transparency law was recently struck down as unconstitutional.

Texas Open Meetings Act

The Texas Open Meetings Act was enacted to ensure Texas government is transparent, open, and accountable to all Texans. It requires state and local governmental entities to conduct public business responsibly and in accordance with the law. The law contains very specific guidelines concerning when notice of an open meeting must be given and what information that notice must contain. Strict compliance with these guidelines is generally necessary.

In addition to notice, to remain in compliance with TOMA, minutes must be kept or a recording made of every open meeting. These minutes must state the subject of each deliberation and indicate each vote, order, decision, or other action taken.

Unconstitutionally Vague

Texas’ highest criminal court, The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, struck down a significant provision of the Texas Open Meetings Act last month, calling it “unconstitutionally vague.”

The provision at issue makes it a crime for public officials to “knowingly [conspire] to circumvent this chapter by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations.” The goal is to keep public officials from organizing smaller meetings — without an official quorum present — to discuss public business in private.

Open-government advocates warned the ruling undermines the aim and purpose of the Act. Like the lawyers at our firm, many members of the public, as well as elected officials, are watching to see if the state Legislature will address the issue.

Houston, Texas Public Interest Lawyers

The Texas Open Meetings Act embodies the most basic values of democracy by ensuring Texas citizens can stay informed about and participate in their local government. Strict and specific requirements mean accidental and intentional violations do occur. At Feldman & Feldman, we work hard for the people of Texas to ensure those in positions of power do not infringe upon their rights. Government transparency via open meetings is just one component of a true transparent democracy. If you or someone you know believe your local or state government has acted in violation of TOMA, we can help.

Monster Jam Launching Monster Lawsuit Against Toy Giant Mattel

When companies work together for years or even decades, a variety of issues can arise out of the agreements made and deals struck. When one company or business decides to part ways by ending the relationship, the resulting split has the potential to turn into a legal nightmare for both parties. In one such recent business divorce, the resulting lawsuit involves a myriad of commercial litigation issues.

The Battle of the Monster Trucks

A recent case between the company that owns MONSTER JAM® and toy manufacturer Mattel undoes a 20-year partnership between the two companies. In July 2018, Feld Motor Sports – the parent company of MONSTER JAM® – alerted Mattel it planned to end their long-standing relationship. While the details of the decision to dissolve the partnership are unknown, Feld Motor Sports had licensed the Monster Jam name and logo to Mattel since 1999, with Mattel serving as the sole producer of official MONSTER JAM® toy trucks and other merchandise.

In a lawsuit filed late December 2018 (Feld Motor Sports, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc.), Feld claims Mattel infringed on its trademark by producing its own line of toy monster trucks with remarkably similar styles, names, and colors, alleging they are “virtually identical in shape and construction.” The lawsuit even claims Mattel repurposed the molds it created and used for decades manufacturing the MONSTER JAM® trucks in a gross violation of trademark laws. Additionally, Mattel announced in November it planned to hold its own event, titled “Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live,” which is a near perfect copy of Feld Motor Sports’ MONSTER JAM® event.

In addition to trademark infringement, Feld alleges Mattel chose not to complete the remainder of the licensing agreement in good faith by failing to supply retailers with their requested supplies of MONSTER JAM® products, resulting in a significant decline in sales for Feld Motor Sports in the third quarter of 2018 versus the same quarter in 2017. Feld claims Mattel “secretly and deliberately undersupplied MONSTER JAM® products” while still remaining the exclusive licensee, and therefore unlawfully blocked market access to the products.

Because of the long history between the two companies, litigation over these issues is sure to prove contentious, with claims ranging from trademark infringement to licensing issues to breach of contract. The issues involved can affect a wide-range of businesses, and the case merits close attention as it continues to unfold.

Commercial Litigation Attorneys in Houston

The commercial litigation lawyers at Feldman & Feldman have successfully litigated business disputes for over 40 years, and one of our founding partners, Cris Feldman, has significant experience in commercial litigation. If your business is facing issues with a partner or vendor, find out how we can help resolve those issues either in or out of the courtroom. Contact us today for a consultation.

Austin, The Live Music Capital of the World, Struggles With Noise Complaints

Due to the close proximity of businesses, entertainment venues, residential areas, and hotels in a metropolitan area, noise complaints are a common occurrence in a big city. Without clear and defined regulations in place for noise levels – including specific hours of operation for music and entertainment venues – these complaints can be a constant source of friction between business owners and those living in or visiting a city.

Austin has spent the last three years attempting to codify regulations and create a system of clear expectations for any business that opens or operates in an area where noise complaints might arise, including near a residential area or a hotel. The city’s Music Commission is pushing the City Council to produce an ordinance to clarify expectations and hopefully alleviate tension between the city’s numerous entertainment venues and nightclubs and nearby hotels and residences.

The Live Music Capital of the World

Austin was dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World ®” in 1991, when it was determined the city had more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the country. In addition to being the home of over 200 live music venues, Austin annually hosts some of the country’s largest music festivals, including renowned South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits (ACL).

The sheer volume of music venues in a relatively small geographic area was eventually going to lead to issues. In 2015, a newly opened downtown Austin hotel began submitting noise complaints against a nearby nightclub, which had been operating peacefully for years. In mid-2017, it appeared the City Council was on track to create a licensing and penalty system for music venues and nightclubs operating within Austin city limits to address these types of complaints. Objections from leaders in the local hospitality industry and music/entertainment industry, however, derailed these efforts.

Current Laws in Place

The current Austin Code of Ordinance specifies a person may not:

1. Use or permit the use of sound equipment at a business in excess of the decibel limits prescribed by this chapter;
a. in excess of 85 decibels between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., as measured at the property line of the business; or
b. is audible at the property line of the business between 2:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
2. Make noise or play a musical instrument audible to an adjacent business or residence between 10:30 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.;

Since downtown Austin is packed with music venues, clubs, restaurants, and hotels, these restrictions are very broadly defined for the epicenter of a city built on live music. Creating a more clearly defined set of regulations, including steps for permitting and set guidelines for violations or infractions, could go a long way towards bridging the divide between entertainment venue owners looking to run a successful business and visitors and tourists looking to get a good night’s sleep.

A History of Success With Noise Complaints

The lawyers at Feldman & Feldman have significant experience dealing with noise complaint issues, most recently reaching a successful resolution for Houston residents in relation to White Oak Music Hall. The Greater Heights homeowners’ settlement with White Oak Music Hall included limitations on when and how long shows can be held at the venue. The settlement also prohibited shows on school nights from lasting past 9:30 p.m., along with any outdoor concerts during state STAAR testing. A sound monitoring system was also required, with potential fines reaching up to $15,000 per violation. These regulations have measurably improved the relationship between the residents of this area and the music venue.

City Council Gets Ready To Implement Prop B

It’s been over three months since Houston voters approved pay parity between firefighters and police officers and Houston City Council is getting ready to begin implementation. As the legal representatives who helped the Houston Professional Firefighters Association get Proposition B on the ballot, our entire team is very proud to see the measure come to fruition.

In a City Council meeting in late January, Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council members discussed different options for how to roll the proposition out. Although Mayor Turner opposed Proposition B, claiming there was not room in the budget for pay parity, others have suggested the money can be allocated from other places. The City of Houston is required to keep 7.5% reserve funds on hand for emergencies, but Houston has an estimated 8.9% in reserves, meaning the city has an excess in its reserves. Some have suggested the excess in reserves can be used to immediately implement Prop B.

While there are many options for funding the implementation of pay parity for fire fighters, the City Council could look to its surplus funds to implement Prop B. Estimates indicate that if the city continues to spend at the same rate through the end of the 2019 fiscal year, there would be a surplus of $88 million available. This surplus could be used for the immediate funding of pay parity. But the city doesn’t have to implement Prop B all at once, as pay parity could be introduced in phases to be completed over five years.

We Are Proud To Support Firefighters

Feldman & Feldman has been honored to help Houston firefighters in their fight to get pay parity with police officers. We are also assisting Dallas and San Antonio firefighters in protecting their rights in separate actions. Our attorneys have extensive experience with governmental entities and workers’ unions and know how to achieve successful results.

Contact Feldman & Feldman For Help

The dedicated attorneys at Feldman & Feldman provide a unique approach to complex legal issues. If you would like to schedule an appointment with us to discuss your legal issues, contact us today.

Investigation Reveals Over 300 Sexually Abusive Southern Baptist Church Leaders

Just one week after Catholic Dioceses across Texas released the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News revealed 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers across the country have been accused of sexual misconduct. Over 220 of these individuals have been charged with sex crimes. Nonetheless the Southern Baptist Convention has refused to act and implement protocols that could prevent much of this abuse, and now victims want answers.

The Southern Baptist Convention as an institution is particularly susceptible to becoming a vehicle for abusers as church doctrine supports the independence of each local church. Hence, there is no central database tracking when an individual was ordained, accusations of sexual or physical assault, and the background/criminal history of pastors, church officials, or employees. In turn, it was previously unknown just how widespread abuse was within the Southern Baptist Convention. The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News assembled through news reports, prison records, court records, sex offender registries, the number of known predators within the Southern Baptist Convention. However, this probably only represents a fraction of the crisis, as most incidents go unreported, or are not publicly revealed by church officials.

Nonetheless, the Houston Chronicle investigation revealed startling facts. According to the investigation, at least 35 church pastors, employees, and volunteers were able to find a job within Southern Baptist Convention after exhibiting predatory behavior. This was due in part to churches failing to alert law enforcement officials to claims of abuse. The investigation also found that registered sex offenders were able to return to a church and continue working such as one Houston area preacher who sexually assaulted a minor. While some of the church sexual abuse victims were adults, most were minors, with the youngest only three years old. Victims reported being molested, sent explicit communications, photographed nude, exposed to pornography, and repeatedly raped. Many assaults occurred on church grounds.

Helping Victims Speak Out

Feldman & Feldman has been on the front lines holding perpetrators of sex crimes accountable, regardless of denomination, faith, creed, sexual orientation, or race, including members of the Southern Baptist Convention. Religious institutions far too often sweep incidents under the rug, and victims often are unable to seek justice in the criminal justice arena. Feldman & Feldman utilizes recourse in the civil justice system to assist victims in finding closure, and in holding sexual predators fully accountable. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated attorneys.