Second Circuit Court of Appeals Keeps Suit Against Alibaba Alive

A federal lawsuit against online retailing giant Alibaba filed by its shareholders was given new life last week in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The complaint had previously been dismissed in 2016 by Judge Colleen McMahon, but the suit has now been remanded by the appeals court and will proceed.

According to documents in the case, Alibaba shareholders argued that the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse had been aware of the many counterfeit luxury goods being sold on its site. It was further alleged that the company had also engaged in fraud against shareholders by failing to disclose a meeting between its officials and China’s State Administration for Industry & Commerce. During that meeting, the agency had reportedly warned Alibaba of fines that would be imposed if the retailer continued to permit counterfeiters to engage in transactions on the website.

In the 2016 dismissal, Judge McMahon held that the lawsuit should not move forward because Alibaba did disclose the potential regulatory hazards in its IPO information. The Court of Appeals, however, supported the shareholders’ right to argue that Alibaba had in fact defrauded them.

The opinion reviving the lawsuit highlighted the relevance of shareholder allegations that the facts concealed by Alibaba were material to investors in that the retailer had been presented with a choice between abandoning lucrative business from counterfeiters and facing massive regulatory fines. Either choice, the court stated, would have impacted company revenues substantially. As such, the lower court had improperly disregarded shareholder arguments, did not construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and erroneously dismissed the suit.

Accusations related to Alibaba’s tolerance of counterfeit goods being sold through its website have long plagued the Chinese retail juggernaut. Company founder Jack Ma has argued that the problem lies with Chinese governmental leniency in dealing with known counterfeiters, urging more stringent legal penalties for those engaging in such activity.

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays Bring Lawsuit Against Concession Company

The Tampa Bay Rays baseball team has always used the same concession company since they were first founded as a team back in 1998. That company is called Centerplate. Recently, the Rays have made the decision to sue that company for breach of contract, and the two have severed ties. The team is bringing the suit for at least $75,000 against the company and claim they have “a long and sad history of failing to meet up to their obligations”.

The Complaints

Baseball management in Tampa Bay have said that doing business with Centerplate has brought bad publicity onto the team, and that the failure of Centerplate to do the work that they were supposed to do in a way they were supposed to do it has turned at least some fans against the team entirely. There are a whole list of accusations brought against Centerplate in the lawsuit according to calltothepen.com. A few of those accusations are as follows:

  • Employees Not Washing Their Hands
  • Black Mold
  • Live Insects

All of these things from a food and beverage company? Well, if the lawsuit is to be believed, then that is exactly the kinds of problems that the Rays have gotten fed up with from their concessions provider.

The Company’s Response

Centerplate strongly denies the claims brought forth by the Tampa Bay Rays. They said that they are “saddened and surprised” by the lawsuit. They do plan to fight the lawsuit in court. As of this moment, there is no sign from the company that they would be willing to settle with Tampa Bay in any way for what has been alleged of them.

Fan Expectations

Fans at a baseball game are generally not very picky eaters. They know the type of food that one can purchase from a concession stand. As long as the food does not make them sick and the beer is cold, most fans are happy with the chance to buy concessions. However, if the claims against Centerplate are true, then it is understandable why the Tampa Bay Rays may feel that the company is bringing a bad name upon the team.

If the fans are willing to pay the very high prices charged at most concession stands, they ought to at least be able to count on no getting sick when they place their order for some nachos and a hot dog.

Legal Secretary Receives Fee Award in Overtime Case

A former secretary for Los Angeles area law firm J.J. Little and Associates was successful in her overtime lawsuit against her former employers, ultimately securing an award of $277,000 in attorney fees in addition to $91,000 in wage claims and $30,000 in interest previously won. As reported in the ABA Journal, the fee award did, however, represent a downward departure from the $830,000 she had originally sought.

Los Angeles Judge Barbara Scheper denied Bernal’s request for a fee multiplier, stating that the facts of the case did not warrant such a grant. Scheper further asserted that a portion of the legal work cited in support of the claim for fees needed to be attributed to categories of claims for which attorney fees are unrecoverable.

The ruling on Bernal’s attorney fee request follows a May jury verdict in which it was found that the defendant law firm did not pay proper amounts of earned overtime, did not accurately account for hours worked and did not maintain detailed wage statements as required by law.

In her original complaint, Bernal alleged that at the time of her 2010 hiring, she was led to believe that she would receive weekly wages of $1,000 and would not be required to working during evening hours. The reality of her employment situation was vastly different, according to her complaint, in that during trials she was often compelled to work upwards of 20 hours per day. Bernal also asserted that her employers expected her to be responsive to telephone calls and text messages on weekends as well as after hours during the workweek. Throughout the duration of her employment, however, she did not receive overtime compensation.

Judge Scheper’s ruling included findings that J.J. Little & Associates, its managing partner James Little and a related entity called Law Office Administrators were jointly liable for the damage award and attorney fees owed to Ms. Bernal.

Matt Lauer Seeks $30 Million Payout After Firing

Sources close to NBC’s Today Show say that Matt Lauer wants a $30 million payout for the remainder of his contract. He says that under New York contract law, NBC owes him the money. The request comes less than a week after Today Show brass fired Lauer for inappropriate conduct at work. Lauer was the highest paid personality ahead of Megyn Kelly. Lauer was spotted a few days after the firing meeting with his attorney and exchanging paperwork. New York police say that despite the complaints, there are no criminal investigations involving Lauer.

Lauer’s firing ended his twenty-year run on the hit morning show. He interviewed U.S. Presidents, foreign leaders of state and other newsmakers. He traveled the world and led broadcasting for the Olympics.

It may have been Lauer’s Olympic broadcasting that was his undoing. A victim came forward to say that Lauer summoned her to his hotel room late at night while they were in Sochi to broadcast from the Olympic Winter Games. The victim says that the behavior continued after they returned to New York. NBC officials agreed that Lauer abused his position of power in order to engage in a relationship with the woman. NBC officials also said that the behavior may not have been an isolated incident.

Officials wonder what’s next for the network. The Today Show has been in a long race with ABC’s Good Morning America for top morning show ratings. While the Today Show has largely stayed on top, management ousted Ann Curry shortly after bringing her in as a host, arguably at Lauer’s request.

Lauer’s departure has brought increased attention to his on-air behavior over his tenure at the Today Show. Critics point to an interview of Anne Hathaway where Lauer made a reference to an incident where a photographer took a photo up Hathaway’s skirt. There’s also a video circulating of Lauer commenting to a coworker that he enjoyed looking down her sweater.

Insiders say that NBC officials knew about Lauer’s behavior long before his sudden firing. Although officials denied knowing about Lauer’s conduct before a victim came forward the day before his firing, sources say that Lauer’s behavior was well known among Today Show employees. They claim that officials didn’t want to address the allegations because the Today Show is a cash cow for advertising revenue. Some wonder if Lauer’s firing doesn’t have more to do with third-party media sources that were about to break the story about Lauer’s behavior.

 

A&E Makes Big Investment In Live Trial Website

There is a market for the drama of the courtroom. As it turns out, there may even be viewers interested in viewing live trials as they unfold. That was the bet that Dan Abrams was making when he created a website for this exact type of content. He made that website and grew the audience for it. Now, a big television network (A&E) is interesting in getting a piece of the action on that.

Abrams has been interested in resurrecting the concept of Court TV that existed in years past. That was part of his goal in creating the website that he did. However, he could not try to take this all on by himself. As such, the partnership with A&E is a huge step forward on his journey. He hopes that having the network take a stake in what he has created will help to bring his vision to a larger audience.

The Wall Street Journal says that neither Abrams nor A&E has made a public comment about the value of the deal. However, a source who was close to the situation says that the deal values the website at $15 million.

The website has been riding high on the success and interest in programs such as “Making a Murderer” to promote its content. It does show live trial footage from all around the country, but there are also original documentaries that one may stream on the site. Now, with the A&E deal going through, the availability of that content is probably about to skyrocket. They plan on incorporating it into the content that they already produce, and they hope to stream that content out to a bigger audience view television as well as connected devices like smartphones and tablets.

There are always trials of interest going on throughout the country at any point. Things like the OJ Simpson parole hearing, a “suicide text” trial, and others capture the attention of the broad public in general. When the trials are going on, people want to see what will happen to the heroes and villains of these stories. Real lives are literally at stake in some cases, and that is exactly what keeps so many of us interested for long periods of time.

It is great to know that this content will be available to more people via the deal with A&E. A greater variety of content available to a larger audience is always a good thing for the growth of knowledge and experiences in the general public.

Gawker May Be Worth Something Based On Potential Legal Claims Still Outstanding

The saga of Gawker as a company is something that is hard to detail quickly and easily. It is something that has literally had a documentary made about it. To keep it short, the basic gist of things is that the company now has to sell itself to pay legal bills after being sued for a huge amount of money by none other than Hulk Hogan.

Peter Thiel, a billionaire and early investor in Facebook, was one of the people behind the lawsuit. It appears as though he helped to fund the lawsuit and encourage Hogan to bring that suit. The reasons behind this move are complex, but mostly they boil down to the fact that Thiel was unhappy with the fact that Gawker had published information about his sexuality without his consent. In other words, they outed him for being gay. He was upset by this, and therefore decided to take out his revenge on the company for having done this.

Now, it turns out that the person in charge of trying to sell Gawker has taken steps to market the potential legal claims that the company may have against Thiel or others. This could help to add value to the company for anyone who might be interested in making the purchase.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the addition of legal claims against Thiel has helped to increase the interest of various parties that may bid on the company.

Some interested groups include a Hollywood film company which may adapt the site to cover more Hollywood-related news. They may also even look into creating a film about the story of Gawker. Even though there is a documentary out about the company, this has not quenched the thirst of those interested in learning more about the story. It is just such an interesting story to some many people, and they are still wanting to know more. It seems likely that there is a market out there for creating yet another movie on this topic.

There is no clear frontrunner for who may actually end up bidding on this company. There are interested parties, but for the moment that is all that they are. There is still a lot of work to be done to determine who will ultimately end up with this company in their possession. Since August of 2016 the company has not produced anything at all. Starting over again will take some work and effort, but it can be done.

Missouri Investigates Google in Antitrust Case

The attorney general of Missouri has issued an investigative subpoena against Google, alleging that the company has violated the state’s antitrust laws.

Google is owned by Alphabet Inc. and is one of the leading technological companies in the world, most known for its search engine, as well as mobile software and online advertising.

Josh Hawley made the announcement at a press conference on Monday, November 13, 2017. Among his stated concerns about the popular tech giant are questions about the accuracy of its privacy policy, as well as claims that it has illegally copied content from its rivals and that it purposefully buries their websites in its search results.

Andrea Faville, a spokeswoman for Google, said in a statement that they have not yet received the subpoena, but that “we have strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment.”

These accusations are similar to other claims made against Google, both within and outside of the United States.

In 2013, Google reached a $7 billion settlement with the attorneys general of 37 states because it was using its Street View feature, meant to show users a panoramic of various streets around the world, to collect wi-fi data in an authorized manner. That same year, the Federal Trade Commission also prompted the company to provide more flexible terms to patent licensees and advertisers.

In June of this year, Google was also fined $2.7 billion by the European Union, on the grounds that it was illegally promoting links to its own shopping site over those of other online companies. Google is currently appealing that decision, but Hawley said that he is concerned that they may be doing the same thing within the United States.

Yelp Inc., a rival of Google that runs a business review site, has also accused Google of making unauthorized copies of its images, despite an agreement with American antitrust officials.

Yelp, along with Microsoft Corp., has pushed for Google to face antitrust charges in the past. Attorneys general in Ohio, Mississippi and Texas have tried to pursue inquiries but had little success.

At the press conference, Hawley, a Republican, denied claims that opening this case has to do with his bid to replace Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in next year’s election, saying that he is acting on his currently role “to get to the truth” about these issues.

THE UNCERTAINTY SURROUNDING INSIDER TRADING IN THE UNITED STATES

Insider Trading, refers to the act of trading in a company’s stock by individuals with access to non-public information that pertains to the entity. The insider breaching policy and offering non-public information to external parties is known as a tipper. The outsider benefiting from privileged information is called the tippee. However, not all inside trading activity is illegal. Insider trading activity that is documented with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in advance is permissible.
The SEC is an entity charged with regulation of stock exchange in the US— by ensuring transparency among all stakeholders. In 2000, the SEC enacted Rule 105b-1 which explained illegal insider trading activity. The rationale behind the criminalization of insider trading was that it breached the transparency of the US Stock markets— a tenet the markets were built upon. Despite being expounded by the SEC, insider trading has never formally been defined in any Statute in the US. Owing to this, a cloud of uncertainty has always engulfed stakeholders in US Stock markets.
Over the years, judicial decisions from the U.S Supreme Court and Circuit Courts have only thrown the public into further disarray, regarding what constitutes illegal insider trading. An example is the grey area cast in the 1984 landmark case of Dirks v. SEC. In its ruling, the Supreme Court interpreted a breach of Stock markets’ transparency as when “a tipper stands to benefit from disclosing non-public information to unwarranted parties personally.” Unfortunately, the Court did not clarify the scope of the term ‘personal benefit.’ For years, stakeholders in US Stock markets were bound by the decision in Dirks v. SEC where insider trading was concerned.
The public was thrown into disarray in 2014 when the Second Circuit Court issued a different interpretation of the term ‘personal benefit’ in United States v. Newman. The Court interpreted that the personal benefit doctrine was also applicable where the tipper and tippee have a close relationship and that such benefit does not necessarily have to be financial. In Salman v U.S, the Supreme Court upheld this decision.
Tumult grew in August 2017 when the personal benefit doctrine was applied to include a tippee who had invested after receiving confidential information from a doctor, in U.S v. Martoma. The doctor was neither related to the defendant, nor had he received any ‘benefit’ from sharing the information.

LINK
https://www.forbes.com/sites/insider/2017/09/06/letter-on-insider-trading-from-a-confused-wall-streeter/#75e46101119f

Karl Heideck Explains Philadelphia’s Newest Employment Law

Workers’ rights advocates were happy the day that Mayor Kenney signed a new law that halts the practice of asking new employees to list their work histories. This means that Philadelphia is the first city in the country to enact this type of law in the private sector.

As may have been expected, not everyone was in favor of the changes. The law was set to be enforced, but the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia took the matter to court because of the laws’ supposed unconstitutionality.

What Is in the Law?

The Society for Human Resource Management explained what is required by the law. According to the Society, legislators wrote the law as they did to close the gap between what men and women are paid. For example, the law states that employers must not consider job salary data acquired from an independent source without the job candidate’s permission.

Furthermore, employers may not directly ask potential employees how much money they were paid on previous jobs. They are also prohibited from requiring a candidate to inform them of his or her past salary history before an offer of employment will be made. Lastly, they are not allowed to punish an individual who does not provide them with his or her salary history.

Who Is Affected by this Law?

Some people have stated that employers whose headquarters exist outside of Philadelphia will be affected by this law. Every business owner in Philadelphia is subject to the law even if third parties are the ones who are performing the prohibited actions. Anyone who violates the ordinance will receive a fine of $2,000 per occurrence.

What Are the Setbacks?

Of course, voices rose up in opposition before the law was even passed. One company that suggested it would file a lawsuit against the city was Comcast Communications. This company stated that the law violated its First Amendment rights, and other companies have said that complying with the ordinance would be too burdensome.

The Chamber of Commerce also weighed in on this subject, and it filed a district court motion that sought a preliminary injunction. Since this occurred a little less than two months before the law was to go into effect, it was unclear whether or not the law would be enacted on time.

Because of the Chamber of Commerce’s filing, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania court made a determination to stay the law. Those in favor of the law thought that this ruling meant that employees’ rights would suffer in future disputes. In fact, this ruling was considered to be a catastrophic blow.

In June, Philadelphia filed a motion in court to dismiss the lawsuit because it did not state how business owners would be injured because of the law. Since the original complaint did not specify how the Chamber of Commerce’s members would be injured by the law, the district court agreed with the city.

Why this Ruling Made Sense

The Chamber of Commerce created a situation where the court could not respond to its filing because it did not identify any businesses that would be impacted negatively by the law. It doesn’t matter at this point whether the identifications would have led to an alteration of the law. The fact that the city was willing to listen to the concerns of the other side by agreeing to delay the ordinance may have helped the court decide on this matter.

It’s possible that there could be future challenges to this law. The court did allow the Chamber of Commerce to alter the complaint.

The Future for the Law

The Chamber of Commerce may never modify its complaint, but some business owners might decide to defy the ordinance. For example, the tools that real estate websites use to determine the prices of properties are extremely accurate these days. Because of this, employers can estimate how much a candidate must earn based on the area in which the person lives. Employers will not be able to ask ex-employers how much he or she paid a candidate, but Human Resources could compile monetary data garnered from public sources. Anyone who does these types of things may find new legislation on the books or even have penalties levied against them.

Every employer is not fighting this law tooth and nail. Some people are in favor of wage equity between males and females that the law wants to encourage, and they will support it. These employers will need to find new ways to comply with the law, and one way of doing this would be to modify their onboard training, interviewer scripts and job application forms.

Philadelphia is unique because it is the first to put a wage equity law on the books, but it will not be the last to do so. Employers are already starting to forgo asking about a candidate’s salary history, and states such as California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. are writing wage equity legislation now. Companies that have questions about the various state and federal employment laws need to consult with a compliance specialist to ensure that they are following all of the rules.

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About Karl Heideck

Karl Heideck became a contract attorney for Hire Counsel in 2015. Before he joined Hire Counsel, he gained experience practicing law in the Greater Philadelphia area. During that time, he was a project attorney and spent the years filing complaints and responding to them as well. Currently, Karl Heideck offers compliance consulting and risk advisement services. He is also involved in employment proceedings, product liability and corporate law.

Karl Heideck graduated from Swarthmore College in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Literature. In 2009, he received his Juris Doctor with honors from Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law.

Keep Reading:   Career Spotlight: Litigation with Karl Heideck

Gatorade Settles Lawsuit Over Anti-Water Sports Game

Gatorade has settled a suit brought by the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for $300,000. Becerra accused the beverage manufacturer of violating the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act after they released a free game advocating against drinking water. The game in question is the 2012 mobile game “Bolt!”, featuring Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt. The game urged players to “keep your performance level high by avoiding water”. It then went on to encourage users to drink Gatorade instead. Water and Gatorade were also built into the gameplay; Gatorade helped players win the game, while touching water in-game lost players points.

Becerra stated that the game was of particular concern because it targeted children and teens. One of the stipulations of the settlement requires Gatorade to refrain from advertising in apps to audiences made up largely of children under 12. According to the settlement, if 35% or more of the market meets this criteria, the company must refrain from marketing to them. Other stipulations include a prohibition on claims that water interferes in athletic performance and a restriction on promoting Gatorade over water.

In a press release, the Attorney General’s office announced that $120,000 of the $300,000 settlement will go towards nutrition research and education.

The settlement has attracted the attention of legal experts, who say it could be a sign that companies need to avoid comparative advertising in their campaigns. In 2013, a similar suit was brought against Abbott Laboratories by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The company claimed that children who consumed SideKicks and Sidekicks Clear were more energetic and better at sports than those who did not. In that case, Abbott settled for $25,000.

Research compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition shows that most medical professionals recommend that children abstain from sports drinks. According to their 2011 report, the committee found that habitual consumption of sports drinks among children and teens can increase their risk of weight gain and obesity.

A Lawsuit against Monarch Airlines

A report released to news outlets in Britain by British trade union Unite says that the union is drafting a lawsuit on behalf of the Monarch employees who lost their jobs when the firm was declared bankrupt. According to the report by the Union, close to 1,800 workers have been affected by the process. This means that the employees are redundant. The firm sank to administration on Monday and attributed its trouble to the weakening of the pound, competition from established airlines and rising insurgency and terrorist attacks in its key markets. 90 percent of the company’s workforce is currently without a job. As a result, the union through its lawyers say that they are seeking a legal remedy in the form of employment tribunal proceeding. On its part, the organization feels that the company failed in consulting the employees about the redundancy issues. At the same time, the union and its lawyers say that the employees had not been served with the necessary legal notice. Also, most of these employees have not received the statutory pay. The union later released a statement where it said that it was doing all it can to assist former employs to acquire new jobs.

Its national officer Oliver Richardson said that they were also offering free legal advice to the affected workers. Also, they were involved with a number of employees as they try to seek compensation that was due. Experts say that there is a claim in regards to the way that the airline went into administration. This is further strengthened by the inactivity of the British government. Entering administration means that the company ceased to operate. This case is similar to another one in Germany where the government had to bail in and rescue Air Berlin. The Germany Company fell into administration and opened an opportunity for the company to find new investors. However, before the British Monarch collapsed, it has been revealed by the British Department of Transport that it did not ask for a bailout. The spokesman for the department said that the company went into administration talks directly. A spokeswoman for the company said that the company was in the process of selling most of its major assets. This includes equipment and its plant, prepaid fuel and even slots that the airline had in airports. At the same time, the Civil Aviation Authority said that it had sorted a quarter of the 110,000 customers affected by flight cancellations.

Equifax Faces Legal Blowback Over Data Breach

2017 has proven to be a rough year for consumer credit reporting giant Equifax. In March and then again in May, the company’s customer data was compromised, making the social security numbers, addresses, drivers license numbers, and other identifying data of 143 million U.S. citizens, along with as many as 44 million U.K citizens and another 100,000 Canadians available to an as-yet unknown criminal or group.

Equifax underwent a 13 percent drop in share price immediately following news of the scandal and numerous lawsuits have sprung up in response to their negligence. A case set to come from California law firm Geragos & Geragos poses the greatest financial threat to the company, as the firm indicated they would seek upwards of $70 billion in damages, a figure unprecedented in the U.S.’s history of class-action lawsuits.

More important, however, is the anticipated reaction of government agencies to Equifax’s clear negligence. The security breach was accomplished through a well-known and subsequently patched vulnerability in Apache Struts, a common piece of web application software. The patch was released on March 7th, well before May’s attack and data theft. Victims and commentators alike are awaiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to weigh in as Equifax’ precise business classification has raised questions over whether or not the government agency has the legal authority to penalize the company.

A CFPB investigation Equifax breach may be possible because they are not, strictly speaking, a financial company. Both the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are already involved as Equifax is legally accountable to at least five laws that impact listed companies, including those that govern customer data use and fair treatment. The CFPB’s justification for action would hypothetically be 2010’s Dodd-Frank Act.

The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was issued in response to 2008’s widespread financial crisis and sought to bring on widespread financial reforms to Wall Street, while also establishing new protections for consumers. Title X of the legislation established the CFPB and it would seem that Equifax’ missteps fall within the bureau’s purview. Specifically, Equifax’ actions may be classified as acts and practices deemed unfair, deceptive, or abusive (UDAAP) and thus qualify them for investigation according to the powers given to the CFPB by the Dodd-Frank Act.

This wouldn’t be the first time that the CFPB dealt with Equifax, as this January the bureau issued fines against the credit reporting company for allegedly misleading customers on both the cost and usefulness of credit score information. Given this history and the vague nature of the CFPB’s UDAAP powers, an investigation is possible, if not likely.

Grand Rapids Releases Audio Recording of Prosecutor Crash Investigation

After months of legal wrangling to try and keep the information out of public hands, Grand Rapids has finally released phone calls of its law enforcement officers investigating a then prosecutor for drunk driving. Although the officers thought the conversation was on an unrecorded police line, settings in place in the Grand Rapids Police Department triggered a recording of the call. In the recording, officers are heard scheming to allow the prosecutor to get away with drunk driving.

The call came in the early hours of November, 2016 after police responded to reports of a crash downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. A driver hit another vehicle and a pedestrian as the pedestrian existed the vehicle. The driver turned out to be former assistant prosecutor Josh Kuiper.

When officers arrive at the scene of the crash, they realize that the responsible driver is a prosecutor. That’s when phone calls start between police officers as they discuss how to give Kuiper a “pass” for his unlawful behavior, despite Kuiper being “visibly intox” according to the officer. Prosecutors eventually charged Kuiper with reckless driving causing serious injury. Officers on the scene gave Kuiper field sobriety tests but admitted that they didn’t honestly report his poor performance on the tests.

Kuiper has since left his position with the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office. The crash occurred after Kuiper was downtown with coworkers celebrating the retirement of another prosecutor. The victim in the lawsuit filed a civil case against Kuiper. That case is on hold as the criminal case slowly makes its way through the courts. At the time, Kuiper had 13 years of experience in the prosecutor’s office. He earned $94,857 a year.

In the newly released audio recording, officers discuss Kuiper’s state of intoxication. They say that he’s “hammered” and probably won’t do well on field sobriety tests. The officers talk about how many witnesses are present downtown to testify about what really happened. They aren’t sure of the extent of the victim’s injuries when they make the decision not to conduct a drunk driving investigation.

The City of Grand Rapids went to great lengths to try and keep the audio recording from becoming public. They went through several rounds of appeals claiming that they shouldn’t have to release the video because they recorded it accidentally. Media outlet MLive headed the legal campaign for release of the documents. The case even went to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Kuiper’s attorney says that the victim’s injuries aren’t severe enough to warrant his client facing a felony charge.

New York City Cracks Down on Airbnb

One New York landlord has some fines to pay after getting slapped with $11,000 in fines for running an illegal Airbnb in New York City. Not only did the landlord rent the nine-bedroom apartment on the home sharing website, but they stuffed as many as 34 guests into the property at any one time. The Bushwick apartment owner charged guests as much as $115 a night for a bunk bed in a room with other guests.

The health department put a vacate order on the door of the property. New York City’s mayor has an Office of Special Enforcement that’s cracking down on the home-sharing website. New York City’s laws prohibit most rentals of less than thirty days. In addition to banning the short term rentals, New York City’s laws prohibit advertising an illegal rental.

Airbnb is worth billions of dollars. However, they resist law enforcement’s efforts to collect information about property owners who rent their properties in violation of local ordinances. They say that they’re just a marketing service. The company generally avoids liability by saying that they don’t give legal advice, and that each owner has to affirm that they’re renting in compliance with local laws and regulations.

Even so, more and more local communities are debating the future of home sharing services such as Airbnb. Supporters say that the service is a great way for renters and homeowners alike to make ends meet and make a few extra bucks. They say that homeowners should be allowed to make their own decisions about how to use their property. They say travelers can find lower pries and more options for an authentic travel experience by using home sharing instead of traditional hotels.

Opponents of the service say that it’s not so simple. They say that the service doesn’t come with the same regulations and protections that hotels have to follow. From fire safety to security, critics say that there are real risks associated with the service that hosts and travelers alike may not realize. Neighbors complain about their homes lying in the wake of noisy travelers who come ready for a good time.

State and local officials around the United States are currently struggling with how to balance these different points of view. San Francisco has increased regulation of home sharing units. The State of Michigan is considering banning regulation of the rentals on the local level. In the meantime, one landlord in New York City has $11,000 in fines to pay while this debate continues to rage around the United States.

Michigan Debates New Law Governing Short-Term Rentals

Michigan legislators are in the process of making big decisions when it comes to regulating the short-term rental industry. Michigan House Bill 4503 addresses zoning in residential areas. Specifically, the bill says that short-term rentals such as Airbnb count as a residential use of the property. As a residential use, that means there’s nothing local governments could do in order to restrict or prohibit the rentals. If the bill passes, it means that homeowners could do whatever they wanted to rent their properties without local restrictions. Instead, homeowners would be free to rent their homes on Airbnb as long as they comply with other state laws.

There’s vocal support for the bill as well as significant opposition. Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis says that the City of Grand Haven opposes the bill, because it removes local control from the residents in the community where they live. They say that each local jurisdiction should be able to decide what to do with regulations for short-term rentals in their location. McGinnis says that a Grand Haven resident shouldn’t have to approach state legislators in Lansing in order to address a local housing concern.

Supporters of the bill say that the changes are good for commerce, and that reducing regulations allows each homeowner to use their property in a reasonable way. They say that tourists want to be able to find places to stay when they travel. They say that short-term rentals like Airbnb give travelers more choices in order to find a unique experience when they’re away from home. Supporters also see the bill as a way to increase tax revenue for the State of Michigan. Michigan imposes an occupancy tax, and supporters of the bill say that the new legislation stands to increase revenue and make it easier to collect taxes on existing rentals.

In addition to the bill that’s currently pending in the Michigan House of Representatives, there’s a similar bill that’s pending in the Michigan Senate. For now, the bills sit in their respective committees. Legislators plan to debate the issue before it heads to a vote in the fall legislative session. Some legislators have set up meetings and town hall opportunities, so that residents and government organizations can voice their opinion.