Monthly Archives: June 2015

How Do I Declare Bankruptcy?

Posted by Orintia Daniels.

Bankrupt: “(of a person or organization) declared in law unable to pay outstanding debts.” According to dictionary.com, this adjective simply means that a particular person or organization is in debt and owes money to another organization or person. I have came across an article called “How do I declare Bankruptcy?” which explains the various forms of bankrutpcy as well as how someone can actually declare bankruptcy.

Let’s talk chapters! No, not just any chapters; specifically, let’s review Chapters 7, 11, and 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. Let’s explain, starting with Chapter 7.

Have you ever heard the term “Everything must go?” Well, Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, states that whoever files under that chapter might lose everything. For example, a person may lose his or her home, due to not being able to pay the bank their debts. Chapter 7 “liquidates your assets to pay off as much of your debt as possible. When it is all done, you are left with the least debt possible, but you usually have to sacrifice a number of possessions along the way to make that happen.” (HG.org).

On the other hand Chapter 11 is mainly for businesses, such as corporations and partnerships, but can be available to individuals. It has no limits on the amount of debt, as Chapter 13 does. It is the usual choice for large businesses seeking to restructure their debt. Under Chapter 13, the Code:

allows the filer to reorganize their debt, making it more manageable. Under a Chapter13 bankruptcy, the debtor is able pay off their debts over a period of three to five years. For filers with consistent, predictable incomes, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be a great way out of debt by creating a sort of legal grace period. If the debtor makes all payments required under the bankruptcy order, and there are still debts remaining at the end of the grace period, those debts are discharged” (HG.org).

Overall, Chapter 13, is primarily for personal struggles, by anyone who may not be able to pay off their debts.

For one to declare bankruptcy, there are two main methods: as an individual, which is to voluntarily file for bankruptcy, or wait for creditors to ask the court to declare you bankrupt. To further understand the different ways to file for bankruptcy and the different forms of bankruptcy, I personally suggest that you continue your interest on the following website.

Orintia is a marketing major with a minor in economics at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne, Dkt. No. 13-485 – Dormant Commerce Clause

Posted by Danielle Lindsay Feoranzo.

It was on June 4th 2015 that the U.S Supreme Court found the State of Maryland’s system of personal income taxation violated the nondiscrimination prong of the Dormant Commerce Clause. This clause states Congress has been given power over interstate commerce, and that states cannot discriminate against interstate commerce, nor can they unduly burden interstate commerce, even in the absence of federal legislation regulating the activity. The Court found that Maryland did not grant a resident credit for county income tax paid on income earned and taxed in another state. What to keep in mind is this particular state’s personal income tax scheme is of composed of three elements:

(1) A state tax imposed on all income of Maryland residents and the income of nonresidents from sources within Maryland, (2) a county tax (collected by the state) imposed on all income of state residents, and (3) a special nonresident state tax imposed on the income of nonresidents from sources within Maryland, which tax is said to be in lieu of the county tax and is imposed at a rate equal to the highest county tax within the state (pg. 1; Bright, Schulder, Upham).

In this instance, the Wynnes were state residents and subject to tax in 39 other states because they owned a corporation that resides in multiple states. The Wynnes were able to take a tax credit in Maryland against taxes paid to other states on their corporation income but were not allowed to take a credit against Maryland county tax for taxes paid to other states on the corporation income. The Court held that:

Maryland’s personal income tax system was not internally consistent under the Commerce Clause and therefore unconstitutionally discriminatory. According to the Court, if every state imposed their personal income tax in the same way as Maryland, an individual who lived in one state and worked in another would always be subject to a higher tax burden than an individual who lived and worked in the same state. The taxing scheme gave preferential treatment to purely intrastate activities versus interstate activities.

Therefore, the Court concluded that Maryland’s personal income tax system was not consistent under the Dormant Commerce Clause, and thus, unconstitutional.

In conclusion, the Wynnes were within their constitutional right to get a tax credit not only on their state tax but also on their county tax. This because it was protected under the Dormant Commerce Clause not to discriminate wherever that income is earned.

Danielle is a business administration major with a concentration in management information and technology at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.

AT&T Hit with $100 Million Fine Over Unlimited Data Plans

Posted by Randy Gomez.

In Business Law class, I learned about business ethics and how an entity should behave as a good citizen. In this article that I found online, it explains how the Federal Communications Commission fined AT&T 100 million dollars for slowing down data speeds to some customers. According to the FCC, AT&T violated a transparency rule by misleading customers saying that their plans were unlimited, when there was a maximum speed that customers would receive. AT&T is accused of not sufficiently informing its subscribers. The FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said “consumers deserve to get what they paid for,” and that, “[b]roadband providers must be upfront and transparent about the services they provide.”

It seems that the corporation was trying to maximize their short-term profits, by not being clear enough about the services provided to the consumer. As it usually happens when a corporation acts unethically to increase their profits, AT&T hurt their profits and now is receiving bad publicity. This is a great example of why companies have to take in consideration moral and ethical principles toward their decisions, instead of just trying to maximize profits.

Randy is a business administration major with a concentration in finance at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

Sembcorp Marine Finance Director Sentenced to Prison

Posted by Yuanda Xu.

On Oct. 30, 2014, Sembcorp Marine’s finance director Wee Sing Guan was sentenced to 39 months in prison for falsifying the accounts of the group’s Jurong Shipyard, Sembcorp’s wholly owned unit. The company lost “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of marked-to-market losses that Wee had incurred on foreign exchange and options trades positions he held with a host of banks, including OCBC Bank, DBS Bank, BNP Paribas (BNP), Societe Generale (SocGen) and Standard Chartered Bank.”

According to criminal law, falsifying account records is an unlawful action. Falsifying records can influence the stock market by making investors believe the company’s stock is worth it to buy. But after a company goes bankrupt, people who hold the stock will lose all their money. The offenses “carry a maximum penalty of an unspecified fine and a seven-year jail term, for each charge.”

Yuanda is a business management major at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

Lucent Technologies and the FCPA

Posted by Yuanda Xu.

In 2003, Lucent Technologies decided to fire the CEO, COO, Financial Executive and marketing manager in China. Lucent did this because company in China bribed the Chinese officials to get more benefits. As expected, Lucent fired these four people, and paid $2.5 million to settle charges. The company paid a $1 million fine to the Justice Department and $1.5 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In 1977, America enacted the “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” to prohibit companies from bribing officials in other countries to get more benefits. What Lucent Technologies did violate the Act, because Lucent Technologies bribed the Chinese officials to get more benefits and reduced business opportunities for other companies. That violates the FCPA.

Yuanda is a business management major at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

Protecting the First Amendment

Posted by Danielle Lindsay Feoranzo.

In the United States, freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment. It is a prized right and the courts have protected this right to the fullest extent. As Americans in a democratic country, we have the power to speak our minds to ensure we can voice our political opinions and criticize government actions or policies. Thus, as citizens we hold great authority for which could either positively and or negatively influence our country’s future.

In today’s world, social media has made a strong precedence in our community and the functionality of our world. This includes Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, and the heavy-weight, Facebook. These outlets of social media can be used by famous celebrities to endorse a product, or politicians to promote themselves and their campaigns. Social media is an outlet that can connect one with the world, therefore in essence is a huge stage to express oneself and one’s opinions.

It was on June 1, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania man who posted many violent messages on Facebook (the Court raising implications of freedom of speech). However, prior to the Supreme Court hearing the case, the man was convicted under a federal threat statue and sentenced to jail time of forty-four months. The man appealed this judgment, stating the government should have been required to prove he actually intended to make a threat. The Pennsylvania man argued he was exercising his freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. He also mentioned he was inspired by the artist Eminem and his lyrics for which is recited and had no intention to threaten anyone.

The Supreme Court ruled in his favor and stated, “It was not enough to convict the man based solely on the idea that a reasonable person would regard the communications as a threat” (Ariane de Vogue, CNN). What is important to take notice is the “reasonable person” standard was rejected by the Court. This is because the government needed to prove the defendant’s intent.

To conclude, the Pennsylvania man expressed himself on Facebook, whether it was crude to some or not, it did not uphold in court as a threat. This case is another example of how the Court will go out of its way to protect speech under the First Amendment.

Danielle is a business administration major with a concentration in management information and technology at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.

Fake it “Till Ya” Make It : Fraud In The World of Finance

Posted by Arleen Frias-Arias.

According to NPR News.com, Ocwen Mortgage, who has been tasked by FDIC (Federal Depose Insurance Corporation) and US Department of Treasury to assist consumers that are delinquent in their mortgages, is being sued. New York State’s top financial regulator has launched an investigation into Ocwen’s practices as it turns out they are finically hurting home-owners, not helping them get out of foreclosure.

The gist of the article is that Ocwen committed fraud by preparing mortgage documents particularly on what is called a loan modification, which is a legal contract prepared to adjust the payments of loan borrowers who could not make their payments due to hardship. They are also accused of not posting payments already in their possession from borrowers until past the payment due date, deliberately causing homeowners to become late and incur fees.

In my opinion, more needs to be substantiated by regulators to determine if this was widespread, because Ocwen seems to have a reputation of consistently not adhering to the law.

Arleen is a marketing and communication/TV production major at Montclair State University, Class of 2018.

 

Hungary for Love: The Battle For Copyright Protection

Posted by Arleen Frias-Arias.

After reviewing an article posted December 16, 2014 by Madeline Boardman for Us Magazine, I found interesting the development of this case. A singer named Mitsou is suing singers and celebrities Beyoncé and Jay Z, for mismanagement and stealing. The Hungarian singer has a song called “Bajba, Bajba Pelem,” which allegedly Beyoncé and her team took from her song and sampled Mitsou’s vocals for the single “Drunken in Love.”

The interesting part is that Mitsou has never exactly signed papers that would permit anyone to use her voice for any type of use, including trade purposes. According to New York Post’s Page Six, the voice of Mitsou was manipulated for sexual erotica purposes without her permission. According to Mitsou her voice is featured in the overall song for about 1.5 minutes. This could be a huge problem for Jay-Z’s company and Beyoncé as an artist, because after hearing both sides and songs, there is a huge similarity between songs.

In my opinion, this case will require plenty of experts to prove the guilty actions of singer Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Even though the song only has a couple seconds of the actual voice of Mitsou, there are heavy accusations being made. Beyoncé has not yet commented on the situation but I think in this situation is where we bring in copyrights and hard evidence to prove statements.

In enforcing copyrights against the defendant there needs to be a letter of warning, enlisting the acts of infringements. Now since there were not any responses by the infringing party, legal actions are acceptable at this point. According to John Hornick of Finnegan.com, the business law rules most copyrights depend on is whether or not the copyright was even registered with the United States at the time of the defendants acts.

I believe Mitsou will have to file a copyright infringement lawsuit seeking compensatory harms. This situation is a very sensitive especially if Beyoncé is found liable; there could be over thousands of dollars probably billions returned to Mitsou for her work being unfairly taken without permission.

Arleen is a marketing and communication/TV production major at Montclair State University, Class of 2018.

FIFA–Russia and Qatar May Be Stripped of Hosting World Cups

FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee head, Domenico Scala, said if evidence shows Russia and Qatar bought votes to have the World Cup hosted in their country, ‘the awards could be invalidated.'” This comes on the heels of U.S. federal indictments charging FIFA officials with racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption.

Russia and Qatar are not the subject of those indictments, but evidence may emerge from those proceedings about how they won the privilege of hosting the event.

High Court Enters Ruling on Headscarf Case

The High Court rendered an opinion in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. The bottom line is unless the employer can show it is unduly burdensome to accommodate a religious practice, it must accommodate the person even if it has a mandatory dress code or other neutrally-applied policy. The employer is required to do so if the person asks for the accommodation or even if the employer suspects the person may need one.

Abercrombie did not hire a Muslim woman because her headscarf violated their “Look Policy.” The policy, which is described as “East Coast collegiate or preppy style,” prohibits the wearing of “caps” (an undefined term in the policy) as too informal for their image. The woman applied for a job at one of the stores. The assistant manager of the store interviewed and conditionally approved her for the job. Yet, the headscarf she wore to the interview indicated to the manager that hiring her would be a violation of their “Look Policy.” Although the woman never asked for a religious accommodation, the assistant manager assumed that she would need one if hired and deferred to the district manager. The district manager thought the scarf “would violate the Look Policy, as would all other headwear, religious or otherwise,” and directed the assistant manager not to hire the woman.

The EEOC sued on the woman’s behalf claiming Abercrombie’s action violated Title VII and won a $20,000 judgment. The Tenth Circuit reversed and awarded Abercrombie summary judgment, ruling an “employer cannot be liable under Title VII for failing to accommodate a religious practice until the applicant (or employee) provides the employer with actual knowledge of his need for an accommodation.”

Title VII makes it illegal for an employer “‘to fail or refuse to hire . . . any individual . . . because of such individual’s . . . religion.’ §2000e–2(a)(1).” Religion “includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate [] an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.”

There are two ways to bring an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: one is for a disparate- treatment (or intentional-discrimination), and the other, disparate-impact of otherwise facially neutral policies. The “intentional discrimination provision prohibits certain motives, regardless of the state of the actor’s knowledge.” Disparate-treatment claims based on a failure to accommodate a religious practice is plain: “An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.”

The Court ruled: “An employer is surely entitled to have, for example, a no-headwear policy as an ordinary matter. But when an applicant requires an accommodation as an ‘aspec[t] of religious . . . practice,’ it is no response that the subsequent ‘fail[ure] . . . to hire’ was due to an otherwise-neutral policy. Title VII requires otherwise-neutral policies to give way to the need for an accommodation.”

Under the ruling, a prospective applicant is not always required, as the Tenth Circuit held, to request an accommodation from an employer. Employers that are aware or believe an accommodation is needed and are motivated to fire or not to hire someone based on that accommodation also violate the statute. As Justice Alito stated in his concurrence, however, if it is unduly burdensome to require the accommodation, then there is no violation.

But Justice Thomas in his dissent was concerned about a broad reading of the words “because of such religious practice” in that it could sweep up an employer’s policy that applies indiscriminately to everyone, yet happens to be at odds with an employee’s religious practice. He gives the following example:

Suppose an employer with a neutral grooming policy forbidding facial hair refuses to hire a Muslim who wears a beard for religious reasons. Assuming the employer applied the neutral grooming policy to all applicants, the motivation behind the refusal to hire the Muslim appli- cant would not be the religious nature of his beard, but its existence. Under the first reading, then, the Muslim applicant would lack an intentional-discrimination claim, as he was not refused employment ‘because of’ the religious nature of his practice. But under the second reading, he would have such a claim, as he was refused employment ‘because of’ a practice that happens to be religious in nature.

Justice Thomas reasoned that under a broad reading employers with no discriminatory motive would be punished because they had no knowledge of every aspect of an employee’s religious practice. It would undermine the intent element of disparate treatment and make the employer strictly liable for its conduct. Citing precedent, Justice Thomas explained “discriminatory purpose” as “‘the purpose necessary for a claim of intentional discrimination” that “demands ‘more than . . . awareness of consequences. It implies that the decisionmaker . . . selected or reaffirmed a particular course of action at least in part ‘because of,’ not merely ‘in spite of,’ its adverse effects upon an identifiable group.'”

He recognized refusal to accommodate can be discriminatory where an employer does not make a policy exception for someone for religious purposes involving a store policy that is applied to everyone, when at the same time makes the same allowance for someone of another religion or some secular practice. Yet, he explained,”merely refusing to create an exception to a neutral policy for a religious practice cannot be described as treating a particular applicant ‘less favorably than others.'” Under the majority’s view “mere refusal to accommodate a religious practice under a neutral policy could constitute intentional discrimination,” unless the employer produces evidence that the accommodation is unduly burdensome and persuades the court that it is so.