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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Heads to Supreme Court

We previously reported on our blog about the potential class-action sex discrimination lawsuit the corporate giant Wal-Mart is facing. On Tuesday, March 29, the U.S. Supreme Court started to hear oral arguments on whether the largest class-action employment lawsuit in U.S. history can move forward against retail giant Wal-Mart.

The world’s largest retailer as well as nation’s largest private employer is accused to have discriminated against female employees for years. Up to 1.6 million plaintiffs could be participating in the class-action suit if it goes forward.

Plaintiff lawyer Joseph Sellers stated that there is a “corporate culture” at Wal-Mart where women are treated as second-class employees. The corporate structure also strengthens this “gender stereotyping and discrimination,” according to Sellers.

Wal-Mart representative Gisel Ruiz, however, says that such discrimination has never happened to her. She started small and had a great career development and is now executive vice-president for human resources. Wal-Mart has anti-discrimination campaigns even in individual stores and people are held responsible if they do not follow their rules.

Appellate lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, says “the plaintiff lawyers in this case went way too far. There is no way one woman can be representative of a million in a case like this.” The consequences of such a judgment would be unforeseeable for American companies. Class actions could be filed without reasonable reasons which would endanger certain companies.

In contrast, plaintiff’s lawyers agree to some extent that there is an exception for a class action lawsuit if “the company is sufficiently large and the discrimination is sufficiently widespread and it is therefore impractical to handle the issue on a case-by-case basis.” Plaintiff lawyer Joseph Seller noted that “there is no large-company exception to civil rights claims in this country!”

Supreme Court Justice Antonio Scalia added to the excitement on the first day of oral arguments in Dukes vs. Wal-Mart, Inc. by getting into a small fender-bender on his way to the Court. According to the Washington Post, Justice Scalia rear-ended another car that set in motion an accident that ulitmately affected four cars. He was fined $90 which he may contest in court if the justice so chooses. It is extremely rare for justices to show up late to a public session, and Justice Scalia did not disappoint by sitting behind the bench when oral arguments began at 10 a.m. sharp.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling by the end of June on whether the class action can proceed. Whatever the justices decide, the ruling is expected to have a long-term impact on business litigation.

(c) Picture
: BBC News US & Canada

EU-Kommission beklagt schwere Fehler bei der Umsetzung des Swift Abkommens

Bereits am 10. und 17. März informierten wir Sie auf unserem Blog über das Swift Abkommen zwischen der Europäischen Union und den USA sowie die damit verbundenen Bedenken seitens Europa. Nun räumt die EU-Kommission räumt in einem Bericht schwere Fehler der USA bei der Umsetzung des Swift Abkommens ein.

Der Bericht der EU-Kommission zufolge speichern die USA Daten europäischer Bankkunden ohne Anlass und auf Vorrat ab. Diese Praxis verstößt gegen Artikel 4 und 13 des Swift-Abkommnes. Darüber hinaus verschweigen die USA die Zahl der Zugriffe sodass die EU-Kommission über keinerlei Fakten verfügt, die die Verhältnismäßigkeit oder den Nutzen des Abkommens belegen.

Aufgrund dieser schwerwiegenden Fehler fordern einige EU-Parlamentarier die Aussetzung des Swift Abkommens.

Den ganzen Artikel können Sie hier lesen.

(c) Picture: Michelle Meiklejohn -

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Increase of Boardings at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Earlier this month, we reported on how Charlotte, NC continues to grow and why investing in Charlotte these days is a good idea. Today, we present you another reason why you should consider living and doing business in Charlotte.

According to the Charlotte Business Journal, Charlotte Douglas International Airport reports 1.4 million passengers boarded planes in February 2011. That is an increase of 9 percent from February 2010. The number of daily flights rose to 677 from 604 during that time. The tons of cargo loaded at the airport increased 14 percent.

US Airways Group Inc. is the largest carrier at the airport. Last month, its passenger-load factor, or percentage of filled seats, was 76.8 percent, down from 77.6 percent in February 2010. Capacity rose 5.3 percent to 5.2 billion available seat miles.

To read more, please click here.

Contact Byrne, Davis & Hicks, P.C. with any questions about doing (international) business in the Charlotte region.

(c) Picture: Winthrop University International Center.

Maternity Tourists - A Bizzare New Trend?

On March 9, 2011 officials in San Gabriel, CA shut down a house that was home to several “maternity tourists” from China.

Living in a nice, clean town house in the San Gabriel foothills, the Chinese women paid tens of thousands of dollars to deliver their babies in the United States, making the infants automatic American citizens. In the United States, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives automatic citizenship to any baby born in the United States (so-called birthright citizenship).

The following are selected passages from the original NY Times article which can be found here.

For the last year, the debate over birthright citizenship has raged across the country, with some political leaders calling for its end. Much of the debate has focused on immigrants entering illegally from poor countries in Latin America. But in this case the women were not only relatively wealthy, but also here legally on tourist visas.

Immigration experts say it is impossible to know precisely how widespread “maternity tourism” is. Businesses in China, Mexico and South Korea advertise packages that arrange for doctors, insurance and postpartum care. And the Marmara, a Turkish-owned hotel on the Upper East Side in New York City, has advertised monthlong “baby stays” that come with a stroller.

For the most part, though, the practice has involved individuals. The discovery of the large-scale facility here in the San Gabriel foothills raises questions about whether it was a rare phenomenon or an indication that maternity tourism is entering a new, more institutionalized phase with more hospital-like facilities operating quietly around the country.

The Center for Health Care Statistics estimates that there were 7,462 births to foreign residents in the United States in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That is a small fraction of the roughly 4.3 million total births that year.

Immigration experts say they can only guess why well-to-do Chinese women are so eager to get United States passports for their babies, but they suspect it is largely as a kind of insurance policy should they need to move. The children, once they turn 21, would also be able to petition for their parents to get United States citizenship.

The State Department, which grants tourist visas, is not permitted to deny visa applications simply because a woman is pregnant.

For more Immigration Law related news, please visit our website.

(c) Picture: Jonathan Fitch -

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Commercial Ties between the United States and Turky Expand

“The world has never been as competitive as it is today, leaving us both facing the same fundamental challenge: How do we make our economies, and our people, more competitive globally?” This statement was made by Michael Camuñez, assistant secretary for market access and compliance, during his travels to Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey from January 24 to 28, 2011.

An answer to the question can be seen in the U.S.-Turkey Framework for Strategic and Economic Commercial Cooperation (FSECC), launched by President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Washington D.C., on October 19, 2010. The FSECC institutes a forum for senior-level officials from both countries to discuss commercial and economic issues every year.

A further step was taken during Camuñez's visit in January when a memorandum of intent was signed between the Department of Commerce's Invest in America program and Turkey's Investment Support and Promotion Agency. Both countries hereby commit to provide mutual assistance to investors by connecting them with investment and industry experts in each country.

Already today the U.S. exports of goods amount to $10.5 billion, making Turkey the 26th-largest export market for the U.S. and the fastest-growing country in Europe.

Der In- und Export zwischen den USA und der Türkei lag im vergangenen Jahr jeweils bei 10,5 Milliarden USD. Dies platziert die Türkei auf Amerika's Exporthitliste auf Platz 26, wobei die Optionen noch längst nicht ausgeschöpft sind.

Zu diesem Zweck, insbesondere, um bessere Rahmenverhältnisse für wirtschaftliches Wachstum zu schaffen, gingen Präsident Barack Obama und Premierminister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan im Oktober 2010 ein Partnerabkommen ein. Im Januar 2011 wurde jene Kooperation durch den Besuch des stellvertretenden Ministers für Marktzugang und Konformität, Michael Camuñez, bestärkt und vorangetrieben.

(c) Picture: Idea go -

“How are you?” or "Wie geht es Dir/Ihnen?" - One Question, Two Sides

“How are you?” - Often perceived as superficial or strange, especially when talking to people from across the pond, “how are you?” is a simple and friendly way of greeting. And if one is honest, is it really that bad?

In Bhutan people greet each other by saying “Is your body well?” whereas in Botswana the appropriate phrase would be “How did you wake?”. Perhaps one should take it for what it is, a nice greeting which can be very crucial when it comes to business etiquette.

It is essential that one gets to know his potential business partner by asking him about his family or health. By taking such steps, one will earn the loyalty and respect of his dialog partner which is vital to close the deal.

But at times the question "how are you?"is simply just that, an invitation to tell more about one's well being.

“Wie geht es Dir/Ihnen?” - Eine einfache Frage, die nicht selten für Verwunderung unter Nicht-US-Amerikanern sorgt. Dabei herrschen in manch anderen Ländern weitaus obskurere Begrüßungsformeln.

Aber ganz gleich, ob man sie für leicht oberflächlich oder seltsam halten mag, so sind Fragen über das Wohlergehen des potenziellen Geschäftspartners selbst oder seiner Familie unerlässlich, um ein Vertrauensverhältnis zu erschaffen und schlussendlich einen erfolgreichen Geschäftsabschluss herbeizuführen.

Und manchmal ist die Frage “Wie geht es Dir/Ihnen?” tatsächlich genau das, eine Frage danach wie es einem geht.

(c) Picture: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot -

BDH Associate Nicole M. Dickey to Participate in International Law & Practice Panel

Nicole M. Dickey, an associate with our firm, is one of the four distinguished guests of the International Law & Practice Panel at North Carolina Central University School of Law on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 12 p.m.

The speakers will talk about their careers, give tips on how students should prepare for the practice of international law, and where to find opportunities in international law.

Nicole, who received her J.D. degree from NCCU School of Law in 2006, practices business and international law at Byrne, Davis & Hicks, P.C. Charlotte Office. To learn more about Nicole and the firm, please visit our website.

Should you have any questions about international law, please feel free to contact Byrne, Davis & Hicks, P.C.!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Export to Canada

Did you know… Canada is the world’s 7th largest market economy with a sound financial and distribution system. Similar business practices and attitudes have an incentive effect on Canada’s first business partner, the U.S.

Following up on our previous blog post about Dana M. Hick’s, III presentation “Exporting Goods to Canada – Legal and Practical Considerations,” this report outlines information on Canada as an attractive export market. It also highlights aspects that should be considered by companies exporting to Canada.

The U.S. and Canada have the largest trading relationship in the world and Canada is the first export market for 34 U.S. states. 75% of all Canadian exports go to the U.S. and with 63% of all Canadian imports the U.S. is the largest investor in Canada.

By comparison Canada is a larger market for U.S. goods than all 27 countries of the European Union combined, whose population is more than 15 times that of Canada.

One reason for the strong trading relationship between the U.S. and Canada is the geographic proximity between both countries. 17 of Canada’s 20 largest cities are within 100 miles of the U.S. border. In other words 30 of 34 million Canadians live in this area. Therefore many Canadian production hubs are closer to key U.S. markets than corresponding American centers. This leads to reduced transit times and costs. Especially the Southern-Ontario region with 7.2 million citizens and a gross domestic product of 323 billion dollar is an important location.

Another reason is Canada’s open border policy as well as the common language and corresponding time zones.

Canada’s biggest industry sector is the automotive supply industry that offers opportunities for U.S. auto parts suppliers as well as companies offering advanced manufacturing technology and services.

New companies planning to enter the Canadian market must also consider several cultural differences:
  • The bilingual language system (English/French) requires an adaptation of products (e.g. bilingual product labels) being exported to Canada.
  • Canada is using the English metric dimensions, weights, and units instead of the U.S. customary units.
  • Companies must be aware of huge temperature differences throughout the country and package their products accordingly.
  • Canada’s currency is the Canadian dollar.
  • During the custom release process there are several documents and certificates (e.g. Cargo Control Documents, Commercial Invoice and Certificate of Origin) that need to be filled out.
Generally, it is advisable to seek legal and business advice in order to manage all export requirements.

(c) Picture: renjith krishnan -

New Requirement for U.S. Birth Certificates

Starting on April 1, 2011, the U.S. Department of State will require the below outlined information on all certified birth certificates.

If the information is missing, the certified birth certificate is not acceptable as primary evidence of U.S. citizenship.

Applications already in-process (submitted/accepted) before April 1, 2011 are not affected by this new regulation. Contact the Secondary Evidence of U.S. Citizenship if your birth certificate does not fulfill these requirements.

  • Full name of the applicant;
  • Date of birth;
  • Full name of parents;
  • Signature of the official custodian of birth records;
  • Seal of issuing authority;
  • The date certificate was filed with the registrar’s office (within one year).

Certified Copy
  • Full name of the applicant;
  • Date of birth;
  • Full name of parents;
  • Registrar’s signature;
  • Raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal of issuing authority;
  • The date certificate was filed with the registrar’s office (within one year).
For more information, contact the U.S. Department of State or see 22 CFR 51.42(a).

More Immigration Law updates can also be found on our website!

(c) Picture: phanlop88 -

Friday, March 25, 2011

Exporting Goods to Canada – Legal and Practical Considerations

Honorary Canadian Consul, Dana M. Hicks, III held a speech about “Exporting Goods to Canada – Legal and Practical Considerations” at Charlotte School of Law on Tuesday, March 22, 2011. The event was presented by the North Carolina Bar Association International Law & Practice Section and organized by Byrne, Davis & Hicks, P.C.

With about 63% of all imports the United States is Canada’s largest trade partner. Due to the border-state phenomena Canada, consisting of ten provinces and three territories, the country is of high importance to the U.S. Most of the industry is settled among the U.S./Canadian border where most of the Canadian citizens live.

Mr. Hicks reminded the audience that U.S. companies must consider certain cultural differences when planning to export goods to Canada – for example, labels must be in English and French.

The event provided a great learning experience for professionals and law students alike. Besides updating the audience on the current state of the Canadian economy, Mr. Hicks procured practical advice and ideas of how to export goods to Canada. Mr. Hicks himself was fascinated by the audience during the presentation and the networking reception afterwards. “The questions in the end encouraged me!” said the honorary consul.

More information on Mr. Hick’s presentation “Exporting Goods to Canada – Legal and Practical Considerations” to follow soon!

(c) Picture: European Commission

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Attestations Required for H, L and O Visa Petitioners

A real Christmas present which was never opened as most filings for an H Visa are done after April 1 of the following year. Since December 23, 2010, USCIS required all employers filing the Form I-129 petition for H, L, and O visa status on behalf of foreign nationals to certify that they have:

(1) reviewed the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and

(2) have made a determination as to whether or not an export control license is required to release any controlled technology or technical data to the foreign national. If an export license is required to be obtained before such release, the employer must attest that the worker will not be exposed to covered technologies without first obtaining an export license covering the foreign worker.

The EAR and ITAR do not apply only to physical exports out of the country. They also apply to “deemed exports,” which include any release or transfer of technology or source code to certain foreign nationals within the United States. Thus, to declare that it is in compliance with the regulations, the employer is required to first know what technology the foreign national employee will be able to access once he/she assumes the job in the United States.

While employers have always been expected to be in compliance with the regulations governing the U.S. export controls, the “new” process now requires employers to affirmatively declare their compliance under penalty of perjury with each visa petition it files. Failure to follow the relevant regulations will subject an employer to severe civil and criminal penalties.

For more Immigration Law news and updates, please visit our website!

(c) Picture: Arvind Balaraman -

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

US Sammelklage gegen Bayer wegen Diskriminierung

Newark (Spiegel Online) - Auf den deutschen Pharmakonzern Bayer kommt in den USA ein möglicherweise teures Verfahren wegen Diskriminierung zu. Sechs Frauen bezichtigen die US-Tochtergesellschaft in einer am Montag eingereichten Klageschrift, Männer bei der Bezahlung und Beförderung zu bevorzugen und überdies Schwangere und Mütter unter Druck zu setzen. Die Frauen verlangen 100 Millionen Dollar (70 Millionen Euro).

"Bayer benachteiligt seine weiblichen Angestellten systematisch - besonders die mit familiären Verpflichtungen", sagte Anwältin Katherine Kimpel. Sie will das Unternehmen nun mit einer Sammelklage unter Druck setzen. Dabei treten die Kläger stellvertretend für eine größere Gruppe auf, was die Schadenssumme in die Höhe treibt.

Der Konzern weist die Vorwürfe zurück und kündigte an, er werde sich zur Wehr zu setzen. Der Gegner hat mit vergleichbaren Fälle allerdings schon Erfahrung: Die Anwaltskanzlei Sanford Wittels & Heisler, die die Frauen vertritt, hatte dem Schweizer Pharmakonzern Novartis im Juli einen Vergleich über 175 Millionen Dollar abgetrotzt.

Während das Verfahren um die mutmaßlichen Diskriminierungen gerade erst anläuft, hat Bayer in einem anderen Fall eine Niederlage einstecken müssen. Ein Gericht im Bundesstaat Arkansas verurteilte den Leverkusener Konzern am Montag zu einer Zahlung von rund 136 Millionen Dollar an Riceland Foods, eine Kooperative von Landwirten. Bayer zeigte sich von dem Urteil enttäuscht und teilte mit, sich juristische Schritte offenzuhalten.

Den ganzen Artikel lesen Sie bitte hier.

Wir werden Sie auf unserem Blog und unserer Webseite natürlich weiter auf dem Laufenden halten!

(c) Picture: photostock -

Monday, March 21, 2011

AT&T Kauft T-Mobile USA - Aus der Perspektive von Juristen

Die Deutsche Telekom gab am Sonntag bekannt, dass es seine Mobilfunktochter T-Mobile USA für 39 Milliarden Dollar an den Marktführer AT&T verkauft. Dabei will AT&T 25 Millarden Dollar in bar zahlen und den Rest in Aktien. Die Tochterfirma des deutschen Dax-Riesen hat seit langer Zeit Probleme im Privatkundengeschäft - unter anderem weil sie keine Apple iPhones im Angebot hat.

Die Neuigkeiten sorgten für einen Auftrieb für der Telekom-Aktie. Zeitweise gewann die Aktie des DAX-Konzerns sogar zweistellig. Zum Handelsstart am Montagmorgen kosteten die Papiere 15,4 Prozent mehr als am Freitagabend.

Die Fusion ist eine der grössten seit Beginn der Finanzkrise in 2008. Bevor es jedoch soweit ist, bedarf der Zusammenschluss der beiden Unternehmen noch der Zustimmung des US-Justizministerium sowie der Kartellrechtsabteilung der US-Regulierungsbehörde. Die ausstehende Zustimmung erscheint jedoch unter anderem aus kartellrechtlichen Gesichtspunkten problematisch. AT&T würde zum Martführer in der Mobilfunkbranche mit einem Marktanteil von 42%, neben den Konkurrenten Verizon (31% Marktanteil) und Sprint Nextel.

Mit der Sorge um die Zustimmung hat die Telekom bereits AT&T dazu gedränt eine sog. „Break-up Fee“ von 3 Milliarden Dollar (ca. 8% des Kaufpreises) zu zahlen. Dies ist eine Vereinbarung zwischen beiden Parteien, um sich gegenüber unterschiedlichste Gefahren, die eine Übernahme verhindern könnten, abzusichern. Üblicherweise beträgt diese Gebühr 5% des Kaufpreises.

Der amerikanische Telekommunikationskonzern AT&T hätte jährliche Einsparungen von geschätzten 3 Millarden Dollar auf Grund von Synergieeffekten. Neben der Zusammenlegung von Fillialen könnten auch die Werbekosten reduziert werden, die letztes Jahr für beide Unternehmen zusammen 2,7 Milliarden Dollar betrugen.

Kartellrechtsexperten behaupten, dass Kunden hingegen auf lange Sicht mit höheren Kosten zu rechnen haben. Bisher hat T-Mobile Mobilfunkverträge mit den günstigsten Konditionen angeboten und somit Druck auf die Konkurrenten ausgeübt. Zwar würde AT&T alle T-Mobile Verträge übernehmen, jedoch müssten die Kunden mit höheren Gebühren nach Auslauf ihrer Verträge rechnen.

Der Vollzug der Übernahme ist für das erste Halbjahr 2012 geplant. Somit ist eine Entscheidung des US-Justizministerium und der US-Regulierungsbehörde in den nächsten Wochen abzuwarten.

(c) Picture: Idea go -

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Ruling against Web-host for Contributory Trademark Infringement

On March 10, 2011 a South Carolina jury, followed by District Judge Margaret Seymour's judgment on March 14, 2011 in Roger Cleveland Golf Company Inc. v. Prince, ruled that website owner Christopher Prince and Prince Distribution LLC as well as Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”) and web-hosting firm Bright Builders are liable for violating the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.

According to the court papers, Prince’s website claimed to be “your one stop shop for the best copied golf clubs on the Internet.” “Quite brazen,” thought Cleveland Golf/Srixon and initiated a claim against Prince.

When it was discovered Bright Builder assisted in creating the web site (“Copycat”), an amended complaint was filed including claims against Bright Builders.

Prince sentenced to pay statutory damages in the amount of $28,250. Bright Builders Inc., on the other hand, was sentenced to $770,750 in statutory damages on counts for contributory trademark infringement of eleven of Cleveland Golf's registered trademarks and unfair trade practices for assisting with the construction and hosting of the website.

The case is a landmark case for one because it is the first time a SEO/web-host, or other internet intermediary, has been found liable for contributory infringement without actual notice that a customer’s website lists fake products for sale from a third party. Second, it is a landmark case in the ongoing fight against counterfeiting. Though counterfeiting used to be no new but a localized appearance, the internet combined with SEO’s and web hosts has simplified the impact and scope of this problem.

What impact does the ruling have for other Internet intermediaries? As one lawyer mentioned: “they can't remain willfully blind and wait for the brand owner to provide notice.”

For more legal updates, check out our website!

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TSA to Publish Radiation Test Results from Airport Scanners

We have reported several times on our Blog about the outrage the implementation of full-body scanners at U.S. airports provoked among travelers. Last week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it will start publishing radiating results from airport passenger and luggage screening equipment. By doing so, TSA hopes to calm the lingering fears among travelers and airline crews about potential health risks repeated exposure to radiation from body scanners may pose.

(Reuters) - TSA has said repeatedly the radiation emitted is minimal and not dangerous, citing experts from the Food and Drug Administration and other third-party scientists. The agency is also testing new software to address privacy concerns.

There are about 486 full-body scanners in 78 airports around the United States, of which 247 are so-called backscatter machines made by Rapiscan Systems, a unit of OSI Systems Inc, and expose a person to about 0.0025 millirem of radiation. The machines cannot produce more than 0.005 millirem per scan, according to TSA.

In comparison, a chest X-ray will expose someone to 10 millirem of radiation and the maximum recommended exposure to radiation from man-made sources is 100 millirem per year, according to TSA.

The radiation test reports, conducted at least once a year on the machines, will be posted to the TSA website,

To read the full article, please click here.

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renjith krishnan -

Some North Carolina Taxpayers Receive False Notice of Back Owed Taxes

Raleigh, N.C. ( — Some taxpayers have received notices falsely stating that they owe state taxes for 2008, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Revenue, Beth Stevens, said Thursday.

Stevens said that the notices were sent after the U.S. Internal Revenue Service provided the revenue department with inaccurate data about federal taxable income for some returns.

Fewer than 2,000 taxpayers are affected by the error, she said. It affects those who claimed the standard deduction for 2008 and who increased their deduction for property taxes or loss after a federal disaster.

Stevens said the revenue department has already started correcting the problem for taxpayers who have called for assistance and is working to identify and contact the other affected individuals.

The incorrect notices were dated and mailed March 2. Taxpayers who received a notice with that date and a "reason code" of 893 should call the revenue department’s Taxpayer Assistance branch at 1-877-252-3052.

Taxpayers should also look for an explanation section that states, "An adjustment has been made to change the federal taxable income as reported on your North Carolina return to the amount per your federal return."

More information and updates on taxes can be found on our website!

(c) Picture: Arvind Balaraman -

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Aussetzung des Swift-Abkommen?

Am 10. März berichteten wir auf unserem Blog über das Swift Abkommen zwischen Europa und den USA, nach dem US-Ermittler unter bestimmten Vorgaben persönliche Daten von Bankkunden anfordern können. Jedoch werden diese Vorgaben anscheinend vernachlässigt oder erst gar nicht beachtet!

Letze Woche wurde in einem Bericht der gemeinsamen Kontrollinstanz von Europol (GKI) festgestellt, dass „die schriftlichen Anfragen der USA an Europol zu vage sind, um auf dieser Basis über die Zulässigkeit der Weitergabe von Daten zu entscheiden.“ Dennoch ist bisher jeder Anfrage von US-Behörden zugestimmt worden, so dass sich die Frage stellt, inwiefern überhaupt eine „Datenschutzaufsicht“ durchgeführt wird.

Seit über einem halben Jahr möchte der FDP-Europaabgeordnete Alexander Alvaro Auskunft erhalten, „ob persönliche Zahlungsverkehrsdaten eingesehen oder an die USA übertragen wurden.“ Dieses Recht steht jedem Bürger nach Artikel 15 des Swift-Abkommens zu, so dass Alvaro im Oktober 2010 die Behörde des Bundesbeauftragten für den Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit (BFDI) kontaktierte.

Nach langem Hin und Her und der Übermittlung verschiedener persönlicher Daten, hat Alvaro bis heute keine Auskunft erhalten.

Allein diese beiden Ereignisse stellen das Swift Abkommen, insbesondere die Sicherheit und den Schutz von persönlichen Bankdaten, in Frage. Der Innenausschuss des Europaparlaments berät in dieser Woche über die Aussetzung des Abkommens.

Lesen Sie den ganzen Artikel hier und weitere Updates auf unserem Blog.

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Republikanischer US-Abgeordneter vergleicht illegale Einwanderer mit Wildschweinen

Der republikanische US-Abgeordnete Virgil Peck aus Kansas hat illegale Einwanderer mit Wildschweinen verglichen. Der geschmacklose Vergleich erfolgte am Anfang der Woche als der Haushaltsausschuss des Repräsentantenhauses über die Kontrolle der Wildschweinpopulation beriet.

DerUS-Republikaner aus Kansas sagte: "Wenn das Erschießen der Wildschweine funktioniert, haben wir vielleicht eine Lösung für unser Problem mit illegaler Einwanderung gefunden."

Der absurde Vergleich sorgt bei Bürgerrechtlern wie der hispano-amerikanischen Bürgerrechtsorganisation LULAC für Aufruhr. Zwar entschuldigte sich Peck für seinen Verbalausfall, einen Rücktritt lehnt er jedoch ab - "Seine Wähler seien über die illegale Einwanderung besorgt und er habe als jemand aus dem Südosten von Kansas gesprochen."

Source: Spiegel Online

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

North Carolina Senate Approves Expansion of Castle Doctrine

Raleigh, N.C. — Soon not only your house but also your car and your workplace may be classified as "castle" thanks to an expansion of North Carolina's Castle Doctrine which was approved by the North Carolina Senate on March 14, 2011 with a 35-13 vote.

Based on the English Common Law provision that "one's home is one's castle," some form of the Castle Doctrine has been adopted in more than half of the U.S. states. Each state's Castle Doctrine differs with respect to the specific instances in which the Doctrine can be invoked, and what degree of retreat or non-deadly force (if any) is required before deadly force can be used.

In addition to providing a valid criminal defense, the Castle Doctrine in some states also provides for civil immunity.

In North Carolina, the Castle Doctrine currently gives the "lawful occupant within a home or other place of residence" the right to defend his/her "castle" with "any degree of force that the occupant reasonably believes is necessary ... including deadly force," if the occupant "reasonably apprehends that the intruder may kill or inflict serious bodily harm to the occupant or others in the home or residence," or he/she "reasonably believes that the intruder intends to commit a felony in the home or residence." There is no "duty to retreat" prior to the use of deadly force under these circumstances. (N.C.G.S. § 14‑51.1).

Under the new legislation approved by the North Carolina Senate on Monday, the "castle" will continue to be the home. In addition, the new law will recognize the car or workplace as one's "castle." The workplace does not have to a building and even includes tents, warehouses, etc.

Opponents of North Carolina's proposed expansion of the Castle Doctrine fear that it will cause more people who are untrained in defensive use of firearms to arm themselves. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that the legislation will increase the deterrent effect on would-be predators.

More updates to follow on our website and blog!

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Voter ID Law for North Carolina?

Voter ID laws ... Arizona has one, Georgia has one, and now North Carolina may be requiring its residents to present a photo ID to cast a ballot.

House Bill 351
was filed by Republicans late on March 14, 2011. The bill consists of six parts and would require photo identification, or the voter must cast a provisional ballot. Free voter ID cards with photos could be obtained through county election boards by voters who do not have another valid photo ID. The bill does not allow the use of university IDs by student voters.

To read what critics and proponents of House Bill 351 have to say, please click here.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Illinois Introduces “Amazon Tax”

On March 10, 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law that online retailers with a physical presence in the State of Illinois are required to collect sales taxes.

The immediately effective Main Street Fairness Act has direct consequences on online merchants like Amazon and All companies that have only a contract with an affiliate located in Illinois come under this law.

For instance, Amazon has several ties to Illinois affiliates and therefore has to pay sales taxes. But Amazon has already started to circumvent this tax by ceasing their relationships with Illinois based affiliates.

“The affiliate business can be borderless. If a web shopper is looking for a coupon, they don’t care if they get it from Illinois-based affiliate or an Indiana-based affiliate” said the President of Salt Lake City based J.E. Johnson.

Governor Quinn, however, stated “this law will level the playing field between online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores.” Moreover the Illinois Department of Revenue estimates that the state could get $ 153 million to $ 170 million in new revenue.

It will be interesting to see which states will follow Illinois and pass similar laws. Also, will online merchants pursue their aim to cancel the ties to Illinois-based affiliate avoiding sales taxes? Check back on our blog and website for further updates.

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Alienation of Affection - A Cause of Action that is Alive and Well in North Carolina

Raleigh, N.C. ( — A Wake County judge awarded the ex-wife of a local business owner $30 million Monday in an alienation of affection lawsuit against his current wife.

Superior Court Judge Carl Fox handed down a judgment against Betty Devin requiring her to pay over $10 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages to Carol Puryear, the former wife of Donald Puryear, who owns a trucking company in Raleigh.

The settlement is the largest of its kind in North Carolina history, according to court records.

Only a few states in the U.S. still allow for alienation of affection suits (Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah).

For a deserted spouse to win this tort action, he/she must prove that

(1) a valid marriage between the spouses that entailed love and affection;
(2) the spousal love was alienated and destroyed; and
(3) defendant's malicious conduct contributed to or caused the loss of affection.

In North Carolina, § 52-13 of the General Statues provides:

Procedures in causes of action for alienation of affection and criminal conversation.
No act of the defendant shall give rise to a cause of action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation that occurs after the plaintiff and the plaintiff's spouse physically separate with the intent of either the plaintiff or plaintiff's spouse that the physical separation remain permanent.
(b) An action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation shall not be commenced more than three years from the last act of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action.
(c) A person may commence a cause of action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation against a natural person only.

More legal updates can be found on our website.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Texas Goes English – The Question is whether the Loser-Pays Rule is going to be One- or Two-Way

In contrast to the United States nearly every Western democracy follows the "English Rule" which requires the loser of a civil suit to compensate the winner for his or her attorney's fees.

In his February State of the State address, Texas Governor Rick Perry held out the prospect of such a loser-pays rule. Where he himself endorses the so called one-way system which requires “those who sue and lose” to pay attorney fees, other Republicans favor a two-way street where not just the plaintiff pays, but whoever the loser is ends up paying, as being more fair.

Which version of the loser-pays system is going to make it into the bill is not clear yet. What is clear, however, is that the final version of the Texas bill will include a provision for the early dismissal of frivolous lawsuits.

It should not go unmentioned that the approach of the loser-pays system itself is not unquestioned. Opponents argue that it will obstruct all litigation and keep those with plausible claims from seeking justice.

Proponents, on the other hand, declare it to be the cure for courts choked with the costs of “junk” lawsuits, ultimately resulting in decreasing the costs of doing business, goods and services. GOP lawmakers can here refer to a long history in Europe with the conclusion that liability insurance costs there are significantly less compared with the United States.

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Richterin in Montana verordnet OP zur Gebärmutterentfernung

Montana -- Richterin Karen Townsend hat am 1. März eine Frau (L.K.) als unzurechnungsfähig erklärt und eine Operation zur Entfernung der Gebärmutter angeordnet, um L.K. vor Gebärmutterkrebs zu schützen.

Ärzte hatten mitgeteilt, dass sich L.K.'s Gebärmutterkrebs im Stadium 1 befindet und eine Wahrscheinlichkeit von ca. 85% bestehe, dass sie in den nächsten drei Jahren sterben könnte. Es kann jedoch auch nicht ausgeschlossen werden. dass sie ein gesundes Kind bekommen kann.

Die Richterin stützt ihr Urteil unter anderem auf die Aussagen von Psychologen des Montana State Hospital, die aussagten, dass L.K. religiöse Einbildungen hat, dass Gott sie bereits geheilt hätte. Aus diesem Grund erkenne sie nicht die Risiken der Krebserkrankung und sei nicht voll zurechnungsfähig.

Am 2. März legte L.K. Berufung ein, um die für den 3. März angeordnete Operation zu unterbinden. L.K. teilte mit, sie nehme die Krebsdiagnose ernst und sei sich ihrer Risiken bewusst. Sie sei strenggläubig und wünsche sich ein Kind. Jedoch möchte sie ihre Entscheidung über eine Operation eigenständig entscheiden und sie werde vielleicht später der Empfehlung der Ärzte nachkommen. Der State Supreme Court von Montana hat daraufhin die gerichtliche Anordnung der Operation ausgesetzt und wird mit dem Berufungsverfahren fortfahren.

Während diese Entscheidung scheinbar weniger die Ausübung der Religionsfreiheit betrifft, stellt sich die Frage, inwieweit Richter in das Persönlichkeitesrecht des Einzelnen eingreifen dürfen?

Artikel 2 der Montana Verfassung erklärt die Würde des Menschen für unantastbar, auch wenn das Leben oder die Gesundheit gefährdet ist. Niemand kann zu einer Behandlung gezwungen werden.

Arthur L. Caplan vom Zentrum für Bioethik an der Universität Pennsylvania hingegen ist folgender Meinung. Je schwerer Personen (lebensbedrohlich) erkrankt sind und je mehr diese Person in ihrer Zurechnungsfähigkeit eingeschränkt ist, desto wahrscheinlicher ist es diese Person zu einer Behandlung zu verpflichten, die gesundheitsfördernd oder sogar lebensrettend sein kann. Das Problem hierbei ist jedoch herauszufinden, ob die Person wirklich unzurechnungsfähig ist und ob sie die lebensbedrohlichen Umstände nicht nachvollziehen kann.

Generell sind Entscheidungen solcher Fälle äußerst umstritten und werden von Medizinern und Ethikern unterschiedlich bewertet. Aus diesem Grund bleibt abzuwarten, wie das State Supreme Court in der Berufung der L.K. entscheidet.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Wal-Mart Faces Class Action Lawsuit by Female Workers

Not too long ago, on November 9, 2010, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Saundra B. Armstrong, granted final approval to the settlement of a wage and hour class action suit against Wal-Mart in California. Now the corporate giant is facing another class action suit.

ABA Journal
-- Since it was founded in 1962, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has long faced scrutiny over its employment practices, including lawsuits on its overtime practices and about allegedly making employees work through lunch and bathroom breaks. The company has settled many of those suits.

In 2001, six female employees filed a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination in Wal-Mart's pay and promotion policies in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The suit sought class certification on behalf of all women employed in domestic Wal-Mart stores since Dec. 26, 1998, who may have been subject to the challenged policies.

The suit alleges that many women at Wal-Mart are paid less than men in comparable positions despite greater seniority and higher performance ratings, and that women receive fewer promotions to in-store management positions than men.

In 2004, a federal district court fully certified the class for claims for injunctive relief and back pay, but it limited the promotions class to those women with objective evidence confirming their interest in promotion. Last April, an en banc panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, largely affirmed the class certification.

On March 29 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes. The case takes up one question the retailer appealed: Whether claims for monetary relief can be certified in a section of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that deals chiefly with injunctive relief under class actions. And the justices added their own question about whether the certified Wal-Mart class meets the federal rules' basic prerequisites for certifying class actions.

To read the full article, please click here.

More updates on this lawsuit to come soon on our blog and website.

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Storm on Capitol Hill: Convenience Store Owners vs. Banks and Debit Card Companies

After having been through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, it was time for a significant change in the American financial regulatory environment. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law by President Obama on July 21 2010, is supposed to be this change.

One of its amendments directs the Federal Reserve Bank to limit the fees, banks collect from retailers each time a customer makes a purchase with a debit card, to a „reasonable and proportional“ amount.

While merchants are delighted contending that these fees are hindering business growth, expansion plans and the recruitment of new workers, banks and debit card companies storm Capital Hill saying that their tremendous loss will result in either not issuing debit cards to customers anymore or in raising other consumer banking charges. Lenders like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and U.S. Bancorp already chose the second option. They say it is not understandable why especially giant retailers like Home Depot and Wall Mart should profit from it.

But what about smaller banks? Although they are supposed to be exempted from the law, they are worried about not being able to persist in the market since big banks have no other choice than offering lower fees.

The ongoing discussions and different sights of the story made several politicians and lawmakers doubt the meaningfulness of the debit card amendment they have been once so supportive of. It remains to be seen what July 2011 brings, the month when the Act is supposed to be put into effect.

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Who Has to Pay Translation Service Costs Incurred during Litigation?

As lawyers like to phrase it, "it depends..."

Kouichi Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd.
(9th Circuit, March 8, 2011) - Following the fall through a wooden deck at Marianas Resort and Spa, the Japanese professional baseball player, Kouichi Taniguchi, filed a negligence lawsuit against Kan Pacific Saipan Ltd., the owner of Marianas Resort and Spa. The U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands granted Kan Pacific’s motion for summary judgment.

In his appeal, Taniguchi stated that the District Court erred in awarding costs for translation services used by Kan Pacific during the litigation according to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1827 and 1828.

Although he cited the wrong statute, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has dealt with the question whether “translation services” and “interpretation services” are interchangeable under 28 U.S.C. § 1920(6). There is a circuit split concerning the statutory interpretation of § 1920(6).

The Seventh Circuit ruled in Extra Equipamentos E Exportacao Ltda. v. Case Corp. (2008) that the words “interpretation” and “translation” each have a distinct meaning. Moreover, in common use an “interpreter” is someone who translates the spoken word rather than the written word. Even if the dictionary definition points out similarities between “interpreter” and “translator,” it would stretch the language of § 1920 too far.

Following the Seventh Circuit ruling, Kan Pacific would not be entitled to an award of translation service costs.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in BDT Products Inc. v. Lexmark Int’l, Inc. (2005) stressed that “courts have the authority to interpret the meaning of items listed in § 1920(6), and thus, awarding costs for translation of documents necessary for litigation is appropriate.” The court also relied on the dictionary definition that “translation” services and “interpretation” services are interchangeable.

Following the Sixth Circuit ruling, Kan Pacific would be entitled to an award of translation service costs.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirmed the decision of the Sixth Circuit by pointing out that its analysis is more compatible. The court stated that “within the meaning of § 1920(6), the prevailing party should be awarded costs for services required to interpret either live speech or written documents into a familiar language, so long as interpretation of items is necessary to the litigation.”

Taniguchi provided his medical documents only in Japanese language and Kan Pacific was not able to prepare a defense without an appropriate translation. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recognized the necessity of the translation and affirmed the decision of the District Court in order to grant Kan Pacific reimbursement for the translation service costs.

For more legal updates, please visit our website.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

North Carolina - Introduction of Bill to Permit Non-Lawyer Ownership of Law Firms

On March 8, 2011, North Carolina state senator and lawyer, Fletcher Hartsell Jr., introduced a bill in the General Assembly of North Carolina that would permit non-attorney ownership of law firms.

Under the proposed measure, non-lawyers can own up to 49 percent of law firms so long as lawyers continue to control the company. Furthermore, stock certificates must state that "no nonlicensee shareholder shall interfere with the exercise of professional judgment by licensed attorneys in their representation of clients." The certificates must also provide that any conflict between the company's duties to its clients and the court versus shareholders will be resolved by giving the duty to the court first priority, followed by the duty to the client.

The current version of North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct 5.4(d) does not allow such ownership of law firms by non-lawyers:
"A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a professional corporation or association authorized to practice law for a profit, if:
(1) a nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration; or
(2) a nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer."

For more legal updates, please visit our website.

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Bedenken gegen Swift-Abkommen - USA greifen europäische Bankdaten ab

Am 6. Oktober 2010 berichteten wir auf unserem Blog über die Präsentation des U.S. Finanzministerium von Entwürfe für Vorschriften, die den Sicherheitsbehörden freien Zugriff auf alle Geldtransfers, ob über Banken oder Kreditkarten, gewähren sollen. Laut Spiegel Online kritisieren EU-Kontrolleure nun mit deutlichen Worten die Weitergabe von Bankdaten an amerikanische Terror-Ermittler: Eigentlich soll Europol jede Anfrage der US-Kollegen genau prüfen, tatsächlich stimmen sie auch sehr vagen Anfragen zu.

"Große Bedenken hinsichtlich der Einhaltung von Datenschutz-Prinzipien" hat die gemeinsamen Kontrollinstanz von Europol (GKI) nach einer Überprüfung der Weitergabe von Daten europäischer Bankkunden an US-Terrorfahnder. In dem öffentlichen Bericht des Gremiums heißt es, einige Datenschutz-Grundsätze seinen bei Europol "nicht erfüllt" worden.

Hintergrund des Berichts ist das sogenannte Swift-Abkommen. Dieser Vertrag über die Weitergabe von Daten europäischer Bankkunden an US-Ermittler trat 2010 in Kraft, nachdem das Europaparlament den Widerstand aufgeben hatte. Der Vertrag sieht vor, dass Daten zu Banktransaktionen nach Freigabe durch Europol und einen EU-Kontrolleur an die USA gegeben werden. Anfang Februar hatte die EU-Kommission eingeräumt, dass die USA auch auf Überweisungen von einem EU-Land ins andere zugreifen können, sofern diese über das System Swiftnet Fin erfolgen.

Eigentlich muss Europol dem Abkommen zufolge bei allen US-Anfragen prüfen, ob die Datenübermittlung erforderlich ist. Die Kontrolleure bemängeln, dass die schriftlichen Anfragen der USA an die Europol zu vage sind, um auf dieser Basis über die Zulässigkeit zu entscheiden. Trotz der fehlenden Entscheidungsgrundlage habe Europol aber jeder Anfrage zugestimmt, berichten die Prüfer. Europol habe darauf verwiesen, dass man mündlich Zusatzinformationen einhole. Die Kontrolleure erklären dagegen, dass diese Art der Prüfung von Anfragen eine Datenschutzaufsicht "unmöglich" mache.

Den ganzen Artikel finden Sie hier.

(c) Foto: Salvatore Vuono -

A Will or No Will

When it comes to estate planning, the three questions I typically hear are:

  1. how to write a will
  2. how to ensure that property is likely to end up in the "right" hands
  3. how to manage the "German" issues such as child custody for minors, assets in Germany etc.
After I provide answers or send them our questionnaire often I hear ... nothing! As if the fact to write a will will shorten their life span.

This leads to the question: What happens when a person dies without a will? Under German law and for example North Carolina law there are provisions known as dying "intestate" or "gesetzliche Erbfolge", which is a way to distribute assets and to take care of minors.

But is this what you would like?

Contact us and we can assist you!

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Death Penalty Is Banned in Illinois

With Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's signature yesterday on March 9, 2011, a bill banning the death penalty in Illinois is now official. The legislation will take effect July 1, 2011

What happens to the 15 persons on death row? Their sentences are commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of release.

Illinois now joins three other states, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York, which have already banned capital punishment.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

USCIS Announces Proposed H-1B Electronic Registration System to Reduce Costs for U.S. Businesses

WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a proposed rule that could save U.S. businesses more than $23 million over the next 10 years by establishing an advance registration process for U.S. employers seeking to file H-1B petitions for foreign workers in specialty occupations. The proposed electronic system would minimize administrative burdens and expenses related to the H-1B petition process—including reducing the need for employers to submit petitions for which visas would not be available under the statutory visa cap.

Under the proposed rule, employers seeking to petition for H-1B workers subject to the statutory cap would register electronically with USCIS—a process that would take an estimated 30 minutes to complete. Before the petition filing period begins, USCIS would select the number of registrations predicted to exhaust all available visas. Employers would then file petitions only for the selected registrations. The registration system would save employers the effort and expense of filing H-1B petitions, as well as Labor Condition Applications, for workers who would be unable to obtain visas under the statutory cap.

The proposed rule, which has been posted to the Federal Register for public viewing, contains complete details about the registration system and estimated cost savings.

USCIS encourages formal comments on the proposed rule through The comment period runs for 60 days, beginning March 3, 2011, and ending on May 2, 2011.

To read more, please click here.

For more Immigration Law updates, please visit our website.

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Savvy Online Software Shoppers Not Misled by Rival’s Use of Trademarked Keywords

A federal appeals court (9.Cir) has found that consumers were not likely to be misled by an online software advertiser that purchased a trademarked keyword of its competitor.

In its ruling on March 8, 2011 an injunction that had barred Network Automation from buying the keyword, “ActiveBatch,” was set aside. This word is the trademarked name of a rival company’s software.

Does this open the doors to more infringements?

(C) Picture: renjith krishnan:

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Storm on Capitol Hill: Convenience Store Owners vs. Banks and Debit Card Companies

As previously reported on our blog the Dodd-Frank Act directs the Federal Reserve Bank to limit the fees banks collect from retailers each time a customer makes a purchase with a debit card to a „reasonable and proportional“ amount.

Whereas merchants were delighted contending that these fees are hindering business growth, expansion plans and the recruitment of new workers, banks and debit card companies storm Capital Hill stating that their tremendous loss will result in either not issuing debit cards to customers anymore or in raising other consumer banking charges. Lenders like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and U.S. Bancorp already chose the second option. Moreover, it is not understandable why especially giant retailers like Home Depot and Wall Mart should profit from it. But what about smaller banks?

Although they are supposed to be exempted from the law, they are worried about not being able to persist in the market since big banks have no other choice than offering lower fees. The ongoing discussions and different sights of the story made several politicians and lawmakers doubt the meaningfulness of the debit card amendment they have been once so supportive of. It remains to be seen what July brings, the month when the Act is supposed to be put into effect.