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Monday, December 09, 2013

Whistleblowing at the Workplace in Germany

(c) pronlinenews.com
Whistleblowing is the exposure of misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal behaviour occuring in an organization. Edward Snowden, a computer analyst whistleblower, revealed secret NSA documents about the surveillance of communications around the world. Snowden is prosecuted by the American authorities for theft of government property and unauthorized communication of national defense information. However, is whistleblowing considered a crime in every job?

In German companies, blowing the whistle on employers generally is not a reason for being lawfully fired. Whistleblowers even enjoy protection under german employment law as long as they stick with the rules of the jurisdiction. After this, an employee cannot be terminated if he unsuccessfully tried to clarify internal matters, if there was no more discrete mean to do so and if he was in good faith to reveal a deficit of public interest. According to this, an exposure a la Snowden in a german company would not lead to the termination of the employee. 

This jurisdiction is based on a case in 2011 where a female employee of a nursing-home sued her employer: she revealed internal deficits to her employer and eventually pressed charges against him because of fraud. She was fired – unlawfully according to the European Court of Human Rights (Urteil vom 21. Juli 2011, Beschwerde-Nr. 28274/08). According to Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, she was protected by the right of freedom of speech. However, it has to be kept in mind that a differentiation between the exposure of deficits of public interest and the duty of loyalty to the employer might be necessary and not that easy.

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern at BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Patent war: “Rockstar” sues Google

In 2009, the Canada based company Nortel went bankrupt and therefore sold more than 6000 patents covering wireless innovations and technologies in 2011. Google and a group of other interested parties were trying to get the patents. In the end, “Rockstar Bidco”, consisting of Microsoft, Apple, Blackberry, Ericcson and Sony got the patents with a bid of $ 4.5 billion.


(c) www.imore.com 

Just recently, “Rockstar” filed eight lawsuits against Google and a host of other companies, claiming the infringement of several patents. The lawsuits are attacking AdWords, which is Google's main advertisement product, and Android. The lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern Texas Division four weeks ago. For many people, this patent attack was not a big surprise. Patent suits are used as weapons to control the market. The relevant patents the fight is about are all titled “associative search engine” and describe “an advertisement machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network.” Google is accused of having used these technologies on purpose.

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern at BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ex-Maxwell official criminally charged under FCPA

(c) theheraldghana.com
Maxwell Technologies S.A. is a Swiss subsidiary of a U.S. company which is developing, manufacturing and marketing energy storage and power delivery solutions for different kinds of areas. Alain Riedo, a Swiss citizen and the former general manager, was criminally charged by U.S. prosecutors with violating anti-bribary and falsifying company records. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act strictly prohibits such behaviour. The indictment was filed in in the Southern District of California.

Riedo is accused of conspiring to bribe Chinese government officials in order to win contracts to sell electric storage devices. He is suspected of having paid $2 million in bribes to government officials from 2002 through 2009. Riedo now is facing nine counts, saying that he is not guilty. No charges were filed against the company itself. 

The whole case: United States v. Alain Riedo, No. 13-cr-3789 JM (S.D. Cal. October 15, 2013).

Friday, November 15, 2013

A possible threat for ObamaCare: the subsidy lawsuits

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called "ObamaCare", has been plagued by several problems so far. The latest debacle was the website that was not ready; the next crisis could be lawsuits filed against the laws subsidies. By 2014, Americans will be required to have health insurance either by buying a policy through a health insurance marketplace or by enrolling in other subsidy programs.

The subsidies are a key element of the ObamaCare because many people could not afford private health insurance without it. Only eligible individuals receive cost assistance via tax credits or similar benefits in order to be able to afford healthcare in accordance with the PPACA. Americans making under 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) can get a type of subsidy, depending on their individual percentage of the FPL. Medicaid is an existing health program in the United States and is also part of the ObamaCare subsidies. An expansion of the Medicaid eligibility in 2014 is part of the healthcare reform and shall be granted to people with an income up to 138% of the poverty line. 

According to Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Consitution, the Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises. Therefore, subsidies in the form of tax credits are up to the Congress to impose. According to the Obamacare law, subsidies shall be granted through an exchange established by the state, not through one set up by the federal government. In its latest decision NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate to buy health insurance as a constitutional exercise of Congress's taxing power. They also agreed that the states are not required to participate in the new Medicaid program. Thus, many U.S. states have chosen to reject the expansion of Medicaid and declined to establish their own marketplaces with the result that individuals are not able to qualify for the program.

Several lawsuits were filed calling the ObamaCare subsidies unlawful. This imposes a huge threat to the whole ObamaCare program being unconstitutional. First of all, parties argue that it would not be fair to prevent only a part of the population from obtaining specific subsidies. This would force many people to either purchase the insurance or to pay a penalty instead. Furthermore, it is a question of legislative competence. Obamacare prevents the government from enforcing the federal law in those states that decided not to establish their own marketplaces. However, there is another provision that allows the federal government to set up its own marketplace in the states that opt out. Attorneys from the government stated that the “Congress made clear that an exchange established by the federal government stands in the shoes of the exchange that a state chooses not to establish.” This is a way of interpreting and skirting the existing law in order to provide tax credits for eligible individuals in every state. As a matter of fact, the federal government interferes with the state law and it's decisions. What is the sense of having states opt out if the government will provide tax credits anyways? After the above-named decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld the whole program, it seems like nothing will get in the way of Obamacare. A lawsuit against the circumvention of the law and a contempt of the separation between state and federal law could endanger the whole Obamacare program.

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern at BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Thursday, November 14, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court will review details of EPA's climate rules


(c) inhabitat.com
The Supreme Court will review some details of the Environmental Protection Agency's early efforts to regulate greenhouse gases. The question is, whether the EPA has exceeded its power concerning the latest climate rules. States and industry groups challenged these regulations.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA was responsible for regulations about carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Since then, the EPA has established many regulations. 

The Supreme Court will now review 6 out of 9 petitions considering the question "whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.” This means that the Supreme Court will not review the EPA's determination that greenhouse gases threaten human health and the environment or its carbon limits for vehicles. The fact that the Supreme Court wants to review EPA's rules reveals that they want to keep an eye on how they use their power. However, this does not affect the EPA in moving ahead with its rules to curtail carbon-dioxide emissions.

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern at BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Ticketed for driving with Google Glass

(c)techcrunch.com
A woman in California received a traffic ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving. The California
law wants to prevent people from driving while watching television or be distracted by similar monitors. However, Cecilia Abadie is not willing to accept this punishment. She is of the opinion that Google Glass cannot be more distracting than a navigation system. Furthermore, she wasn't even using Google Glass while she was driving.

Traffic laws are different from State to State. In some states like Arizona and West Virginia, legislation that precisely prohibits wearing Google Glass while driving is being drafted at the moment. In California, the rule is not clearly defined and the law is obsolete. Google Glass itself recommends to read the state laws before wearing Google Glass in the car.

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern at BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

RapidMiner: Headquarters from Dortmund to Boston

RapidMiner
(c)rapidminer.com

German-founded company RapidMiner has moved its Headquarters from Dortmund to Boston and raised a $5M Series A round. RapidMiner was founded in Dortmund and will maintain an R&D office there.

RapidMiner provides software, solutions, and services in the fields of predictive analytics, data mining, and text mining. Their technology allows companies to use previously unexplored data to inform their decisions, optimize their processes, and take advantage of the highest level of business intelligence.RapidMiner spans industries to solve the challenges facing today’s business analysts.

With the participation from the European firms Earlybird Venture Capital and Open Ocean Capital, RapidMiner could raise their first outside capital. In the Boston Area, the company will expand domestic and international sales and marketing operations and develop new products within their product line. RapidMiner has more than 400 customers who use the RapidMiner technology, including reputable companies such as PayPal, Pepsi, Siemens, Lufthansa and Volkswagen. The investment also leads to a new profile: the name changed from Rapid-I to RapidMiner, just like the name of the product.

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern at BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

USA Flights – Passengers may use Laptos during Takeoff and Landing

(c) www.onlinekosten.de
Experts agree: switched-on mobile phones do not affect the technology of airplanes anymore. The US Federal Aviation Administration now permits the use of electronic devices during takeoffs and landings, starting by the end of the year. It remains prohibited to talk on the phone during flights or to surf in the internet via mobile data connections. The flight-mode still has to be turned on.

European Airlines are not ready to relax the rules concerning electronic devices in airplanes yet. Therefore, an adjustment of international rules between the FAA and the european EASA (Electrical Apparatus Service Association) will be important for the future.

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern at BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Death of co-conspirator has no effects on claim

(c) freedigitalphotos.net
The case: Koch Measurement Devices, Inc. is a Wilmington-based subsidiary of a German glass conglomerate. They distribute high-end glass beer growlers imported by the German company Wassermann. Koch’s principal shareholders are Karl Koch Thermometerfabrik Verwaltungs GmbH (75 %) and Defendant Kenneth Armke II (25 %). Armke was the only employee of the subsidiary in Wilmington. The other Defendant ist Michael Walsak, who used to provide Koch with various services such as graphic design, website design, etc.

In 2011, Koch alleges that Armke and Walsak incorporated Tote Glass by conspiracy and closed Koch Measurement Devices without advance notice to the majority owners. Furthermore, they are accused to have taken the company's hard drive, the internal web serves as well as customer files. Tote then used the same pricing plan and partners, Koch alleges. Armke and Walsak had to face several claims, but before the case went to trail, Armke deceased.

The questions was, whether the conspiracy claim had to be dismissed with the death of the only other conspirator. North Carolina Business Court Judge John R. Jolly allowed the claim to move forward.

The full decision is Koch Measurement Devices, Inc. v. Armke

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern at BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Thursday, October 24, 2013

4 risky places to swipe your debit card

Did you know that you may give a thief direct access to your checking account just by regularly using your debit card? Debit cards may look identical to credit cards, but have one key difference. With credit cards you can simply decline the charges and not pay the bill. Debit cards draw money directly from your checking account, rather than from an intermediary such as a credit card company.

While debit card fraud is always a possibility, being careful where you use it can help keep your checking account balance out of the hands of criminals.Here are the risky places for debit card use:

Debit cards are different
(c) bankrate.com
The Web
Online is the No. 1 place where consumers should not use their debit cards. It's susceptible at so many points, such as malware on the consumer’s computer, eavesdropping on communications via the wireless network, hacking, etc. It’s impossible to know who is handling your information and wherever the data goes, it’s going to be vulnerable. 



Skimming ATMs
(c) bankrate.com
Outdoor ATM
Skimming is the practice of capturing a bank customer's card information by running it through a machine that reads the card's magnetic strip. Those machines are often placed over the real card slots at ATMs and other card terminals. If the public has access to it, then someone has the ability to add skimming devices to it, position cameras on it and position themselves in a way where they could surveil it. You're better off using an ATM inside a retail outlet or other high-trafficked, well-lit place.

Stealing PINs at gas stations
(c) bankrate.com
Gas Station
Thieves on gas stations are putting skimming devices or using small cameras to capture footage of debit card users entering their PINs so they can have free access to their money. Even if the thief doesn't manage to get your debit card personal identification number, or PIN, from such a device, he still may be able to duplicate the card's magnetic strip and use it for "sign and swipe" Visa or MasterCard transactions.

With the high potential for fraud in pay-at-the-pump debit transactions, it might make sense to use an alternative such as cash or credit cards the next time you fill up.

Restaurants keep customer data on file
(c) bankrate.com
Restaurant
Restaurant keep customer data on file. Server takes your card and disappears for a while, having the opportunity to copy your card information. 
"Any place where the card is out of hand" can increase the chances of fraud. Regardless of whether you use your debit card at a small restaurant or a big-box store, the possibility of fraud is always there.


 Article Source: www.bankrate.com/finance

Monday, October 21, 2013

Societas Europaea (SE) – Die Europäische Aktiengesellschaft

(c) lv.rlp.de
Die Societas Europaea ist eine europarechtliche (transnationale) Rechtsform einer Aktiengesellschaft und ist 2004 durch das Gesetz zur Einführung der Europäischen Gesellschaft entstanden. Sie beruht auf der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 2157/2001 des Rates der Europäischen Union vom 8.10.2001 über das Statut der Europäischen Gesellschaft (ABl. L 294/1 vom 10.11.2001) und dient der europarechtlichen Harmonisierung im Gesellschaftsrecht. Der Sitz einer SE muss in einem Mitgliedstaat der Europäischen Union liegen. Das Kapital ist in Aktien zerlegt; jeder Aktionär haftet nur bis zu der Höhe seines Anteils.

Die SE bietet sich vor allem für international ausgerichtete Unternehmen an. Sie ermöglicht es, dass Gesellschaften aus verschiedenen Mitgliedstaaten fusionieren oder eine Holding errichten. Es ist nicht weiter notwendig, dass Gesellschaften für jedes Land eine eigene Gesellschaft gründen. Vielmehr können gemeinsame Tochtergesellschaften in der EU gegründet werden. Diese Vorteile beruhen auf dem Prinzip, dass Gesellschaften europaweit als rechtliche Einheit auftreten können. Einer Expansion ins europäische Ausland steht kein großer bürokratischer Aufwand mehr im Wege. Eine Sitzverlagerung bringt nicht mehr automatisch einen Identitätsverlust für eine Gesellschaft mit sich. Ein Handeln nach wirtschaftlichen Gesichtspunkten wird demnach gefördert. Vorteile bringt die Rechtsform der SE auch für die Akzeptanz im Ausland: Berührungsängste der Geschäftspartner werden gehemmt, auch marketingtechnische Gründe sind nicht zu vernachlässigen.

Allianz war 2006 eines der ersten großen Unternehmen in Deutschland, die die SE als Rechtsform angenommen haben. 2010 ist zum Beispiel auch der Mineralölkonzern BP gefolgt. Mittlerweile gibt es in Deutschland rund 1000 SEs.

Eine Umwandlung hat allerdings auch seine Nachteile: sie ist sehr teuer. Das Mindestkapital beträgt 120.000 Euro. Verglichen zu anderen Gesellschaftsformen, beispielsweise der GmbH in Deutschland mit nur 25.000 Euro, ist das Mindeststammkapital nur für wenige Unternehmen zu stemmen. Darüber hinaus fallen weitere Kosten mit der Umwandlung zur SE an: Gebühren, Beratungen, aber auch Folgekosten die ein neuer Firmenname so mit sich bringt – angefangen bei Visitenkarten bis hin zu neuen Werbematerialien.

Autor: Anja Rettig Legal Intern BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Government Shutdown: Was ist geöffnet, was ist geschlossen?

(c) foxnews.com
Welche Einrichtungen vom Government Shutdown betroffen sind und welche nicht, erfahren Sie hier:

Geschlossen:
  • Arbeitsministerien
  • Nationalparks
  • Staatliche Museen
  • Staatsbibliotheken
  • Staatliche Denkmäler, zum Beispiel die Freiheitsstatue
Teilweise stillgelegt:
  • Luftfahrtaufsichtsbehörde: Maschinen werden nicht mehr zertifiziert und können deshalb nicht ausgeliefert werden.
  • Zoll: Zollformalitäten können nicht mehr erledigt werden. Große US-Unternehmen können daher ihre Waren nicht ins Ausland exportieren. Ausländische Kunden werden dazu geneigt sein aus anderen Ländern ihre Ware zu beziehen.
  • Teile des US Finanzministeriums: nur noch essentielle Aufgaben werden erledigt.
  • Teile der öffentlichen Verkehrsmittel: in Washington zum Beispiel wurde der öffentliche Verkehr stark eingeschränkt.
  •  Öffentliche Dienstleistungen, zum Beispiel die Müllabfuhr
  •  Nasa
  •  Justizministerien
  •  Sozialversicherungsverwaltungen

Nicht betroffen:
  • Sozialhilfe und Renten
  • Bundesgefängnisse
  • Grenzschutz
  • Visaabteilungen in Botschaften

Für weitere Informationen: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2013/09/politics/government-shutdown-impact/

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Monday, October 07, 2013

Upcoming ban on recyclables in roll-out garbage bins in Charlotte?

(c) recommunity.com
Sorting trash for recycling still is a rarity. The green recycling bins can be found all-around, on public placed and in private backyards. All garbage items put into the gray garbage carts will end up in landfills. Throwing away recyclable items into ordinary garbage bins means throwing away valuable resources and future products. Those items include for example plastic bottles, aluminum cans and reams of paper. Yet, the general awareness does not grow. Are we having full recycling centers for vacancy? There are also many jobs depending on the existence of the recycling system.

Several parties are of the opinion that government regulations should not tell the population what to do with their garbage. Other residents propose to impose a fine on putting banned items in the garbage roll-outs. However, such a county ordinance would require the approval by the municipalities. There have been several public forums in Mecklenburg to gather feedback on this issue. The majority of the residents were very supportive as far as the issue of recycling was concerned. However, the solid waste management director Bruce Gledhill acknowledged that he is very limited in imposing penalties. Let’s hope the general awareness of recycling will grow itself instead of upcoming penalties forcing people to do what they should anyways.

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Government Shutdown: Öffentliche Verwaltung in den USA noch immer lahmgelegt

(c) freedigitalphotos.net
Seit 17 Jahren ist das erste Mal die Bundesverwaltung in den USA in großen Teilen blockiert. Damals dauerte der Shutdown ganze zwei Wochen an. Am Dienstagmorgen, den 1. Oktober 2013, begann das neue Haushaltsjahr in den USA. Der Kongress konnte sich nicht auf eine gemeinsame Vorlage zur Haushaltsfinanzierung einigen; ein Kompromiss wurde von den zerstrittenen Lagern aus Republikanern und Demokraten bis zuletzt nicht gefunden. Die Republikaner wollten eine Zustimmung nur dann erteilen, wenn im Gegenzug die Kranken-versicherungsreform „Obamacare“ um ein Jahr ausgesetzt würde. Dieser Vorschlag fand bei den Demokraten im Senat allerdings keine Zustimmung, was einen Finanzierungsstopp aller Bundesbehörden zur Folge hatte. Etwa 800.000 Staatsangestellten wurde unbezahlter Zwangsurlaub verhängt. Nur noch essentielle Regierungsaufgaben werden erfüllt.

Behörden laufen im Minimalbetrieb, wenn überhaupt. Pässe werden nicht verlängert, die Freiheitsstatue sowie zahlreiche Nationalparks sind geschlossen, Presseämter nicht besetzt, sogar der Twitter Account des Parlaments ist nicht mehr aktiv. Der Shutdown betrifft nicht nur US-Einwohner, sondern auch zahlreiche Touristen.

Die Zeit drängt. Mögliche Folgen von internationaler Reichweite könnten durchaus fatal sein: nach Aussagen des Finanzministers erreicht die Regierung der USA am 17. Oktober das Schuldenlimit, sofern nicht ein Kompromiss gefunden wird oder die Schuldenobergrenze erhöht wird. Die Zahlungsunfähigkeit der USA stünde bevor, was die nationale und internationale Konjunktur erheblich schädigen könnte. Internationale Finanzmärkte würden zusammenbrechen, ein Einbruch des Wirtschaftswachstums würde erhebliche Einbußen mit sich bringen.

Autor: Anja Rettig Legal Trainee BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Government Shutdown: US federal administration still paralyzed

(c) freedigitalphotos.net
There has not been a government shutdown for 17 years. Last time, it took the federal government two weeks to end the shutdown. Again, public services are suspended. On October 1, 2013 the US fiscal period began without a continuing resolution or regular appropriations. Political conflicts between Democrats and Republicans caused this circumstance: both parties could not agree on a spending plan. The Republicans offered to back down in case the new health care reform Obamacare was suspended for one year. The Democrats rejected this proposal, setting a stage for the shutdown. About 800.000 federal employees were furloughed without pay, only essential government functions are performed. 

The administration has been downsized to a minimum, if at all. Passports cannot be renewed, the Statue of Liberty as well as most national parks are closed, press offices are not hold, even the Twitter account of the parliament is not active. The Shutdown does not only concern the US population, it also affects international tourists. 

Time is short. Possible consequences of international scope could be fatal. According to the treasury secretary, the USA's official debt ceiling will be reached on October 7, 2013, provided that no compromise will be made or the debt ceiling will be raised. The national illiquidity would impend, affecting the national and international business activity. International financial markets would collapse, a slump would lead to extensive financial penalties.

Author: Anja Rettig Legal Trainee BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

Friday, October 04, 2013

Federal government Lawsuit against the North Carolinas Voter ID Law and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

(c) freedigitalphotos.net
As we have already discussed in several posts, North Carolina ratified the North Carolina Voter ID Law, which was finally signed from Governor Pat McCrory in August, following HB 589.

The new law was criticized severely for different reasons, e.g. the elimination of seven days early voting. Massively attacked was also the new mandatory requirement for each voter to prove his/her identity with a photo ID. This will discriminate especially the African American population and thus change their situation to a even worse one, after cutting down some of their (voting) rights through the U.S. Supreme Court decision from June 27, 2013 concerning the Voting Rights Acts (see our post of June 27, 2013: Urteil des Supreme Court: Rückschritt für die Rechte der schwarzen Bevölkerung?).

The relevant section 5 of the Voting Rights Act provided a mandatory provision for mostly southern states (North Carolina - as a whole - not being one of the states of the preclearance list) to get approval from the Justice Department before changes concerning the voting laws could be conducted. The Supreme Court hold in its Decision, that Section 5 was not unconstitutional, but the preclearance itself was. One reason for the latter was, that the list had been too old.

Besides, the two suits that were filed only hours after the signature of the Governor, the U.S. Department of Justice now also filled a lawsuit on Monday October 01, 2013, through Attorney General Eric Holder, trying to defeat the new law since it is “willingfully discriminatory”. Additionally the lawsuit will request a motion to bring North Carolina on a (new) preclearance list.

It remains open how the court will decide, but hopefully the judge/s will decide in the same manner as a state judge in Pennsylvania recently did, who had to rule on the Voting ID law and who delayed the implementation.

........To be continued.........

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Furloughing due to the Government Shutdown

The government shutdown this week would jeopardizes the paychecks of more than 800,000 federal workers who could be told to stay home. The federal government has almost 2 million employees. In Charlotte, there are about 12,000 federal government employees, according to The Washington Post. That's about 1.4 percent of the city's work force.

It is impossible at this point to determine how many workers will lose hours and pay or for how long. President Obama has signed a bill that ensures that certain members of the U.S. military and U.S. Coast Guard will be paid during a government shutdown. In past shutdowns, employees ordered off the job have been reimbursed, but there is no guarantee of such compensation, the Post notes.
(c) wsoctv.com

Charlotte will likely escape significant harm from the partial government shutdown, says Mark Vitner, managing director at Wells Fargo Securities. “It’s a big drag on the Washington, D.C., area and, to a lesser extent, the Fort Bragg area,” he says. The shutdown causes doubts about the effectiveness of the federal government, he adds.

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory says his administration has been working on a response to the shutdown for weeks and that agencies are being careful about spending state money that might not be reimbursed by the federal government, according to WSOC-TV.

While the government’s partial shutdown continues, most companies across the country are doing business as usual. Yet concern is rising that a prolonged shutdown would cause some work at private companies to dry up and consumers to lose faith in the U.S. economy.

The American Dream: Die Green Card Lotterie hat wieder begonnen


(c) freedigitalphotos.net
Das Diversity Visa 2015 Programm, besser bekannt als „Green Card Lotterie“, wurde für das Jahr 2015 am 1. Oktober 2013 um 12.00 Uhr (GMT -4) eingeleitet. Bewerbungen können ausschließlich online bis zum 2. November 2013 um 12 Uhr (GMT -4) erfolgen. Die Bewerbung ist kostenlos, es fallen allerdings im Bewilligungsprozess Kosten in Höhe von $330 an. Zusätzlich wird eine medizinische Pflichtuntersuchung in Höhe von 140€ erfordert.

Jedes Jahr werden 55.000 Bewerber ausgewählt, denen mit der Green Card ein ständiger Wohnsitz in den USA gewährt wird. Die statistische Gewinnchance europäischer Bewerber, ermittelt durch Auswertungen der letzten Jahre, liegt bei etwa 1:25. Jede Person darf einmal pro Jahr an der Verlosung teilnehmen. Ehepartner und unverheiratete Kinder bis 21 Jahren erhalten bei Gewinn ebenfalls eine Green Card.

Ausgeschlossen von der Teilnahme sind grundsätzlich Personen, die in einem Land mit einer besonders hohen Einwanderungsrate geboren wurden. Zu diesen Geburtsländern zählen beispielsweise Großbritannien (mit Ausnahme von Nordirland) und China. Weiterhin wird vorausgesetzt, dass die Bewerber eine bestimmte schulische Ausbildung genossen haben (in Deutschland: Realschulabschluss) und eine zweijährige Berufserfahrung in einem Beruf nachweisen können, in dem mindestens eine zweijährige Einarbeitungs- oder Ausbildungszeit erfordert wird.

Wir wünschen allen Bewerbern "good luck"! Sollten Sie Fragen zu dem Teilnahmeprozess haben, schicken Sie uns gerne eine Email (charlotte@bridgehouselaw.us).



Lawyer Monthly Legal Awards 2013: Congratulations!

(c) freedigitalphotos.net
Gündüz & Özkan, a Member of Bridge Alliance in Istanbul, had been nominated for the Legal Awards 2013 by the Lawyer Monthly Legal Awards

Mr. Orkun Özkan, one of the founding partners of the law firm, was awarded as Capital Markets Lawyer of the Year in Turkey. The criteria of a diverse and far-reaching profession were met by Özkan, who was honored especially for his dynamic and trusted work in the field of the capital market law. 

Furthermore, Gündüz & Özkan provides national and international legal advice in the areas of business & corporate, banking, finance and M&A as well as in the field of employment, intellectual property and immigration.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Free College and a Paycheck - "Apprenticeship 2000"

Fachkräfte in den USA werden nach deutschem Vorbild ausgebildet.

Unter der Führung von Andreas Thurner, Ausbildungsleiter bei der österreichischen Firma Blum, wurde 1995 ein Programm namens "Apprenticeship 2000" (dt.: Lehre 2000) ins Leben gerufen. Ziel ist es, Jugendliche aus North Carolina nach deutschem Vorbild zu Elektrotechnikern, Maschinisten, Schweißern und Spritzguss - Technikern auszubilden.

Neben Blum sind dieses Jahr vier deutsche, eine Schweizer und zwei amerikanische Firmen beteiligt. Das Projekt wirbt mit dem Slogan "Free college and a paycheck" (zu dt.: Kostenloses College mit Gehaltsscheck). Gerade in Amerika, wo eine Collegeausbildung mit immens großen Kosten verbunden ist, ist dies ein starkes Zugpferd. Gerade Familien mit Kindern können sich die bis zu 50.000 US-Dolar pro Jahr an Studiengebühren oft nur schwer oder gar nicht leisten. Gerade darum ist die Aussicht darauf für die Ausbildung bezahlt zu werden anstatt zu bezahlen für viele Jugendliche sehr attraktiv. Laut Thurner kostet die Ausbildung eines Berufsschülers einer Firma wie Blum rund 170.000 US-Dollar.

Thony Zeiss, Leiter des Charlotte Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), welches sich ebenfalls am Project Apprenticeship 2000 beteiligt, ist ein großer Verfechter dafür die in Amerika herrschende Qualifikationslücke zu schließen. Das CPCC hat seine Ausrichtung speziell geändert um den Bedürfnissen der Firmen in Charlotte zu entsprechen. Dabei wurde besonderes Augenmerk darauf gelegt, dass das College sich stärker als bisher auf die Fertigung konzentriert. Nachdem diese Entscheidung seitens des Colleges fest stand, und man anfing den Kontakt zu fertigenden Unternehmen in Charlotte zu suchen, wurde schnell klar, die meisten sind in deutscher Hand. Thony Zeiss ist nun dabei, Lehrgänge für Siemens und andere Mitglieder des Apprentice 2000 - Programms maßzuschneidern und an neuen Initiativen zu arbeiten. Im Laufe der letzten Jahre wurden auch Verbindungen zur Industrie- und Handelskammer Karlsruhe aufgebaut, um Kurse in Mechatronik, Energiemanagement, Pneumatik, CNC - und PLC - Technologie zu organisieren, die den Anforderungen eines deutschen Abschlusses entsprechen.

Dies kann man nicht zuletzt als Wendepunkt bei den deutschen Investoren in Amerika betrachten. Vor allem im Kontext der amerikanischen Reindustrialisierung haben die deutschen Firmen vor Ort den dringenden Bedarf an regionalen Kooperationen zur Ausbildung qualifizierter Arbeiter erkannt.

In diesem Sommer können sich erstmals drei CPCC Schüler über ihr Apprenticeship 2000 Abschlusszeugnis freuen - Unterschrieben sowohl von Thony Zeiss vom CPCC wie auch von Hans-Peter Mengele, Hauptgeschäftsführer der IHK Karlsruhe.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Forbes crowned Charlotte No. 4 in nation for hiring this fall


The hiring prospect for the Charlotte, NC area are amongst the highest in the United States for this fall, according to the US magazine Forbes. This figure came out from a survey of the ManpowerGroup company. That asked more than 18,000 employers throughout the country if they plan to hire or to fire this fall. Forbes found out that the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord market has a 20 percent net employment outlook. More specifically, 26 percent of employers surveyed plan to hire, six percent eye layoffs and 64 percent plan no change. These figures prove how dynamic the Charlotte area is.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Mecklenburg County's real property owners face revaluation pursuant to Senate Bill 159

On July 26, 2013, Senate Bill 159 became effective, requiring Mecklenburg County to review the values of all real property in the county. That is good news for everyone in Mecklenburg County suffering from their overvalued revaluations.The Bill is aimed at helping correct the 2011 property tax evaluation in Mecklenburg County and subsequently authorize refunds.

On its August 13 meeting, the Mecklenburg County Commission Board Members approved an implementation plan in accordance with Senate Bill 159. Over $1 Million of funding will be made available for the plan and the measures intended include hiring more staff as well as selecting an outside appraisal  company to conduct the review. According to the plan, a new assessor shall be selected September 3; the appraisal company as early as September 17.  Reviews are scheduled to begin immediately thereafter. Around October to November, assessment notices from the Assessor's office will start being issued to taxpayers  - retroactively for 2011. According to the website of the Mecklenburg Country Government Services, refunds will be issued to any taxpayer whose value is found to be excessive, however, any increase found in value will only affect the current year property tax bills. If this turns out to be true, no effort will be undertaken to collect any additional taxes for prior years in case property was estimated under value.

Following Mecklenburg County's review and recommendations of the property tax values. The county will notify all property owners as to any changes or adjustments in property values and such changes and adjustments to property tax values must comply with all applicable property tax statutes. Upon receiving a correction notice, property owner's will have appeal rights concerning any corrections as a result of the process.

The North Carolina Property Tax Commission will therefore stay hearings of pending Mecklenburg County appeals until Mecklenburg County has reviewed the values notified the property owners of any changes or adjustments. This means putting the appeal on a hold until the county has conducted its review as mandated by Senate Bill 159. However, this does not prevent a taxpayer from having a hearing before the Commission if so desired. The Commission will, however, delay the scheduling of appeals while the county conducts its review.

If the review and recommendations by Mecklenburg County of the property tax values results in a change in value, that is agreeable to the parties regarding the property under appeal to the Commission, the North Carolina Department of Revenue's office is available to assist the parties regarding the settlement of the pending appeal. As such, the parties are not precluded from reaching an agreement as to the value of the property, which would allow taxpayers to resolve their pending appeals without a hearing before the Commission.

If a settlement in value based upon Mecklenburg County's review and recommendations  of the subject property and appeal cannot be reached, the Commission will schedule the appeal for hearing for a determination as to value. This will not necessitate any further action by the property owner until the owner receives the notice of hearing.  The notice will also provide instructions on how to prepare an appeal of hearing. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bundestagswahl 2013 - Noch vor dem 2. September Briefwahl beantragen!

Deutsche mit Wohnsitz im Ausland haben noch bis zum 2. September, um für die Bundestagswahl 2013 Briefwahl zu beantragen!

Hier finden Sie den Antrag auf Eintragung in das Wählerverzeichnis:

http://www.bundeswahlleiter.de

Gesetzesentwurf des Bundesrates für eine Reform des Staatsangehörigkeitsrechts


Der von Rot-Grün beherrschte Bundesrat hat am 22. August eine Reform der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit vorgeschlagen. Der Gesetzesentwurf sieht vor, dass einbürgerungswillige Ausländer beim Erwerb der deutschen Staatsbürgerschaft ihre bisherige Staatsangehörigkeit nicht aufgeben müssen. Folgerichtig verlören auch Deutsche beim Erwerb einer ausländischen Staatsbürgerschaft ihren heimischen Pass nicht.

Dies würde auch zur Aufhebung der Optionsregelung führen, die für die in Deutschland geborenen Kinder ausländischer Eltern mit langjährigem Aufenthaltsrecht gilt.

Der geltende Grundsatz der “Vermeidung von Mehrstaatigkeit” soll somit aufgehoben werden, um den Anforderungen einer modernen Einwanderungsgesellschaft näher zu kommen. Des Weiteren würde der Verwaltungsaufwand erheblich reduziert werden.

Ob der Gesetzesentwurf durch den Bundestag kommt, hängt wahrscheinlich von dem Wahlergebnis im September ab, denn am 5. Juni hatte der Bundestag gerade jenen Reformvorschlag abgewiesen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Facebook- Kündigungsgrund 3.0?/Facebook- termination cause 3.0?

source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
Facebook- Kündigungsgrund 3.0?
Wie schon in vorherigen Posts (http://vonhennigs.blogspot.com/2010/11/company-accused-of-firing-over-facebook.html und http://vonhennigs.blogspot.com/2013/02/when-can-workers-be-fired-for-posts-and.html) öfter diskutiert, führen Kommentare, Kritik oder Bilder auf Facebook oder anderen sozialen Netzwerken in der Vergangenheit sowohl in Deutschland, als auch in den USA immer häufiger zu – vom Arbeitgeber ausgesprochenen – Kündigungen.

Dieses Schicksal ereilte nun auch einen 21- jährigen Deutschen, der aufgrund eines Bandscheibenvorfalls krankgeschrieben war und während dieser Zeit heiratete. Zwar war die Heirat nicht der Kündigungsgrund, allerdings ein – auf Foto festgehaltener – Vorfall, der sich während der Hochzeit zutrug und den der Mitarbeiter auf Facebook postete. Auf diesem Foto trug der rückenkranke, frischgebackene Ehemann seine Frau durch ein Papierherz.

Dumm nur, dass sein Arbeitgeber das Foto auch gesehen haben muss und aufgrund dessen das Arbeitsverhältnis drei Tage nach der Hochzeit fristlos beendete. Die vom ehemaligen Arbeitnehmer initiierte Klage wurde am 15. August 2013 durch einen Vergleich beendet, bestätigte aber die Kündigung an sich.

Dieser Fall ist ein weiteres Beispiel für den teilweise zu sorglosen Umgang mit den neuen Internet-Medien, dem Web 3.0, das sicherlich viele Vorzüge ausweist, aber – wie vorliegend – auch seinen Schatten wirft.

Autorin: Judith Behr  Legal Trainee/Rechtsreferendarin BridgehouseLaw Charlotte 


Facebook- termination cause 3.0?

As we have already posted in former articles (see http://vonhennigs.blogspot.com/2010/11/company-accused-of-firing-over-facebook.html and http://vonhennigs.blogspot.com/2013/02/when-can-workers-be-fired-for-posts-and.html) comments, criticism or pictures – all somehow work related – have been causes for termination in the past, both in the US and in Germany.

There is one more German sharing that fate now: He got married during his sick leave, suffering a slipped disk. The marriage was not the reason for the termination, but one of the pictures he posted on his Facebook account: it showed him carrying his wife through a "paper heart" on their wedding day.

Bad for him, that his boss must have seen that picture too and – due to that – terminated the employment contract three days after the wedding. The lawsuit ended at August 15th, 2013 in a compromise – but: the termination was confirmed by the judge.

This is another example for the ongoing and extensive change in our society: bringing private life to public, according to the style: Web 3.0 and the negative side of that development. 
 
Author: Judith Behr  Legal Trainee/Rechtsreferendarin BridgehouseLaw Charlotte 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Das neue "Voter ID Law" in N.C.: Verstoß gegen die Gleichberechtigung und den Voting Rights Act?

(c) freedigitalphotos.net

Über ein „Voter ID Law“ wurde im Rahmen des Gesetzgebungsverfahrens schon 2011 mehrmals in unserem Blog diskutiert. Der Gesetzesentwurf von 2011 wurde letztendlich zwar abgelehnt, nun ist es dennoch soweit. Am Montag, den 12. August 2013 unterzeichnete der Gouverneur von North Carolina, Pat McCrory, den Gesetzesentwurf des House of Representatives, HB 589, das Voter ID Law aus dem Jahr 2013, welches die Organisation und den Zugang zu den Wahlen in N.C. erheblich verändern wird.

Als bedeutsamste Neuerung für die potentiellen Wähler ist zunächst die eingeführte Voraussetzung zu nennen, die das Mitbringen einer Foto ID für den Wähler verbindlich macht. Anders als in Deutschland verfügt nicht automatisch jeder registrierte Wähler über eine solche ID, wie beispielsweise einen Führerschein. Auch erfüllt nicht jeder Ausweis mit Lichtbild die Voraussetzungen der Foto ID, unter diese (nicht ausreichende) Kategorie fallen etwa Arbeits- oder Studentenausweise. Aufgrund der Beschränkung wird mehreren hunderttausend Wählern aus N.C. der Zugang zur Wahlurne verwehrt. Gerade Afro-Amerikaner sind prozentual davon stärker betroffen und werden so – nach der Entscheidung des U.S. Supreme Courts vom Juni 2013, der Teile des Voting Rights Acts außer Kraft setzt (siehe auch hierzu den Beitrag aus unserem Blog vom 27.06.2013: Urteil des Supreme Court: Rückschritt für die Rechte der schwarzen Bevölkerung?) – weiter benachteiligt. Das Gesetz schafft allerdings die gesetzliche Grundlage für eine kostenlose Foto ID für registrierte Wähler, die keine solche besitzen.

Darüber hinaus wurde unter anderem der Zeitraum für eine vorzeitige Stimmabgabe um eine Woche verkürzt, die – vor der Stimmabgabe erforderliche – Registrierung kann nicht mehr am gleichen Tag vorgenommen werden und die Vor-Registrierung von 16- und 17-jährigen wurde gestrichen.

Die Unterzeichnung des vieldiskutierten Gesetzes blieb von Seiten der Gegner allerdings nicht folgenlos: schon Stunden nach der Unterzeichnung wurden zwei unabhängige Klagen gegen das Gesetz – wegen behaupteter Verstöße gegen die verfassungsrechtlich geschützte Gleichbehandlungsklausel und den Voting Rights Act of 1965 – eingereicht.
 Autor: Judith Behr  Legal Trainee/Rechtsreferendarin BridgehouseLaw Charlotte 

LungStrong - Join us in the fight against lung cancer

The Bears @ 2012 LungStrong 15K/5K
BridgehouseLaw is back to serve as a sponsor of the 7th annual LungStrong 15K/5K. An exciting new addition this year's event schedule is a pre-LungStrong fundraising dinner and a pasta special the week before the race. The pre-race fundraising dinner will take place on September 27th at Oak Room in Charlotte's Historic South End. The pasta special will be available September 22nd to the 29th at All American Pub in Charlotte's Historic South End.

Last year all of our Charlotte-based attorneys joined attorney Judith Haensel's team The Bears and ran the 5K. Thanks to the generosity of family, friends, and colleagues, Judith won the title "Top Individual Fundraiser". This year we would love for even more people to support The Bears.

For more information about LungStrong and how you can help us make a difference, please click here.
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LungStrong 15K/5K - Three events for one good cause: the fight against lung cancer
 
The Race

When: September 29th, 2013 at 7:50 a.m.
Where: Jetton Village at Lake Norman, NC
Join the team and/or make a donation by clicking here.
 
 The Fundraising Dinner
 
When: September 27th, 2013 from 7 to 11 pm
Where: Oak Room in Charlotte's Historic South End
For $20/pp you can enjoy a delicious buffet with food provided by All American Pub and a cash bar.

Pasta Special

When: September 22nd through 29th
Where: All American Pub in Charlotte's Historic South End
For every selected pasta dish sold, All American Pub will make a donation to LungStrong, Inc.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Female Lawyers celebrate the “Day of the Woman”


The nation’s largest lawyers organization American Bar Association has proclaimed August 9th as the “Day of the Woman”, a day to celebrate female lawyers.

The ABA members are attending the 2013 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. All attendees are wearing red to symbolize how far women are “in the red” with their pay.

“There’s nothing fair about the wage gap for women in the workplace,” said Bellows, who is declaring the Day of the Woman “the day we start a new chapter in the fight for gender equity that began 25 years ago.”

The world was a different place in 1987, when women made up just 13 percent of the lawyer population. It was the year the Supreme Court ruled that Rotary Clubs must admit women.

It was also the year female lawyers got some RESPECT when then-ABA President Robert MacCrate established the Commission on Women in the Profession to assess the status of women in the legal profession, identify barriers to advancement and recommend to the ABA action to address problems identified. He appointed Hillary Rodham Clinton to chair the 12-member group charged with securing the full and equal participation of women in the ABA, the profession and the justice system. Her first order of business was to hold public hearings around the country.

A quarter-century ago, there were no part-time work policies, no sexual harassment laws and the path to equity partnership was difficult, if not impossible. Today women make up nearly half of law school graduates, 30 percent of lawyers and 15 percent of equity partners.

And the American Bar Association is still at the forefront of securing the full and equal participation of women.

For more information about the “Day of the Woman,” go to: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/women/events_cle/2013_day_of_woman.html.

Charlotte School of Law Set to Move to Uptown Charlotte


Charlotte School of Law (CSL) recently made the decision to relocate to Charlotte Plaza at 201 South College Street. CSL is planning to be in transition between July 29 and August 12, 2013.

This move will put students closer to businesses and Mecklenburg and federal courts located uptown, and only one block from the city transportation hub. Charlotte Plaza is also a short light-rail stop away from Charlotte School of Law's newly opened Clinic Site at 1300 South Blvd.

The facility will include:
  • 243,000 total square feet and 32,250 square feet in the library;
  • Presence on floors 1 and 2 and entire floors 4-13;
  • 17 classrooms, 3 moot court/classrooms, 1 training/classroom, and 1 courtroom;
  • 38 study rooms and 5 knowledge bars;
  • more than 50 restaurants and shops, many inside via connected overstreet walkways, in the immediately surrounding area.

Charlotte - Best Place for Business and Careers

According to Forbes several of North Carolina’s metro areas are the best places for business and careers this year. Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham all found places on the publication's 15th annual list of the The Best Places For Business And Careers.



Charlotte – The Queen City, No 19 on the list of the top 25, had a gross metro product of $101 billion, with projected annual GMP growth of 4 percent and metro population of 1.8 million, according to the analysis. Raleigh is No. 3 on the list, and Durham is No. 10.

Forbes looks at the nation's 200 largest metro areas and uses 12 metrics to rank the cities. Those metrics relate to job growth, the cost of living and cost of doing business, income growth during the past five years, educational attainment and projected economic growth through 2014. Also factored in are net migration patterns, cultural and recreational opportunities,  the number of highly ranked colleges in an area and crime rates.

Workshop: Entrepreneurship Skill Assessment

The Small Business Center at Central Piedmont Community College will offer workshop for a entrepreneurship skill assessment. Entrepreneurs will get a competency assessment measuring strengths and weaknesses related to the skills they need to be successful.
Date: Aug. 12
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: CPCC Central Campus, 1201 Elizabeth Ave.
Cost: Free
To register: Go to www.cpcc.edu/sbc or call (704) 330-4223

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Veröffentlichung zum "digitalen Nachlass"


Aufsatz in der Zeitschrift Computer und Recht (CR) von Klaus Brisch und Marco Müller-ter Jung


Der von Klaus Brisch und Marco Müller-ter Jung verfasste Aufsatz "Digitaler Nachlass – Das Schicksal von E-Mail- und De-Mail-Accounts sowie Mediencenter-Inhalten“ hat in der Zeitschrift Computer und Recht (CR) im kürzlich erschienenen Juli-Heft mit 10 Seiten (S. 446-455) erfreulicherweise eine große Plattform gefunden.

Es handelt sich hierbei nicht nur um ein sehr spannendes, sondern gegenwärtig auch immer breiter diskutiertes Thema, in dessen Rahmen sich die Verfasser, soweit ersichtlich, mit einigen Fragen erstmalig beschäftigt haben, wie z. B. zum Umgang mit De-Mail-Accounts im Falle des Todes des Inhabers oder beispielsweise zu den Besonderheiten bei von Berufsträgern mit besonderen Pflichten (Rechtsanwälte mit Geheimhaltungs- und Archivierungspflichten etc.) geschäftlich genutzten Accounts. Möglicherweise könnte die Veröffentlichung daher in der nächsten Zeit ein gewisses Echo in der juristischen Diskussion zum „Digitalen Nachlass“ hervorrufen.

Fragen zum Thema digitaler Nachlass beantworten die Verfasser gerne. Zur Kontaktaufnahme kann auch diese E-Mail-Adresse verwendet werden: cologne@bridgehouselaw.de.