BHL Bogen

BHL Bogen
BridgehouseLaw LLP - Your Business Law Firm

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

China-Cuba Foreign Direct Investment: U.S.' Opportunity

Recent Chinese investment has failed to materialize into growth for Cuba. Further, bills from both the House and Senate to lift the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba spur a new opportunity for global companies. Situated 90 miles off the tip of Florida, Cuba has been subject to a trade embargo for 59 years, outliving the Cold War. By lifting this embargo, Cuba could quickly become a major destination for U.S. tourists in the Caribbean, therefore facilitating the need for billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, but China is beating the US to the punch.

From 2014 to 2015 China's trade with Cuba grew by 57 percent (from 1.33 billion USD to 2.33 billion USD). Further, Chinese communication firms are investing in infrastructure projects on the island. Huawei, one of China's largest telecommunications companies, has already begun the construction of Wi-Fi projects to increase Internet penetration to both businesses and homes. But, projects such as these and the MOUs (Memorandums Of Understanding) to construct $500 million golf courses do not bring Cuba into the 21st century. Cuba needs advanced, industrial technology to revitalize its economy.

The desire for high-quality consumer products and technology can be seen in Cuban consumers preferring US made goods to those of China. With close to 2.5 million Cubans living in the United States, more than half a million Cuban-Americans travel back to Cuba with U.S. products, equaling 3.5 trillion USD annually. With the introduction of Congressional House Bills. H.R. 572 (facilitating the export of U.S. agricultural products, medical devices, and medicines to Cuba), H.R. 574 (lifting the trade embargo on Cuba), and S. 472 (to repeal or amend current laws restricting trade with Cuba), companies such as Va-Cuba Inc. have applied for OTI (Ocean Transportation Intermediary), NVO (Non-Vessel operating) and OFF (Ocean Freight Forwarder) licenses. Planning to facilitate the demand for ocean freight forwarders between Cuba and the US, it is time to jump on the boat and prepare for new challenges.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Having Children Could Limit Travel For Italian Citizens

Reading the heading above, one would think that having children makes it more difficult for everyone to travel, no matter their nationality. Well, for Italians with minors there is one additional challenge which could become a big hurdle in case of divorces or separations.

On June 26, 2012, a few things changed for Italian parents with minor children. As of this date, Italian children now need their own passport to travel outside of the EU, while previously minors could be simply registered on their parents' passport in order to travel abroad. This changed policy was aimed at enhancing protection of the child and minimizing the possibility of abductions. Of course, in order to obtain the minor child passport you need both parents' consent, notarized in writing.  The parent giving the consent must sign before a "Pubblico Ufficiale", who will authenticate the signature in the office where the documentation is submitted.

The law states that if the parent giving consent cannot be physically present to sign, the party requesting the passport can enclose a photocopy of an identification document of the absentee party signed in original together with a copy of a written consent to travel ("atto di assenso all'espatrio") also signed in original. However note that such procedure is allowed for EU citizens only. If the absent parent is not a EU citizen, then he/she must sign the consent to travel form in the presence of the proper authorities (i.e. if in Italy the Police, if abroad the Consulate having jurisdiction by territory, the Honorary Consul or a Notary Public).

While the above rule makes a lot of sense, there is an additional one that will surely raise people's eyebrows on this side of the ocean: if you are the Italian parent of an Italian minor you will need the other parent's consent for the issuance of your own passport as well. It does not matter whether the parties are married, live together or not, are separated, divorced or are the biological parents of a minor and don't live together; in any one of these cases the consent of the other parent is necessary for the Italian parent to obtain his or her passport. The policy behind this rule is said to be stemming out of the same need to protect children from abductions by either parent; however in this case the reasoning behind it seems less evident because a refusal to give consent could be used by one parent against the other in highly contested divorce cases.

1 Pubblico Ufficiale means either an authorized employee of the agency with the authority of issuing passports (in Italy the Police, "Polizia di Stato" has such authority).
2 "signed in original" was interpreted to mean that both documents must have been signed in the presence of the proper authority (the Police if in Italy, the Consul or Honorary Consul if abroad; an authenticated signature before the Notary Public is also acceptable if in the USA).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Licensing Requirements For Setting up a New Corporation

Setting up a new business involves planning, making key decisions and completing a series of legal steps. A few preliminary steps include choosing a name, a business structure, and registering your business. Other steps include contemplating tax implications and licensing. For instance, the State of North Carolina does not issue a single business license; therefore, depending on the goods and services offered, business licenses, occupational licenses, environmental permits, and zoning requirements may be required. Additional items to consider are whether there are federal, state, county, and city/town permits and licenses that are required to operate legally. Navigating the over-700 regulatory, state-issued and occupational licenses and permits is a daunting task for even the most seasoned business owner.

The requirements for occupational licenses vary among different occupations. For instance, an occupational license gives a person permission to work in a particular occupation after having met a minimum level of competency intended to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Certification is an official endorsement of qualifications by a regulatory agency or professional organization. Both of these forms of credentials require individuals to meet certain education, experience, and/or competency standards. Registration most often refers to occupations for which people submit their name, address, and qualifications to the applicable regulatory body. Registration provides the standard for inclusion on a list of those approved to act in a particular capacity.

In addition to licensing requirements, certain business forms such as corporations, limited liability companies, and limited liability partnerships, also need to register with the North Carolina Department of State in order to operate in the state. While sole proprietors and partnerships do not need to register with the state, those that do not operate under an individual's legal name and instead adopt a trade name, must register the business with the county where they are located.

For more information on starting a new business and licensing requirements, please contact BridgehouseLaw LLP.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Understanding Ballparks - Our Guide to American Idioms for the Business World

Americans love sports and we certainly love to talk about it! So it is not surprising at all that a lot of terms and expressions from the world of sports have become omnipresent in everyday language and are often used in the business world too.

If you have ever wondered what your American business partners are trying to say by asking for "ballpark numbers" or describing unexpected suggestions as coming "out of left field", then our new blog on American Idioms for the Business world is just the right place for you!

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Italian Citizenship jure sanguinis via ancestor and equality treatment

For many reasons it now seems there is an enhanced interest in obtaining a citizenship other than a US one. While I believe that having a dual citizenship in general is always a good thing, having a US citizenship plus another from one the EU countries is even better. For one, once you are a citizen of a EU country you could move to any of them and work and live there without a visa or a work permit. In particular Italy allows you to obtain its citizenship not only if you are born in Italy or marry an Italian, but also if one of your ancestors was an Italian citizen; however, this is not as easy as it may sound.

There are several requisites that one needs to have in order to qualify, and there are several rules that limit that possibility. One such rule is that, up until 2009, you could not obtain Italian citizenship through female lineage of ancestry if your female ancestor had been born before 1/1/1948, which was when Italy became a Republic and the Italian Constitution was enacted. Why? Well, in order to understand the above requirement you need to have an Italian history lesson, albeit a short one.

Italy is a relatively “young” country. As a matter of fact, it became a country only in 1861 when the Italian peninsula was unified into the Kingdom of Italy, which was then ruled by King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia, of the House of Savoy. Prior to that, Italy had consisted of many different mini-states. In 1861, the territory, except for Rome which remained under the Papacy until 1870, was unified and Italy was born as a Kingdom ruled by the Savoy dynasty.

On July 1, 1912, the first law regarding citizenship entered into force (Law no.555) and it was indeed a very male centered kind of law, reflecting the culture of the territory. According to Law 555/1912, the citizenship followed the man of the family. Consequently, if the father or husband renounced or lost his Italian citizenship, so would the entire family.

This law remained basically untouched until 1983, when the Italian Supreme Court pronounced this law unconstitutional insofar as it created a disparity between men and women; Art. 1 of Law 123/1983, enacted right after the Supreme Court decision, confirmed what the Supreme Court established.

The matter was then further modified in 1992, with Law no.91, which entered into force on February 5 of the same year. This law further modified the 1912 legislation.

The main change of the 1992 legislation consisted in allowing dual citizenship in many more instances than before. The 1992 law was enacted because of pressure by people who migrated mostly in Argentina and Brazil, countries that, in the ‘80s, were experiencing a serious economic depression. Consequently, the expatriates saw coming back to the very economically “happy” Italy of the ‘80s as a way out of the crisis. For this reason, the 1992 law contains rules favoring the reacquisition of citizenship by Italian ancestry through naturalization.

 However, true equality in obtaining Italian citizenship was not reached through any of the above laws, and is still not a complete reality today. Italian Supreme Court decisions are always considered retroactive, but in this instance, up until 2009, Italian Courts interpreted this particular decision granting equality to women to be retroactive only up until 1/1/1948. The reasoning behind it was that 1/1/1948 was the date of entering into force of the Constitution, and a law could not be held unconstitutional before the existence of the Constitution itself.

Finally, in 2009, there were two decisions by the Corte di Cassazione (the highest interpreter of ordinary laws and regulations in Italy) that inverted this trend (Cass.Civ.sez.un. 25 February, 2009 no. 4466; affirmed by Cass.civ.sez.I, 29 July 2009, no.175148 and Cass.civ.Sez.I, 19 April 2010, no.9275; further affirmed by lower tribunals such as Tribunale Roma, Sez. I, 20 January 2015, no.1304). According to the Corte di Cassazione, the child born from an Italian mother born before 1948 must be considered an Italian citizen by birth. The retroactive force of the decision also includes children born from an Italian mother AFTER the entering into force of Law 555/1912. Finally! No? No, not so fast!

Since no law was enacted to apply the principles established by the Corte di Cassazione, as of today, in order to obtain Italian citizenship through a female ancestor whose child was born before 1/1/1948, one still needs to go through an attorney in Italy and apply to the Tribunal of Rome.

In the alternative, if you don’t have a “1948 issue”, comply with all other requisites required by the law, and have time and money to do it, there is another choice if you do not want to deal with the long wait to get an appointment with your Italian Consulate. You can go and stay in Italy for a few months and do everything from there. You could pick a beautiful city in Italy, move there, apply for residency, and once you get it, you can submit all documentation directly to your city of residency. Who wouldn’t want to spend a few months in Italy?

A much less fun option would be to have an attorney do everything for you from here.

Hey, you can’t have everything!
For more information on this topic, please contact BridgehouseLaw attorney Monica Boccia at

Friday, June 02, 2017

Donald Trump and the German Trade Surplus

Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy has been the subject to much controversy in global politics and trade making European powers, particularly Germany, nervous about the stability of their alliances with the United States. At a recent campaign rally in Munich German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated, “the times we can completely rely on others are somewhat over.” This statement came shortly after Trump’s harsh criticism of trade practices between the US and Germany. While Merkel did not refer to Trump directly it is no secret that the two leaders have been at odds with each other. 
One of the core issues of this dispute arises from Germany’s trade surplus with the US, which amounts to 49 billion euros ($55 billion). In 2016 German companies sold nearly twice as many goods to US customers than US companies to Germany.

So why do German companies have such a strong foothold in the US economy? Germans claim their products are just better and consumers want to buy them. Germany’s export success depends on targeted niche markets, often highly technical industrial equipment. Many US politicians see this perceived German advantage as detrimental to American interests, however, there are significant benefits to businesses and workers in both countries as a result of these close and longstanding business ties. Germany is the sixth-largest export market for the US. 
Also, German companies often invest, hire and sell in US rather than export there. According to the German American Chamber of Commerce in New York, around 600,000 people in the US work for German companies with big names such as BASF, T-Mobile USA, and Trader Joe’s. In Charlotte alone there are 194 German-owned companies including 59 U.S. headquarters making Germany the largest foreign company represented in the region.
One particular issue arises out of the concern that Germany manipulates its currency in order to make its products cheaper and gain an unfair advantage. However, Germany does nothave a currency it can manipulate since it belongs to the euro currency union, which the independent European Central Bank (ECB) regulates.
That said, Germany does benefit from a recently weakened euro arising from monetary stimulus by the ECB. As a result, the Euro has dropped from $1.40 in May 2014 to $1.12 in May 2017. Ironically, Germans are among the leading critics of the ECB’s stimulus plan since it bails out countries with weak finances, disorganized economies and lots of debt incurred through lower borrowing costs. 
Germany’s emphasis on exports is in part a result of broader government and economic policies over the years. The country has also rolled back many of its welfare programs cutting many employment benefits and loosening regulations governing the employer-employee relationship. Policies that prioritize budget surpluses rather than borrowing and spending have suppressed spending by German consumers. Such policies are a source of pride and jobs, which chancellor Merkel and other conservatives consider a victory especially since it’s an election year. 
President Trump is not alone in his criticism of Germany’s trade surplus and bargaining position within the global economy, nor is he the first person to speak out against it. Last year, Former Premier of Italy, Matteo Renzi, publicly spoke out against Germany’s trade surplus and its harm on the Eurozone. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wrote in 2015 that German policies that lead to less consumer spending impede economic growth not just in Germany, but other Eurozone countries as well. 
Strategies he suggested included more spending on domestic infrastructure and reduced regulations on mid-level professions like lawyers, accountants, architects and engineers lowering the costs of the services they provide. However, the question that still remains is what this new attitude of the Trump administration will mean for the future of the US-German trade partnership.