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Thursday, March 26, 2020

The CARES Act – Which businesses will qualify for a Small Business Administration Loan?

The CARES Act has officially passed in the Senate and a vote is expected in the House on Friday, March 27th. If the Bill is signed into law as expected, $350 billion will be dedicated to preventing layoffs and business closures while workers stay home during the outbreak. Companies with 500 employees or fewer that maintain their payroll during coronavirus can receive up to 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance. If employers maintain payroll, the portion of the loans used to cover payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven.

The CARES Act program covers businesses with 500 or fewer employees, unless the covered industry’s SBA size standard allows more than 500 employees. To identify the size standards for your industry, use the SBA’s Size Standards Tool (https://www.sba.gov/size-standards/).
 
The size standards are tested on an affiliate basis—aggregating the number of employees for all entities under common control—towards the size test. Affiliates of the applicant may include parent companies, subsidiaries, and any other related party with at least 50% ownership or contractual control.

In addition to meeting the numerical standards, your business must:

                Be a for-profit business of any legal structure
                Be independently owned and operated
                Not be nationally dominant in its field
                Be physically located and operate in the U.S. or its territories.

Clients are encouraged to contact BridgehouseLaw for guidance in determining whether their businesses may be eligible for assistance.

Madeline Person, Attorney )(NC) BridgehouseLaw LLP | photo PR Newswire

The 2020 Census



What Is the 2020 Census? The 2020 Census counts every person living in the United States and five U.S. territories. The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. The 2020 Census counts the population in the United States and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Each home will receive an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire—online, by phone, or by mail—between March 12-20 Counting Everyone Participating in the census is required by law, even if you recently completed another survey from the Census Bureau. A complete and accurate count is critical for you and your community because the results of the 2020 Census will affect community funding, congressional representation, and more.

 Read more https://2020census.gov/en/what-is-2020-census.html

COVID-19 “CARES Act” bipartisan stimulus package being finalized in Congress will help small businesses



In the early morning on March 25, 2020, the White House and Senate finally reached an agreement on a $2 trillion package to respond to the current economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Though a deal has been struck on the key points of the Bill, many details are still being finalized. However, a few assumptions are possible based on the drafts being circulated during these final deliberations. Until the Bill is passed by both Senate and House, and signed by the President, it is subject to change. 
The CARES Act includes direct economic relief for individuals through “recovery checks” based on past income earned and taxes paid. The Business Relief allows a deferral of the employer’s share (6.2%) of the Social Security or SelfEmployment tax. This can be paid over two years. In addition, some net operating losses from 2018, 2019, or 2020 will be eligible for a five-year carryback. 
For many small businesses, the interruption loans and loan forgiveness through the SBA § 7(a) loan program may be the most relevant. If a company employs fewer than 500 employees, it may be eligible to receive an SBA loan amounting to a maximum of 2.5 months of payroll and related costs. These “related costs” are expected to include salaries, health insurance, retirement contributions, mortgage payments, rent, utilities, and other debt obligations. As long as the loan is used for payroll and related costs as defined in the final Bill, many companies will be eligible for loan forgiveness. 

BridgehouseLaw will continue to update you with the latest developments in Congress. 

Reinhard von Hennigs, Attorney (NC), Madeline Person, Attorney (NC), BridgehouseLaw LLP

Immigration and Related Matters

USCIS has suspended its operations until at least April 1st – including premium processing of all I-129 and I-140 petitions. Scheduled appointments and interviews are postponed and notice from USCIS should be received confirming postponement. Similarly, the U.S. State Department (DOS) has suspended immigrant and nonimmigrant visa application appointments at all consular posts.

DOS has indicated that exceptions may exist for the purposes of obtaining a visa overseas but that the relevant, issuing embassy or consulate should be contacted directly.

Additionally, current visa holders subject to I-94 periods of admission may be able to request an extension of stay for up to 30 days if unable to depart the U.S. for COVID-19-related reasons. Specifically, this possible extension is currently available for those admitted through JFK International Airport or Newark Liberty International Airport.

Lastly, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has provided that “flexibility” will be granted in relation to I-9 compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that employers implementing restrictions on physical presence of employees will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. However, Section 2 documents must be inspected remotely with three business days, and copies of such documents must still be obtained, inspected, and retained. “COVID-19” should be entered as the reason for delayed physical inspection in the Section 2 “Additional Information” field once physical inspection takes place after normal operations resume. Upon physical inspection, “documents physically examined” and the inspection date should be entered in the same field, or Section 3 as appropriate.

DHS’s guidance on I-9 compliance is valid for 60 days from March 20, 2020, or three business days after termination of the National Emergency, whichever is first. To use this option, employers must have written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee. Upon the return of normal business operations, employees onboarded using remote verification must report to the employer within three business days for in-person verification.

Further, and quite importantly, the above “flexibility” will only be afforded to those operating remotely. Where employees are physically present at work, no exceptions to I-9 compliance have been provided. However, if a business is closed, then the Form I-9 requirements are tolled because, it is not considered a “business day” for Form I-9 purposes. Again, the employer should note this on the Form I-9 and ideally in an attached memo if it would otherwise appear that the form was not timely completed.

Business Considerations – the Mecklenburg County ‘Stay at Home’ Order

Effective Thursday, March 26th at 8:00 am, non-essential businesses located in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina must discontinue operations, with the exception of work that can be completed remotely at employees’ residences. The Stay at Home Order will remain in effect for twenty-one days, or until April 16th.

What businesses are exempt from this order? What businesses qualify as “Essential”?

There are many businesses and operations essential to maintaining public health and safety. Accordingly, some of the most important exemptions from the order include:

         Healthcare, public health, law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
         Food and beverage manufacturing, production, and cultivation including agriculture
         Grocery and medicine retail

In addition, there are many specific exceptions that might qualify a business as “Essential.” For example, under § 20 of “Essential Businesses and Operations,” a business involved in the manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries qualifies as an essential business.

Specifically, “manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, chemicals and sanitization, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture, food and beverage, transportation, energy, steel and steel products, petroleum and fuel, mining, construction, national defense, communications, as well as products used by other Essential Businesses and Operations.”

Please contact us if you need guidance in determining whether or not your business qualifies as an Essential Business under one of the many exceptions.

Even if a business does not qualify as Essential, the Order permits non-essential businesses to carry on with Minimum Basic Operations. Minimum Basic Operations include the minimum necessary activities to:

-          maintain the value of the businesses’ inventory
-          preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment
-          ensure security
-          process payroll and employee benefits
-          facilitate the employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences


Essential Businesses and businesses continuing Minimum Basic Operations must always comply with Social Distancing Requirements, where possible:

  • Maintaining 6-foot distances
  • Providing hand sanitizer and sanitizing products for employees and customers
  • Arranging separate operating hours for vulnerable populations
  • Providing online and remote access, including current contact information

For Further Reference:


Mecklenburg County’s Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Order

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Banking and electronic transfers



What is an Electronic Money Transfer? An electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) is when money is transferred electronically from one bank account to another bank account. This term applies when both the sending and receiving accounts are within the same financial institution and when the transfer is made between accounts held in multiple institutions. An electronic money transfer is done via computer systems without the need for human intervention. The term Electronic Money Transfer refers to any transfer of funds initiated electronically via credit card; computer; point-of-sale (POS) or ATM. The transfer could be for any purpose including debit transfers, mortgage payments, payroll payments, credit transfers and more. Electronic Money Transfers are known by different names in different systems including Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT); giro transfer or Direct Deposit (used to deposit salaries directly in employees’ bank accounts). It is often used as an umbrella term for all money transfers made electronically. Read more https://www.gbofintech.com/wire-bank-transfers-vs-telegraphic-transfers-vs-iban-money-transfers/ U

Business Considerations – the Mecklenburg County ‘Stay at Home’ Order

Effective Thursday, March 26th at 8:00 am, non-essential businesses located in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina must discontinue operations, with the exception of work that can be completed remotely at employees’ residences. The Stay at Home Order will remain in effect for twenty-one days, or until April 16th.

Which businesses are exempt from this order? Which businesses qualify as “Essential”?

There are many businesses and operations essential to maintaining public health and safety. Accordingly, some of the most important exemptions from the order include:

       Healthcare, public health, law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
       Food and beverage manufacturing, production, and cultivation including agriculture
       Grocery and medicine retail

In addition, there are many specific exceptions that might qualify a business as “Essential.” For example, under § 20 of “Essential Businesses and Operations,” a business involved in the manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries qualifies as an essential business.

Specifically, “manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, chemicals and sanitization, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture, food and beverage, transportation, energy, steel and steel products, petroleum and fuel, mining, construction, national defense, communications, as well as products used by other Essential Businesses and Operations.”

Please contact us if you need guidance in determining whether or not your business qualifies as an Essential Business under one of the many exceptions.

Even if a business does not qualify as Essential, the Order permits non-essential businesses to continue Minimum Basic Operations. Minimum Basic Operations include the minimum necessary activities to:

·       maintain the value of the businesses’ inventory
·       preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment
·       ensure security
·       process payroll and employee benefits
·       facilitate employees’ ability to continue to work remotely from their residences

Essential Businesses and businesses continuing Minimum Basic Operations must always comply with Social Distancing Requirements, where possible:

  • Maintaining 6-foot distances
  • Providing hand sanitizer and sanitizing products for employees and customers
  • Arranging separate operating hours for vulnerable populations
  • Providing online and remote access, including current contact information

In the event that your business qualifies as essential under one of the exceptions, we recommend that your staff be equipped with a letter stating the specific justification for the business qualifying as essential under the Order. BridgehouseLaw can assist in drafting such a Letter.


For Further Reference:


Mecklenburg County’s Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Order:


Madeline Person, Attorney (NC) 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Innovation and Science in Germany in light of CoVID




 Coronavirus: anger in Germany at report Trump seeking exclusive vaccine deal
MPs and ministers criticize display of ‘self-interest’ and accuse US president of electioneering German ministers have reacted angrily following reports US President Donald Trump offered a German medical company “large sums of money” for exclusive rights to a Covid-19 vaccine. “Germany is not for sale,” economy minister Peter Altmaier told broadcaster ARD, reacting to a front-page report in Welt am Sonntag newspaper headlined “TruIn the past two months, Landt and his staff at the company’s production facility—a former industrial building just south of the disused Tempelhof airport—have produced 40,000 coronavirus diagnostic kits, enough for about 4 million individual tests. TIB has reoriented its business toward coronavirus, running its machines through the night and on weekends to make the kits, which sell for about €160 ($180) apiece. As orders have poured in from the World Healthmp vs Berlin”.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/16/not-for-sale-anger-in-germany-at-report-trump-seeking-exclusive-coronavirus-vaccine-deal

COVID-19 and the Force Majeure

The current pandemic brought on by the COVID-19 virus has impacted supply chains; the ability to move around freely; and in some cases has shut down manufacturing entirely. Government actions including declaring states of emergency, closing borders and shelter in place orders may be the types of events that often fall within the parameters of Force Majeure clauses that can be dismissed as “boilerplate language” in most commercial contracts. 

Force Majeure (pronounced fors ma-zehr) is defined as an event or effect that can be neither anticipated nor controlled. The term includes both acts of nature and acts of people. These types of provisions typically allocate the risk of loss if performance by the parties becomes impossible or impracticable. 

Under the current circumstances it is recommended that companies review such provisions closely for any commercial contracts to which they are a party. They may also want to conduct a review of their standard Terms and Conditions to determine whether or not they adequately protect the company during these uncertain times. The force majeure event may trigger notice requirements and can determine what actions the other party may be permitted to take under an agreement. Depending on the type of agreement, some provisions allow for a party to terminate a contract in the event that performance is delayed or hindered for a specified amount of time. Contact BridgehouseLaw if you have questions about your commercial contracts or how your Company may be impacted by Force Majeure events. 

Kristin Whalen, Attorney (NC), BridgehouseLaw LLP

Monday, March 23, 2020

REMINDER – Annual Reports must be filed!

In addition to our updates on new legislation and regulations coming out, we wanted to remind you that Annual Report filing requirements are still in effect for each of the states.

The filing deadline for Georgia is April 1, 2020 and North Carolina is April 152020. Delaware’s deadline for corporations was March 15, 2020 however if you missed that deadline, it is important to file as soon as possible to avoid further penalties and interest.

Our Attorneys are ready and able to help you file your Company’s Annual Reports to make sure it stays in Good Standing with the Secretary of State. Please contact: Kristin Whalen or Madeline Person with any of your filing questions.

Kristin Whalen, Attorney (NC), BridgehouseLaw LLP

Quarantine Law


Lawsuits challenging COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions on public gatherings may be doomed to failure. Experts who spoke with Bloomberg Law and the New York Times said the government has broad powers to handle a public health crisis. Lawsuits are unlikely to be successful unless they are challenging “a truly egregious practice,” according to James Hodge, law professor at Arizona State University, who spoke with Bloomberg Law. “The idea that you’re going to walk into court and object vehemently and successfully against known, proven public health social distancing measures that are being employed currently is not a winner,” he said. State and local officials who declare emergencies have even broader powers than the federal government, according to Elizabeth Goitein, a director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school. “The federal government has more money, but state and local officials have police powers, essentially their authority to maintain public health and safety,” Goitein told the New York Times. Goitein says those powers can include the authority to impose curfews and quarantines, limit public gatherings, ban people and traffic from the street, ration or impose price controls on goods, and suspend alcohol consumption. A relevant law at the federal level is Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act, according to Politico, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

USCIS accepting reproduced signatures now

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Friday March 20, 2020 that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 National Emergency announced by President Trump on March 13, 2020, they will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures.

This includes the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond.  

The protocol is now that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified.

For forms that require an original “wet” signature, per form instructions, USCIS will accept electronically reproduced original signatures for the duration of the National Emergency. This temporary change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a form. 

Individuals or entities that submit documents bearing an electronically reproduced original signature must also retain copies of the original documents containing the “wet” signature.  USCIS may, at any time, request the original documents, which if not produced, could negatively impact the adjudication of the immigration benefit.

BridgehouseLaw can assist with more information if needed.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Martial Law


Martial Law in the United States: How Likely is it, and What will happen under Martial law? What is martial law? If you’re looking for a definition, then Martial Law basically means using state or national military force to enforce the will of the government on the people. Under a declaration of martial law, Constitutional freedoms and liberties are suspended, and civilians are no longer entitled to their civil rights. It basically allows the government, or a tyrannical politician, to shred the Constitution and impose its will through military force. When Martial Law can be enacted is a pretty touchy subject, largely because our founders never intended the federal government or a standing army be permitted to take such actions. How likely is martial law in the United States? Let’s face it, this country is a ticking time bomb. From widespread social unrest, crime, and violence to a growing national debt which includes an entire subset of our population that depends on government assistance to exist, the writing is on the wall: Trouble is Coming.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

What is legal? Corona virus and HR law



Employment Issues 1. Can an employer stop an employee from wearing a medical mask or respirator? An employer may stop an employee, under most circumstances, from wearing a medical mask or respirator under OSHA respiratory protection standards. See 29 C.F.R. 1910.134. A respirator must be provided to employees only when necessary to protect the employee’s health. Furthermore, OSHA’s guidance on the issue is that when a respirator is not required, “an employer may provide respirators at the request of employees or permit employees to use their own respirators, if the employer determines that such respirator use will not in itself create a hazard.” 29 C.F.R. 1910.134(c)(2). 2. Can an employee refuse to come to work out fear of being infected with COVID-19? Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OCH Act”), employees are only allowed to refuse to work if they believe they are in imminent danger. Imminent danger includes any conditions or practices on the job where a danger exists and can reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of such danger can be eliminated. Employees are generally protected against discipline or discharge for engaging in such activity. 3. What to Do If an Employee Presents with Symptoms of Possible COVID-19 Infection? If an employee presents with symptoms of a fever or difficulty breathing, out of caution, the employee should seek medical attention. A fever or difficulty breathing, although not positive confirmation, is symptomatic of COVID-19 (see CDC info below) 4. Is it legal to ask an employee to work from home or leave work if they show signs of infection? An employer can ask an employee to seek medical attention and get tested if they present with symptoms for COVID-19. Similarly, an employer may require an employee to go home if the employee displays COVID-19 symptoms. 5. Is it legal to check the temperature of an employee suspected of having symptoms of COVID-19 or similar virus? It may be unlawful to check the temperature of an employee suspected of being positive for COVID-19 if such a test is not job-related and consistent with business necessity. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), employers are restricted from inquiring about an employee’s medical status—i.e., requiring medical exams—unless it is (1) job-related and consistent with business necessity; or (2) a reasonable belief exist, where the employee poses a “direct threat” to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot otherwise be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation. Please consult local and national health services for information about “direct threats.” https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/cong...

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Trademark and global protection



 International Law: Expect the Unexpected
Yesterday, I gave a guest lecture at California Western School of Law, thanks to an invitation from Prof. James Cooper. It was a deeply rewarding experience, which helped me understand why so many professors say they are the ones who learn from their students. The topic of my lecture was comparative intellectual property law. As with pretty much any area of the law, the common law and civil law traditions diverge in their treatment of certain IP issues. For example, when assigning trademark rights, Anglo-American jurisdictions generally favor those who first use a trademark, while their continental counterparts give more weight to who first files an application. China has adopted the latter approach, and rather strictly, as we discussed in China’s Trademarks and the Real Life Meaning of First to File. See also China Trademark Theft. It’s Baaaaaack in a Big Way. “Having conducted proper trademark searches in each country, I was surprised when our Thai application was denied on the basis that it was too similar to another mark. According to the Thai Trademark Office, our client’s mark was too like the mark DANS (apostrophe-less possessive), previously registered by a dairy company.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

3 Key Points for Employers re: Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the bill that was drafted in coordination with the Executive branch and is currently before the U.S. Senate for final approval. Here are 3 Key Takeaways about proposed revisions to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) for Employers:

1.    FMLA has been amended to provide coverage to employees working for Employers with less than 500 employees. So long as the employee has been on the job for at least thirty (30) days, that individual has a right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for any of the following reasons:
a.    To adhere to quarantine requirements/recommendations due to exposure or symptoms of coronavirus;
b.    To care for an at-risk family member who is adhering to a requirements/recommendations to quarantine due to exposure or symptoms of coronavirus; or
c.     To care for a child if the child’s school or childcare program has been closed or is otherwise unavailable due to a coronavirus. 

2.    After Two (2) weeks of paid leave, employees will receive a benefit from their Employers that will be no less than two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay. 

3.    The Act shall take effect not later than Fifteen (15) days of the bill’s enactment.  

Kristin Whalen, Attorney (NC), BridgehouseLaw LLP

EHRC and Brexit-musing

Will the human rights convention sink a Brexit trade deal? Michel Barnier says ‘very serious divergences’ have emerged in first week of EU-UK talk While the world has been watching the coronavirus, the first week of Brexit trade talks has wrapped up. The first of many, many rounds appears to have been a broadly cordial affair, even if not much progress has been made. While the obvious points of contention between the UK and EU are now well known — fishing and level-playing field, for example — another wrinkle has emerged: the European Convention on Human Rights. The split on the ECHR has worried the Brussels negotiators. Mr Barnier said it is a “serious” and “grave” concern for the bloc because “if the United Kingdom’s position does not move, it will have an immediate and concrete effect on the level of ambition of our co-operation which will remain based on international conventions but will not be as ambitious as we wish”. Already, we are back once again to fundamental differences in perspective about what a Brexit trade deal is about. As David Frost, Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator, articulated in a recent speech, the UK wants to regain as much sovereignty as possible through leaving the EU. He does not want to sign up to the ECJ or ECHR in a treaty. The UK wants the ability to choose and do things differently. For Frost, Johnson and Cummings, this is what Brexit is all about. Read more https://www.ft.com/content/88ab405a-5... .

Monday, March 16, 2020

Employment Issues


Today, we will provide you with a few things to keep in mind as an employer while navigating through these uncertain times of Covid-19.

We will continue to keep you informed. Please do not hesitate to contact our attorneys for any legal matters as they arise.

1.    Is it legal to ask an employee to work from home or leave work if they show signs of infection?

An employer can ask an employee to seek medical attention and get tested if they present with symptoms for COVID-19. Similarly, an employer may require an employee to go home if the employee displays COVID-19 symptoms.

2.    What should an employer do if an employee tests positive of COVID-19?

Ask the employee that tested positive to identify any individuals who worked in proximity (three to six feet) of them in the past 14 days.

Further, send any employee who may have come in contact with the infected employee home for 14 days to stem any spread of the virus. Do not identify by name the infected employee because you could risk violating confidentiality laws.

Suspected but unconfirmed COVID-19 cases should be treated in the same way – as a “confirmed” case when evaluating which employees should be sent home, but also communicate with those employees that they may have been exposed to an employee showing symptoms that suggest a COVID-19 diagnosis.

3.    What should an employer do if an employee, after interacting with clients, customers, and vendors, tests positive for COVID-19?

An employer should follow the recommendation presented in #2. Further, the employer should communicate with clients, customers, and vendors that came into close contact with the employee, informing them of a suspected case.

4.    Does an employer have a duty to report suspected or confirmed cases of an COVID-19 among its employees?

No, an employer does not have any obligation to report a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19—as the healthcare provider diagnosing the positive test is a mandatory reporter to the CDC.

5.    Can an employee refuse to come to work out fear of being infected with COVID-19?

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees are only allowed to refuse to work if they believe they are in imminent danger. Imminent danger includes any conditions or practices on the job where a danger exists and can reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of such danger can be eliminated. Employees are generally protected against discipline or discharge for engaging in such activity.

Kristin Whalen, Attorney (NC) | BridgehouseLaw LLP

UK Digital Services Tax 2020



The UK aims to raise £500m a year through digital services tax US resistance could complicate Britain’s efforts to forge a post-Brexit trade deal Britain is pressing ahead with plans for a new digital services #tax focused on large US technology companies, despite complaints by UK-based groups that they risk being caught by the measure. The levy, due to take effect in April after inclusion in Wednesday’s Budget, is aimed at securing what critics claim are hundreds of millions of pounds that Silicon Valley companies avoid paying by diverting profits to low-tax territories such as Ireland. But British tech companies highlight how the scope of the digital services tax goes well beyond big search engines and social #networks such as Google and #Facebook to include UK-based ecommerce groups. The stakes are high as Britain aims to raise almost £500m a year from the digital services tax: as well as pushback from tech companies, the #Trump administration in January threatened to impose tariffs on #UK car exports if the Johnson government proceeds with the levy. The spat could complicate Britain’s efforts to forge a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. Read more https://www.ft.com/content/a2ccbba8-5f0e-11ea-b0ab-339c2307bcd4

Friday, March 13, 2020

European Travel to U.S. and Recent Travel Ban

As many are aware, on March 11, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation banning travel for foreign nationals whom have traveled to many areas in Europe within 14 days of entry or attempted entry into the United States. The relevant areas in European, collectively known as the “Schengen Area”, includes Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The “Schengen Area” travel ban takes effect at 11:59 PM eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020, and is to remain effective for 30 days. The proclamation states that any flight that departs the Schengen Area prior to 11:59 PM eastern daylight on March 13, 2020, is not subject to the travel ban. Generally speaking, only U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, and certain family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, will be allowed to enter the U.S. after visiting the Schengen Area. Therefore, the Schengen Area travel ban will prohibit nearly all other individuals from entering the U.S. if such individuals were present in the Schengen Area within 14 days of entry or attempted entry into the U.S. While there are exceptions to the travel ban, the exceptions do not apply to most non-immigrant visas, including E-visas, L-visas, and B-visas.

Taken together, the above means that E-visa, L-visa, and B-visa holders, and most other non-immigrant visa holders may be able to enter the U.S. before the travel ban takes effect, provided that the flight to the U.S. departs before 11:59 PM eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020.

However, please remember that, even if allowed to purchase a plane ticket and/or board a U.S.-bound flight, border patrol agents hold wide discretion to deny entry into the U.S. – even in the best of circumstances. As such, there is absolutely no guarantee admission will be granted into the U.S. This includes the likely presence of medical screening and potential quarantine upon arrival.

Further, ALL travelers arriving in the U.S. will likely be sent to certain U.S. airports for processing and screening - as of now, Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in North Carolina is not one of those airports. Currently, JFK in New York, Washington Dulles in D.C., Newark in New Jersey, and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Georgia are among approximately 14 airports processing flights from the Schengen Area. We recommend that any in-bound traveler coming from Europe and/or any in-bound traveler with a recent travel history in the Schengen Area contact his or her airline to be sure the flight is going to the appropriate U.S. destination. Additionally, self-quarantine or forced quarantine may apply if admitted. As a note, Lufthansa Group Airlines has notified the public that many of its U.S. flights, including flights to Charlotte, North Carolina, will be suspended until further notice.

Lastly, whether in the U.S. or abroad, any current visa applicants should expect considerably longer processing times for the foreseeable future. It should be expected that government employees – and thus, visa adjudicators – will have reduced work hours. Unfortunately, even a slowdown in visa processing of a few weeks could cause processing backlogs for months.

Andrew Howe, Attorney at Bridgehouselaw

Phone location data and Coronavirus - Big Brother is watching you?





China fights the coronavirus with mobile location data

Chinese telecoms sending users their travel history for the last 14 days
China’s newest weapon in battling the spread of the coronavirus? Location data from mobile users. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology
announced
on Thursday that it launched a new service allowing Chinese telecom subscribers to receive a list of provinces and cities visited within the last 14 days via SMS.
The country’s three state-owned mobile service providers -- China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom -- started sending messages to users asking for authorization to send them their location data. Users can also send an SMS inquiry on their own and after an authorization process, see where they’ve been over the last 14 days. But the data sent doesn’t get very specific. Screenshots of inquiry results circulating on Weibo only
show
the names of cities and provinces.
#COVID2019 #coranavirus #tech #locationservices #virus
Read more
https://www.scmp.com/tech/article/3050713/china-fights-coronavirus-mobile-location-data


Trump Rally in Charlotte – Eine Wahlkampfveranstaltung der etwas anderen Art

Einen Tag vor dem Super Tuesday (3. März) hat nun auch Präsident Donald Trump in Charlotte eine Wahlkampfveranstaltung (sog. “Rally”) im Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, NC abgehalten. Da wir uns vor einigen Wochen bereits die Wahlkampfveranstaltung von Bernie Sanders in Charlotte angeschaut hatten, konnten wir gleich einmal beobachten, wie unterschiedlich eine solche Veranstaltung doch sein kann. Während wir problemlos - ohne Schlange zu stehen -die Wahlkampfveranstaltung von Bernie Sanders besuchen konnten, war der Besuch der Wahlkampfveranstaltung von Donald Trump durchaus mit längerer Wartezeit verbunden. Insbesondere auch deshalb, weil viele Menschen, die selbst nicht in Charlotte wohnen, angereist waren um ihren Präsidenten live zu sehen.

Auf dem Weg zum Coliseum konnten wir bereits eine Vielzahl von Ständen beobachten, welche T-Shirts, Flaggen, Hüte, Sticker, Buttons und sonstige Fanartikel von Donald Trump zum Verkauf anboten. Ca. 2,5 Stunden vor dem Beginn der eigentlichen Wahlkampfveranstaltung kamen wir beim Bojangles Coliseum an. Auf uns wartete dort bereits eine sehr lange Schlange von Menschen, welche darauf wartete, ins Coliseum hineinzugelangen. Vor dem Coliseum war unter anderem eine große Leinwand aufgebaut worden, welche es den wartenden Personen ermöglichte, das Vorgehen im Coliseum live mit zu verfolgen. Während wir auf unseren Einlass warteten, konnten wir daher bereits Reden von Eric Trump und seiner Frau Lara Trump sowie weiterer Redner beobachten, welche um Unterstützung für Donald Trump warben. Je näher wir dem Eingang zum Coliseum kamen, desto mehr konnten wir zurückgelassene Campingausrüstung von Personen wahrnehmen, welche bereits den Abend vorher oder in den frühen Morgenstunden angereist waren, um sich einen guten Sitzplatz zu sichern.


Nach 1,5 Stunden Wartezeit waren wir dann endlich im Coliseum und haben glücklicherweise noch knapp einen Sitzplatz gefunden. Die Stimmung im Coliseum war bereits sehr ausgelassen und lebendig. Es wurde eine Reihe unterschiedlicher Papierschilder zum Hochhalten verteilt, laute Musik wurde gespielt, das ganze Stadium war mit der Flagge der Vereinigten Staaten geschmückt und überall hing der Slogan „Keep America great“. Mit einer Verzögerung von 15 Minuten betrat Donald Trump sodann die Bühne und trat unter lautem Jubeln, Klatschen und Rufen ans Rednerpult. Den Großteil der Redezeit standen die Zuschauer von ihren Plätzen auf und begleiteten die Aussagen von Donald Trump durchgehend mit unterstützenden Rufen sowie dem Hochhalten der ausgeteilten Papierschilder. 

Im Vergleich zur Wahlkampfveranstaltung von Bernie Sanders war die Wahlkampfveranstaltung von Donald Trump noch einmal ein ganzes Stück lebendiger und ausgelassener. Insgesamt erinnerte uns die Veranstaltung eher an ein Konzert eines berühmten Musikers, als an eine politische Wahlkampfveranstaltung. In Deutschland könnte man sich eine solch lebendige Art der Darstellung bei einer politischen Wahlkampfveranstaltung nur schwer vorstellen

Jessica Haereke & Johannes Rossi, Law Clerks at BridgehouseLaw LLP

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

German American Business Outlook 2020


The German American Business Outlook (GABO) is one of the most important economic indicators of German American business relations. Each year, the German American Chambers of Commerce survey more than 2,500 German subsidiaries in the United States on their views of the US as an investment location. • The Profitability of the US Business 96% of German companies in the US expect growth in the next year. For more than one out of three German companies responding (38%), their US operations generate more than 20% of their total group sales. • Attractiveness of the US-Market Companies benefit from the size as well as a high number of potential clients and customers in the US market. More than one fifth of surveyed companies intend to invest more than 10 million USD over the next three years. • Workforce Development Challenges with workforce remain a big concern: Finding skilled employees is the number one economic challenge for 56% of German companies in the US. • Digitalization Ongoing digitalization, particularly the implementation of smart factory / Industry 4.0 and data security, brings new challenges for German companies doing business in the US. Read more https://www.gaccmidwest.org/fileadmin...

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Aktuelle wirtschaftliche Entwicklungen in der deutsch-amerikanischen Wirtschaft


Aktuelle wirtschaftliche Entwicklungen in der deutsch-amerikanischen 

Tesla in Brandenburg

Der US-amerikanische Elektroautobauer Tesla kann nach dem neuesten Urteil des Oberverwaltungsgerichtes Berlin-Brandenburg mit der Rodung des Geländes für seine erste europäische Fabrik fortfahren.
Zuvor hatten zwei Umweltverbände, die Grüne Liga Brandenburg und der Verein für Landschaftspflege und Artenschutz in Bayern, gegen die vorzeitige Zulassung der Rodung durch das Brandenburger Landesumweltamt geklagt, da so vollendete Tatsachen geschaffen würden, obwohl die komplette Genehmigung für den Bau noch ausstehe. Nach zwischenzeitlicher Untersagung der Rodung hat Tesla nun auch diese Hürde auf dem Weg zum Bau der Fabrik genommen.
Insbesondere Wirtschaft und Politik, die das Großprojekt als wichtiges Signal für Zukunftstechnologien und eine klimafreundliche und CO2-neutrale Autoindustrie in Deutschland loben, bewerten das Urteil weithin positiv. Nach Angaben von Tesla würden in der Anfangsphase bis zu 12.000 neue Arbeitsplätze entstehen. Mit dem Bau der Fabrik könnten ab 2021 rund 500.000 Elektrofahrzeuge pro Jahr in Grünheide gebaut werden.

Bayer: Nachwirkungen der Monsanto-Übernahme – Glyphosat-Klagen


Im Zuge der Klagen in Kalifornien gegen den Bayer-Konzern wegen angeblicher Krebsrisiken durch Monsanto-Produkte, insbesondere den glyphosathaltigen Unkrautvernichter Roundup, hat Bayer nun Berufung gegen das dritte “Glyphosat-Urteil” eingelegt.

Bayer war im Mai 2019 zu Schadensersatzzahlungen und Strafen in Milliardenhöhe verurteilt worden, bevor dieser Betrag auf knapp 87 Millionen US-Dollar reduziert worden war.
Nach der Übernahme des US-Saatgutkonzerns Monsanto 2018 war der Konzern mit knapp 42.700 Klägern konfrontiert. Neben den Berufungsverfahren versucht Bayer nun durch mögliche Vergleiche weiteren Urteilen zuvorzukommen. Auch die Kosten hierfür dürften jedoch in die Milliarden gehen.

By Johannes Rossi, Law Clerk at BridgehouseLaw LLP | photo http://bit.ly/32r1MQv