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Legal insight decision making for small business and entrepreneurs: a judicious approach.

This paper addresses the gaps in legal insight and decision-making for small business and entrepreneurs and describes the implications of correlative Having a reciprocal relationship in that the existence of one relationship normally implies the existence of the other.

Mother and child, and duty and claim, are correlative terms.
 judicial remedies for these issues. Summary findings of empirical studies Empirical studies in social sciences are when the research ends are based on evidence and not just theory. This is done to comply with the scientific method that asserts the objective discovery of knowledge based on verifiable facts of evidence.  of preventable problems faced by business are juxtaposed against a discrete analysis of relevant United States Supreme Court United States Supreme Court: see Supreme Court, United States.  decisions involving these same business interests. Finally, a more judicious solution to improve legal insight and decision-making is proposed; this alternative model, called a Legal Audit, is advanced to first elevate legal insight and decision making, and then to diagnose and address flawed legal practices which create significant legal problems. The paper ends with a call for further inquiry of sustainable legal decision making and minimal acceptable standards for the concept LIDM or Legal Insight Decision Making.

INTRODUCTION

Each year the United States Supreme Court (USSC USSC United States Sentencing Commission
USSC United States Supreme Court
USSC United States Sanitary Commission (Civil War era forerunner of the Red Cross)
USSC United States Space Command
) issues a limited number of Writs of Certiorari certiorari

In law, a writ issued by a superior court for the reexamination of an action of a lower court. The writ of certiorari was originally a writ from England's Court of Queen's (King's) Bench to the judges of an inferior court; it was later expanded to include writs
. This action constitutes initiation of the legal process that requests a lower court to deliver the record in the case the USSC has accepted for review. The USSC accepts and decides only a finite number of cases and remarkably few of these involve business interests. For example, in each year from 2005-2009, the USSC docket heard or will hear as few as 63 cases and as many as 74 cases; but of these cases, only a baker's dozen thirteen.
thirteen; - called also a long dozen ltname>.

See also: Baker Dozen
 directly affect business interests. Knowledge of this finite universe of USSC cases that affect business interests is power; in fact, these select cases provide rich lessons to the wise and wary.

BACKGROUND AND LITERATURE REVIEW

Amid growing concern that even the wise and wary are not savvy to the lessons of the USSC decisions affecting business (Cutler, 2003; Hemingway& Maclagan, 2004) nor even to the need to comply with underlying laws and regulations (Rondinelli, 2007) some have concluded that the failure to seek and access information (Roth, 2005) does inhibit firm performance and can indeed impede success. Researchers have observed that companies of all sizes are adept at developing and implementing mission statements (Gumbus& Lussier 2006), but this does not translate to ability to develop awareness of legal issues and consequent legal insight decision making.

Minority and non-minority entrepreneurs, whose likelihood for failure exceeds the average failure rate for new businesses (Kaplan, 2003; Kuratko, 2005; Mendoza, 2007) are in accord with this perspective. Indeed, the term "entrepreneurial cognition" aptly describes the process of overcoming ignorance and doubt to find opportunity to act and make decisions (Shepherd, et al 2007) such as should be made in the arena of legal issues and practices, without regard to firm differences. In fact, decision making which involves the owners and managers of the firm, especially in the legal arena, can lead to conflict, as aptly noted by family business scholars, (Eddleson, Otondo & Kellermanns, 2008; Brigham, DeCastro & Shepherd, 2007; Steier & Ward, 2006) and the field for future research is rich (Heck, Hoy, Poutziouris & Steier, 2008); although the available data and published research on judicially affected legal issues is less so.

The opportunity to act and make beneficial decisions affecting legal issues does not rest solely in the hands of the firm's legal counsel; indeed, the majority of small businesses seek legal counsel in a reactionary rather than proactive manner. Even small business academic gurus, Hornsby, Kuratko, Naffzinger, LaFollette and Hodgetts in a co-authored seminal study, "The Ethical perceptions of small business owners: A factor analytic Adj. 1. factor analytic - of or relating to or the product of factor analysis
factor analytical
 study" published in 1994 and using a 16 item questionnaire developed by Longenecker, McKinney and Moore (1989) equated legal decision-making with ethics rather than with legal knowledge (Hornsby, Kuratko, Naffzinger, LaFollette & Hodgetts, 1994; Longenecker, Moore, Petty, Palich & McKinney, 2006). The literature thus describes and characterizes the legal decision as an ethical decision Real life ethical decisions are studied in sociology and political science and psychology using very different methods than descriptive ethics in ethics (philosophy). Not ethics proper ; though whether the decision is made by the small business owner or the hired hand legal counsel, legal decisions are not, in fact, related to ethical perceptions. Further, most small firms do not retain in-house legal counsel, but resort to out-sourcing formal legal advice as needed as needed prn. See prn order.  or when a perceived legal issue arises.

While scholars note strategic planning Strategic planning is an organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people.  is the optimum weapon to enhance organizational performance (Ensley, Carland & Carland, 2003), legal issues strategic planning is sometimes omitted from the mix of planning elements. In studies of nascent business development, the formation of the legal entity or selection of legal form of business may figure as merely a step in development (Fiore, Lussier, 2007). Studies of small businesses that engage in formal and informal planning and the importance of planning is presumed and validated by many scholars (Allred, Addams & Chakraborty 2007). However, there is disagreement upon the dimensions of the planning and the inclusion of all the fundamental business functions (especially the legal function) in planning. In the Allred study, the ranking of legal planning was near the bottom for both formal and informal planning. Other scholars measuring internal and external considerations of planning, in particular strategic planning identify only a very low Pareto analysis Pareto analysis is a statistical technique in decision making that is used for selection of a limited number of tasks that produce significant overall effect. It uses the Pareto principle - the idea that by doing 20% of work you can generate 80% of the advantage of doing the entire  result for each of the legal factors measured: legal environment and legislation regulation (Hodges & Kent, 2007). Whether the study involves home-based businesses (Bardwell, Spiller & Anderson, 2003) or studies of business success factors, including financing and planning even with boot-strap methods (Van Auken, 2003), these studies often tangentially tan·gen·tial   also tan·gen·tal
adj.
1. Of, relating to, or moving along or in the direction of a tangent.

2. Merely touching or slightly connected.

3.
 shed light on the related legal issues; but do not focus on the risk of consequential legal remedies. The lack of legal insight and failure of effective legal decision making can be deduced from the increase in small business lawsuits, arbitrations and bankruptcies--all of which are on the rise according to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 the statistics available via BLS See Bureau of Labor Statistics.  and according to many insightful researchers (Gaskill, Van Auken & Manning, 1993; Lussier, 1995; Palmer, Andaleeb & Joyner, 2005/2006; Carter & Van Auken, 2006).

Even seasoned, knowledgeable researchers and academic proponents of business models may omit the legal component in research and conceptual theoretic; in fact, no legal functions were included in a proposed comprehensive review of core components of a business model and no reference to legal matters were identified in the definitions of business models in a seminal article about the creation of an empirical model to test theories of guidance to achieve sustainable advantage (Morris, Schindehutte, Richardson, & Allen, 2006). Thus, a review of the literature that addresses these various issues reveals that relatively few legal issues matters or studies have been reported in the literature of small business journals unless one considers topic specific articles, or studies reporting client satisfaction with bankruptcy legal representation (Palmer, Andaleeb & Joyner, 2005/2006) or other topic specific reviews concerning regulatory or general category legal issues.

Identifiable legal issues affecting new ventures are likely to include matters like business format, intellectual property, liability, regulation, contracts, tax, employment, finance and real property (Malach, Robinson & Radcliffe, 2006). In a comprehensive survey of 292 legal clinic clients who were generally in planning or pre-start up phase, analysis of the type of business rather than the legal issue was the focus of the study (Malach, Robinson & Radcliffe, 2006). This study targeted the stage of the business development as a distinctive factor in legal issue identification; it reveals significant useful information regarding the type of issues identified, but opts to use a proxy of frequency to rank importance of those legal issues. The attempt to quantitatively rank the relative importance of the legal issues is confined to new ventures and based upon frequency, rather than seriousness of consequence or risk of the legal decision (Malach, Robinson & Radcliffe, 2006).

Though identification of important legal issues has been the subject of several studies (Heriot her·i·ot  
n.
A tribute or service rendered to a feudal lord on the death of a tenant.



[Middle English, from Old English heregeatu : here, army; see koro-
 and Huneycutt, 2001) as noted by Malach, et al, the literature might lead some to conclude that while distinct legal issues are the subject of scholarly study, those studies omit any cognitive recognition of a connection with the judicial remedies imposed by the USSC in its fine series of legal decisions affecting business. Indeed, the relevancy of legal issues to new ventures and the rank by frequency that the legal issue arises (Malach, Robinson and Radcliffe, 2006) does not draw any conclusions about the judicial remedies imposed upon legal decisions made by firms, small businesses and/or entrepreneurs. Over a period of several years, the author has used simple questionnaires to elicit responses from business owners and managers, MBA students, SBI SBI Special Background Investigation
SBI Subsidiary Body for Implementation
SBI State Bank of India
SBI Secure Border Initiative
SBI Small Business Institute
SBI Stockholm Brain Institute
SBI Serious Bacterial Infection
SBI Society of Breast Imaging
 students, academics, lawyers and entrepreneurs to gauge legal knowledge on business related legal issues within key USSC and other high or key court decisions (for years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). As will be seen, it appears that knowledge of recent USSC decisions affecting legal decision making and which can provide legal insight to entrepreneurs, business owners and managers is hiding in plain sight.

This paper fills a gap in the literature of analysis of key legal issues by identifying the legal issues that create significant problems to business success and describes correlative judicial remedies to those legal issues. This paper proposes a logical next step in the development and examination of a new conceptual body of business related legal, ethical and regulatory matters; the concept called LIDM, Legal Insight Decision Making.

METHODOLOGY

The author, utilizing information from previous case studies which included in-depth interviews with business owners and managers, created a set of revised questionnaires to determine generic respondents' pre-knowledge of key legal issues. These questionnaires include: Top 25 Legal Issues Legal Audit[C] tool, Top 3 Survey Tool, Small Biz and Entrepreneurs Survey; these are included in the appendices. Respondents were not randomly selected; instead, they were voluntary participants in legal seminars, academic meetings, MBA students, undergraduate business students, business consulting clients, economists, entrepreneurs, or others seeking information about key business related USSC decisions and related legal issues. Except for the business consulting clients, no demographic or firm related data was gathered. Key legal issues were drawn from the following topics: Agent and Principal law, Arbitration, Bankruptcy, Contracts and Collections, Damage(s) Control, Embezzlement embezzlement, wrongful use, for one's own selfish ends, of the property of another when that property has been legally entrusted to one. Such an act was not larceny at common law because larceny was committed only when property was acquired by a "felonious taking," i. , Eminent Domain eminent domain, the right of a government to force the owner of private property sell it if it is needed for a public use. The right is based on the doctrine that a sovereign state has dominion over all lands and buildings within its borders, which has its origins in , Employment Law, Fraud, Independent Contractors, Intellectual Property protection, Privacy, Sarbanes-Oxley Rules, SPAM law, Tax Law, Tax Matters and Liability, Trademarks and Trade Secrets, Truth in Lending (TILA TILA Truth In Lending Act ), Regulation "Z". Questionnaires, surveys, focus groups and consulting inquiries using the Top 25 Legal Issues Legal Audit[C] tool, Top 3 Survey Tool, Small Biz and Entrepreneurs Survey were utilized to collect information and to determine general legal topic knowledge.

For example, in the Top 25 Legal Issues Audit[C], business owners, managers, consultants, economists, entrepreneurs and others review the integrated components which are necessary for healthy legal status of any business entity. The Top 25 Legal Issues Audit[C] tool is a checklist of items ranging from compliance matters, to collection and contract suggestions which should be in place for every business. The twenty five issues pertain to pertain to
verb relate to, concern, refer to, regard, be part of, belong to, apply to, bear on, befit, be relevant to, be appropriate to, appertain to
 all business forms, and most items also pertain to non-profits. This tool is useful to raise awareness of specific legal practices which should be in use to maintain legal health and acts as a diagnostic for legal errors and omissions errors and omissions n. short-hand for malpractice insurance which gives physicians, attorneys, architects, accountants and other professionals coverage for claims by patients and clients for alleged professional errors and omissions which amount to negligence. . It is useful both as a teaching device to raise awareness, and a list of best practices for model legal health.
Exhibit A: Top 25 Legal Issues Audit[c]

1.  Business License on File in All Jurisdictions in Which Doing
    Business
2.  Proper & BEST Legal Form Of Doing Business& Yearly Compliance [Sole
    Prop/ Partnership/ LLC/SCorp/C-Corp]
3.  Federal/ State/ Local Tax Compliance
4.  Multi-jurisdictional Tax Compliance
5.  Insurance Policies: Liability & Umbrella
6.  Worker's Compensation
7.  Health Insurance
8.  Contracts with Employees customized
9.  Contracts with Partners customized
10. Contracts with Suppliers/Vendors customized
11. Office/Warehouse/Other Property Lease Contracts customized
12. Equipment Lease Contracts customized
13. Current Licenses or Compliance Records For Specialty Workers or
    IKs Government Regulations Posted On Site For OSHA/ABC/Etc.
15. Intellectual Property is Recognized and Registered
16. Pensions, Disability, Other Benefits
17. Arbitration Clause & Collections Policy Clearly Stated On All
    Contracts
18. "As-Is", Warranties, Guarantees etc. Clearly Stated On All Sales
    Invoices
19. Facilities Accessible To Handicapped
20. Facilities in Good Repair/No Dangerous Conditions
21. Calendar Of Dates For All Required Tax Filings & other
    "compliance" filings
22. Bank Accounts and Financial Data Up To Date and regularly
    audited
23. Partnership/Key Person Insurance
24. Disposition of Business Assets Written Plan Exists In The Event Of
    Emergency or Death
25. Up To Date Will on File with Attorney with Accurate Description of
    Directions for Disposition of Business


Perceived problems facing business owners are likely to range from macro (the economy) to micro (the collection of past due accounts), and there may be cyclically popular problems of supply, sales, cash-flow and innumerable other problems faced by businesses no matter what size or industry.

A short questionnaire called Top 3 Survey Tool was developed to aid identification of top problems facing business owners; the resulting topics solicited from the use of the Top 3 Survey

Tool were culled to reveal the top legal content problems. The resulting topics then were analyzed in conjunction with relevant USSC decisions on those topics.
Exhibit B: Top 3 Survey

The top three problems facing business owners:
    [a]--
    [b]--
    [c]--

The top three reasons entrepreneurs/businesses ARE successful:
    [a]--
    [b]--
    [c]--

Three preventable problems for small business:
    [a]--
    [b]--
    [c]--


CORRELATIVE JUDICIAL REMEDIES

As a result of these initial questionnaires, common flawed legally related business practices capable of harming businesses were identified and the legal insight decision making opportunities requiring knowledge could be organized. The key knowledge factors for each topic generated an alpha legal topics chart and those in turn could then be related directly to legal decisions (primarily USSC decisions) on those topics.
Exhibit C: Table of Sample Issues and Cases
Issue Case

Arbitration Vaden v. Discover Bank
Bankruptcy United States v. Galletti
Contracts and independent contractors Estrada v. FedEx Ground
Embezzlement & Fraud Stoneridge Investment Partners v.
  Scientific-Atlanta Inc.

Appendices: Surveys

Small Business and Entrepreneurs Survey

[T]/[F]   Arbitration clauses permit litigation in court.

[T]/[F]   Bankruptcy permits full discharge of debts.

[T]/[F]   Contracts w. usurious Collections policies are void.

[T]/[F]   Damages cannot be limited or capped.

[T]/[F]   Embezzlement is the most prosecuted white collar crime.

[T]/[F]   Fraud/Forgery/Falsification is on the rise.

[T]/[F]   Regulation "Z" prohibits undisclosed fees to be charged
          to credit card holders.

       Legal Issues Knowledge Survey questions & Response Scale:

                  [0 = None/Low to 5 = Strong/High]

1. My knowledge of uses of Arbitration clauses in    0-1-2-3-4-5
contracts is:

2. My knowledge of recent USSC decisions affecting   0-1-2-3-4-5
business practices in employment law & bankruptcy
is:

3. My understanding of anti-SPAM law and practice    0-1-2-3-4-5
is:

4. My understanding of the Federal Sentencing        0-1-2-3-4-5
Guidelines is:

5. My knowledge about Intellectual Property          0-1-2-3-4-5
protection for small business and entrepreneurs
is:

6. The likelihood of embezzlement becoming an        0-1-2-3-4-5
issue in most businesses is:

7. For most businesses, I believe Risks of           0-1-2-3-4-5
Marketing via email and running afoul of Anti-SPAM
laws is:

8. The benefits of filing for Bankruptcy             0-1-2-3-4-5
protection in 200X, compared with pre-2005, are:

9. The likelihood of a local economic empowerment    0-1-2-3-4-5
agency taking private land to turn over to another
private entity is:

10. The effect of USSC NY & MI wine industry         0-1-2-3-4-5
decision about importing wine in my state is:

                   SPAM SURVEY

1. All 50 States have criminal Anti-SPAM laws-       [T]/[F]

2. Over 80% of inbound messages to consumers are     [T]/[F]
SPAM-

3. Unsolicited E-mail with false transmission
information is criminal in which states?

4. To date there has been no successful              [T]/[F]
Prosecution of "Kingpin" Spammers sending
Fraudulent Bulk messages-

5. "Misdemeanor" SPAM rises to "Felony" SPAM under
your STATE law if:

  [a] --

  [b] --

  [c] --

6. Under the Federal CAN-SPAM Act, any State         [T]/[F]
Anti-SPAM laws relating to falsity or deception
are pre-empted.

7. Anti-SPAM laws provide for both civil and         [T]/[F]
criminal penalties.

8. Private parties may institute legal action        [T]/[F]
under Anti-SPAM laws.

9. Under state statutes, Out-of-state SPAMMERS       [T]/[F]
cannot be prosecuted.

10. Penalties include: X -- jail time: Y -- $$$

            Wage Law & Overtime Survey

11. Under the Federal Overtime rules, only hourly    [T]/[F]
workers are entitled to overtime pay.

12. Flex timers, managers or administrators          [T]/[F]
working from home are exempt from overtime pay
laws.

13. Union employees are covered under the Federal    [T]/[F]
Wages & Overtime rules.

14. Independent Contractors are exempt from          [T]/[F]
Overtime Pay rules.

15. Penalties MAY include:

X -- jail time: Y -- $$$Fines Z -- Back wages for
up to 2 prior years

          Wage & Hour Law Changes Survey

Federal mandates for overtime pay have created the latest "class
action" vehicle of choice in business law. Unintentional failure
to pay overtime wages is corrected by civil suit-BUT intentional
failure to pay overtime may bring punitive damages & jail time.

Q. Who is entitled to Overtime pay?

Response:

              Eminent Domain Survey

16. Under the 5th Amendment, Eminent Domain may      [T]/[F]
only be exercised by the States.

17. Eminent Domain permits taking of Private         [T]/[F]
Property for public use upon payment of just
compensation.

18. Kelo v. City of New Londonpermits only a very    [T]/[F]
narrow interpretation of "public Use".

19. States may alter Eminent Domain rules.           [T]/[F]

20. Private companies may be sued if they fail to    [T]/[F]
put private property obtained by eminent domain to
a promised use.


As is evident in Exhibit C, the very issues identified as problematic are the same issues presented to the high court under the writs of certiorari. For example, cases involving arbitration, bankruptcy, contracts have been selected and distinguished by USSC recent decisions and provide opportunity for legal insight decision making. In the following section, a select few topics will be reviewed (Arbitration, bankruptcy, contracts and independent contractors, embezzlement and fraud) and the judicial case in point is described to illustrate the Legal Insight Decision Making model.

LEGAL INSIGHT DECISION MAKING

Arbitration

Arbitration in lieu of civil litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.

When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation.
 is favored in federal law and this deference to arbitration has been the most pervasive change in business practice in the last decade. The status of the "Arbitration" clause in contracts, as well as strategic use of the arbitration clause by big business, was noted by academic scholars at the turn of the century (Bardwell, 2001) to mark a new strategic defensive posture by lending and credit institutions. The revelation of this posture was evident due to the requirement of the federal Privacy Act which requires such institutions to annually disclose terms and conditions of the lending/borrowing relationship via mailing of an annual Privacy Notice to its customers.

Close reading of Privacy Notice Disclosures reveal that beginning in the early 2000's, arbitration clauses were regular conditions imposed as conditions of borrowing and lending by most US financial institutions. This effectively minimized costs and risks to lending and credit institutions by automatically affording the manifest protections of arbitration. The obvious benefits of arbitration include: choice of forum and choice of arbitrator to resolve the dispute by the lending institution Noun 1. lending institution - a financial institution that makes loans
financial institution, financial organisation, financial organization - an institution (public or private) that collects funds (from the public or other institutions) and invests them in
; no jury; no appeal; no judicial precedent; and, until the Supreme Court ruled in Green Tree v. Bazzle, no class actions in arbitration. Furthermore, the Federal Arbitration Act In United States law, the Federal Arbitration Act is a statute that provides for judicial facilitation of private dispute resolution through arbitration. It appears that the Federal Arbitration Act was intended to apply only in federal courts, but following a controversial Supreme  (F.A.A. 9USC An abbreviation for U.S. Code.  [section] 1 et seq et seq. (et seek) n. abbreviation for the Latin phrase et sequentes meaning "and the following." It is commonly used by lawyers to include numbered lists, pages or sections after the first number is stated, as in "the rules of the road are found in Vehicle Code .) pronounces, and federal court and USSC have agreed, that arbitration clauses are valid and preferred under law; that arbitration is favored over litigation and that arbitration can be compelled where there is a valid arbitration clause. Thus, by employing the legal tactic to force arbitration as a condition precedent condition precedent n. 1) in a contract, an event which must take place before a party to a contract must perform or do their part. 2) in a deed to real property, an event which has to occur before the title (or other right) to the property will actually be in the  to obtaining financing, the entire system of civil litigation was effectively flat out removed as an option to resolve all disputes related to financing by the lending and banking industry.

As recently as March 9, 2009, the USSC ruled to support arbitration clauses in contracts between lending institutions and its customers in the case, Vaden v. Discover Bank. Vaden v. Discover Bank, 07-773, 08 C.D.O.S. 2829, was decided 03-09-2009 in the Supreme Court of the United States Supreme Court of the United States

Final court of appeal in the U.S. judicial system and final interpreter of the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Court was created by the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as the head of a federal court system, though it was
 on Writ of Certiorari Noun 1. writ of certiorari - a common law writ issued by a superior court to one of inferior jurisdiction demanding the record of a particular case
certiorari

judicial writ, writ - (law) a legal document issued by a court or judicial officer
 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is a federal court located in Richmond, Virginia with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:
  • District of Maryland
  • Eastern District of North Carolina
 opinion filed March 9, 2009. Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court; she opined that "Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U. S. C. [section]4, authorizes a United States district court United States District Court

In the U.S., any of the 94 trial courts of general jurisdiction in the federal judicial system. Each state, as well as the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, has at least one federal district court.
 to entertain a petition to compel arbitration if the court would have jurisdiction, "save for [the arbitration] agreement," over "a suit arising out of the controversy between the parties." Justice Ginsburg describes the typical facts giving rise to the case stating that... "The litigation giving rise to these questions began when Discover Bank's servicing affiliate filed a complaint in Maryland state court. Presenting a claim arising solely under state law, Discover sought to recover past-due charges from one of its credit cardholders, Betty Vaden. Vaden answered and counterclaimed, alleging that Discover's finance charges, interest, and late fees violated state law. Invoking an arbitration clause in its cardholder card·hold·er  
n.
One who holds a card, especially a credit card.



cardhold
 agreement with Vaden, Discover then filed a [section]4 [Federal Arbitration Act] petition in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland The United States District Court for the District of Maryland is the Federal district court whose jurisdiction is the state of Maryland.

Notable judges in this district include William Paca, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence.
 to compel arbitration of Vaden's counterclaims. The District Court had subject-matter jurisdiction over its petition, Discover maintained, because Vaden's state-law counterclaims were completely pre empted by federal banking law. The District Court agreed and ordered arbitration. Reasoning that a federal court has jurisdiction over a [section]4 [Federal Arbitration Act] petition if the parties' underlying dispute presents a federal question, the Fourth Circuit eventually affirmed."

Summarizing the Vaden decision, the majority of the USSC reversed the 4th Circuit lower court decision and reiterated the power of the arbitration clause by concluding that state courts as well as federal courts are obligated to honor and enforce agreements to arbitrate. Finally, FAA[section]2 is binding on state courts and this requires an interpretation of arbitration clauses which favors arbitration; the exact language of the relevant federal statute section states that FAA[section]2 renders agreements to arbitrate "valid, irrevocable, and enforceable."

The insight gleaned from this latest decision on arbitration clauses should enhance knowledge based decision making and suggests that businesses of any size, in any industry can likewise employ arbitration clauses to avoid litigation and reap the benefits, noted above, of arbitration.

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy data available for every jurisdiction from the American Bankruptcy Institute (www.abi.org) demonstrates that the bankruptcy rule changes of 2005, in concert with the downturn in the economy, have meshed to create a statistical upsurge in the filings of chapters 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcies. Some fail to see bankruptcy as a strategic business maneuver and it is a sad fact that business owners often fail to recognize the key warning signs of vendor, supplier, client or customer impending bankruptcy. Since bankruptcy is an exclusively federal subject matter, though individual state rules can apply where permitted, it remains dangerous and short sighted to ignore the warning signs of bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy warning signs include the creation of Receivership status; approximately 80% of businesses in receivership eventually will enter Bankruptcy and the constraints upon creditors who join a bankruptcy proceeding are far more onerous than in the pre-bankruptcy stages. Receivership is a red flag that bankruptcy is imminent.

Other key warning signs that bankruptcy will occur include late pays, reduced pays, or excuses for pays by accounts payable customers. The legal insight objective to keep in focus is to recognize that any disturbed pattern of payment signifies financial stress and financial stress is a precursor to bankruptcy.

Finally, requests to re-negotiate classic terms of longstanding contracts and any reduction in business related communications, known as the ostrich ostrich, common name for a large flightless bird (Struthio camelus) of Africa and parts of SW Asia, allied to the rhea, the emu and the extinct moa. It is the largest of living birds; some males reach a height of 8 ft (244 cm) and weigh from 200 to 300 lb  syndrome, also signify financial stress that typically precedes bankruptcy.

Two interesting cases tangentially touching on bankruptcy reached the USSC and the lessons in each case provide significant legal insight decision making opportunity. In the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  v.

Galletti case, a partnership declared bankruptcy, and as we know, back taxes owed to the IRS An abbreviation for the Internal Revenue Service, a federal agency charged with the responsibility of administering and enforcing internal revenue laws.  cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. In the Galletti case, a former partner of the now dissolved partnership argues that he (Galletti) was not responsible for the back taxes assessed by the IRS upon a former partner for a now defunct partnership. In this case, the USSC confirmed that the Statute of Limitations A type of federal or state law that restricts the time within which legal proceedings may be brought.

Statutes of limitations, which date back to early Roman Law, are a fundamental part of European and U.S. law.
 for the IRS to assess a tax is 3 years from the time the tax return is filed, or should have been filed. However, provided the IRS makes the tax assessment within the 3 year limit, then the time permitted to collect the tax debt is 10 years from the date of assessment. Galletti answered a very important legal question about tax liability for defunct partnership: If a "Partnership" is the assessed taxpayer, are the individual partners liable up to 10 years later?

The resounding re·sound  
v. re·sound·ed, re·sound·ing, re·sounds

v.intr.
1. To be filled with sound; reverberate: The schoolyard resounded with the laughter of children.

2.
 answer to this question is yes. If the IRS timely assesses the partnership "taxpayer" within 3 years, then the law of Partnership which makes each and all individual partners jointly and severally Jointly and Severally

1. A legal term describing a partnership in which individual decisions are bound to all parties involved and thus undivided.

2. A term used in underwriting syndicates to refer to the distinct responsibility of individual companies to sell a certain
 liable, extends the debt collection period for up to 10 years after the IRS assessment of taxes due; and each individual former partner, even though not personally assessed nor personally notified of the IRS tax assessment, is subject to collections actions for up to ten years until the debt and interest and fines is fully satisfied. Note that the collection power of the IRS ranges from garnishment garnishment, in law, means of requiring a third party who holds a debt (including wages) due a defendant to retain the property temporarily. The garnishment consists of a warning, in the form of a judgment, to the third party, called the garnishee, not to deliver the  and attachment to confiscation confiscation

In law, the act of seizing property without compensation and submitting it to the public treasury. Illegal items such as narcotics or firearms, or profits from the sale of illegal items, may be confiscated by the police. Additionally, government action (e.g.
 and the IRS is a supreme debt collector debt collector ncobrador(a) m/f de deudas

debt collector nagent m de recouvrements

debt collector debt n
. Obvious lessons from this case include the need to reconcile financial obligations and terminate business entities completely, including all prospective tax obligations. Certainly, the form of business of partnership is less desirable than is any other form of business entity due to the feature of joint and several liability unique to a partnership.

Contractors and Status as Independent Contractors or Employees

There has always been a tense relationship between the IRS view on employee status versus independent contractor A person who contracts to do work for another person according to his or her own processes and methods; the contractor is not subject to another's control except for what is specified in a mutually binding agreement for a specific job.  status and the benefits of the Independent contractor status to the employer. For example, employers are not liable for torts committed by independent contractors, nor are employers responsible for payment of withholding taxes for independent contractors. These two benefits alone created an inducement for the world's largest private ground carrier, Roadway [now FedEx Ground FedEx Ground is a shipping company headquartered in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Originally a small regional package shipping company called Roadway Package System (RPS), it was created to be a discount competitor to UPS. ] to declare in California that its drivers were to be classified as independent contractors rather than employees. However, this brilliant bit of business strategy has backfired on FedEx in a rather terrific legal manner.

In a landmark California case, Estrada v. FedEx Ground, the employer FedEx has found that drivers' status as an independent contractors cannot be guaranteed even if so declared under written contract. Current IRS tax laws recognize there are numerous factors which guide but may not absolutely determine the proper classification as either employee or as independent contractor. The FedEx case demonstrates that employers must use 10 classic factors to determine true independent contractor status or they might well rue the consequences. These are 10 classic factors to consider: close supervision, uniforms, training, tools, full time, hours of work, peripheral work, payment, expenses, statutory class. In California, a state statute clearly requires proper classification of workers as either employees or independent contractors and the intentional misclassification of workers constitutes fraud and is criminal under the statute California Labor code [section]2802.

In the landmark case landmark case Law & medicine A civil or, far less commonly, criminal action that has had an impact on a particular area of medicine. , Estrada v. FedEx Ground filed in Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850.  Co. Superior Ct. decided on December 19, 2005. Two later appeals modified the ground breaking class action decision against FedEx for misclassifying all single route drivers as independent contractors rather than employees; but left the liability issue intact. FedEx's action was determined by the court to be in violation of California law California Law consists of 29 codes, covering various subject areas, the State Constitution and Statutes. See also
  • Statute
  • Bill (proposed law)
  • California State Legislature
External links
  • http://www.leginfo.ca.
. This class action lawsuit class action lawsuit

A lawsuit in which one party or a limited number of parties sue on behalf of a larger group to which the parties belong. For example, investors may bring a class action lawsuit against a brokerage firm that has actively promoted a tax
 of about 200 class members in California included an injunction against FedEx to halt the practice and awarded $5.3 million to plaintiffs. Note: $12.3 million awarded for attorney fees.

The consequences of this lawsuit, a dispute resolved via litigation, not arbitration will be tremendous. The details of the dispute have spawned more litigation in other jurisdictions; there are more than 32 suits from 25 states which may or may not be consolidated asking for wage and hour compensation and reimbursement for fuel, oil, tires, repairs and liability insurance; these lawsuits also challenge the practice of firing employees and then re-hiring these workers as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes, benefits, insurance and other employee related expenses and entitlements.

The ripple effects of this lawsuit are enormous. The consequences of using a strategy to circumvent financial costs associated with hiring, training and retaining employees will include an industry wide examination of all carriers who classify drivers as independent contractors; then there will likely be an expansion to other industries who have utilized this independent contractor strategy. For the record, other jurisdictions, including Massachusetts and Indiana have followed the California Estrada v. FedEx court decision and challenged the classification of drivers as independent contractors.

However if the reason for the strategy in the first place was to save costs, then the outcome is essentially one of ironic proportions. The reason this cost-saving strategy has monumentally backfired is that the IRS has already reached back three years from the Estrada decision of 2005 in California and levied over $319 million in fines and penalties against FedEx for failure to pay withholding taxes to the drivers it intentionally misclassified, starting with the tax year 2002; of course, the IRS will utilize its power to assess back taxes for each subsequent year and employ its power to collect those taxes for the full ten year collection period for each assessment period.

Contracts and Designer Contracts

All business contracts one writes are potential allies, but all contracts written by the other party are potential enemies. The legal insight decision making model would emphasize that use of "Boilerplate A phrase or body of text used verbatim in different documents such as a signature at the end of a letter. Boilerplate is widely used in the legal profession as many paragraphs are used over and over in agreements with little modification or no modification. " contracts, those in which standard terms are inserted without regard to custom requirements of the parties typically benefit the author not the other party to the contract. Therefore, businesses which employ contracts to define relationships and terms and conditions should customize those contracts and use written contracts to clearly state policies that will protect the interest of the contract writers and notify others of specific practices, including arbitration, collection practices, liquidated damages and related custom issues.

Contracts should be used to define deadlines and to state consequences and expectations on the face of the contract; thus requirements for parol evidence Parol refers to verbal expressions or words. Verbal evidence, such as the testimony of a witness at trial.

In the context of contracts, deeds, wills, or other writings, parol evidence refers to extraneous evidence such as an oral agreement (a parol contract), or even a
 will be moot.

Embezzlement and Fraud

Query: What percentage of small businesses may be likely to experience an incidence of embezzlement during the lifetime of the business? Response: 100%

All embezzlers share the same characteristics: they are intelligent and trusted employees placed in a position of control with little or no oversight due to their very loyal personality.

Fraud is a complex and multifaceted illegal behavior; creative accounting, escrow fund abuses, tax evasion The process whereby a person, through commission of Fraud, unlawfully pays less tax than the law mandates.

Tax evasion is a criminal offense under federal and state statutes. A person who is convicted is subject to a prison sentence, a fine, or both.
, billing "errors", valuation and insurance frauds are examples; but the list is endless and both civil and criminal sanctions are available to remedy fraud. Criminal fraud is more likely to be prosecuted than ever before due in part to private attorney general statutes including those created by Sarbanes-Oxley, according to official court statistics (usdoj.gov; www.uscourts.gov; www.soxact.org).

The increase in fraud prosecutions is related to multiple factors including perceived public demand and support to prosecute, convict and punish. Some reasons fraud investigations and enforcement are favored by prosecutors include mandates of Federal sentencing to uniformly impose stiffer penalties; higher standards of personal liability and responsibility by owners, directors and firm fiduciaries; the fact that fraud defeats the corporate shield laws; and unfortunately, the fact that media darlings are created [prosecutors] and destroyed [defendants].

Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta Inc. decided January 2008 by a 5-3 majority provides a current example of extension of fraud liability. In this case, Chief Justice John Roberts first recused himself, but then sold his stock in an involved firm and rejoined the justices to fully participate in the deliberations. The USSC ruled that 3rd parties were not liable under the SEC for investor losses due to 2nd party fraud even if those 3rd parties actually knew of the fraud. The reasoning for this outcome is entirely based upon a strict reading of the SEC provision rule under question. In the question at hand, a class action suit, in which the class was seeking redress and damages under SEC rule 10(b) from 3rd party deep pockets, the class must prove that a legal cause of action exists under SEC rule 10(b) justifying vicarious liability The tort doctrine that imposes responsibility upon one person for the failure of another, with whom the person has a special relationship (such as Parent and Child,  for actions not recognized under the SEC 10(b) rule. To date, the 10(b) rule has not been so extended.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS

No business enterprise can exist successfully without a legal plan to direct, design and even deter the principals from dangerous practices. This is true whether in start up, growth or maturity phase. A comprehensive Legal Audit[C] is a useful tool and can significantly affect business

performance fault lines and how to predict where the quakes will occur using the Legal Audit [C] tool. Knowledge of the key USSC decisions extracting lessons from these decisions and applying this knowledge to gauge the effect upon business issues is essential in the legal insight decision making model.

Track notable decisions regularly. Usually August is prime season to identify hot topic cases and many Certiorari grants are determined over summer and finalized for October; the writs are based upon discord, dissent and politics and thus these elements will affect business practices. Key cases arise from forum differentials in high octane forums such as the 4th and 9th circuits and a modicum of uniformity is desired by USSC. Therefore discord among the circuits on the same or similar issues is a good predictor of certiorari.

Knowledge of the matters at issue relating to relating to relate prepconcernant

relating to relate prepbezüglich +gen, mit Bezug auf +acc 
 business should be an on-going obligation of good strategy and good planning. Managers and owners should react by adjusting business practices to comply with judicial outcomes and adjust current practices by using simple contractual language to define desired outcomes.

Whether the business is in start-up phase, growth phase or is fully developed, all businesses and owners should use a standardized approach to check the legal soundness of their company. A simple, but comprehensive Legal Issues Audit[C]" will be a cost effective and efficient method to identify problem areas and prepare for corrective action A corrective action is a change implemented to address a weakness identified in a management system. Normally corrective actions are instigated in response to a customer complaint, abnormal levels if internal nonconformity, nonconformities identified during an internal audit or .

Leading cases are potent red flags to signal that legal insight decision making strategy should be instituted and implemented to enhance business performance.

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www.bloomberg.com

www.ojp.usdoj.gov

www.apani.com

www.law.com

www.whitehouse.gov

www.legalzoom.com

www.uscourts.gov

http://www.patentlawlinks.com

http://www.wipo.int

http://www.uspto.gov

http://www.european-patent-office.org

Stephanie Huneycutt Bardwell, Christopher Newport University Christopher Newport University, locally abbreviated as CNU, is a small liberal arts university located in Newport News, Virginia. It was established in 1960 as a two-year school of the College of William and Mary.  
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Author:Bardwell, Stephanie Huneycutt
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Date:Jan 1, 2009
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