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Greater Sage Grouse Habitat – Bureau of Land Management Will Reevaluate Land Withdrawals

At Issue? Impacts on 10 million acres of public lands

On May 11, 2021, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it will take another look at its greater sage grouse conservation plans and the agency’s process related to the possible withdrawal of up to 10 million acres of habitat from mineral location and entry.  See the BLM announcement here.

The agency’s long-delayed announcement comes after two federal court judges ordered the agency to re-think its plans: (1) a May 2020 federal Court’s decision in Montana vacating oil and gas lease sales on BLM lands in Wyoming and Montana [see opinion here], and (2) a February 2021 federal Court’s decision in Idaho that vacated the Trump administration’s decision to stop withdrawal of millions of acres of public lands for mineral development [see opinion here].  The focus of the courts’ opinions is BLM’s management plans that were designed to support sagebrush ecosystems on which sage grouse rely.

DOL Withdraws FLSA Independent Contactor Rule

On May 5, 2021, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) withdrew the regulations (i.e. the “Independent Contractor Rule”) that were intended to clarify the standard for determining whether a worker qualifies as an independent contractor for FLSA purposes. See DOL Press Release, US Department of Labor to Withdraw Independent Contractor Rule (May 5, 2021); see also Independent Contractor Status Under the Fair Labor Standards Act: Withdrawal, 86 FR 24303 (Published: May 6, 2021). The withdrawal of the Independent Contactor Rule is effective as of May 6, 2021.

The Anatomy of Lost Profits Claims in Franchise Cases

Originally Published in Franchise Law Journal

Claims seeking the recovery of lost profits are becoming increasingly more common in franchise litigation, particularly after franchise termination.  Because both the franchisor and the franchisee enter into the relationship with the expectation of profit, a termination frustrates both sides’ expectations and the economic rationale for entering the relationship in the first place.  Although historically franchisees were more likely to assert these claims in reaction to terminations, more recently franchisors have also pursued such claims when franchisees leave the relationship before the end of the contract term.  This article provides a brief history of the law governing claims for lost profits, outlines selected issues facing litigants under the current slaw, and concludes by offering some opinions about best practices for litigants relating to lost profits, particularly in the franchise context.

DOL Issues Cybersecurity Guidance

On April 14, 2021, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”) issued cybersecurity guidance for retirement plan fiduciaries and service providers, as well as plan participants.  In the guidance, the EBSA states that ERISA fiduciaries are required to take appropriate steps to mitigate internal and external cybersecurity threats to plan participants and retirement plan assets.   To assist fiduciaries  and service providers in fulfilling this obligation, the EBSA issued two documents that describe cybersecurity best practices – Cybersecurity Program Best Practices and Tips for Hiring a Service Provider.  The EBSA also issued some basic rules – Online Security Tips – to help participants reduce the risk of fraud and loss to their retirement accounts.

The Eleventh Circuit Calls Into Question the use of Letter Vendors as Violative of the FDCPA

The Eleventh Circuit in Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc. issued an opinion yesterday that confronted an issue of first impression, namely, whether a debt collector can use a third party vendor to send collection letters without violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).  The facts were simple.  The defendant/debt collector used a third party letter vendor to send an initial “dunning” letter to the plaintiff/consumer.  In doing so, the defendant provided the vendor with the plaintiff’s name, his outstanding balance, the fact that his debt resulted from his son’s medical treatment, and his son’s name.  The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging that the defendant violated the FDCPA by disclosing his personal information to the third-party vendor.

Three Quick Steps to Help Prepare Your Business for Cyber Threats

Nearly Half of all Businesses hit by Cyber Attacks in 2020

43% of businesses in the United States and Europe were hit with a cyber attack in 2020, an increase of 5% from 2019 which was 38%, according to Hiscox’s Cyber Readiness Report. Businesses cannot ignore this threat and must face it head-on. All businesses should now have an operational and maturing cyber risk management program in place that is led by their trusted cyber legal counsel.

Wyoming Legislature Authorizes Suits Against Colorado and Other States

The Prospective Claims: States “Impermissibly” Impede the Export of Wyoming Coal and Force Closure of Coal-Fired Power Plants

Colorado (as only one example of many states) is working to reduce its reliance on coal and other fossil fuels for its electricity and transportation needs.  Colorado plans to transition to 100 percent clean electricity generation by 2040 and rapidly expand the electrification of vehicles.

Products Containing PFAS may Soon Require California Proposition 65 Warnings

Manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, and other entities in supply chains for consumer products sold in California might soon need to provide warnings regarding certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their products.  California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) recently announced its intent to further regulate and study certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65.  Proposition 65 prohibits companies from knowingly exposing California consumers to chemicals “known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity” (i.e., “listed chemicals”) in consumer products without first providing a “clear and reasonable warning.”  (Although not the focus of this article, Proposition 65 also addresses occupational and environmental exposure to listed chemicals.)

New Kansas City, Missouri Affordable Housing Ordinance Goes Into Effect

Developers Need to Consider New Affordable Housing Requirements Materially Impacting Project Feasibility

As demand for affordable housing continues to grow throughout the country, municipalities are increasingly faced with decisions of how best to structure and incentivize affordable housing development.  Recently, Kansas City, Missouri passed Ordinance No. 201038 (“Ordinance”) on January 28, 2021 which sets forth requirements for residential development projects seeking incentives to require affordable housing components. It took effect on April 8, 2021.  The Ordinance provides in part that projects “seeking economic incentives in the nature of the capture and redirection, abatement or exemption of taxes or other City financing contain an minimum number of affordable housing units” to qualify for those incentives.  Only projects that have not submitted an application by April 8, 2021 (the “Effective Date”) seeking incentives (as defined below) will be impacted, although projects that have applied earlier will be subject to the Ordinance if the project takes longer than three years from the Effective Date to receive final approval.

The Third Circuit Explains That the ‘Least Sophisticated Consumer’ is Presumed to Have a Willingness to Read Collection Letters With Care

In the recent Third Circuit opinion rendered in Moyer v. Patenaude & Felix, A.P.C., the plaintiff brought a putative class action alleging that Patenaude & Felix violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) by sending her a single collection letter. The letter advised the plaintiff that her debt had been assigned to the firm and stated: “If you wish to eliminate further collection action, please contact us at 800-832-7675 ext. 8500.”  The letter then went on to advise the plaintiff of her validation rights under §1692g.  Resolution of the alleged class action claims required the Third Circuit to decide whether the inclusion of the single sentence inviting a call would confuse the least sophisticated consumer.

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