The Department of Justice recently announced indictments of Teresa and Joe Giudice of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” on charges of fraud connected with loan and bankruptcy applications as well as an alleged failure to file tax returns.
According to Business Insider, the DOJ alleges that the reality television stars conspired “to defraud lenders and illegally obtain mortgages and other loans by allegedly hiding assets and income during a bankruptcy case.” The charges in the indictment include bankruptcy fraud, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and making false statements on loan applications. The couple faces a combined maximum prison term of 55 years as well as a $1.5 million fine.
The 39-count indictment states that “The Giudices falsely represented on loan applications and supporting documents that they were employed and/or receiving substantial salaries when, in fact, they were either not employed or not receiving such salaries.”
One of the more egregious allegations is that Teresa Giudice “submitted fake W-2 Forms and fake paystubs purportedly issued by her employer” in support of a false assertion on a loan application that she was working as an executive assistant.
Joe Giudice is also accused of failing to file tax returns between 2004 and 2008, during which the authorities have estimated he made nearly $1 million. The maximum penalty for failure to file a tax return is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for each year alleged.
In a comment regarding the case, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman seemed to acknowledge the couple’s television connection: “Everyone has an obligation to tell the truth when dealing with the courts, paying their taxes and applying for loans or mortgages. That’s reality.”
Fun fact: “Giudice” (pronounced JOO-dee-cheh) means judge in Italian.
What do you think of these charges?
Roman Blum was a Holocaust survivor and real estate developer who passed away in 2012 with an estate worth nearly $40 million — but he died without a will. Moreover, since his death, no surviving heirs have been located, which means that his entire estate could end up going to the state of New York, where he was a resident.
When a person dies without a will, he or she is what is called “intestate.” At that point, state intestacy laws take over to determine the fate of the estate. Although the specifics vary by jurisdiction, each state provides the order in which surviving relatives would inherit the estate of someone who has died intestate. If there are no surviving relatives who qualify, the estate is transferred to the state itself under a legal concept called “escheat.”
In New York, if no one comes forward within three years of an intestate person’s death to claim his or her rightful share, the estate is turned over to the state — and that is precisely the position Blum’s estate is in right now, firmly within that three-year period.
Now that Blum is gone, because he had apparently made no provisions for his estate while he was alive, he has no say in how his multi-millions of dollar are distributed. As noted by this thorough article at Forbes, Blum’s situation shows just how important it is to undertake estate planning activities before one’s death, unless, of course, one truly wishes that his or her entire estate reverts to the state upon death.
Apparently Blum’s longtime friend and accountant had urged him to sign the documents necessary to direct the distribution of his estate, but Blum just didn’t get around to it. He was 97 years old when he died in January 2012.
Treemo, maker of the Flowboard app, has asked a court to declare that it has not infringed on the trademark of Flipboard’s name or logo.
Brent Brookler, founder and CEO of Treemo, maintains that Flipboard has “continued to threaten” his company since the release of the Flowboard app in April and would just like the dispute settled once and for all. Flipboard believes that the name carries a “likelihood of confusion” with its own.
Brookler, on the other hand, argues that the apps’ functions are so different that there is no chance of confusion among consumers. Flipboard gives users a way to create a custom collection of aggregated content for easy reference while Flowboard allows users to create content themselves in what it calls an “interactive storytelling app.”
“Essentially what we’re doing is bringing it to court quicker, because we don’t want to have this looming over us. We think we’re in the right,” said Brookler, according to the Cult of Mac.
Treemo also maintains that the company’s own trademark was approved by the USPTO in April of this year without opposition and that the apps are found in two different categories in the App Store itself: “[o]urs is in the productivity section . . . theirs is a news app. It’s in the news section.”
The Cult of Mac also notes that Treemo is a company backed by $600,000 in funding while Flipboard has raised a bit more than that at $60.5 million.
The lawsuit asks for a “declaratory judgment of non-infringement of trademark rights” from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle.
Do you think Flowboard is infringing on Flipboard’s trademark?
The estate of former Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, who died in 2009, is challenging the IRS’ assertion that it owes the government at least $2 billion in estate taxes.
The estate has filed a petition in U.S. Tax Court in Washington D.C. claiming that the estate owes no more than it has already paid.
In 2008, Forbes labeled Davidson, with a net worth of $5.5 billion, the 62nd-richest man in the United States.
As discussed more fully by the Detroit Free Press, some of the issues in the case include the worth of certain assets and “swaps made to trusts for Davidson’s children or grandchildren.” Before his death, Davidson set up trusts in the names of his wife, children, and grandchildren.
Many disputed transfers involve what the IRS classifies as gifts, but which Davidson’s estate maintains were not.
While the estate tax, or death tax as some call it, tends to make the news, in reality it affects a relatively small number of estates; it doesn’t kick in until an estate reaches a value of more than $5.25 million, according to James Hines Jr., University of Michigan law professor.
Experts quoted in the Detroit Free Press article believe that this case could even make it to litigation because of the extremely high dollar amounts involved; in any event, it certainly represents one of the largest disparities between what an estate believes and what the IRS believe is owed in taxes in the history of American estate taxes.
USA Today recently reported on a poll by The American Sustainable Business Council that found a majority of small business owners are on board with addressing climate issues.
Respondents were also asked about their political leanings, and not surprisingly, the breakdown was 36% Republican, 33% independent, and 19% Democrats. However, what may be surprising to some is the strong support expressed for addressing climate change across political lines.
The poll showed the following:
- 62% (including 58% of Republican respondents and 67% of independents) support stopping subsidies for oil, gas, and coal that make the fossil fuels appear more economical than they are;
- 58% of Republican small biz owners and 81% of independents are in favor of gaining a competitive edge in clean energy technologies;
- 76%+ of Republican business owners support increasing energy efficiency by 50% over the next ten years.
The poll was based on a random sample of small business owners (businesses with 2-99 employees) and has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.
For more details on the poll, especially a discussion of the more specific climate policies that were addressed, please see the full article at Small Business Owners Back Climate Action.
What do you think about the results of this survey?
We don’t often discuss celebrity divorces around here, but the legal issues involved in the split of Skinnygirl Cocktails founder Bethenny Frankel and her estranged husband Jason Hoppy are forcing our typing hands. From custody, child support, alimony, and living arrangements to prenuptial agreements, this is one divorce that, for better or worse, truly seems to have it all.
Frankel announced her separation from Hoppy in December 2012 after two years of marriage, and filed for divorce soon thereafter; Hoppy’s response to the petition essentially asked the court for all the things Frankel had requested in her filing.
Those two actions together set up a kind of battle royale in divorce court, and what follows are some of the main sticking points despite the fact that there have been recent reports that the two have since agreed to divorce based on the “irretrievable breakdown” of their marriage.
Custody/Child Support//Child Care
The couple have a daughter, Bryn, now three years old; her custody and care is one of the major issues remaining in this divorce. Both sides would like primary custody of Bryn as well as child support and for the other party to pay for medical, dental, and life insurance policies.
Recently, it was reported that Hoppy is open to considering joint custody. Parents with joint custody share decision-making regarding the child as well as split physical time spent with the child.
On more everyday matters, the couple has argued over whether Frankel should have the option of having their daughter appear on her upcoming talk show; Hoppy doesn’t want Bryn in the audience or in pre-taped segments while Frankel would like permission for her daughter to appear. The couple even reportedly had a heated discussion in front of the presiding judge over Bryn’s consumption of junk food while with Hoppy, which reportedly led to them being scolded by the court for their behavior.
Each side has apparently requested spousal support from the other, which is another issue that has yet to be resolved in a settlement agreement.
Both parties are seeking to stay in the marital home, a lavish, $5 million, recently refurbished apartment in Tribeca, New York City; in fact, since both Frankel and Hoppy have a valid claim to the place while still married, the two have continued to cohabitate throughout divorce proceedings.
Frankel has called this living situation “very stressful,” which could quite possibly qualify as the Understatement of the Year judging from the antagonism involved in this break-up.
The pair signed a prenuptial agreement in 2010 that sources have said is “iron clad” in that Frankel’s business deals and endorsements are hers and hers only; the agreement was allegedly modified after Frankel sold her Skinnygirl brand to Jim Beam in 2011 for a reported $120 million, but details of the prenup haven’t been made public.
Hopefully for the sake of all parties involved, especially Bryn, the pair can get all these issues hammered out and the divorce on the books before even more bad blood spills between them.
We all know and love the “Happy Birthday to You” refrain, but did you know it’s still under copyright?
Well, according to a Reuters article, a recent lawsuit filed in federal court would like to change that.
Good Morning to You Productions Corp, the named plaintiff in a proposed class action lawsuit in federal court, claims that Warner/Chappel Music Inc. has “wrongfully and unlawfully” claimed to own the “Happy Birthday” song copyright and in the process collected “millions of dollars of unlawful licensing fees” that should be returned. The lawsuit estimates that the company gets about $2 million a year in such fees.
A copyright holder can require those who would like to use protected material to pay a licensing fee in order to do so. Good Morning to You is producing a documentary about the popular ditty and has paid a $1,500 licensing fee for the song’s use in order to avoid a potential $150,000 penalty.
The copyright of the melody of the song can be traced back to 1893, when it was published as “Good Morning to All” as written by Patty and Mildred Hill. The public began singing the lyrics we know as “Happy Birthday to You” thereafter — and that “public” progression is what the plaintiff in the current lawsuit says should firmly place the song in the public domain.
In addition to the return of millions of dollars already collected in licensing fees, the plaintiff is also asking that the court declare the song to be in the public domain, which would mean that anyone would be free to use the song without gaining permission or paying licensing fees.
Warner/Chappell has not yet commented publicly on the lawsuit.
Do you agree that the Happy Birthday song should be in the public domain?
Many people who have posted their photos online can empathize with photographer Jason Wilder, and now they have him to thank for being able to better combat copyright infringement.
Wilder, tired of seeing his work lifted and used elsewhere without his consent, has created the Copyright Infringement Finder (CIF) add-on for Firefox. Working in concert with Google’s image search, CIF allows users to right-click on an image and search online for other locations where the same image is posted.
Copyright owners can quickly see where their work has landed, and if they have not granted a license or other permission to use an image, they can move forward with rectifying the situation.
One option available in such instances is to simply contact the infringer personally to determine whether the problem can be handled quickly and easily, since as Wilder notes, some copyright infringement that occurs on the Internet isn’t malicious at all but rather stems from a misunderstanding of copyright law.
“A lot of people are misled and go by, ‘If it’s on the Internet, it’s fair game to use for whatever,’ and sadly it will be like that for a long time.”
But sometimes more action is necessary, namely in the form of a DMCA takedown request. Wilder believes that his add-on — and more action by photographers in particular — can help solve the rampant copyright infringement that occurs online.
“[T]he more photographers go after copyright theft and seek for damages,” said Wilder, “the more people and corporations get educated from the mistakes they made when they have to pay out thousands, instead of say, paying a $50 fee for a one-time use.”
Have you been the victim of copyright infringement on your work? How did you handle it? Have you used Wilder’s CIF tool, or will you?
Yes, you read that headline correctly.
In York, Nebraska, Tyler Gold has applied for and received permission to legally change his name to Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Tyrannosaurus Rex “was one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs that ever lived” according to National Geographic. It’s also one of the most well-known in popular culture, having made a splash on the big screen in the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park.
Gold requested to change his name for business purposes, “because the (T-Rex designation) is cooler. Also, as an entrepreneur, name recognition is important and the new name is more recognizable.”
State laws vary regarding legal name changes, but generally they must be approved by a court. In this instance, the presiding judge asked Gold whether he was changing his name to avoid creditors or legal proceedings. Gold answered in the negative and also assured the court that he had complied with the requisite notice procedures, and so the judge granted the request.
As of now, there is no word on whether his friends will call him T-Rex for short.
What do you think of this name change? Do you think it will help the business pursuits of Tyrannosaurus Rex?
If you’re interested in learning more about legal name changes, check out LegalZoom’s name change resources.
A newly released survey by Deluxe Corp. has revealed that small business owners share several characteristics that help them succeed.
The study asked over 1,000 American small business owners questions about their attitudes, experiences, and beliefs about running a small business and found that 86% believe they can achieve whatever they dedicate themselves to doing and 77% prefer failure over never trying at all.
“These findings reveal how small business owners are wired and what attracts them to a less-predictable career path,” said Tim Carroll, Deluxe VP of small business engagement. “‘Mapping the DNA’ of SMB owners allows Deluxe to design products and services that fit their lifestyle and enable SMBs to spend time on the parts of the business they are passionate about, and less time on the parts they aren’t, like marketing.”
Moreover, the survey found that 76% of small biz owners have a family member who also has owned a small business, lending credence to Carroll’s concept of the SMB owners sharing DNA that is unique to individuals primed to succeed as entrepreneurs.
The survey also showed that small biz owners have more ability to influence others’ opinions than those in the general population and also research products more thoroughly before purchase.
For more information on the results of the survey, check out Deluxe Reveals Unique “DNA” of America’s Small Business Owners.
What do you think of the survey results?