Values. Principles.

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Values. Principles.

Values. Principles.

Values. Principles.

“Principle doesn’t go away all at once, it’s a creeping erosion,” what a great line that I heard on last week’s episode of Billions. It describes how our values and principles have eroded over time. Too many of us are too willing to do anything in the name of getting what we want. Often we engage in compromised behaviors in order to justify the end result. But like it or not, after a while it takes its toll.
How many people do you know who seem to live by the creed “the ends justify the means?” Maybe you even practice this philosophy without really even knowing it or understanding it. Many seemingly good folks make excuses to justify their actions even though they know deep down that they are wrong. People are great at rationalizing bad and dishonest behavior.

Living Our Principles.

Here are some of the excuses/rationalizations you hear or maybe use:

• Everyone else does it.
• Nobody will ever know about it.
• I did it for my family.
• This is the only way I can get what I really deserve.
• I don’t have the time or resources to do it the right way.
• This is the only way to get ahead.

Of course, there are countless other excuses to not live up to your stated principles, to not walk like you talk.

It’s easy for people to justify taking “shortcuts” instead of doing the right thing because this behavior is all around us. We see it on the news every day, people in leadership positions, whether in the corporate world, entertainment industry, or politics, who abuse their power for their own personal gain. So what’s the big deal if I do the same thing?

Most of the time people begin by compromising their values on seemingly small things that “don’t hurt anybody.” However, these unprincipled actions soon become a habit and grow more and more egregious, eventually consuming you.

Trust me when I tell you that in one way or another, at some point in time, abandoning your principles catches up with you. If you are doing something illegal, chances are you will eventually get caught. If you constantly gossip about your friends, family and coworkers, it’s only a matter of time until it comes back on you. If you constantly lie to get your way and get ahead, your lies will eventually catch up to you. And even if you do “get away with it,” what price do you pay with your physically, emotionally and spiritually?

C.S. Lewis, the renowned academic, novelist and poet once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” I know it’s very easy to abandon your principles for expediency in today’s world. But I also know that being true to your principles, especially when you are tempted to stray away from them, is what ultimately leads to true happiness, satisfaction and success.

Feel free to join my conversation on Facebook, Facebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts page, Twitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.

Contracts. Agreements.

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UNDERSTAND Those Agreements BEFORE Signing.

Agreements. Contracts.

Agreements. Contracts.

I can’t tell you how many times I have warned people about signing a contract without complete understanding of the terms. Unfortunately, people still make the same mistakes over and over by signing contracts that are not in their best interest. Often these mistakes can cost a person everything they worked for.

Here is just another unfortunate case that proves my point.

The Camellia Grill, a landmark New Orleans restaurant, popular with both locals and tourists for nearly 70 years was severely damaged by hurricane Katrina and remained closed for over a year, when owner Michael Shwartz decided to sell it in 2006. The sale was finalized with 3 separate contracts, one of which was the “bill of sale.”

READ Those Agreements BEFORE Signing.

The new owner, Hicham Khodr, also signed a contract for a licensing agreement regarding the use of the iconic Camellia Grill trademarks and logos. The contract agreed on a payment of $1 million, as well as ongoing royalties. This contract was contested, and eventually declared null and void by a Louisiana court. This ruling then led to a slew of other lawsuits between the two parties.

With the licensing and royalties contract terminated, the seller filed a lawsuit against the new owner claiming trademark infringement, since the restaurant continued using the original name, signage and logos. The new ownership contended that the use of the logos and trademarks was covered in the “bill of sale” contract.

When the smoke from the lawsuits finally cleared in July of 2015, the court ruled that the new ownership had complete rights to the name, trademarked logos and all materials specified in the bill of sale. The contract specified transfer of all “tangible personal property located within or upon” the Camellia Grill.

Michael Schwartz argued that intellectual property was not part of the “tangible personal property.” However, Judge Jane Triche Milazzo ruled that the language in the bill of sale was “clear and unambiguous.”

Obviously, Michael Schwartz and his attorneys did not cover all the bases in regards to the specific language of the bill of sale contract. They assumed that the licensing contract covered the trademarks, but when that contract was voided by the court, the bill of sale became the primary documentation of the terms.

When you sign a contract on the dotted line, you had better be absolutely sure that the terms are exactly as you want them, with all avenues and possibilities considered, especially when dealing with multiple contracts for the same deal.

Please don’t enter into a contract that can affect your livelihood and future without seeking the counsel of an experienced attorney who specializes in the field. Not all lawyers are created equal. Your real estate lawyer is ill-equipped to counsel you on intellectual property law issues, and truly not your criminal lawyer. One oversight on the contract can lead to devastating consequences.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.

http://www.nola.com/dining/index.ssf/2013/05/court_rules_camellia_grill_mus.html

 

Federal Trade Commission. Commerce Planet. OnlineSupplier.

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Federal Trade Commission Act

Commerce Planet. FTC.

Commerce Planet. FTC.

Last week the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a California federal court decision that imposed an $18.2 million award for restitution against Charles Gugliuzza, the former president of Commerce Planet, Inc. for violating section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Commerce Planet first landed in hot water when the FTC filed suit against the company for deceptive marketing practices. The issue involved one of the company’s products, OnlineSupplier, marketed as a hosting platform where people had the opportunity to earn income by buying and selling products over the Internet. However, consumers never saw the OnlineSupplier brand on the Commerce Planet website. Instead, they saw an ad for a “free kit” to help you make money buying and selling wares on eBay.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky and where Commerce Planet ran afoul of the law.

This “free starter kit” required customer to supply a shipping address and credit card number to cover the shipping costs. While many who ordered this product assumed it was “free” as stated in the ad, the fine print informed people that it was free for only a trial period of 14 days. Then it was up to the customer to take the necessary time and steps to cancel the service if they did not wish to go forward. If not cancelled, the process of billing customer credit cards on a monthly basis began.

This sleazy tactic, referred to as a “negative option,” means that the seller of a product or service interprets the lack of “affirmative action” taken by customers to reject or cancel an offer as an explicit agreement to be charged for goods or services offered.

The Court ruled that Commerce Planet did not take adequate steps to disclose the negative option and was thus in violation of federal law. (§ 5(a) of the FTC Act) Furthermore, the court held then president, Charles Gugliuzza accountable and personally liable for the conduct of Commerce Planet.

This is not, by far, the first time companies have been sued by the FTC for their negative option practices. Unfortunately, this practice remains in effect with unethical companies who feel the risk of the FTC coming down on them is worth the reward they receive out of making millions of dollars. Hopefully this latest ruling where the corporate leadership was held personally accountable may help to finally put a stop to this.

What are a few takeaways for anyone employing continuity agreements or negative option agreements?

1. Read the fine print before agreeing to the terms of use.
2. Know what you are signing up for.
3. Drill into your brain that nothing is truly free.

Please remember that knowledge and vigilance is power when it comes to safeguarding your money and finances and avoiding scams.

Until next time, I’m attorney Francine ward helping you stay out of trouble.

This election cycle is revealing some sad truths.

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Presidential Debate. Trump. Rosie O’Donnell. Megan Kelly.

Election. Vote.

Election. Vote.

I am not as surprised, as many folks seem to be, by Trump’s behavior. This is who he has always been, and he has never hidden his beliefs or his crudeness. He hasn’t gotten to be a billionaire by playing nice.  Ask folks in NY. Umm… I’m curious if he will win in NY. But what does surprise me is that so many women support a man who has openly denigrated women. His wife does not seem to mind and neither does his daughter. And to the folks who got mad after seeing the TV commercial with his offensive Twitter quotes, I ask, where were you when he first made those vile statements about women? Where were you when he made disgusting comments about Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell on live TV during the first debate?

Blinded by the Bling?

Next, I GET that rich folks like Trump. I understand the attraction. He is rich and his goal is to help rich folks get richer. But what surprises me is that so many poor folks and hardworking blue collar folks find Trump appealing. HE is the reason many hard working Americans don’t have jobs, because he outsources them overseas. When asked about it, he shifts the blame to someone else e.g., President Obama, as he always seems to do. Interesting, because he’s been outsourcing for years, what was his excuse before President Obama came into office?  Today, he continues to outsource jobs overseas. Do people not know that? Are they blinded by the brashness – by the bling?

Black Republicans. Gay Republicans.

Finally, what really surprises me is that there are so many blacks and gays who are proclaimed republicans.  A party that openly (except during election time) dislikes minorities and hates gays.  I guess it is just hard to overcome self-hatred.

What are your thoughts?

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.

 

Attorneys and Substance Abuse.

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Substance Abuse.

Substance Abuse.

Earlier this month the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation released the findings of the first-ever national study on mental health issues and substance abuse relating to our nation’s attorneys. The results of the study are not good news for the legal profession.

The study, which consisted of roughly 15,000 attorneys from 19 states, concluded that 21 percent of licensed, working attorneys qualify under the definition of “problem drinkers.” Furthermore, 28 percent deal with some level of depression, while 19 percent show display symptoms related to anxiety.

As a member of the legal profession, I can attest to the pressures the work can create. Completing law school and passing the Bar Exam can be extremely demanding and stressful, in and of itself. Because attorneys are people too, they are just as vulnerable to the daily pressures of life, thus vulnerable to the same addictions everyone else is susceptible to.

I battled addiction before I decided to pursue a career in law, so I was fortunate enough to already have awareness and the coping skills to deal with it when I finally became an attorney. Unfortunately, people can succumb to this illness at different stages of their life and careers.

Patrick R. Krill, an attorney who led the study, said the data “paints the picture of an unsustainable professional culture that’s harming too many people.”

The study also compared the rate of alcohol abuse among lawyers compared to other professionals and found the rate of abuse far greater in the legal profession. A statement from the American Bar Association tried to explain this phenomenon as follows: “Because many lawyers and judges are overachievers who carry an enormous workload, the tendency to ‘escape’ from daily problems through the use of drugs and alcohol is prevalent in the legal community.”

There is no doubt that pressure to perform can create tremendous anxiety. Young associate attorneys with little life experience and a desire to prove themselves are often putting in 60-plus-hour workweeks. That’s not to say that more mature experienced attorneys and firm partners aren’t exposed to the same pressures to succeed. Addiction doesn’t discriminate by age, race or class.

As is the case with many people, lawyers are often hesitant to seek out professional health because they fear the stigma of being associated with addiction, which some fear can affect their careers. Others simply don’t believe that they have a problem, again, lawyers are people too.

The website, asoberlawyer.com, run by an ‘anonymous’ recovering alcoholic attorney has some suggestions on combating this problem.

  • He believes it is important for lawyers to get rid of the stigma behind seeking help for addiction and mental health problems. “This goes for not only addiction, but stress reduction, depression and anxiety. It should be part of how we lawyers stay healthy.”
  • Encouraging attorneys in recovery to speak to lawyers. “There are many out there who are not anonymous and are more than happy to speak to firms. Brian Cuban (the brother of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban) is a good example.”
  • Law firms should employ in-house therapists/counselors. “Don’t refer people to employee assistance or outside help. Make associates meet with the counselor on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, regardless of whether they have any issues.”

Yes, addiction to drugs and alcohol is a nationwide problem, and attorneys are not immune to it. Neither are doctors and airline pilots. We need to address this problem, both as a society and as individuals. We need to find a balance between our professional lives and personal lives. What good are success and careers without a healthy bodies and minds?

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.