Securities Regulators Expand Oversight of ICO Market and Digital Currency

The Initial Coin Offering (“ICO”) market exploded in 2017 with almost $4 billion of investments. Securities regulators in the United States have responded first with a series of public warnings and, more recently, by bringing enforcement actions against promoters of ICOs and other digital currency investments. We survey some of the recent regulatory developments in this rapidly evolving field. Continue Reading

FTC Settles First Children’s Privacy Case Involving Connected Toys

On January 8, 2018, the FTC announced an agreement with electronic toy manufacturer, VTech Electronics Limited and its U.S. subsidiary, settling charges that VTech violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) by collecting personal information from hundreds of thousands of children without providing direct notice or obtaining their parent’s consent, and failing to take reasonable steps to secure the data it collected. Under the agreement, VTech will (1) pay a $650,000 civil penalty; (2) implement a comprehensive data security program, subject to independent audits for 20 years; and (3) comply with COPPA. This is the FTC’s first COPPA case involving connected toys and the Internet of Things.

Recall Roundup: December

A reflection on 2017 reveals several highlights showing that the CPSC is in a transition phase.

The CPSC’s composition has changed and will continue to do so. At the beginning of 2017, the agency was led by three Democrats and two Republicans. In October, Republican Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic resigned his seat to return to the private sector. Thus, the CPSC now has four commissioners: three Democrats and one Republican. But the Democrats’ grip on the agency will soon slip. Indeed, after the election of President Trump, Republican Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle became the CPSC chair. Further, President Trump has nominated a private-sector lawyer named Dana Baiocco to replace Commissioner Marietta Robinson, a Democrat whose term has expired. Further, an additional Republican nominee is expected to fill Mohorovic’s resignation. Thus, 2018 will likely see a Republican majority leading the CSPC for the first time in over a decade. Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Clears the Way for Surcharges on Credit Card Payments in California

On January 3, 2018, in Italian Colors Restaurant v. Becerra, the Ninth Circuit found unconstitutional a California law barring retailers from imposing surcharges on customers using credit cards. The ruling has important implications for retailers operating in California and potentially for retailers operating in several other states with similar bans on credit card surcharges. Continue Reading

Buckle Your Seatbelts: 2018 Will Be a Watershed Year in Business Immigration

If 2017 is any indication, the new year will bring a fresh cascade of changes – both announced and unannounced, anticipated and unanticipated – in the business immigration landscape. Few, if any, of these changes are expected to be good news for U.S. businesses and the foreign workers they employ.

In 2017, while much of the news media focused on the Trump Administration’s draconian changes to practices and policies that affected the undocumented – including ending the DACA Dreamer program, shutting down Temporary Protected Status for citizens of countries ravished by war and natural disaster, and aggressively enforcing at the southern border and in “sensitive” locations such as churches, courthouses and homeless shelters – relatively less attention has been paid to the steady, incremental erosion of rights and options for legal immigrants, particularly those who are sponsored for work by U.S. employers, under the Administration’s April 2017 “Buy American/Hire American” executive order. There is no doubt that such restrictions to the legal immigration system will continue to cause business uncertainty and disruption in 2018. Here’s what to expect. Continue Reading

Hunton Attorneys Discuss Insurance Coverage for Prop. 65 Claims and Key Takeaways from Recent Court Rulings

In a recent article published in Law360, Hunton & Williams LLP attorneys Walter Andrews, Malcolm Weiss and Paul Moura discuss two recent decisions in Tree Top Inc. v. Starr Indem. & Liab. Co., No. 1:15-CV-03155-SMJ, 2017 WL 5664718 (E.D. Wash. Nov. 21, 2017). There, the Eastern District of Washington rejected an insurer’s attempt to escape insurance coverage for a Proposition 65 lawsuit filed against juice-maker, Tree Top Inc.  Continue Reading

Environmental Activist Submits Shareholder Proposal on Climate Control

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) allowed Apple Inc. to exclude a shareholder proposal from its proxy statement that requested that Apple “produce a report assessing the climate benefits and feasibility of adopting store-wide requirements for having all retail locations implement a policy on keeping entrance doors closed when climate control (especially air-conditioning during warm months) is in use.”  Continue Reading

Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Department Stores Settle False Discount Claims

Ann Taylor and its parent company, Ann Inc., have entered into settlements amounting to approximately $6.1 million in two unrelated cases alleging false discounts. Ann Inc. settled allegations that it offered misleading “discounts” on clothes sold through its Ann Taylor Factory and LOFT stores. According to the complaint, the stores claimed to sell goods “marked down” from prices that never actually applied to the goods in question.

The Neiman Marcus Group LLC also has reportedly reached a settlement over similar claims; details of this settlement currently are not available to the public. Continue Reading

Company Ends Initial Coin Offering after SEC Finds Securities Violations

On December 11, 2017, the SEC issued a cease-and-desist order against Munchee Inc. after finding that the company’s initial coin offering (“ICO”) constituted unregistered offers and sales of securities. Munchee sought to raise $15 million for its blockchain-based food review and social platform by selling digital tokens to users that could be used to buy and sell goods and services through an iPhone app. Munchee and others promoting the ICO told investors that the tokens could be expected to increase in value as the company implemented improvements to the app and said that the company would work to support a secondary market for the tokens.  Continue Reading

Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Weight-Loss Drug Maker Settles Claims and Sheds $3.7 Million

Makers of BioTherapex and NeuroPlus agreed to refrain from engaging in numerous business practices, including making marketing claims that are not substantiated by scientific evidence. Specifically, they are banned from making any of the seven “gut check” weight-loss claims that the FTC has warned are always false for over-the-counter dietary supplements, like BioTherapex. Additionally, they are banned from making unsubstantiated or false claims about the benefits of NeuroPlus in protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia. Defendants are also ordered to pay $3.7 million, which will be suspended upon payment of $800,000. Continue Reading

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