A Unique Situation for a Unique Asset

The Westside Pavilion – the 755,000 square foot, 1970s fortress-style mall located in West Los Angeles – has been put up for sale by its owner, Santa Monica-based REIT Macerich Co. Tom O’Hern, Macerich’s CFO, predicted that the property would likely sell within a year. And although the Westside Pavilion is facing many of the same systemic pressures that other malls are facing nationwide, those are not the only reasons the mall is up for sale. Continue Reading

Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

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

FTC Seeks Public Comment on Sears’ Petition to Modify Prior Order

Sears Holding Management Corporation has requested that the FTC reopen and modify a 2009 Commission Order settling charges that Sears inadequately disclosed the scope of consumer data collected through the company’s software application. The initial FTC complaint alleged that Sears represented to consumers that its downloadable software application would track users’ “online browsing,” but in fact tracked nearly all of the users’ Internet behavior. Sears petitioned the FTC to modify the Order’s definition of “tracking system,” which the company contends is overbroad and impracticable. The FTC is seeking public comment on Sears’ petition, which it will receive until December 8, 2017. Continue Reading

SEC Staff Issues New Guidance on Shareholder Proposals

On November 1, 2017, the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14I, which provides additional guidance for public companies (including retailers) seeking to exclude certain shareholder proposals from their proxy materials. Under this bulletin, the SEC staff now expects boards of directors to analyze shareholder proposals before companies make no-action requests to exclude such proposals from proxy materials under Rule 14a-8(i)(7) (the ordinary business exception) or Rule 14a-8(i)(5) (the economic relevance exception). Those no-action requests should include a discussion reflecting the board’s analysis and the specific processes it employed to reach a well-informed and well-reasoned conclusion. Additionally, new documentation is required of proponents for submissions of shareholder proposals by proxy, and the staff has provided further guidance on the use of images and graphs by proponents in shareholder proposals. Publicly held retailers regularly receive shareholder proposals involving each of these four issues, and the new bulletin suggests that companies may be more successful in excluding related proposals going forward if they comply with new requirements laid out in the bulletin.

Read our full alert.

Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

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

Hilton Reaches $700,000 Settlement with New York and Vermont Over Data Breaches

The Attorney Generals of New York and Vermont announced a $700,000 settlement with Hilton Domestic Operating Company, Inc., formerly Hilton Worldwide, Inc. (“Hilton”), over two data breaches in 2014 and 2015.

Hilton was notified in February 2015 that it had likely suffered a data breach in December of 2014. In July of 2015, Hilton was notified of a second data breach from the prior three months. Hilton did not provide notice of either data breach until November 24, 2015. New York law requires that businesses provide notice in the “most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay.” Vermont requires that businesses provide notice of data breaches to the Vermont Attorney General within 14 days of discovery, and within 45 days of discovery to consumers.

Under the terms of the settlements, Hilton has agreed to pay New York $400,000 and Vermont $300,000 and to comply with certain behavior remedies related to their notification and security procedures. Continue Reading

Recall Roundup: October

October ushered in a case that might, on one hand, provoke a sigh of relief for manufacturers, distributors and retailers concerned about the upward trend in multimillion dollar civil penalties from the CPSC or, on the other hand, raise some eyebrows of concern about the extent of a court’s authority to prospectively impose auditing, compliance and training measures. See United States v. Spectrum Brands, Inc., No. 15-CV-371-WMC, 2017 WL 4339677 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 29, 2017). Continue Reading

Recent Amendments to EPA’s Formaldehyde Emissions Final Rule Affect Furniture Industry

In a move affecting manufacturers, distributors and retailers in the furniture and other wood-based industries, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently issued a series of amendments to its Final Rule implementing the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (the “Formaldehyde Final Rule”), which added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). The Formaldehyde Final Rule, 40 CFR Part 770, sets formaldehyde emissions standards for composite wood products and includes requirements for the testing, third-party certification, import certification and labeling of covered products by manufacturers of those products. The Final Rule also imposes requirements on downstream fabricators, distributors and retailers to keep records for at least three years demonstrating that covered products they use, distribute and/or sell are TSCA Title VI-compliant. Continue Reading

Are Your Drone Operations Covered by Insurance?

Earlier this month, Canada’s transport minister announced that a drone had collided with a commercial aircraft, the first confirmed collision of its kind in North America. Thankfully, the aircraft sustained only minor damage and was able to land safely. But this recent incident, which many commentators believed was inevitable given the proliferation of consumer and commercial drones, highlights the potential risks associated with drone operations. Continue Reading

Seventh Circuit Rejects Extended Leave as Reasonable Accommodation Under ADA

Employers in the retail sector are constantly faced with the balancing act of relying on their workforce to operate a profitable business while also managing employees who are unable to work at full capacity due to an illness or disability. The patchwork of laws and regulations requiring employers to provide leave or accommodation can overlap with one another, creating uncertainty as to when employers can terminate sick or disabled employees. For example, it is a common scenario for an employee to exhaust his/her 12-week medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and then request additional leave as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).    Continue Reading

Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

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

District Court Sides with FTC Over Weight-Loss Supplement Marketers

A federal district judge in Atlanta issued an order last week finding several supplement marketers in contempt for violating previous court orders and continuing to market weight-loss dietary supplements. The contempt order, which imposes a judgment in excess of $40 million, provides that the FTC may use the money to refund product purchasers. The defendants, including one FTC repeat offender, deceptively marketed their supplements as fat-burning and appetite-curbing, and promised rapid and extreme weight loss. Continue Reading

FTC Issues Policy Statement on COPPA and Voice Recordings

On October 23, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission issued a policy enforcement statement providing additional guidance on the applicability of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA Rule”) to the collection of children’s audio voice recordings. The FTC previously updated the COPPA Rule in 2013, adding voice recordings to the definition of personal information, which led to questions about how the COPPA Rule would be enforced against organizations who collect a child’s voice recording for the sole purpose of issuing a command or request. Continue Reading

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