On August 31, 2017, a federal district court judge in Texas struck down the Department of Labor’s (“DOL’s”) Obama-era controversial 2016 rule that raised the minimum salary threshold required to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white collar” exemption. Under the proposed regulations, the minimum salary threshold was raised to just over $47,000 per year, and increased the overtime eligibility threshold for highly compensated workers from $100,000 to about $134,000. Ruling in favor of the Plano Chamber of Commerce and various business groups on their motion for summary judgment, Judge Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, held that the DOL had “exceeded its authority and gone too far” with the rule. Noting that the new rule “more than double[d]” the previous salary threshold – from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 per week ($47,476 annually) – the court determined that the rule improperly made “salary rather than an employee’s duties determinative of whether a ‘bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity’ employee should be exempt from overtime pay.”
Retailers are increasingly relying on drones to further automate delivery systems and inventory management, among many other uses. The Federal Aviation Administration recently predicted that nearly 4 million drones will be operating in the U.S. by the year 2021.
Hunton & Williams Insurance Coverage attorneys Syed Ahmad and Geoffrey Fehling, with co-author Robert Hopson of Lockton Companies, recently published an article in Unmanned Aerial Online providing an overview of available insurance coverage for commercial drones and several coverage issues to consider when buying insurance for drone operations.
In March of this year, consumer electronics and home appliance retailer Gregg Appliances, Inc., better known as H.H. Gregg, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Indianapolis, Indiana. H.H. Gregg, which took over many of the retail spaces previously occupied by Circuit City, is one of many big-box retailers that have sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy over the past several years. Like Circuit City, H.H. Gregg was unsuccessful in reorganizing in bankruptcy and is now seeking to recover payments made to vendors and other creditors within 90 days prior to the bankruptcy filing. Continue Reading
On August 21, 2017, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that Simon Property Group settled claims that it used anticompetitive tactics to prevent development of competing outlet centers close to Woodbury Common center in New York. Leases with retailers at Woodbury Common included a clause preventing the retailers from opening another location within a 60 mile radius of the outlet center – a radius that encompassed the entire New York City area. Continue Reading
August was a busy month in the world of recalls. First, the end of August ushered in a hefty $5.7 million civil penalty against a major retailer in the United States. The retailer was allegedly selling and distributing recalled products and has agreed, in addition to the civil penalty, to maintain a compliance program and a system of internal controls and procedures. The CPSC voted 4 to 1 to accept the settlement, with Acting Chairman Buerkle voting to accept a lower civil penalty. Continue Reading
It’s probably painfully obvious to companies in the retail industry and beyond that the old paradigm of the retail shopping center is being permanently altered by e-commerce, as well as changing consumer preferences. As the old-guard stalwarts of retail begin to shutter stores or fold completely, it is up to both landlords and existing anchor tenants to adapt to the changing landscape, or risk prolonged periods of high vacancy.
One of the areas which can hamper efforts to re-tenant spaces are the restrictive covenants contained in both declarations governing shopping centers and in anchor leases, put in place with the justification that such concepts are not retail-oriented or are parking intensive. As consumers move towards a more experience-based retail experience (i.e., restaurants, entertainment and fitness concepts), landlords may find their hands tied by such restrictive covenants when it comes to leasing vacant spaces. In light of this, landlord’s should be reviewing their restrictive covenants both in declarations and leases any time a lease is being amended, modified or renewed which may contain leasing restrictions.
Careful attention should be paid to those restrictions that can affect leasing to post-e-commerce era concepts, such as restaurants and small format fitness centers, both of which are becoming an increasing share of retail centers. Unless these issues are tackled head on, landlords may find themselves with vacant spaces for extended periods of time, which harms traffic to the shopping centers and, consequently, traffic to existing tenants. Landlords may find that tenants may be more willing to play ball on dropping these restrictions if they come to the realization that extended vacancies harm tenants more than the parking issues that these restrictions are intended to protect against.
This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.
Dona J. Fraser Appointed Director of CARU
The Advertising Self-Regulatory Council and Council of Better Business Bureaus announced that Dona J. Fraser was appointed as Director of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (“CARU”). Fraser is a leading privacy expert who previously worked for the Entertainment Software Rating Board, a self-regulatory program for the video game industry. CARU is an ASRC program dedicated to monitoring child-directed advertising since 1974. Continue Reading
An insured seeking coverage for credit card fees assessed against its third-party payment processor following a data breach recently filed an appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Spec’s, a liquor store chain with over 160 locations throughout Texas, suffered two major data breaches of its credit card payment system, resulting in the loss of customer information and credit card numbers. Spec’s accepts Visa and MasterCard payments from its customers through a third-party processor, First Data. As a result of the breach, First Data incurred liability assessments from MasterCard and Visa totaling $9.6 million. A merchant agreement required Spec’s to indemnify First Data for any assessments First Data incurred as a result of a breach of Spec’s system. First Data demanded indemnification from Spec’s for the fees. Without any adjudication of First Data’s claims and without Spec’s consent, First Data allegedly wrongfully withheld $4.2 million in credit card payments owed to Spec’s. Consequently, Spec’s sued First Data in Tennessee federal court to recover the $4.2 million.
Coastal areas in Texas have already begun evacuating as Hurricane Harvey heads for the Gulf Coast. Weather experts anticipate that the windstorm will reach Category 3 or Category 4 status by the time it makes landfall on the Texas coast late Friday night or early Saturday morning, making it the first Category 3+ storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida in October 2005. Continue Reading
On August 15, 2017, the FTC announced that it had reached a settlement with Uber, Inc., over allegations that the ride-sharing company had made deceptive data privacy and security representations to its consumers. Under the terms of the settlement, Uber has agreed to implement a comprehensive privacy program and undergo regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. Continue Reading