Shareholder Thomas D. Giachetti, Chair of the Securities Practice Group, authored the article SEC Clarifies RIAs’ Cybersecurity Obligations, which was published in the November issue of Investment Advisor. The article explains how the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) recent cybersecurity focus will affect RIAs. The SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections & Examinations (OCIE) released a Risk Alert in the spring of 2014, which announced that it would “conduct examinations of more than 50 financial institutions, including RIAs, focused on: cybersecurity governance; identification and assessment of cybersecurity risks; protection of networks and information; risks associated with remote customer access and funds transfer requests; risks associated with vendors and other third parties; detection of unauthorized activity; and experiences with certain cybersecurity threats.” Most recently, in September 2015, OCIE released a follow-up Risk Alert which better elaborated on the “areas of focus” that would be examined during the cybersecurity process. Some of these areas would include “an RIA’s governance and risk assessment, access rights and controls, data loss prevention, vendor management, staff training and incident response.” As a result, Mr. Giachetti recommended three steps that RIAs should take immediately in relation to the OCIE’s Risk Alert. This includes consulting with the business’s IT staff or IT vendors to ensure that the highest level of protection is or has been implemented, as well as adopting a proper cybersecurity policy that specifically addresses these recent Risk Alerts. For more information, read the full article.

U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers recently announced the 2016 “Best Law Firms” rankings, and Stark & Stark has been recognized on Metropolitan Tiers 1, 2 & 3 in New Jersey. Stark & Stark is ranked in Tier 1 for Commercial Litigation, Family Law, Construction Litigation, Personal Injury Litigation for Plaintiffs, Real Estate Law and Workers’ Compensation for Claimants; in Tier 2 for Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency & Reorganization Law and Corporate Law; and in Tier 3 for Bankruptcy Litigation, Trusts & Estates Litigation, Personal Injury Litigation for Defendants and Trusts & Estates Law.

“We are very honored and pleased with our 2016 rankings by U.S. News & World Report,” said Lewis J. Pepperman, a senior partner and chair of the firm’s Business practice group. “These rankings underscore our dedication to client service and commitment to providing best in class legal services, across the board.”

According to Best Lawyers, the “2016 rankings are based on the highest number of participating firms and highest number of client ballots on record. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top 4 percent of practicing attorneys in the US. Over 21,000 attorneys provided almost 700,000 law firm assessments, and over 8,000 clients provided more than 47,000 evaluations.”

Additionally, “Ranked firms, presented in tiers, are listed on a national and/or metropolitan scale. Receiving a tier designation reflects the high level of respect a firm has earned among other leading lawyers and clients in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism and their integrity.”

For more information about the selection process, please click here.

Bryan M. Buffalino, member of the Litigation and Employment Groups, authored the article Third Circuit Plans to Revisit New Jersey’s Legalized Sports Betting Law, which was published on NJ.com on November 2, 2015.

The article discusses the latest news regarding the State of New Jersey’s battles with legalized sports betting. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit announced that there would be a rehearing, en blanc, and thereby vacated the previous August 2015 decision in favor of the major professional and amateur sports leagues. “An en banc is a session where a case is heard before all of the judges of a court, or before the entire bench, rather than a panel selected from among them.”

In 2012, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation legalizing sports betting in New Jersey casinos and racetracks. In response, the “NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA” challenged this legislation in August 2012, and sued the State of New Jersey.

As Mr. Buffalino further explains, “Currently, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) prohibits state-sponsored sports betting in all but four states: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. New Jersey is trying to evade the ban by arguing that, so long as the state does not regulate the betting, the federal law does not prevent private casinos and racetracks from allowing sports betting in their facilities.”

You can read the full article by clicking here.

Attorney Marshal T. Kizner, member of the Bankruptcy & Creditors’ Rights Group, authored the article Property Tax Revaluations and Your Tax Assessment, which was published in U.S. 1 on September 16, 2015.

The article describes the process several municipalities in New Jersey are going through with local property tax revaluations. “The purpose of a revaluation program is for the municipality to update all tax assessments in order to spread the tax burden equitably within a municipality.” Hamilton Township in Mercer County is one such municipality going through the process, and the new completed assessment will then serve as the foundation for a property owner’s real estate tax bill for the coming year.

Mr. Kizner also provides a list of examples to better understand how the level ratio applies to the revaluation program, whether it be for over, under or fairly assessed property. “A revaluation attempts to correct the unfairness shown in the three examples by bringing each property in a municipality to 100 percent of true value.”

Furthermore, “[i]f a tax payer is upset with the assessed value imposed on the property, he or she has the right to attempt to negotiate a reduction; file an appeal with the County Board of Taxation or file an appeal directly with the Tax Court under certain circumstances.”

You can read the full article my clicking here.

Shareholder Benjamin E. Widener, member of the Employment and Litigation practice groups, authored the article The Importance of an Effective Anti-Harassment Policy in the Workplace, which was published on NJ.com on October 1, 2015.

The article underlines the importance of maintaining a healthy and safe work environment by properly enforcing a policy against sexual harassment. This should be done for the safety of a company’s employees as well as protection of the company at large. Failure to enforce a proper sexual harassment policy can result in accusations of an overall hostile work environment.

Such was the case with Arguas v. State of New Jersey, in which the Supreme Court of New Jersey “provided some ground rules to motivate employers to eradicate discrimination in the workplace and, at the same time, better insulate themselves against vicarious liability arising from supervisory discrimination and harassment.” In order for a company to have a hostile work environment, the conduct of the allegedly offending employee(s) must be so objectively offensive that it alters the victim’s conditions of employment.

“An employer can defeat vicarious liability with effective anti-harassment policies, and such practices also weigh against employer liability under a negligence theory.”

You can read the full article by clicking here.

Associate Gene Markin, member of the Construction Litigation group, authored the article Contractors Beware: Small Missteps Can Give Rise to Large Liability, which was published in the New Jersey Law Journal on October 5, 2015.

The article explains how the Contractors’ Registration Act (CRA), the New Jersey Home Improvement Practice Regulations (HIPR) and the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) can protect homeowners from negligible contractors. To start, the CRA requires “That every home improvement contractor performing work in New Jersey be registered with the Department of Consumer Affairs… maintain at least $500,000 per occurrence commercial general liability insurance… and display in all advertisements, documents and contracts his registration number.”

Additionally, the HIPR details the very specific requirements for how contractors are or are not allowed to represent themselves, as well as the promises made, the performance of their work and their contracts with the consumer. Finally, the CFA protects the consumer by entitling them to “recover triple damages and attorney fees and costs” if they prove the contractor violated a single regulation.

Mr. Markin also discusses two recent cases and how these three regulations influenced the outcome for the consumers.

Stark & Stark is pleased to announce that Joseph H. Lemkin has joined the firm as a Shareholder in the Bankruptcy and Creditors’ Rights Group. He will be located in the Lawrenceville, NJ office.

Mr. Lemkin’s practice primarily focuses on the areas of bankruptcy law, commercial litigation, business reorganization and related matters, with a particular emphasis on creditors’ rights. Mr. Lemkin has extensive experience representing mortgage lenders in both consumer and commercial bankruptcy proceedings, as well as secured creditors, creditors’ committees, debtors and trade creditors and bankruptcy trustees. The scope of his representation has included litigation matters, assignments for the benefit of creditors and chapters 7, 13 and 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Mr. Lemkin has served as national litigation/bankruptcy counsel regarding a portfolio of loans to healthcare providers for a major financial lending institution, which included medical, dental and veterinary practices. He has also defended and prosecuted numerous adversary proceedings in bankruptcy court, including preference, fraudulent transfer and other avoidance actions. Additionally, Mr. Lemkin represents an international consumer products company as national bankruptcy counsel, with numerous high-profile cases pending in the Southern District of New York and Delaware.

Prior to joining Stark & Stark, Mr. Lemkin was the Chairman of the bankruptcy group at a New Jersey based business law firm, and was a former partner at the AmLaw 100 firm of Duane Morris.

Shareholder Thomas D. Giachetti, Chair of the Securities Practice Group, authored the article Treasury Considers Anti-Money Laundering Regs, which was published in the October 2015 issue of Investment Advisor Magazine. The article details the potential anti-money laundering (ALM) program requirements that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is planning to implement. These regulations would be targeting SEC-registered investment advisors, and would require advisors to “adopt and maintain an anti-money laundering program, file suspicious activity reports and comply with additional reporting requirements.” FinCEN, which is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, previously recognized in 2007 that SEC advisors were not required adopt an AML program, because independent custodians must undertake the AML exercise before an advisory account can be opened. These additional regulations will only serve to bog down small- and medium-sized advisory firms which are already subject to a number of other regulations. According to Mr. Giachetti, “The result of these additional regulations is less profits (this administration doesn’t care about advisory firm “fat cats” — how little it really knows), and more importantly, less resources to spend with clients.” You can read the full article by clicking here.

Shareholder Dolores R. Kelley, member of Stark & Stark’s Business & Corporate, Real Estate, Zoning & Land Use and Beer & Spirits Groups, was interviewed in MidJersey BusinessAsk a Busy Person series. The interview covers Ms. Kelley’s work at Stark & Stark, as well as some information about her person life and interests. She also has some personal advice for balancing her work and life. Outside of the office, Ms. Kelley explained, “While being a mother to two small children does not often leave much time for leisurely activities, I like to ride my bike or go to the gym whenever I get the opportunity.” Additionally, if she decided to pick up a new skill or hobby, she “would love to learn photography. I would really like having a creative outlet, and it would be a really useful skill for me to have since I am constantly taking pictures of my kids.”

You can read Ms. Kelley’s full interview by clicking here.

Stark & Stark Associate Gene Markin, member of the Construction Litigation Group, authored the article Home Contractors’ Inexperience and Negligence May Give Rise to Consumer Fraud, which was published on August 31, 2015 on NJ.com.

The article discusses how consumer fraud claims and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act can further protect a consumer after an inexperienced contractor provides negligible work. The contractor may be liable for negligence and breach of contract, but might additionally liable for consumer fraud, which can “entitle the consumer to recover triple damages and attorney’s fees.”

Further, Mr. Markin details the three elements a plaintiff must demonstrate in order to succeed a consumer fraud claim: “(1) unlawful conduct by the defendants; (2) an ascertainable loss on the part of the plaintiff; and (3) a causal relationship between the defendants’ unlawful conduct and the plaintiff’s ascertainable loss.” Most recently, this is occurring with the case Hudson Harbor Condo. Ass’n v. Oval Tennis, Inc.

The Hudson Harbor Condominium Association had hired Oval Tennis, who claimed to be an experienced tennis court installer, to install an open-celled Premier Court on their existing concrete, only to come to learn that the court installed was closed-cell, and the non-breathable material was unsuitable for a concrete slab. Oval Tennis’ previous misrepresentations about being experience Premier Court installers left them exposed to consumer fraud liability.

You can read the full article by clicking here.