A New Jersey state jury hit Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp with nearly $1.5 million in net damages over a former company executive’s claims that she was fired in retaliation for whistleblowing. The jury in turn rejected the pharma company’s stance that the employee had been properly terminated for violating company policies.

In a 7-1 votes, the jury awarded $1,816,040 to Min Amy Guo in her whistleblower suit, in which she alleged that she was fired from Novartis for raising concerns in 2012 that a potential cancer drug study for Afinitor by the pharmaceutical distribution company McKesson Corp was possibly a kickback to McKesson to help sell the medicine.

Continue Reading Novartis Hit with $1.5M Whistleblower Suit, Avoids Punitive Damages

On March 20, 2019, the Massachusetts Securities Division, Enforcement Section (the “Division”) filed a complaint against an investment adviser located in Massachusetts. The complaint alleged that the firm’s two owners and financial professionals “gambled away millions of dollars in client assets through high risk bets on the oil and gas market.”[1] This author vehemently disagrees with the Division’s complaint and the message it sends to the industry.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Securities Division Changes the Law Applicable to Investment Advisers Overnight

Confidential settlement agreements reached between employers and employees resolving claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment may not be so secret anymore.

On March 18, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 121, which amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12 (“NJLAD”), by declaring unlawful and unenforceable any provision in any employment contract or settlement agreement concealing, or attempting to conceal, details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. Furthermore, and perhaps even more concerning to employers, the amendment prohibits the contractual waiver of any substantive or procedural rights or remedies relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation or harassment.

Continue Reading New Law Bans Non-Disclosure of Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Settlements

Despite the fact that family courts are trending towards making divorce filings public records, there are certain documents that should not, and cannot be disclosed. The most important of these are evaluations that are conducted in custody disputes.

A California appeals court recently ruled that the Los Angeles attorney representing singer Paul Anka’s ex-wife, Anna, in a custody battle acted “maliciously” and ” recklessly” when she disclosed information contained in a confidential custody evaluation from a prior case during a deposition.

Continue Reading Don’t Gamble with Love, or Confidential Information

On March 4, 2019, the United States Supreme Court resolved a longstanding split among the circuit courts concerning what exactly the copyright registration prerequisite to filing a copyright lawsuit means – whether an application to register is sufficient or an actual issued registration is required. The Supreme Court chose the latter holding that a copyright owner must first obtain a copyright registration certificate from the Copyright Office before filing a copyright infringement suit.

Continue Reading Registration Certificate Required for Copyright Infringement Suit

To be or not to be vested—that is the question. Well, at least that was the question considered by a New Jersey appeals court in the recent decision of M.G. v. S.G.

Otherwise stated, the question concerned whether a stock award which was issued to an employee prior to a divorce filing but which was vested after the divorce complaint was filed be subject to equitable distribution between the parties. Continue Reading Stock Awards in Divorce Revisited

Your company’s recipes, methodologies and customer base are what distinguish it from the competition. If this information is disclosed to third parties, it could detrimentally hurt your business because a competitor could seemingly replicate the same or similar beverage. It is important that you protect your company’s trade secrets, customer relationship and other confidential information from employees, especially the brew master or distiller, in the event the employment relationship ends.

The good news is that New Jersey, like many other states, has recognized three categories of interests that may be legitimately protected:  (1) employer’s trade secrets, (2) employer’s confidential information, and (3) protection of customer relationships. However, the general rule is that a former employee may utilize information from a prior employer with a new employer or new business after his term of service has expired. That could lead to the dissemination of your trade secrets to a competitor or a new company formed by the former employee to directly compete with your business. In order to protect your businesses’ trade secrets, confidential information and customer relationships it is critical that proper employment planning is takes place.  Before or during the course of employment, the employee must agree to be restricted from competing with your business through a covenant not to compete, i.e., a restrictive covenant or non-compete agreement.

In most cases, a non-compete agreement can effectively limit the specified geographic area where a former employee can work, the type of job that the former employee can engage in, and the duration of the restricted type of work. The terms of the non-compete agreement must be “reasonable” in scope, location and duration in order to protect the interests of the employer. The timing of entry into the non-compete agreement is also important. Generally, entry into the agreement must take place at the inception of the employment relationship or when the employee receives a raise or promotion.

These are only a few examples of the issues that your business must consider in connection with its employees, especially the brew master or distiller, who knows your company’s trade secrets, confidential information and customers. Due to the importance of these issues, counsel should be consulted to help protect your brewery, brew pub or distillery’s trade secrets, confidential information and customer relationships.

For more information on Stark & Stark’s Beer & Spirits Group, please click here.

One of the most important things to remember during the divorce is process is that every divorce is different. The process your friend or family member described to you may not be the same for you. Accordingly, although your colleague may have needed an expert for their divorce, you may not. Generally, in cases which involve businesses, high net-worth issues, or contentious custody situations, it could be appropriate or even necessary to have an expert witness.

Continue Reading Will I Need an Expert Witness for My Divorce?

If you are considering venturing into the distillery business, in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or any other state, it is important to know what the Federal Government’s rules, regulated through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”), provide for the location, use of plants and production of distilled spirits. The following article highlight’s the TTB’s rules and regulations:

Continue Reading Federal Government’s Restrictions on Production, Location, and Use of Plants for the Production of Distilled Spirits

About a year after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Toys “R” Us appears to be making a return to the retail market as a national chain.

After the former toy retail giant liquidated its business last year, its lenders took control of the company’s intellectual property, which includes the Toys “R” Us, Babies “R” Us, and Geoffrey brand names.

In late January 2019, several former Toys “R” Us executives started running a new company called “Tru Kids” to manage those brands.

Continue Reading Don’t Call it a Comeback: Toys “R” Us Returning After Bankruptcy?