Mayhall Fondren Blaize

Baton Rouge Business & Commercial Law Blog

Oil and gas law litigation attacks change in company's values

A once respected oil company can undergo changes that result in its own investors bringing a suit for damages to their ownership interests. Such litigation may occur in Louisiana or other states, and it may be based on the ever-changing circumstances that may affect the managerial policies of a particular company. Major shareholders of an established company, Anadarko Oil,  recently filed oil and gas law litigation against the company.

The plaintiffs in the suit include Anadarko's former chief lobbyist and spokesperson, and five other former employees. The group is challenging the corporate responsibility and safety commitments of the company. The controversy stems from an explosion in April 2017 that destroyed a residential home and killed two residents, and severely burned two others.

Business litigation often boils down to a contractual dispute

Lawsuits between performers and concert promoters are common occurrences in litigation nationwide and in Louisiana. Sometimes such disputes get an extra element of publicity due to the level of fame of the entertainer involved. When all the hoopla is stripped away, however, these are just contract disputes much like any other. Business litigation is primarily populated by breach of contract cases in which contract interpretation and factual disputes often play a key role.

That may be applicable to a recent dispute between rapper Travis Scott and three promoters. The dispute involves travel arrangements that were supposed to be contractually provided prior to a Super Bowl concert. The promoters sued Scott first, alleging that he failed to show up for a concert scheduled at a nightclub in another state one day before the Feb. 4 Super Bowl. The promoters alleged that they paid a $150,000 advance for the appearance.

Business litigation over research mice settles in federal court

Louisiana is host to many different varieties of business litigation. In the world of rapidly evolving science and technology, business litigation disputes are noticeably more exotic and complex than many of the simple contractual conflicts of the past. Recently, for example, even lab mice have become the bitter center of a dispute between scientific researchers.

The litigation is taking place in a federal district court in another state. Jackson Laboratory filed the case last year in which it asked the court to order arbitration of a dispute over the sale of genetically modified research mice. The lab is a genomics center that alleged that the mice were a critical part of its business.

Business law attorneys may help support startup success

Attorneys in Louisiana often provide valuable assistance to startup companies in the vital initial phases of the company's growth. A young company benefits from the input provided by an experienced business law professional regarding legal issues and related topics. This may sometimes include critical guidance in handling and maintaining a process of healthy growth.

Starting a business from nothing is a challenge. One of the biggest obstacles is starting out with less than necessary capital to fund the business. This may have an effect on general operations, marketing capabilities, the addition of needed staff and reduction of the company's ability to maintain a smooth and steady growth process. One way to prevent this major obstacle is to spend the time to have a detailed operating budget for the first year and the funding to go along with it.

Companies, business law attorneys work to stifle data theft scams

Louisiana businesses are in the tax season when they must prepare and provide W-2 forms to employees. This is a process that must be meticulously monitored and restricted by company protocols to prevent theft of the data from these forms. Hackers use techniques of what in business law is called social engineering to defraud businesses into turning over the data from W-2 forms. They can then file bogus tax returns and fraudulently obtain tax refunds.

These techniques are used for other identity fraud purposes in addition to filing bogus tax returns. One principle of social engineering is based on the hackers getting the confidence of one or more key players in the company. They may use the information derived from the  relationship to launch email phishing scams, bogus invoices or interactive voice response messaging schemes to obtain confidential client data. Once this happens, the company will of course face lawsuits and possible class actions by disgruntled customers.

Compliance with business law regulations a necessity for startups

Small business formation in Louisiana and elsewhere involves compliance with a body of federal and state regulations in almost any industry. Some experts complain that regulatory compliance is a crushing force on a young business and that many of them go under for that reason. Various supportive organizations recommend that a new business follow certain business law compliance guidelines to maximize the business' survival rate in its industry.

One of the first things to do is contact the U.S. Small Business Administration. This agency is dedicated to helping small businesses survive and will give the business valuable guidance and training in becoming compliant. The company should appoint a compliance officer or point man to be responsible for regulatory compliance so that oversights and buck-passing are minimized.

Theft of trade secrets is a common issue in business litigation

Intellectual property disputes are a regular aspect of business litigation cases in the Louisiana state and federal courts. These kinds of cases can be complex and of great importance to the litigants. Business litigation attorneys are adept at guiding their clients through such litigation by using their broad experience to extract the best outcome for the client.

An example of intellectual property litigation between two massive companies has been occurring for the past year between Waymo, a self-driving car subdivision of Google's parent company Alphabet, and Uber, the ride-hailing international giant. Waymo sued Uber alleging that Uber wrongfully acquired its self-driving technology by purchasing a company called Otto. The case recently went to trial in another state. 

Business and commercial law rules may help fund new startup

A Louisiana entrepreneur who wishes to start up a business must obtain financing to do it right. One option that exists where a bank loan is refused is to tap into one's 401(k). This is not necessarily recommended in many situations, and it carries the risk of losing a good chunk of the retirement fund if the business is not successful. In business and commercial law circles, however, there are some mitigating factors or strategies that may make it feasible in some cases to use the 401(k) as a springboard to starting a new business.

One possible option is to use the retirement account as collateral for a bank loan. Some 401(k) plans do not allow this, and it must be checked prior to going forward. The main benefit of this transaction would be that as one continues making the payments on the loan, more equity is gained back into the security, i.e., the retirement fund. Even if the business does not succeed, paying on the loan will eventually free up the retirement funds.

Oil and gas law analysts have muted optimism for industry growth

The year ended with oil prices in Louisiana being around the $60 per barrel mark, which was a high point for prices within the past several years. However, the growth is not sustained enough to clearly say that significant drilling for oil will start up in the state this year. A glut of cheaper shale-derived products could flood into the market causing another reduction in prices.

Experts predict that the current price increase will set off a rush to produce oil from shale, thus once again bringing down prices. The current administration in Washington recently announced a plan to open nearly all offshore coastal waters for energy development. Basically, the plan would open most of the eastern Gulf to leasing for oil exploration for the first time since 1988.

Business law attorney is critical in the company's startup stage

A business starting up in Louisiana will do well to follow some beginning principles of business formation. First, a legal structure must be chosen to house the business. This can include a business corporation, partnership, LLC, sole proprietorship or certain permeations of those entities. This first critical decision will hopefully have the input of an experienced business law attorney and a tax consultant or CPA.

Perhaps the most popular and flexible business structure today is the LLC, or Limited Liability Company. As the name implies, it affords the first protection that any startup will be concerned about, i.e., that there be protection from personal liability. It is risky enough to put one's investment on the line but to have one's personal assets be exposed to the debts of the business is too much stress for most small business owners.