Wake Up Call: IRS Looks for Tax Fraud Via Crypto-Currencies

• On top of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s crackdown on illegal sales of digital tokens, an elite team of criminal agents at the Internal Revenue Service is investigating whether Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are being used to cheat the taxman. (Bloomberg)

• White House Counsel Donald McGahn knew a year ago that Rob Porter’s ex-wives had accused Porter of domestic abuse, but McGahn still allowed the influential aide to President Donald Trump to stay on, according to a Post report. (Washington Post) Porter abruptly resigned yesterday amidst the allegations–which could have been grounds for the government to deny him security clearance. The resignation also cast a harsh light on Chief of Staff John Kelly’s management. (Bloomberg)

• After an hours-long shutdown, Congress passed a two-year budget agreement that will boost federal spending by almost $300 billion and suspend the debt ceiling for a year. (Bloomberg)

• Akerman LLP’s David Spector began a three-year term as the firm’s new chairman and CEO Feb. 1, taking over as Andrew Smulian stepped down after a decade. (BLB)

• Chevron Corp. is using some creative lawyering to fight climate-change lawsuits by San Francisco and Oakland, California. (Bloomberg via BLB)

• GrubHub Inc.’s drivers are independent contractors, not employees and, therefore, don’t qualify for employee protections under California law, a federal judge found. The ruling may have far-reaching implications for other sharing economy companies, including Uber Technologies Inc. (Bloomberg)

•  A former General Electric Co. lawyer was suspended for 60 days by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals for leaking confidential information about the company to the press and regulators after she was fired. (National Law Journal)

 

 

Law Firm Business

• Texas was the only region among 11 U.S. regions where law firms managed to cut expenses last year, but it lagged other regions on revenue, according to a Citi report. (Texas Law Journal)

• Cozen O’Connor said its board of directors unanimously re-elected Michael J. Heller to start a third three-year term as CEO in 2019, and added the title executive chairman effective immediately. Under his leadership, the Philadelphia-based firm has increased headcount from 500 to over 700 lawyers in about five years. (Philadelphia Business Journal)

• Orrick is the latest Big Law firm to exit Moscow, which has been hit by geopolitical tensions and economic sanctions. (American Lawyer)

• Major law firms are finding that Chinese companies involved in M&A’s are unwilling to pay the kind of fees that western clients typically pay. (Financial Times)

 

 

Lateral Hires and Moves

• DLA Piper added attorneys Marc Katz and Isabel Crosby as partners in its employment practice in Dallas. And more news about labor and employment law firms and lawyers. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)

• Skadden poached Quinn Emanuel’s John “Jay” Neukom, a trial lawyer focused on patent and trade secret disputes, to be a partner in its intellectual property litigation group in Palo Alto, California. (The Recorder)

• Holland & Knight said litigation attorney Matthew Zimmerman rejoined the firm’s West Palm Beach, Florida, office as a partner. Zimmerman earlier spent 10 years as a Holland & Knight attorney, before leaving to go inhouse at MDVIP, Inc., a national membership-based healthcare company. (hklaw.com)

• Loeb & Loeb LLP said it hired a group of three life-sciences specialists for the firm’s New York office: Eve Costopolous, as of counsel; Ryan N. Hagglund as senior counsel; and Kiaema R. Reid as associate director of regulatory. (Loeb.com)

 

 

Blockchain/Crypto

• In what might be a first for the $3.8 trillion municipal bond market, Berkeley, California, is mulling a finance proposal under which the city would go to market with a public initial coin offering, giving investors a choice between purchasing either monetized digital tokens or municipal bonds issued in U.S. dollars. (Bloomberg)

 

 

Legal Market

• After long careers practicing law, independent mediators Hunter Hughes III and Robert Meyer have just in the last decade between them helped negotiate over $1 billion in employment-related class action settlements against some of the country’s largest employers. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)

• Apple Inc. is off the hook on potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of discovery sanctions in the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust case against Qualcomm Inc. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)

 

 

Legal Actions

• A black female Wells Fargo employee’s claims of pay discrimination and retaliation can go to trial, a federal judge in Texas ruled. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)

• DuPont Co. and its spinoff Chemours Co. were sued by Ohio for dumping a chemical used in Teflon, an action the state said went on for 60 years even though the company knew it was toxic to humans. (Bloomberg)

 

 

The Trump Administration

• Trump confirmed he will nominate California tax attorney Charles “Chuck” Rettig to lead the Internal Revenue Service. Rettig has expressed support for Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. (Bloomberg)

• As Trump’s lawyers continue to negotiate terms of an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, the president’s allies are increasingly trying to warn him against it, using one of the few methods they have — television. (Bloomberg)

• Opposing Bayer AG’s $66 billion bid to merge with Monsanto Co., an advocacy group for farmers is also using TV to try to reach Trump with its message. (Bloomberg Law via BLB)

• U.S. authorities removed more than 400 people from “Trusted Traveler” programs in January 2017 following Trump’s first, and most extreme, version of a travel ban aimed at people from seven majority-Muslim nations, a group said. (Bloomberg)

 

Happening in SCOTUS and Other Courts

• After a judicial council officially ended its investigation into Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski’s alleged sexual harassment of at least 15 women, the now-retired judge remains entitled to full retirement pay and is unlikely to face further repercussions, a judicial ethics professor said. (Bloomberg Law)

• The computer forensics expert whom Uber hired to scrub the engineer at the center of the company’s trade-secrets dispute with Waymo told a jury that due diligence for Uber’s deal with the engineer was rushed. (Bloomberg)

• In Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund, the U.S. Supreme Court is trying to sort out concurrent jurisdiction confusion over IPO suits under the Securities Act. (Bloomberg Law)

• A Christian baker can refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on religious grounds, a California court ruled in a case similar to one before the U.S. Supreme Court. (Bloomberg Law)

 

Technology

• Executives from Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc. faced U.K. lawmakers who traveled to Washington, D.C., to press the companies to do more to keep junk news and misinformation from spreading online. (Bloomberg)

• As health-care extortion goes digital, training and education of employees are essential to preventing attacks. (Bloomberg Law)

Compiled by Rick Mitchell and edited by Casey Sullivan.