The average business loses 5% of its yearly income to fraud according to an Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Global Fraud Study. Increasingly, business fraud takes the form of a Ponzi scheme. Investors and businesses alike need to understand what a Ponzi scheme looks like to avoid falling victim. To confuse things, investments-gone-bad are increasingly being called Ponzi schemes by people who should know better. Failing to recognize the difference can prevent an investor from pursuing the best remedy to recover their investment losses.
The doctrine of sovereign immunity deprives federal and state courts of jurisdiction over suits against governments and their agencies unless the government waives immunity. The Eleventh Amendment enshrines sovereign immunity in our Constitution: “The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State.” In other words, the Constitution divests federal courts of jurisdiction over suits against states or their agencies.
Many retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their brick-and-mortar businesses afloat. Each week seems to bring new reports of another once-popular chain shuttering its doors or filing for bankruptcy. What you don’t often see, however, is the SEC getting involved. This is exactly what occurred when the SEC alleged Conn’s engaged in improper accounting practices.
“Anti-washout” clauses prevent certain oil and gas royalties from lapsing over time. Recently, in Yowell v. Granite Operating Co., 557 S.W.3d 794 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2018, pet. granted), the Texas Court of Appeals for the Seventh District affirmed the trial court’s determination that an “anti-washout” provision in a mineral assignment did not extend an overriding royalty interest (“ORRI”) to new leases. The Court effectively nullified the provision because it violated the Rule Against Perpetuities. The Texas Supreme Court granted Yowell’s petition for review, setting oral arguments for January 2020.
Neighbor disputes come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes disputes arise between residential and commercial property owners—like when residents have concerns about nearby development activity. While litigation between neighbors is sometimes necessary, informal resolution is preferable, even for a complex real estate dispute. Informal resolution was possible for residents of the Friendswood Estates and Forest of Friendswood neighborhoods. The two communities had become concerned about future flooding when Westover LP announced its planned mixed-used development in the Clear Creek floodway in early 2018. One-third of the homes in Friendswood flooded during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.
Oil and gas leases usually include royalty provisions requiring the lessor pay a percentage of revenue (a royalty) to the owner of the mineral rights. Production costs are almost always deducted before a royalty is calculated, but when the royalty vests can affect which production costs are deducted before calculation. The Texas Supreme Court recently held that post-production costs were also properly deducted from overriding royalty payments where the interest vested “into the pipeline” in Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Company, L.P. v. Texas Crude Energy, LLC (No. 17-0266).
In a previous blog, we discussed trade secrets and how such confidential information can often be ambiguous with regard to how it is classified. This specifically came up in a recent case in Bexar County where a jury found both company models and data could be classified as trade secrets. A jury decided Title Source had stolen proprietary data from startup HouseCanary as it allegedly readied to build its own software suite. This resulted in a $706 million verdict in favor of HouseCanary, which the trial increased to nearly $740 million after denying Title Source’s request to vacate the jury’s decision. Now, Texas justices, have been asked to consider the proper standards and procedures for sealing trade-secret information.
Many Texas families and companies have been built on the back of oil and gas production. In Texas, mineral rights—the entitlement to explore and produce subsurface minerals, like oil and gas—can be separated from surface rights and sold, leased, gifted, split or otherwise conveyed relatively freely. The complexities of mineral rights leases were the focus of a recent $41 million judgment against EP Energy E&P Company, LP, a Texas oil and gas company. The case is Storey Minerals, Ltd., et al. v. EP Energy E&P Company, L.P., Case No. 001-36253, in the 81st Judicial District of La Salle, County, Texas.