Willcox, Buyck & Williams, PA Blog

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Local Businesswoman Honored During Small Business Week


Small Business Week is always a big deal at our firm for two reasons. First, even though we have been in business for over 100 years, our firm is technically a small business. Second, many of our customers are small business owners. So, we were delighted when we saw that during this year’s Small Business Week a local businesswoman had been named the 2016 South Carolina Female Business Person of the Year by the U.S.


Read more . . .


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lawmakers Pass the Defend Trade Secrets Act


How can my business protect its trade secrets?

Certain forms of intellectual property such as patents, trademarks and copyrights have long enjoyed protection under Federal law. Until recently, this has not been the case for trade secrets. Now that Congressional lawmakers have passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA), however, owners of trade secrets will have a Federal private cause of action for the misappropriation of this highly sensitive information.

What are Trade Secrets?

Information such as formulas, designs, practices, processes or patterns that are not widely known outside of a business are considered to be trade secrets. These can include things like the formula for Coca-Cola or any of Google's search algorithms.


Read more . . .


Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Florence attorney and history buff with Willcox, Buyck & Williams tells us what’s good in the neighborhood


Local Counsel with Mark W. Buyck Jr.  Published in 2016 South Carolina Super Lawyers — May 2016

BEST PLACE TO TAKE A NEW CLIENT  -  Victors restaurant in Hotel Florence, which is just a block away from my office. 

FAVORITE HISTORICAL SITE  -  The Confederate Stockade. When the Yankees were approaching and Andersonville was evacuated, they put the prisoners on trains, brought them to Florence and quickly put up a stockade in September 1864.
Read more . . .


Thursday, May 5, 2016

You’re more likely to get audited as IRS adds 700 employees to chase tax cheats


The Internal Revenue Service is hiring up to 700 new employees to do audits and go after delinquent taxpayers in an effort to turn around years of what the agency has acknowledged is lax enforcement.

“When you look at the IRS overall, every dollar invested in us returns at least $4 to the Treasury,” Commissioner John Koskinen told his employees in a memo Tuesday. “The numbers are even higher when it involves enforcement.”

See full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.


Read more . . .


Friday, April 22, 2016

Wage & Hour Lawsuits Plague Businesses


Over the past few years, one of the areas in which we have seen business clients out of both our Florence and Myrtle Beach offices run into trouble is with wage and hour lawsuits. A quick scan of the headlines suggests our clients are not alone in facing a growing number of these suits. In fact, the Washington Post reports that wage and hour lawsuits are the fastest growing category of lawsuits filed in federal courts.

What are wage and hour lawsuits?

Wage and hour lawsuits are claims brought by current and/or former employees against employers under state labor laws or under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

All of the following are claims that fall under the wage and hour suit umbrella:

  • Misclassification -- exempt/hourly, employee/independent contractor
  • Unpaid overtime
  • Off-the-clock work
  • Failure to pay minimum wage
  • Improper calculation of the regular rate
  • Meal and/or rest break disputes

Just how many of these lawsuits are being filed?

A recent investigation by the Washington Post found, “The number of wage and hour cases filed in federal court rose to 8,871 for the year ending Sept.
Read more . . .


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Corporate Law Tax Updates


As a small business owner, compliance with business and tax laws are likely at the forefront of your to-do list each month. Most notably, compliance with state and federal tax laws is one of the simplest ways to avoid fines and penalties – as well as insulate the business from unnecessary auditing and records inspection.

As the current quarter nears a close, the following corporate law tax changes me be of assistance to your business as you prepare your filings.
Read more . . .


Friday, April 1, 2016

Uber Subsidiary in South Carolina Seeks Protection of Trade Secrets


Can Uber use the South Carolina Trade Secrets Act to keep certain information confidential?

Information relating to business operations is often referred to as trade secrets. This information gives a company an advantage in the market is valuable and therefore, companies -must ensure that it remains confidential. Every state has laws regarding trade secrets and protecting this  this information can often become the basis of contested lawsuit.  That seems to be the case developing in South Carolina between Read more . . .


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Perils of Litigation for a Small Business

How Can I protect my small business from litigation?

Small business owners typically focus their attention on achieving success in the marketplace without giving much thought to the possibility of being hit with a lawsuit. However, by failing to prepare for the potential of litigation, entrepreneurs jeopardize their businesses, and possibly their personal assets.

The best defense is to avoid litigation by not being negligent and exposing your business to a personal injury or other civil lawsuit. In order to minimize the risk of litigation, small business owners should start by choosing the right business organization, obtain liability insurance, and retain an attorney.

Creating a Limited Liability Corporation

By creating a Limited Liability Corporation, a small business owner can separate his or her personal assets from the business. In this arrangement, the business exists on its own and is responsible for any legal liabilities or debts it acquires. In some cases, however, an aggrieved client or customer can pierce the corporate veil and sue the business and the owner individually. In particular, a business owner who personally guarantees a loan will be liable for the debt.

Liability Insurance

Business owners typically need to obtain an array of insurance policies, such as workers' compensation insurance and errors and omissions coverage. However, in order to protect a small business from the financial damage of a lawsuit, it is essential to have liability insurance that provides a source of funds in the event that a successful lawsuit is brought against the business.

Hire an Attorney

In spite of all the preventive steps a business owner can take, lawsuits and business disputes are sometimes unavoidable. These may include: a breach of contract, infringement of intellectual property, trade secret theft, or various employment claims such as discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination. It is also possible that a class action will be brought by customers, or that conflicts among the owners and minority investors may arise. In order to ensure business continuity, a business owner must be prepared to handle any of these disputes.

Often it is possible to settle disputes through negotiation and avoid going to court. If negotiation is not successful, there are other methods to resolve conflicts including mediation and arbitration. In any event, the best way to minimize the potential damage that can result from litigation is to hire an attorney who specializes in commercial litigation and has knowledge of local customs and laws.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Judge Rules South Carolina Biotech Firm Tricked Workers into Accepting

Incentive Plan Changes that Depleted their Wealth, Awards them $53.5 Million.

Did a company’s change in its employee compensation package amount to fraud?

When employers use incentive-based compensation plans to motivate their employees, the result often benefits all involved. But not when a company decides it has been too generous and tries to reduce compensation covertly. According to a recent legal ruling, this is what happened at ArborGen in Summerville, South Carolina.

 The court entered judgments against the company, several related companies, and board members of these companies, for conniving to reduce the value of options promised to 10 of its employees without their realizing it. The judge's award of $53.5 included punitive damages and interest.

The employees had participated in a lucrative stock option plan designed to enable them to benefit from the growth of ArborGen. As the company grew, members of the board of directors decided they had been too generous. They came up with a plan to dilute the option plan of the employees, a goal they accomplished through misrepresentations and false information, according to the lawsuit. Instead of receiving $11.3 million in equity based on a $550 million valuation of the company after its growth, the employees received a mere $414,330 in incentive compensation. ArborGen was worth even more—$650 million—when it was converted to a C-corporation.

The case illustrates the importance of care and deliberation when creating employee incentive and compensation plans. It also is a reminder of the need for full disclosure and for abiding by legal rules when seeking to make changes. A qualified corporate attorney can advise on the best approach. Attempting to correct mistakes through shortcuts or subterfuge only results in negative outcomes:  legal liability and even greater costs for management, board members and the company as a whole.

 


Friday, February 19, 2016

Corporate Law Policy Updates in South Carolina

With the new year well underway, it is always important to take a look at the new and pending policies set to impact South Carolina business owners and those involved in the corporate world. On Tuesday, January 12th, the South Carolina General Assembly convened for the first time in 2016, and the year promises to bring about a number of important changes.

For those in the healthcare field, the Assembly has begun its review of an important bill targeted at those facing severe illness, known as the Right to Try Act (Senate Bill 929). Under this act, patients seeking alternative courses of treatment – particularly those who are facing a terminal illness – may be able to access drugs that have not yet met full approval from the FDA, but have passed the first phase of approval.

Meanwhile, a subcommittee continues to discuss the Certificate of Need bill, which would place limits on the amount of equipment facilities can purchase with the use of state and federal funding – which would require a detailed statement explaining why the equipment is necessary for the successful operation of the business or facility.

Other interesting legislation up for debate in the House includes various amendments to the state’s Educational Tax Credit For Exceptional Needs Children, as well as various other taxation amendments. Also, the Senate heard testimony from various individuals involved in the construction industry, particularly those who feel greater oversight of independent contractors is necessary to ensure proper work environments for sub-contractors.

As well, the South Carolina Governor’s Office unveiled its 2015-2016 budget, which includes nearly $1.3 billion in unallocated funds. According to Governor Haley, this extra money will likely be used to enhance South Carolina’s infrastructure, as well as a $300 million cash push toward the various education initiatives at work around the state.

If you have questions about legal policy in South Carolina, particularly with regard to corporate and real estate matters, please contact a preeminent South Carolina law firm today!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

South Carolina's BMW Plant Settles Employment Discrimination Suit

What can happen to a business engaging in discriminatory hiring and employment practices?

As a South Carolina small business, it is vital for your organization to have a keen understanding of federal and state anti-discrimination laws – as the penalties for violating these mandates are steep. While most well-meaning businesses do not engage in intentional discriminatory misconduct, office policies or protocols that have even the effect of possible discrimination could amount to a violation. By having knowledge of the law, you have a powerful means to protect you business.

BMW plant settles discrimination suit

By way of example, South Carolina’s iconic Spartanburg BMW plant recently settled a two-year old racial discrimination lawsuit for $1.6 million. The case involved nearly 70 former plant applicants, all of whom claimed to have been unfairly discriminated against by the plant’s criminal background check policies. More specifically, the BMW plant had implemented a policy requiring an in-depth criminal background check of any applicant for a job, and also implemented a rule prohibiting the hiring of any applicant with any criminal history within the past seven years.

To make matters worse, the plant further amended its guidelines in 2012 to prohibit the employment of any worker with any criminal history from any year – and promptly fired 88 current employees, some of whom had worked at the plant for over ten years. Of the 88 employees terminated for criminal background issues, 70 were African American – prompting an immediate discrimination lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

As this story shows, an employment policy need not be blatantly discriminatory to violate the law, so long as the policy has an adverse impact.  In addition to the seven-figure settlement offered by the company, BMW agreed to rehire all employees who were terminated as a result of the policy change. In a statement by the regional EEOC agent, “[w]e are pleased with BMW’s agreement to resolve this disputed matter by providing both monetary relief and employment opportunities to the logistic workers who lost their jobs at the facility….We commend BMW for re-evaluating its criminal conviction records guidelines that resulted in the discharge of these workers.”

If you would like compliance advice for your South Carolina business, you should consult with a qualified employment and labor law attorney.


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