Bitcoin gets a legit US exchange in Coinbase with the NYSE as an investor

Despite the fact that bitcoin has died 39 times (no seriously, there’s a guy who keeps track), today Coinbase, a company backed by over 100M$ in venture capital, including one of the world’s most famous venture capital firms, Andreesen Horowitz, and a little organization called the New York Stock Exchange, took their bitcoin exchange live today in 24 states, including Indiana, California, and New York.  Coinbase was founded in 2012, and has been regarded as one of the most reputable places to buy bitcoin, but until now, Coinbase has not offered an actual trading platform.  The Wall Street Journal has this article on the launch.

Previous companies like Coinsetter and Kraken have tried to “crack” the US market, but haven’t been terribly successful yet.  Coinsetter does not seem to have a way to deposit US dollars, and Kraken, while operating in the U.S., is based in Munich, and isn’t technically a regulated exchange.

Currently, most bitcoin trading is done on exchanges in China, Bulgaria, and Slovenia.  The U.S. has been left behind, not because of a lack of technical knowledge or willing entrepreneurs, but because the U.S. laws concerning bitcoin and starting an exchange have been so vague and onerous that no one seemed to have the money and legal heft to push through them.  Approval to legally operate the exchange must be granted on a state-by-state basis, so it took an organization with sufficient backing to be able to secure significant approvals.

Why does this matter to you? A legitimate, licensed, US-based bitcoin exchange that is working with the NYSE is a good thing for U.S. citizens who want to trade bitcoins.  For one, it should make tax compliance much easier, as U.S. citizens won’t have to hold a foreign account at an overseas exchange and worry about FBARs and other overseas tax issues.  Secondly, traders now have U.S. jurisdiction over a company if they have a dispute.  Overseas exchanges have been known to go bankrupt, or steal their users’ funds, leaving the user with little recourse except to try to navigate a foreign legal system.  Coinbase, on the other hand, could be sued or arbitrated in the United States should a dispute arise.

If you have questions about bitcoin, give us a call!  And as always, we accept bitcoin at our firm!

Requesting Information under the Indiana Access to Public Record Act (APRA)

“A fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government is that government is the servant of the people and not their master. Accordingly, it is the public policy of the state that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees.”

The above looks like something that could have been lifted from a speech by a Libertarian political candidate!  In fact, I lifted it word-for-word from Indiana Code 5-14-3-1.

Many people have heard of a “FOIA” or Freedom Of Information Act Request that can be used to request information from the federal government.  One man has used FOIA requests to retrieve over 1 MILLION documents from the federal government that he believes are related to the existence of UFOs.

Did you know that Indiana has its own statutes that cover requesting information from the Indiana state government?  We can’t promise that the state records will contain evidence of a massive cover-up by the Indiana State Police of UFOs landing in Indiana cornfields, but you never know!

Indiana’s Access to Public Record Act is contained in Indiana Code 5-14-3.  The statute contains procedures for requesting information, policies that the State is required to follow when responding to requests, many rules concerning what may and may not be disclosed to the public, and various other details concerning records requests.

I spent several years working as an attorney for the State of Indiana, and during that time, I was involved in responding to many public records requests.  If you would like more information about APRA or would like assistance in drafting a public records request, please contact me.

National Collegiate Student Loan Trust has filed a large number of lawsuits against consumers in Indiana regarding student loans

National Collegiate Student Loan Trust has filed a large number of lawsuits against consumers in Indiana concerning student loans. These lawsuits are often deficient for a wide variety of reasons. In our experience, National Collegiate Student Loan Trust is rarely ever able to prove that it has the right to collect on the student loan debt at issue. Our firm has successfully represented several consumers in their lawsuits against National Collegiate Student Loan Trust. We may be able to obtain a significantly high discount on your student loan principal or possibly move to successfully dismiss the case all together. If you are currently involved in a lawsuit against National Collegiate Student Loan Trust or anticipate a lawsuit in the near future please call our offices immediately.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-gaudreau/private-student-loan-busi_b_6344524.html

Big law firms are now giving away legal forms online

Some big laws firms are now posting template documents online for some basic legal transactions, like forming an LLC.  The idea is that the firms already have the documents, so hopefully the startups will have more legal needs down the road, and turn to the big firms for help.

There are arguments on both sides as to whether a startup should retain a law firm to set up their initial corporate structure.  On one hand, many startup CEOs dream of being the next Facebook or Instagram, so paying the big bucks to get a very well-researched and well structured corporate organization may save millions down the road.  However, we know that many startups are being funded with personal funds and/or family and friend’s loans.  If your entire capital base is $50,000, spending $20,000 of it on legal fees from day one may be a poor business decision.

One of the most common areas where we see small business and startups run into trouble is lack of a clear agreement on ownership interests.  Oftentimes, a couple friends will start a business together; either a services or a software company.  In the beginning, everyone is excited about building the product, and there’s little to no discussion of ownership interests.  There is also an unwritten/unspoken assumption that all of the founders hold equal ownership stakes in the company.

At some point down the road, it is time to sell the business, or one friend decides they want to exit the business and have the other founders buy them out.  Now real dollars are on the line, and Founder A might decide that the exiting founder didn’t put as much “sweat equity” into the company as the other founders, so why does the exiting founder think they have an equal share?  Unfortunately, this can be how friendships end, and sometimes end in front of a judge.  A clear discussion of contributions and ownership interests early on can often help to decrease the odds of controversy down the road, and working with a lawyer early on can help you work through some of these issues.

At Saeed and Little, we love small business and startups.  Since we don’t have billable hours targets to meet, we’re happy to sit down for a coffee with founders and have a free consultation concerning their business needs.  If you decide you’d like some help in setting up your company, we have reasonable, flat rate fees that can accommodate most budgets.  Feel free to call us if you’d like to chat.  Hint: we like Hubbard and Cravens better than Starbucks.

http://techcrunch.com/2015/01/10/documents-just-want-to-be-free/

Attorneys David Miller and Jon Little have filed a suit against Anthem on behalf of Hoosiers

Saeed and Little Attorneys David Miller and Jon Little have filed a suit against Anthem on behalf of Hoosiers, claiming that  Blue Cross and Blue Shield are artificially inflating prices.  The suit is likely to become part of a larger class-action suit in Alabama, which accuses Anthem and other health plans of anti-competitive behavior and price fixing.

See the full article in the Indianapolis Business Journal here.

See the complaint here.

Is a bad online review a case for a defamation suit?

Most of us have been on at least one side of this coin.

A customer’s poor experience at a restaurant leads her to leave a bad review on Yelp, or a scathing 140 characters on twitter.

A bad review shows up online, and this may be the first time the business owner hears about the customer’s poor experience.

Should the customer be allowed to post whatever they want online? But what about the business owner that feels that her business is being improperly defamed or slandered? What if the review isn’t even true, and it’s a competitor trying to damage a competitor’s reputation?

The Indianapolis star recently addressed some of these issues in a recent article. The article contained this advice from James P. Nehf, a law professor ad the IU McKinney School of Law.

“Give honest opinions and try not to make assertions of fact unless you have a good basis for believing it is true,” he suggested. “This can take a little thought. You’re better off saying, ‘to me, the rice pilaf had a very unpleasant taste,’ instead of, ‘the rice pilaf was rancid.'”

Professor Nehf also discussed so called anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) — laws that can sometimes be used to defend against defamation lawsuit. Another concern raised by the article is so called “non-disparagement clauses,” where the user agrees not to post bad reviews when clicking to purchase an item on a website.

See the article for more details: http://www.indystar.com/story/money/2014/11/15/sued-posting-negative-online-business-review-can-happen/19110457/

If you are a customer who has been sued for defamation or slander, or if you are a business owner who feels that your business is being unfairly criticized online, please contact us.