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Houston Business & Commercial Law Blog

Cardi B files countersuit for breach of contract

Music fans in Texas may be interested to learn that Klenord Raphael, the manager/producer also known as Shaft, has filed a lawsuit against artist Cardi B. The suit alleges that he has not been properly compensated for his role in her ascension as a rap artist. In the documents filed, Raphael claims that he played a major role in 'conceiving, arranging and orchestrating" her successful career.

In 2015, he claims that he discovered her and shaped her career's trajectory in the business. In a recent interview, one of his representatives discussed how he took her from influencer status to a legitimate rap artist. He stated that he played a larger role in her evolution and isn't pleased with her attempts to phase him out of her career. The manager further claims that she has defamed him on multiple occasions.

Appeals court rejects man's claim of wrongful discharge

On June 7, a Texas appellate court issued a grant of summary judgment regarding a man who had made a whistleblower complaint regarding the safety of a vessel. The man told investigators he had warned his employer that the vessel was unsafe with its surveying equipment, and an accident that occurred afterward left one crew member dead and six more injured. When the man was fired two years later, he alleged it was whistleblower retaliation.

Shortly after the accident, the employee received a low performance review. He went on disability twice, and when he returned from his second disability leave, he was fired.

Beer companies battle over brewing contract

Two beer companies that produce some of the most popular brews in Texas and around the country are engaged in an ongoing legal battle. MillerCoors and Pabst Brewing are headed toward a November trial on a contract dispute involving the brewing agreement between the companies. Under a contract that has been in place for decades, MillerCoors brews all of Pabst's beers, including its most popular name, Pabst Blue Ribbon. This agreement is scheduled to come to an end in 2020, and it includes two renewal options. However, MillerCoors has cast doubt on the continuation of the agreement, noting that it may not have the ability to keep up the relationship.

However, for Pabst, the stakes are particularly high. It is prohibitively expensive to build a new brewery, and only a small number of U.S. breweries can generate the type of volume needed for Pabst's beer production. Pabst has filed a $500 million lawsuit against MillerCoors, accusing the other beer company of breach of contract, breach of anti-competition laws, misrepresentation and fraud. MillerCoors, on the other hand, avers that it has the right to decide whether it is able to renew the contract.

Settlement reached in Fujifilm case

When Texas companies get involved in business disputes, a planned merger can easily be derailed. Fujifilm recently launched a lawsuit against Xerox for $1 billion. The lawsuit also requested punitive damages be awarded. The photocopier company reportedly owes $183 million in fees according to Fujifilm for terminating the merger. The suit claimed "intentional and egregious conduct" as the primary reason for ending the merger deal.

Investors Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason were initially proponents of the $6.1 billion merger but chose to walk away from the deal. The photocopier company ended up reaching a settlement with the two. As a part of the settlement, control of the company was handed over to new management. The U.S. District Court in Manhattan settled the case.

ERISA lawsuit against Deutsche Bank partially dismissed

Texas businesses that offer benefits that are governed by ERISA understand that they must comply with the law or face lawsuits. Recently, an ERISA lawsuit that was filed by employees of Deutsche Bank against the company was partly dismissed.

Class action status was granted in September 2017 after the lawsuit was initially filed in December 2015. The employees alleged that Deutsche Bank included high-cost investment products in its 401(k) in order to benefit the bank. Deutsche Bank offered its employees 22 different funds from which they could choose, and it owned 10 of the funds.

Foreign investments in U.S. commercial real estate are growing

Texas entrepreneurs may be interested to know that foreign investors are pumping billions of dollars into the United States in the form of foreign direct investment in commercial real estate. Analysts are predicting that the investment numbers are tracking upward.

While foreign investors are not restricting their investments completely to commercial real estate, they are definitely showing an increased preference for this sector of the U.S. economy. This has been credited by some analysts to the recovery from the U.S. financial crisis with economic and job growth fostering the expansion of businesses.

Opportunities to invest in real estate

Warehouses in Texas and throughout the country have risen in demand in recent years. In the first three months of 2018, industrial retail sales were $16 billion, which is a 20 percent increase from a year ago. Furthermore, vacancy rates are down to 5.1 percent. Industrial spaces have become more popular because they don't take as much money to own and operate. They are also in demand because of the rise of e-commerce.

Since companies want to ship items to consumers faster, they need to be stored closer to the consumer. As demand increases, property owners could see rents go up by 10 percent or more per year. However, before a person chooses to buy an industrial property, it is important to pick a design that allows for the right tenant. It is also important to buy in a market where vacancy rates are low such as Oakland, Atlanta or Seattle.

What does uneven inflation mean for investors?

Economic trends are showing signs of inflation in Houston and throughout the United States. The normal cues for inflation are occurring in different areas of the marketplace and evidenced by increased construction costs, labor shortages and rising costs of commodities. High-performing companies shielded from inflation risks include online retail giants like Amazon, whose approach to maintaining profit margins has given it an advantage.

Commercial real estate has been largely relied on as a hedge. Rising rents become the norm when inflation rises due to the leasing rates for property management companies being influenced by the commercial price index. Whenever prices and wages rise, the real estate market prices also increase.

Gucci and Guess fashion brands resolve trademark disputes

Consumers in Texas might not realize the legal difficulties that sometimes flare up among their favorite fashion brands. For example, luxury brand Gucci has been battling Guess for nine years in multiple countries. Gucci alleged that the diamond pattern logo for Guess represented a direct copy of its trademark. After litigating the issue around the world, the companies announced that they have settled their disagreements concerning intellectual property.

The companies did not share the terms of the settlement, but pending court cases in China, France, Australia and Italy have been concluded. The claims of infringement started in 2009 when Gucci sued Guess within the United States. The luxury brand's suit argued that Guess had counterfeited its products to gain an unfair advantage through trademark infringement. The interlocking Gs on a style of Guess shoes formed the heart of the case because Gucci said it confused consumers about the brand of the product. This allegedly caused financial harm to Gucci.

UFC flyweight fighter being sued by ex-manager

A former UFC flyweight title challenger is currently being sued by his ex-manager for fraud and breach of contract. The lawsuit claims that the management firm arranged a five-fight deal for the fighter with the UFC but only received compensation for one fight. A major contest that was planned to take place in Texas this year has been rescheduled for UFC Fight Night 129 in Santiago, Chile.

The crux of the ex-managers lawsuit against the UFC fighter is a stated violation of the Fighter Management Agreement and Covenant Not to Compete. The flyweight allegedly broke these terms by switching to a nearby gym. According to written statements, the action caused the original management company "irreparable injury and financial harm." They are seeking incidental, actual, and punitive damages. The lawsuit was confirmed in February with the Bernalillo County Second Judicial District Court in New Mexico.

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