Business Law and New Year’s Resolutions

Procrastination can be a deadly habit and it is so easy to slip into, especially for small business owners and partnerships. The lack of an immediate need or pressure to address brewing and potential future legal problems means that all of the impetus for action must come from business owners themselves. So, rather than procrastinate, here are a few tips to get a jump-start for 2016.

New Year's ResolutionsFor your New Years’ business resolution, be proactive and anticipate legal problems both within and without your business. Proactively confront personality clashes among your partners. Be honest about the differences in management style, business goals, and financial philosophies. A partnership is best run by a balance of personalities, not by the dominance of one.

If your business involves customer data, take a hard look at cyber-security. It seems like 2015 was the year of the data breach, from BlueCross/BlueShield to Ashley Madison to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, data breaches were everywhere. Educate employees on proper email, internet and cloud storage usage and security measures. The last thing your business needs is the economic loss of a data breach and inevitable lawsuits that follow.

If your business is open to the public (restaurant, retail store, etc.), another issue to consider is investing in an ADA-compliant infrastructure. Disability compliance lawsuits are one of the easiest to avoid. Also, don’t forget to invest in your digital and other intellectual properties.

Aside from these and other business issues that can result in costly legal issues, one of the most important and often-overlooked traps for business owners is failing to plan for potential break-ups. If you do not already have one, come up with a “business divorce” plan. No one likes to think about it, but partnerships do fall apart. It is far cheaper and more efficient if rights and obligations of shareholders and business partners are established before an event of dissolution. Don’t just consider capital contributions, assets and liabilities: take note of clients; employees and personnel matters; technology, trade secrets and other intellectual property; goodwill; and business continuation.

Many businesses fail because of a dispute among partners that might have been prevented or at least mitigated with proper planning. Make 2016 the year you build a sturdier foundation for your company for the future.

A key element of proactively running a business of any size is having experienced legal counsel available. Contact Atlanta business law attorney Jay Brownstein at Brownstein & Nguyen for sound, practical business advice and legal representation.

What is Business Divorce?

When business partnerships have run their course, it might be time for a business divorce. Similar to the end of a marriage, a business divorce involves taking into consideration the assets and debts of a company, determining how to distribute them, and legally severing the relationship between small business owners.

Reasons for Business DivorceBusiness Divorce Atlanta

Many events can trigger the need for a business divorce. Partnerships may dissolve because partners no longer share the same goals and expectations for the business. Small business owners may begin new ventures or start to pull away from the business. A poor business model or financial problems may also lead to a business divorce. When partnerships can no longer be maintained, there may be little choice but to sever the legal relationship between partners and dissolve the business.

Issues Involved in Business Divorce

When a business must be dissolved, there are often several major issues that must be addressed. Business debs, including legal and tax liabilities, must be dealt with. Partners may disagree on the prioritization of certain debts and current obligations to lenders. Underlying problems that contributed to financial difficulty may need to be identified and rectified. Long-term liabilities such as leases must be addressed, as well as contingent or future liabilities such as personal guaranties of the partners. Other common issues include how to deal with the termination of employees and whether owners will be permitted to operate a new or successor business within the same industry.

Legal Rights and Obligations

Well-prepared business owners obtain legal assistance at the start of new business venture, including the preparation and execution of a shareholder, operating or partnership agreement that includes provisions regarding future dissolution of the partnership or company and winding up the affairs of the business. Absent such an agreement, the rights and obligations of small business owners are established by state statutes and applicable case law. In either event, it is important to consult with qualified business counsel as soon as a disagreement or possible event of dissolution occurs.

For legal guidance and assistance when dealing with a business divorce, contact the experienced partnership and shareholder dispute attorneys at the Atlanta law offices of Brownstein & Nguyen.

Legal Update on the Journey of Unaccompanied Minors

What is the current status of the legal and humanitarian problem of unaccompanied minors?

The number of unaccompanied minors, or minors entering the United States without adult guardians, seems to have slowed. Some 67,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border in 2014, while in 2015 that number dropped to less than 20,000. Moral questions aside, the United States is legally bound to ensure that it does not deport refugees to any country in which they face persecution. This requires the government to investigate the circumstances for each refugee to determine eligibility for refugee or humanitarian status.

Changing Detention Procedures

Not AloneDuring the height of the unaccompanied minor crisis, children were apprehended and detained in border facilities pending a resolution of their application. However, if a child had family or a legal guardian present in the United States, the child is eligible to be released into their care pending their application for adjustment of status. As of June 1, 2015, Congress urged the Border Patrol to reduce detentions. In response, Border Patrol has been coordinating with state foster and child care agencies and facilities to move children out of detention facilities and into better family-friendly environments.

In-Country Processing Program

In November 2014, the State Department launched the in-country processing program in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Through this program, parents may submit refugee applications in their home country. This process allows children of refuges to remain with their parents pending their application status. The idea is to offer safe legal alternatives to the perilous journey north.

The goal of this program, coupled with increased security at the Mexican southern border, is designed to slow the movement of unaccompanied minors into the United States. The journey is expensive and dangerous for the children who attempt it. It is less expensive, both fiscally and morally, for the United States to process refugees in-country and safer for children to remain with their parents while waiting the processing of their application for refugee status.

It is important to be aware of the often complicated and lengthy legal immigration process. If you or a loved one needs support navigating the immigration system in the United States, contact the Atlanta experienced immigration attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen.

4 Tips for Safe Holiday Travel

According to AAA, holiday season travel is expected to break records this year. AAA is forecasting that nearly one in three Americans will take a trip by vehicle. This means that for the first time, the number of holiday travelers expected to travel 50 miles or more from home may top 100 million. With so many individuals and families on the road, we wanted to share a few travel tips from Brownstein & Nguyen.

Number One: Vehicle Check UpBrownstein & Nguyen (1)

It is always a good idea to follow the dealer recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle. However, if you are traveling farther than usual, spend a little extra time checking your vehicle before the trip. This includes making sure the tires are properly inflated and that all fluids have been topped off. Additionally, it is a good opportunity to make sure there are not any current recalls on your vehicle.

Number Two: Plan Enough Time for Travel

If you are traveling by air or over the roads, make sure that you give yourself plenty of time. Living in metro Atlanta often means dealing with traffic slow downs and delays.

Number Three: Use Navigation Apps

Using your vehicle’s GPS system is helpful when traveling by car. You’ll be able to avoid congested areas and alternate routes are often suggested by in car systems. Additionally, take a look at the following apps for getting you to your destination in a safe and timely manner:


The Waze app is available on android and Apple devices. This is a community based app in which other drivers update accident and traffic alerts in real time.

Google Maps

If you do not have an in-car navigation system, Google Maps will do the job for you. Plug your phone into the audio system of your vehicle and you’ll be as good as any other driver on the road with GPS.

Number Four: Prepare for An Emergency

You never know what type of weather you’ll run into, or if your car will have a failure. It is a great idea to make sure that you have an emergency kit in your car. This should include safety flares or reflective devices to alert other drivers on the road. It should also include water to prevent dehydration should you be waiting for a long period of time. A warm blanket is ideal to keep in the vehicle as is a first aid kit.

At Brownstein & Nguyen we wish you safe travels as you spend time on the roads this holiday season. 

EB-5 Debate Continues

With concerns over fraud and poor oversight, the debate over EB-5 visas has prompted Congress to respond with a draft to renew current EB-5 legislation that is set to expire on December 11, 2015. This concern is related to the many high-end real estate projects in larger cities that have benefited with job creation from the program for the past several years. Meanwhile, smaller projects in more rural areas or impoverished areas may have been crowded out of the program because of the limited number of green cards available each year to foreign investors.Construction

Proposed Changes

With this draft, which is co-sponsored by Senators Charles Grassley and Patrick Leahy, proposed changes to EB-5 program seek to prevent future program abuses from occurring. It’s expected that these changes will increase opportunities for investors with smaller projects to qualify for EB-5 visas.

Included in the draft legislation:

  • The number of green cards for lower level projects would increase from 3,000 to 4,000 out of the 10,000 EB-5 visas available.
  • Projects, including government infrastructure or manufacturing would be placed in their own categories that will qualify them for a lower fundraising level, along with those in designated federal economic development zones.
  • Fundraising levels would rise from $500k to $800k for lower level projects and from $1 million to $1.2 million for larger projects.
  • To qualify for high unemployment area benefits, the location of the project would need to take place or next to a census tract that has an unemployment rate of that is equal or more than 150% of the national average.
  • Projects located in areas where the poverty rate is 20% or higher will qualify for additional consideration with other federal economic development programs.

Don’t struggle with the EB-5 process alone. Contact the immigration law experts at Brownstein & Nguyen.

Immigration and Holiday Traditions

With the arrival of the holiday season, many people are gathering with family and friends to celebrate the holidays. One thing about living in the United States – there is no one single way to celebrate a holiday. Many families integrate different customs that have roots in their native countries as they celebrate the holidays. Since the pilgrims first arrived and countless others emigrated to this country from around the world, there has always been a connection between immigration and holiday traditions.

Origins of Thanksgiving

To celebrate their first successful corn harvest, the Pilgrims held a feast to celebrate with their Native American friends. This feast became known as the first Thanksgiving in America. However, the origin of celebrating a successful harvest has roots in ancient civilizations, such as those of the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians who often paid tribute to their deities. The concept of Thanksgiving also bears a striking resemblance to the Jewish harvest festival known as Sukkot.

Origins of Christmas TraditionsImmigration

Up until the 19th century, Christmas was not really celebrated in the United States because the holiday had been outlawed by the pilgrims. However, the holiday’s popularity grew with an influx of German immigrants during the 1800s. While Christmas is known as a Christian holiday, many of the customs celebrated today come from pagan roots that originated in Germany. The holiday was originally intended to celebrate the winter solstice. Customs such as Christmas trees, caroling, exchanging gifts, gingerbread houses and good old Saint Nick are a result of German influence.

When it comes to family immigration, contact the Atlanta immigration law offices of Brownstein & Nguyen for assistance. While celebrating the holidays this year, think about how immigration and holiday traditions have an impact on how you celebrate. It is a great way to honor your heritage.

Prescription Drug Costs – how much is too much?

There has a been a lot of talk in the news lately about the inflated costs of prescription drugs. It is now becoming increasingly common to see prescription drugs that have been on the market for over 50 years to suddenly quadruple in price or in one case, increase 5,000% percent. For many people, taking these prescriptions is a matter of life and death. Being suddenly hit with outrageous out-of-pocket costs to the tune of thousands of dollars are causing these individuals extreme financial and personal hardship. Some are forced to choose between eating and paying for needed medication to stave off debilitating, life-threatening medical conditions.

When prescription drugs first arrive on the market, it is expected to have to pay a higher price. This is because drug makers are seeking to earn a return on their investment for research, development, and drug trials that are required before the drug is released to the public. If a drug is commercially successful, though, the pharmaceutical company can make back its initial investment in a few short years. After that, the rest if pure profit. Real savings to consumers usually do not trickle down until after drug goes off-patent, typically between 7 and 12 years after a drug is approved for sale. However, to suddenly increase prices of drugs (even generic ones) to exorbitant levels is a form of medical extortion.

Rising Healthcare Prescription CostsWhat many people realize is that spiraling healthcare costs are nothing new. Hospitals have been getting away with it for years with overcharging patients for routine services such as diagnostic tests and X-rays, pain medication or medical supplies. Depending upon a patient’s coverage, their prices may be higher or lower with those with less coverage often being charged higher prices. Being charged $10.00 or more for one Tylenol is no longer a joke; it is a stark reality for many.

Some states have attempted to address the prescription drug crisis through legislation limiting patient co-payments or requiring cost transparency. So far, those efforts have failed largely due to the overwhelming money and influence of large pharmaceutical companies. On the federal level, there have been legislative efforts to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, price limits for seniors (under Medicare Part D), and cost transparency. Check out these and other proposals (including allowing easier access to Canadian drugs) supported by Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

As individuals, we might feel powerless to fight the cost of prescription drugs. However, if you or a loved one has been further victimized by the healthcare system due to medical negligence or mistake, there is something you can do. Contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen to see if you have a case.

International Infection Prevention Week

Along with the changing colors on the trees, there is a chill in the air in metro Atlanta. Both are sure signs of fall! Another sign of the season can be found at any grocery or department store with pumpkins lining curbs out front and aisles of candy and costumes. Yet, even with the spooky delights of Halloween, a much more serious fright is observed during the third week of October with International Infection Prevention Week.  

Medical Malpractice

Image via APIC

This fright is a hidden one in the everyday world around us, and comes in the form of microbial organisms that cause infection, a major concern when it comes to disease control and prevention. While the healthcare industry is aware of the importance of washing hands, the message does not always get across to the general public or even within the healthcare industry itself. As reported in our Healthcare-Associated Infection information, more than 200 Americans are expected to pass away each day as a result of an infection contracted during a hospital stay.

Obviously, infections can be transmitted through other sources besides unwashed hands. However, this is one of the most basic places to start. For this reason, we support the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) as they celebrate and promote awareness during International Infection Prevention Week. Here are a few tried and true pointers:

Infection Prevention at Work

No matter what industry you work in, whether it is healthcare, food preparation or service, education, government or private business, it is important to keep in mind general infection prevention practices. One way to prevent the spread of infection is through staying home from work or school when sick. This is not always practiced, but can easily make all a huge difference in the spread of diseases including common colds and the flu.

Infection Prevention at School

Parents of school-aged children know that colds and stomach bugs can pass through a classroom like wildfire. Encourage your child to make sure they are washing their hands regularly, especially after using the restroom and before eating. Another reminder for kids and adults includes sneezing or coughing into one’s elbow rather than into their hands.

Infection Prevention with Young Children

Young children may be at a higher risk for infection, but are also carriers of germs and bacteria especially on their hands. For this reason, it is important to instill proper handwashing procedures early on. One fun way to do this is to teach children to wash their hands while singing the entire ABC’s to make sure that they take enough time to lather up and scrub.

Lack of hand washing and other preventive measures likely contribute to the spread of infections. In cases involving healthcare facilities or professionals, sometimes infections may fall into the category of medical malpractice. In the state of Georgia, medical malpractice claims in  are not easy to pursue, but the lawyers at Brownstein & Nguyen have years of experience successfully litigating cases like these. Contact our Atlanta malpractice attorneys for a free consultation if you or a loved one have suffered from a Healthcare-Associated Infection.

Whistleblowing in the News

National headlines these days are full of news related to whistleblowing. Some headlines and situations are controversial due to their subject matter or details. However, the fact remains that individuals witnessing wrongdoing by the part of the government or private companies have the right to come forward with protections afforded under various state and federal laws, including the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. The act has played a major role in allowing government whistleblowers the confidence to come forward, knowing that their actions are legally protected.

One ongoing battle regarding whistleblowing involves the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and medical device approvals. The Wall Street Journal reported that the claims of the whistleblowers  regarding imaging devices for the screening of breast cancer and colon cancer were rejected as unsubstantiated. While the case dates back to 2008, fresh controversy arose in 2012 after new evidence revealed that the FDA was monitoring employee activity on government computers. This led to further questions and debate regarding the rights of whistleblowers.

AtlantaIn more recent news, at a more local level and involving animals rather than the healthcare industry, is the case of Brittany Roberts. A former animal control officer, Roberts claims she was fired after bringing forth concerns of animal mistreatment within Detroit Animal Control. After her firing, Ms. Roberts filed a detailed whistleblower lawsuit against the department and certain officials. Only time will tell the outcome of that case. However, the City of Detroit has already begun making some changes. For starters, the city’s Animal Control department is being moved from the Detroit Police Department to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Criminal conduct or fraud by an employer,  healthcare provider, or government contractor should not be ignored or go unreported. As a government or private company employee with knowledge of serious wrongdoing, you should know your rights as a potential whistleblower. In addition to legal protections, whistleblowers can receive significant compensation under certain situations. We encourage all employees to visit in an effort to be more aware of whistleblower protection programs.

If you or someone you know is dealing with blatant wrongdoing by their employer, we encourage you to call our law offices in Atlanta for guidance and advice in whistleblowing situations. With more than 25 years of experience in legal matters relating to business and employment situations, Jay Brownstein has expertly guided individuals faced with delicate whistleblowing decisions. Contact our offices today at 770-458-9060 for a consultation.

Employment Visas and EB-5 Updates

Thousands of foreign workers employed in various occupations are welcomed into the United States every year. All of these workers – artists, researchers, information technology specialists, religious workers, scientists and others from numerous occupations – must obtain permission to work in the U.S. by obtaining an employment visa.

Temporary (Non-immigrant) Worker Visa

This visa is for an individual asking to enter the United States on a temporary basis for a specific purpose. Applicants are restricted to the activities and purpose(s) they listed in their visa request.

Permanent (Immigrant) Worker Visa

This visa is for an individual who has been authorized to live and work permanently in the United States.

Students and Exchange Visitors Visas

Students and exchange visitors are allowed to work in the United States under specified circumstances.

Temporary Visitors for Business

To enter the United States for business purposes requires a visa as a temporary visitor for business (B-1 Visa).

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

Under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program administered by the USCIS,  entrepreneurs, their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for a green card to gain permanent residence if: they make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise and plan to create ten permanent full time jobs for United States workers.

Employment Visa AtlantaThis program was created by Congress in 1990 as a means to stimulate the U.S. economy. The dual goals were to create jobs and increase capital investment by foreign investors.

Association to Invest in USA (IIUSA) reports this program has brought many investments from Great Britain, Canada and South Korea, with the most investments in recent years coming from China. Since it was created, the EB-5 Visa Program has brought 6.8 billion dollars into the U.S. and has issued more than 29,000 visas.

Small Business and EB-5 Investment Visas

For a small business to attract an EB-5 investment, the business needs a project set up to raise funds, be financially viable and marketable, and prove there will be a creation of jobs and have a clear exit strategy to return funds to investors. Small business owners have tough competition in this market from ventures promoting larger projects, such as multi-million dollar real estate developments. Foreign investors have been drawn to larger-scale and higher profile investments.

The EB-5 process takes a lot of time, patience and expertise. Experts advise businesses interested to get in touch with the USCIS EB-5 Regional Center in their area as they can help ensure a proposed project fits the parameters of the program. Experts also advise being careful and as complete as you can when filing.

Reforms are being made to the EB-5 Regional Center Program, in large part to address abuses by some promoters. Industry stakeholders should take this opportunity to present their thoughts on how reforms can be implemented in a way that both supports job creation and foreign investment efforts. Congress recently passed a temporary extension of the program through December 2015.

In 2014, President Obama took action concerning immigrants entering our country illegally to find employment. He has announced three steps to gain control of those illegally entering our country for employment:

  • Grant additional resources to border patrols to stem the flow.
  • Make it easier for highly skilled immigrants to stay and contribute to the economy.
  • Proposed measures to address the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the country.

Opponents of the President’s reforms subsequently went to court to block many of them, and were successful doing so. The U.S. immigration system remains in need of change today.

Today, applying for one of the many types of employment visas is an important avenue for those who wish to enter the United States legally for employment reasons.

The Atlanta immigration offices of Brownstein & Nguyen offer experienced and qualified help with employment visasinvestment visas, and other immigration questions and assistance. Contact our Georgia immigration law offices today.