On May 25, 2023, the Texas Legislature enacted the biggest structural change to the Texas court system in recent memory. House Bill 19 (“HB 19”)—signed by Governor Greg Abbott in June—creates a new “Business Court” system for the Lone Star State. HB 19’s passage comes after four previous legislative efforts to enact a business court system in Texas failed. Texas’s Business Courts will activate on September 1, 2024, and will handle complex commercial disputes with significant amounts in controversy. The purpose is to create an efficient, specialized court for complex, high-value commercial disputes needing timely resolutions—matters that could otherwise languish in overworked district courts with broad dockets that include, among other things, criminal, personal injury, and family law cases. Ideally, specialized business courts also promote consistent interpretations of commercial laws and contracts, thereby leading to more predictable outcomes. Texas is now the 31st state to adopt a business court system of this kind.Continue Reading Texas Revolution: State Legislature Creates New Business Court System to Handle Significant Commercial Disputes
Bill Mateja is a partner in the White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations Practice Group in the firm's Dallas office.
On February 22, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a new nation-wide policy to incentivize companies to self-report criminal activity. Among the cited benefits of self-reporting are discounts on fines and non-prosecution agreements. This new policy arrives on the heels of the “Monaco Memo,” issued in September 2022 by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, which directed each prosecutorial DOJ component to review its policies on corporate voluntary self-disclosures and update to reflect the guidance’s core principles. The policy also is in addition to guidance from Attorney General Merrick Garland, who in December 2022 emphasized prosecutorial leniency in criminal cases. Together, these memos show a shift from prior administrations, which emphasized prosecuting the “most serious, readily provable offense,” not leniency for self-disclosures. Notably, the new policy does not impact individual actors, who, since the 2015 Yates Memo, still are a DOJ priority. Indeed, the new policy emphasizes that crediting voluntary self-disclosure by companies will help DOJ “ensure individual accountability” for individual criminal conduct. We break down key elements of the DOJ’s policy below, including our quick thoughts on how this policy may impact corporate decisions going forward. Continue Reading Corporate Voluntary Self-Disclosure of Criminal Activity: More of the Same or a Real Sea Change?
Over the last year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has been laser-focused on the use of personal devices by employees of the large Wall Street banks to conduct company business. The SEC’s investigations have focused on whether the banks complied with the “books and records” requirement that they preserve all communications that relate to Company business. The SEC has asserted that certain “off-channel” business communications not captured in company systems run afoul of this basic record keeping requirement. Not surprisingly, during the pandemic and with the increase in remote work, the SEC has determined that violations have been widespread. Continue Reading SEC Shifts Focus on Employees’ Off-Channel Business Communications to Investment Advisers
In Van Buren v. United States, No. 19-783, 2021 WL 2229206 (U.S. June 3, 2021), the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion drastically limiting the application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) (18 U.S.C. § 1030 et seq.), holding that the “exceeds authorized access” clause of the Act applies only to those who obtain information from particular areas in the computer—such as files, folders, or databases—to which the individual is not authorized to access under any circumstances. However, the Supreme Court excluded application of the clause to individuals who misuse their access to obtain information otherwise available to them for an unauthorized purpose. The Court’s Van Buren decision resolves a long-standing circuit split over the meaning of this key phase of the CFAA, and simultaneously creates new challenges for employers seeking to hold liable employees who misuse company information to the employer’s detriment.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Resolves Circuit Split Over CFAA