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Laws And Litigation

A King County Superior Court judge says she will rule after Christmas whether to uphold the nationally watched SeaTac minimum wage initiative, which would increase the pay of many airport-related workers to $15 per hour.

Judge Andrea Darvas held a nearly three-hour hearing on the measure last week in a packed courtroom at the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent. A lawsuit filed by Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association seeks to overturn Proposition 1, approved by voters in the city of SeaTac in the November election.

Darvas heard lengthy arguments from both sides during the hearing. read more »

 

A federal judge has given Visa and MasterCard the go-ahead on a $5.7 billion class-action settlement to resolve merchant complaints over the fees they are charged each time a customer swipes a credit or debit card.

The ruling on Dec. 13 comes after years of litigation and ushers in the largest private antitrust settlement in history. Yet it is not enough to quell the anger of retailers, who say the agreement does not prevent the credit card giants from imposing higher fees with impunity.

“We are very disappointed that this deeply flawed settlement has been approved,” Mallory Duncan, general counsel at the National Retail Federation, said in a prepared statement. “It is not supported by the retail industry and would do nothing to reduce swipe fees or keep them from rising in the future.” read more »

 

Business Examiner

The National Federation of Independent Business, Washington state’s largest small-business association, joined the Association of Washington Business and others on Dec. 13 in asking the state Supreme Court to overrule a lower court’s decision.

The case, Becerra v. Fred Meyer, involves plaintiffs working for independent companies that entered into service contracts to clean Fred Meyer stores. In the lawsuit, these employees allege that Fred Meyer, along with their independent employers, should be viewed as a joint employer. This could entitle these employees to back wages and other benefits mandated by wage-and-hour law. read more »

 

WASHINGTON — The federal Department of Transportation (DOT) will consider banning the use of cellphones for voice calls onboard airplanes, a reaction to widespread public outrage over a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to loosen the rules.

Together, the two developments mean that consumers soon will probably be able to text and connect to the Internet on their cellphones at 10,000 feet, but not to make voice calls.

The two agencies said they had heard and wanted to respect public outcry at the prospect of being stuck for hours in close quarters next to a person gabbing into a cellphone. read more »

 

Government regulators have approved the “Volcker Rule,” which was created to prevent big banks from trading for their own benefit rather than on behalf of customers. It also bars banks from making trades merely for profit and prohibits them from owning hedge funds and private-equity funds.

Q: What is the Volcker Rule?

A: It is part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act that passed in 2010 that aims to prevent giant banks from engaging in speculative trading activity.

The idea is that, while it is important for banks to support the economy by lending to consumers and businesses, when they get into the realm of making bets in exotic financial markets — known as proprietary trading — they aren’t really doing anything to support the economy. read more »

 

Eight prominent technology companies, bruised by revelations of government spying on their customers’ data and scrambling to repair the damage to their reputations, are mounting a public campaign to urge President Obama and Congress to set new limits on government surveillance.

The companies, led by Google and Microsoft, presented a plan to regulate online spying and urged the United States to lead a worldwide effort to restrict it. They accompanied it with an open letter, in the form of full-page ads published Dec. 9 in national newspapers, including The New York Times, and a website detailing their concerns.

It is the broadest and strongest effort by the companies, often archrivals, to speak with one voice to pressure the government. read more »

 

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule for the first time in decades on patent protection for computer software, taking up a case that has divided the industry and may reverberate through the American economy.

The justices on Dec. 6 agreed to hear arguments on a patented system for limiting the risk that one party to a derivative trade won’t follow through on its obligations.

The case splintered a federal appeals court in a ruling that one judge said called hundreds of thousands of patents into question.

On one side of the debate are Google, Facebook and JPMorgan Chase, which say patent standards for software are too lax and open companies to unwarranted lawsuits. read more »

 

Former Washington Mutual Chief Executive Officer Kerry Killinger and two other bank officials are in settlement talks with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the last chapter in the government’s probe of the largest U.S. bank failure.

The regulator is weighing a settlement with Killinger, former chief operating officer Stephen Rotella and David Schneider, former head of the home loan division, over claims they mismanaged the Seattle-based thrift, according to a person who was briefed and spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks aren’t public.

The person, who said the talks have entered the final stage, didn’t describe the terms being discussed. The details of a deal would need the approval of senior OCC officials. read more »

 

Microsoft Corp.’s head lawyer has called snooping efforts by the National Security Administration an “advanced persistent threat” and the company said it’s taking action against the snooping.

“These efforts threaten to seriously undermine confidence in the security and privacy of online communications,” according to a Dec. 4 blog post by Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president, legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

Smith said Microsoft will counter snooping efforts and protect customers’ data by expanding encryption, reinforcing legal protections for customers’ data, and enhancing the transparency of its software code.

 
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