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Legal Report Resources January 2016

Data Transfer. The European Court of Justice struck down the European Union Commission’s Safe Harbor agreement with the United States, declaring it invalid in a recent ruling. The court reasoned that U.S. public authorities are not subject to the Safe Harbor agreement, enabling interference “with the fundamental rights of persons.”

Deepwater Horizon. BP will pay $20.8 billion to settle civil claims by the United States and five Gulf states in the largest settlement with a single entity in the U.S. Department of Justice’s history. The settlement stems from claims that were brought against BP after the April 20, 2010, fire and explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 men and sent more than 3 billion barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the next three months.

Planning. President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that requires a U.S. Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary to verify that airports and surface transportation systems have individualized working plans in place for responding to security incidents inside their perimeters. These plans must include response plans for active shooters, acts of terrorism, and incidents that target passenger-screening checkpoints.

Access. The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would limit airport employees’ access to secure areas within airport facilities. The bill (H.R. 3102) directs the Transportation Security Administration to create a risk-based, intelligence-driven model for screening airport employees based on level of employment-related access to Secure Identification Display Areas, Airport Operations Areas, or secure areas at U.S. airports.

Whistleblowers. The United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority issued new whistleblower rules that will require lenders and insurers to inform watchdogs when they lose an employment tribunal claim with a whistleblower. The new rules go into effect in September 2016.

Privacy. California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that updates the state’s digital privacy laws to protect Californians from warrantless surveillance of their digital information. 

Discrimination. BMW will pay $1.6 million and provide job opportunities to alleged victims of race discrimination to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). According to the suit, when BMW switched logistics contractors, it required the new contractor to perform a criminal background screen on all logistics employees who re-applied to continue working in their positions at BMW. After the checks were performed, 100 workers did not pass the screen, 80 percent of whom were black.

Fraud. The former owner and president of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), Stewart Parnell, was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in conspiring to defraud customers by shipping salmonella-positive peanut products before the results of microbiological testing were received and falsifying those test results. The scheme led to more than 700 reported cases of salmonella poisoning in 46 states and nine deaths.

Compliance. Desert Palace, Inc., the owner of Caesars Palace casino, will pay an $8 million civil penalty for “willful and repeated violations” of the anti-money laundering provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act. Along with the fine, the casino will conduct periodic external audits and independent testing of its anti-money laundering compliance program, and will report to the network on improvements to its compliance program.

Port Security. The U.S. House Homeland Security Committee passed a bill that would enhance cybersecurity information sharing and coordination at maritime ports in the United States to prevent cyberattacks. 

Use of Force. The U.S. Supreme Court gave legal immunity to a Texas state trooper who killed a fleeing suspect by shooting at his vehicle while he drove down a highway. The Court’s ruling in Mullenix v. Luna prevented him from being sued by the suspect’s family for money damages.

Tracking. Tracking the Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) an individual visits without a warrant may violate the Wiretap Act as it can constitute collecting the contents of the individual’s communications, a federal court ruled.

Data Breaches. Target will pay $10 million to resolve allegations that it compromised the credit or debit card information for millions of customers in its 2013 data breach.

State of Emergency. France enacted a new law that extends its state of emergency for three months until February 29, 2016. The state of emergency was declared following terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, and grants new security powers, including allowing police to search residences without warrants, house arrests to be conducted at lower standards, and restricts freedom of association.

Disaster Relief. Congress resolved its differences on H.R. 208 to pass the measure, sending it to President Barack Obama to sign into law. The legislation allows small businesses, homeowners, nonprofit entities, and renters that were within the declared major disaster area during Superstorm Sandy to apply for a Small Business Administration loan.

Refugees. The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prohibit refugees from Syria and Iraq entering the United States until they completed a new, more rigorous vetting process.