Robinhood Lawsuit

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Earlier this month an online Reddit community known as wallstreetbets banded together to purchase stocks that elite hedge funds had bet against.

Their collective action caused GameStop stock to skyrocket from $17 on January 1 to an incredible $469 on January 28.

The community’s actions will likely result in a tremendous loss for the hedge funds that bet against the stock.

Much of the trading done by wallstreetbets was facilitated by an online brokerage firm called Robinhood.

A few days ago Robinhood inexplicably froze trading on GameStop stock.

This action immediately prompted a class-action lawsuit against Robinhood and its subsidiaries in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

According to the complaint:

On or around January 11, 2021, stocks in GameStop Corp. (“GME”) began to rise.

At that time, Robinhood allowed retail investors to trade GME on the open market.

On or about January 27, 2021 Robinhood, in order to slow the growth of GME and deprived their customers of the ability to use their service, abruptly, purposefully, willfully, and knowingly pulled GME from their app. Meaning, retail investors could no longer buy or even search for GME on Robinhood’s app.

Upon information and belief, Robinhood’s actions were done purposefully and
knowingly to manipulate the market for the benefit of people and financial intuitions who were not Robinhood’s customers.

Since pulling the stock from their app, GME prices have gone up, depriving investors of
potential gains.

Additionally, in the event GME goes down, Robinhood has deprived investors of
“shorting” GME in the hopes the price drops.

In sum, Robinhood has completely blocked retailer investors from purchasing GME for no legitimate reason, thereby depriving retailer investors from the benefits of Robinhood’s services.

The complaint argues that Robinhood violated rules established by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, particularly Rule 5310 which states that brokerage firms like Robinhood “must make every effort to execute a marketable customer order that it receives promptly and fully.”

The plaintiffs allege that Robinhood’s actions constitute (1) a breach of contract, (2) a breach of the implied covenants of good faith and fair dealing, (3) a breach of fiduciary duty, and (4) negligence.

They are asking the court for an immediate injunction ordering Robinhood to allow trading of GameStop stock and monetary and punitive damages for the financial harm Robinhood has allegedly done to its customers.

Parler v. Amazon: Case Summary

Parler–the new social media alternative to Twitter and Facebook–filed a lawsuit against Amazon earlier this week after Amazon abruptly removed the company from its cloud service platform.

Amazon’s actions essentially killed the rapidly growing app and Parler wasted no time filing a lawsuit for injunctive relief and money damages.

According to the complaint filed in the United State District Court for the Western District of Washington, Parler contracted with Amazon as its cloud service provider when the site was formed. Parler saw its membership grow exponentially after the November 2020 election. The complaint states

less than a week after Election Day, between November 3rd and November 8th, Parler’s app experienced nearly on million downloads…This resulted in Parler rocketing to be the #1 free app in the iOS App Store, up from #1,023 just a week earlier…Likewise, in that same week the Parler app went from 486th to 1st in the Google Play rankings.

Parler’s membership surged again in 2021 when President Trump was banned from Twitter. On that day alone, Parler membership increased in the United States by 355%.

Amazon, which just last month signed a multi-year deal with Twitter to provide cloud servicing, withdrew its platform from Parler with only a single day’s notice. As justification for its actions, Amazon claimed that Parler was used to facilitate protests on the Capitol on January 6.

Parler’s complaint asserts that Amazon’s actions violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act which prohibits businesses from conspiring to retain trade or commerce. The complaint also claims that Parler’s contract with Amazon required at least 30 day’s notice before the servicing agreement could be terminated. Amazon allegedly breached its contract with Parler by ending its service agreement without proper notice. Finally, Parler claims that Amazon’s actions amount to tortious interference with the contracts formed between Parler and its members.

Parler is asking for an order from the court directing Amazon to maintain Parler’s site according to the terms of their contract and for money damages for the financial harm Amazon’s actions have caused.

Title Fraud Insurance in Massachusetts

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Over the past year or two I’ve seen a growing number of high-budget ads for “title fraud insurance.” As with all forms of insurance, its persuaive sales people tell you nightmare stories about what might happen to you if you don’t buy their product. But are these stories true? Can someone really “steal” ownership of your home? In this video I discuss title fraud insurance and whether its worth the investment.

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New Executive Order Promoting Classical Federal Architecture

Last Friday President Trump signed an executive order requiring all new federal buildings to be built according to the principals of Classical architecture.

The order states,

It is time to update the policies guiding Federal architecture to address these problems and ensure that architects designing Federal buildings serve their clients, the American people. New Federal building designs should, like America’s beloved landmark buildings, uplift and beautify public spaces, inspire the human spirit, ennoble the United States, command respect from the general public, and, as appropriate, respect the architectural heritage of a region. They should also be visibly identifiable as civic buildings and should be selected with input from the local community.

The order seeks to eliminate or minimize “Brutalist” and “Deconstructivist” architectural styles that came into use in the second half of the 20th century and replace them with Classical architecture which the order describes as follows:

“Classical architecture” means the architectural tradition derived from the forms, principles, and vocabulary of the architecture of Greek and Roman antiquity, and as later developed and expanded upon by such Renaissance architects as Alberti, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, and Palladio; such Enlightenment masters as Robert Adam, John Soane, and Christopher Wren; such 19th-century architects as Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Robert Mills, and Thomas U. Walter; and such 20th-century practitioners as Julian Abele, Daniel Burnham, Charles F. McKim, John Russell Pope, Julia Morgan, and the firm of Delano and Aldrich. Classical architecture encompasses such styles as Neoclassical, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco.

To achieve its aims, the order also establishes a “President’s Council on Improving Federal Civic Architecture” and requires that any building plans contradicting the order must be brought to the President’s attention.

Presidential Election Lawsuit in Michigan

The Trump campaign’s lawsuit in Michigan challenges the actions of the state’s election officials in Wayne County where Detroit is located.

According to the complaint,

Wayne County did not conduct (and is not conducting) this election as required by Michigan law, and Secretary of State Benson did not require Wayne County to follow Michigan’s election code. Among other things, election officials in Wayne County refused to permit statutorily designated challengers to observe the conduct of the election and the processing of ballots. Some election officials pre-dated ballots that were not eligible to be counted by altering the date the ballot was received.

Campaign attorneys are asking the court to

enjoin the Michigan board of state canvassers and the Wayne County canvassing boards from certifying any tally of ballots containing fraudulent or unlawfully cast ballots. Likewise, we ask the Court to enjoin the Wayne County canvassing board and the state canvassing board from certifying any tally that includes ballots received after election day and ballots that were processed when statutorily designated challengers were excluded from a meaningful opportunity to observe the processing of ballots. And finally, ballots that were tabulated with defective or malfunctioning tabulating machines or software must be excluded from the tally or hand-counted to confirm they are accurately
counted and may be included in any certified canvass.

The allegations made in the complaint are supported by over a hundred sworn witness affidavits.

Presidential Election Lawsuit in Pennsylvania

This week President Trump’s campaign, the Republican National Committee, and a handful of voters filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s election officials in US District Court.

The 57-page complaint asks the court to either declare election officials’ actions unconstitutional or order the state’s officials to conduct ballot counting according to Pennsylvania statutory law.

The complaint alleges that election officials violated both statutory and constitutional law by collecting mail-in ballots at locations that were not designated polling stations.

In contradiction of Pennsylvania election law,

the Commonwealth allowed absentee and mail-in ballots to be returned to other locations, such as shopping centers, parking lots, fairgrounds, parks, retirement homes, college campuses, fire halls, municipal government buildings, and elected officials’ offices.

These “unmonitored and ad hoc drop boxes” bypassed the scrutiny of Pennsylvania poll watchers who have the legal right to observe votes being casts and who may challenge the validity of a vote if any irregularity is noticed.

The complaint also claims that votes were counted even though they were not submitted inside the state-required “Official Election Ballot” envelope and that some of these envelopes were marked in a way that made them non-compliant with state election laws.

Based on the foregoing allegations, there are a total of seven counts (i.e., legal claims) contained in the complaint.

Count I

First and Fourteenth Amendments U.S. Const. Art. I § 4, cl. 1; Art. II, § 1, cl. 2; Amend. I and XIV, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Infringement of the Right to Vote Through Invalid Enactment of Regulations Affecting the Time, Place and Manner of Election by Pennsylvania’s Executive Branch

Count II

Fourteenth Amendment U.S. Const. Amend. XIV, 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Denial of Equal Protection Disparate Treatment of Nondisabled Absentee/Mail-In Voters Among Different Counties

Count III

Pennsylvania Equal Protection and Free and Equal Elections Pa. Const. art. VII, § 1, art. I, § 28, &art. I, § 5 Infringement of the Right to Vote Through Invalid Enactment of Regulations Affecting the Time, Place and Manner of Election by Pennsylvania’s Executive Branch and Denial of Equal Protection via Disparate Treatment of Absentee/Mail-In Voters Amongst Different Counties

Count IV

First and Fourteenth Amendments U.S. Const. Amend. I and XIV, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Infringement of the Right to Vote Through Failure to Sufficiently Safeguard Against Dilution of Vote by Fraud or Tampering: Poll Watcher Residency Restriction & Polling Place Restriction

Count V

Pennsylvania Equal Protection and Free and Equal Elections Pa. Const. art. VII, § 1, art. I, § 28, &art. I, § 5 Infringement of the Right to Vote Through Failure to Sufficiently Safeguard Against Dilution of Vote by Fraud or Tampering: Poll Watcher Residency Restriction & Polling Place Restriction

Count VI

First and Fourteenth Amendments U.S. Const. Amend. I and XIV, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Infringement of the Right to Vote Through Failure to Sufficiently Safeguard Against Dilution of Vote by Fraud or Tampering: Failure to Notice Drop Box Location

Count VII

Pennsylvania Equal Protection and Free and Equal Elections Pa. Const. art. VII, § 1, art. I, § 28, &art. I, § 5 Infringement of the Right to Vote Through Failure to Sufficiently Safeguard Against Dilution of Vote by Fraud or Tampering: Failure to Notice Drop Box Location

Regardless of the district court’s decision, the matter will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court within the coming weeks.

Governor Baker’s Contact-Tracing Order

On November 2, Governor Baker signed COVID-19 Order No. 54 which, among other things, requires citizens to assist the state in corona virus contact tracing.

Section 6 of the order reads as follows: If a host or event venue is notified that an event attendee or event worker has tested positive for COVID-19, the event host or event venue must immediately notify the Local Board of Health in the city or town where the event took place. Hosts and event venues must assist the Department of Public Health and Local Boards of Health with contact tracing and case investigations, including, upon request, providing lists of attendees at social gatherings and their contact information. Event hosts and venues who fail to timely report positive cases or cooperate with contact tracing and case investigations may be subject to the penalties listed in Section 8.

According to Section 8,

Violation of the terms of this Order may result in a civil fine up to $500 per violation…to be assessed on any person, organization, or business responsible for organizing, hosting, or allowing a gathering conducted in violation of the Order.

The Governor’s office cites to the Civil Defense Act (St. 1950, c. 639, section 8) as authority for the contact-tracing order.

An argument could be made that the order violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against self incrimination. The Fifth Amendment (applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment) prohibits the government from compelling a citizen to make statements that could leading to his or her prosecution.

The governor’s order seeks to side step the Fifth Amendment by expressly stating that the penalty for violating the order is a “civil fine up to $500″. Emphasis added. In other words, a person will not be criminally prosecuted for violating the order. Therefore, a citizen cannot invoke his or her constitutional protection against self incrimination.

However, the authority that the governor cites in making the order (i.e., St. 1950, c. 639, section 8) clearly states that violations are punishable by up to a year in jail. Thus, it is arguable that a person should be permitted to remain silent when asked for contact tracing information.

Hopefully the order will be successfully challenged in the near future.

Wire Fraud: How to Spot It and How to Avoid It

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Since 2016 a staggering $26 billion has been stolen through wire fraud. Probably the number one target for these schemes are real estate attorneys and their clients.

The typical wire-fraud scenario involves a criminal either hacking into an attorney’s email or creating an email similar to the one used by the attorney and then sending a request to the client asking that funds to be wire. The wire instructions, of course, are not to the attorney’s escrow account, but to the criminal’s bank account.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim to such a scheme is to always verify wire instructions before sending money. To verify instructions speak directly to your attorney or his paralegal either over the phone or, preferably, in person and have them confirm the account information.

Also, beware of the following red flags: sudden changes in an attorney’s wire instructions, a change in your attorney’s email address, an urgent request that funds be wired immediately, and vague or overly-professional introductions such as “Dear Sir/Madam”.

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U.S. Appeals Court: Private Student Loans Can be Discharged Through Bankruptcy

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A recent ruling by the US Court of Appeals in Colorado held that a couple’s private student loan debt can be discharged through bankruptcy.

The ruling significantly impacts the long-standing legal concept that such loans were non-dischargeable under the bankruptcy code.

In the 48-page opinion, the court states:

This case raises a question of first impression in this circuit: does an educational loan constitute ‘an obligation to repay funds received as an educational benefit…We conclude that it does not. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 158(d)(2)(A), we affirm the bankruptcy court’s interlocutory order denying Navient’s motion and remand the case for further proceedings.

According to one bankruptcy expert who spoke with (article here),

the ruling potentially converts a ton of student loan debt… if adopted nationally, tens of billions dollars, from presumptively non-dischargeable to automatically dischargeable.

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Mass. Landlords File Suit Against the State Claiming the Eviction Moratorium Is Unconstitutional

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Two Massachusetts landlords have filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

The lawsuit, filed on July 15 in US District Court, seeks a judgment from the court invalidating the state’s moratorium on evictions.

According to the complaint, the moratorium’s prohibition on court-ordered evictions violates the First Amendment of the Constitution by “abridging…the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In addition, the landlords argue that the state’s ban on eviction notices infringes their right to free speech under the First Amendment.

The complaint also contends that the moratorium violates the landlords’ right to contract under Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution and takes their private property for public use without just compensation, thereby violating the Fifth Amendment.

All rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.