IRS Announces Increase for 2022 Mileage Rates

On June 9, 2022, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it has increased the 2022 mileage rates for the last six months of the year in response to high gasoline prices. The new mileage rate for business travel will be 62.5 cents per mile, up 4 cents from the rate that has been effective since the beginning of 2022. The new rate for deductible medical or moving expenses, which is available for active-duty members of the military, will be 22 cents, also up 4 cents from the effective rate at the start of the year. The mileage rate that applies to the deduction for charitable contributions remains fixed by the Internal Revenue Service at 14 cents per mile. These new rates will become effective on July 1, 2022.


Attorney Elizabeth Siefker

Elizabeth M. Siefker is an attorney at Fraser Trebilcock in the trusts and estates practice group focusing on business planning, estate planning, and elder law. You can reach her at esiefker@fraserlawfirm.com, or at 517.377.0801.

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – June 10, 2022

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – June 10, 2022; Legal, Legislative, and Regulatory Insights


  1. Wayne County Announces $54 Million Fund for Small Businesses

A new $54 million fund to support small businesses, called the Wayne County Small Business Hub, was announced at last week’s Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference (“Mackinac Conference”). It will provide support to new and existing businesses, with a specific focus on minority- or women-owned businesses, and micro businesses with 10 or fewer employees with a focus on technical assistance.

Why it Matters: Small businesses are often the first to be hit when the economy slows, and with credit markets tightening there are likely to be fewer sources of liquidity for small business owners to tap. This new fund, a collaboration between the Wayne County Executive’s Office and New Economy Initiative, will provide needed resources for historically disadvantaged businesses.

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  1. Ford and Pfizer to Make Significant Investments in Michigan

Also at the Mackinac Conference, Ford Motor Company and Pfizer announced significant investments in Michigan. Ford reportedly will spend $2 billion across the company’s Michigan plants, and intends to create more than 3,000 jobs. Pfizer will make a $120 million investment at its Kalamazoo facility.

Why it Matters: With a great deal of economic doom and gloom in the headlines, these announcements are bright spots showing that large companies are still making investments in their businesses—and in Michigan, in particular.

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  1. Concerns Expressed About Losing Another EV Investment in Michigan

But it’s not all good news on the economic front in Michigan. At the Mackinac Conference, John Rakolta Jr., chairman of Walbridge, pointed out that Michigan is missing out on major opportunities in the electric vehicle industry. For example, Stellantis announced last week that it was bypassing Michigan and locating its new electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Kokomo, Indiana.

Why it Matters: According to a study by Fortune Business Insights, the global electric vehicle market is expected to grow from approximately $287 billion in 2021, to $1.3 trillion by 2028. To take advantage of this opportunity, Michigan must make itself attractive to companies in the electric vehicle market. As Rakolta points out, this involves more than designing tax incentives. It requires a more comprehensive approach to utilities, zoning and other important business, financial,  legal and regulatory issues.

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  1. Unemployment Claimants Get to Keep Pandemic Overpayments

Michigan sought to claw back Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits paid to many Michigan residents who were accused of misreporting their income. Michigan argued that claimants were liable because they entered their gross pay from prior years to determine their weekly benefit amount when they should have entered their net pay. Michigan reversed course and announced that it would no longer seek to claw back the funds after media reports revealed that at least some claimants were asked during the application process to provide total pay—not net pay—which resulted in confusion and overpayments.

Why it Matters: This announcement surely came as a relief to many Michigan residents who were embroiled in disputes with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. More broadly, this situation demonstrates the importance of using precise, accurate language in contracts and other important documents. The alternative is to invite confusion, dispute and litigation.

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  1. Michigan Cannabis Company Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

A Kalamazoo cannabis company, Master Equity Group,  recently filed for  Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of Michigan.

Why it Matters: This case will be closely watched by the cannabis industry, as well as by corporate restructuring professionals. Bankruptcy courts have historically prevented cannabis companies from filing for protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code because, while marijuana is legal in Michigan, it remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. And because bankruptcy courts are federal courts, similar attempts by cannabis companies to file for bankruptcy protection have been disallowed.


Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Administrative & Regulatory | Michael Ashton
Business & Tax  | Mark Kellogg
Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | Aaron Davis
Cannabis | Klint Kesto

Client Alert: Updated PCORI Fees Payable in 2022

In Notice 2022-4, the Internal Revenue Service set forth the PCORI amount imposed on insured and self-funded health plans for policy and plan years that end on or after October 1, 2021 and before October 1, 2022.

Background

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee is used to partially fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute which was implemented as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The PCORI fees were originally set to expire for plan years ending before October 1, 2019. However, on December 20, 2019, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act was enacted and extended the fee to plan years ending before October 1, 2029.

The fee is calculated by using the average number of lives covered under a plan and the applicable dollar amount for that plan year. Code section 4375 imposes the fee on issuers of specified health insurance policies. Code section 4376 imposed the fee on plan sponsors of applicable self-insured health plans. This Client Alert focuses on the latter.

Due to the fact that the US Department of Health and Human Services did not publish updated National Health Expenditures tables for 2021, this year’s fees are based on the projections set out in the 2020 tables. As such, plans should pay close attention to next year’s fee changes as the accuracy of 2020’s projections may be affected by current inflationary trends.

Adjusted Applicable Dollar Amount

Notice 2022-4 sets the adjusted applicable dollar amount used to calculate the fee at $2.79. Specifically, this fee is imposed per average number of covered lives for plan years that end on or after October 1, 2021 and before October 1, 2022. For self-funded plans, the average number of covered lives is calculated by one of three methods: (1) the actual count method; (2) the snapshot method; or (3) the Form 5500 method.

Deadline and How to Report

The PCORI fee is due by August 1, 2022 (as the typical due date, July 31, 2022, falls on a Sunday), and must be reported on Form 720.

Instructions are found here (see Part II, pages 8-9).

The Form 720 itself is found here (see Part II, page 2).

Form 720, as well as the attached Form 720-V to submit payment, must be used to report and pay the requisite PCORI fee to the IRS. While Form 720 is used for other purposes to report excise taxes on a quarterly basis, for purposes of this PCORI fee, it is only used annually and is due by July 31st of each relevant year.

As previously advised, plan sponsors of applicable self-funded health plans are liable for this fee imposed by Code section 4376. Insurers of specified health insurance policies are also responsible for this fee.

  • For plan years ending on or after October 1, 2017 and before October 1, 2018, the fee is $2.39 per covered life.
  • For plan years ending on or after October 1, 2018 and before October 1, 2019, the fee is $2.45 per covered life.
  • For plan years ending on or after October 1, 2019 and before October 1, 2020, the fee is $2.54 per covered life.
  • For plan years ending on or after October 1, 2020 and before October 1, 2021, the fee is $2.66 per covered life.
  • For plan years ending on or after October 1, 2021 and before October 1, 2022, the fee is $2.79 per covered life.

Again, the fee is generally due no later than July 31 (see above for 2022 date) of the year following the last day of the plan year.

As mentioned above, there are specific calculation methods used to configure the number of covered lives and special rules may apply depending on the type of plan being reported. While generally all covered lives are counted, that is not the case for all plans. For example, HRAs and health FSAs that are not excepted from reporting only must count the covered participants and not the spouses and dependents. The Form 720 instructions do not outline all of these rules.

More information about calculating and reporting the fees can be found here.

Questions and answers about the PCORI fee and the extension may be found here.

As you are well aware, the law and guidance are continually evolving. Please check with your Fraser Trebilcock attorney for the most recent updates.

This alert serves as a general summary, and does not constitute legal guidance. Please contact us with any specific questions.


Robert D. Burgee is an attorney at Fraser Trebilcock with over a decade of experience counseling clients in business transactions, civil matters, regulatory compliance, and employee matters. Robert also has a background in employee benefits, having been a licensed agent since 2014. You can reach him at 517.377.0848 or at bburgee@fraserlawfirm.com.


Aaron L. Davis works in employee health and welfare benefits. He is also Chair of the firm’s labor law practice and serves as Firm Secretary. He has litigation experience in a diverse range of employment matters, including Title VII, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. You can reach him at 517.377.0822, or email him at adavis@fraserlawfirm.com.

The New York Times Feature

Fraser Trebilcock election law attorney Garett Koger was quoted by The New York Times recently on an article discussing the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision to deny requests by three candidates for governor to be restored to the August primary ballot. Fraser Trebilcock’s election law team of Thad Morgan and Garett Koger, aided by attorneys Paul McCord, Robert Burgee, Elizabeth Siefker, Matthew Meyerhuber, and summer associate Joshua Robertson worked on the matters.

You can view the full article HERE.


Fraser’s ballot and election law team has successfully counseled, planned, and litigated for campaigns including high-profile cases resulting in changes to Michigan’s Constitution and case law. Fraser’s team also has extensive experience in election administration, and access to professionals in public relations and communications.

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – June 3, 2022

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – June 3, 2022; Legal, Legislative, and Regulatory Insights


Michigan Senate Votes to Suspend Gas Taxes this Summer

  1. The Michigan Senate, in a bipartisan vote, passed a series of new bills that would temporarily pause gas taxes from June 15 to September 15. The bills pause collections on the 6% sales and use taxes on gas purchases and the 27 cent per gallon excise gas tax. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of gas in Michigan as of June 1 was over $4.70.

Why it Matters: These bills reflect the sense of urgency—within both parties in Michigan and across the country—to address surging gas prices, as well as inflationary pressures more broadly, before the upcoming elections. According to reporting by Crain’s Detroit, Governor Whitmer, at the Mackinac Policy Conference, indicated her general support for the legislation, although she raised concerns about the impact of suspending tax collections that would otherwise be allocated for road repair.

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Court of Appeals Rejects Michigan Public Body FOIA Exemption

  1. The Michigan Court of Appeals recently held that a public body in Michigan that is a plaintiff or defendant in litigation cannot deny a Freedom of Information Act request by the legal counsel to another party to the litigation based on a FOIA exemption for requests pertaining “to a civil action in which the requesting party and the public body are parties.” Learn more about this case here.

Why it Matters: MCL 15.243(1)(v) allows a public party to assert a FOIA exemption for requests pertaining “to a civil action in which the requesting party and the public body are parties.” However, as this case makes clear, the exemption will be strictly construed. If the FOIA requester does not meet the precise legal definition of a “party” in litigation, and instead is merely a friend, agent or legal counsel to a party, then the exemption will likely be denied. Accordingly, before asserting this or any other exemption, a public body should consult with legal counsel. Learn more about this case here.

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Michigan Legislature Passes Bill to Fund Security Enhancements at Schools

  1. The Michigan House and Senate passed legislation that would provide $27 million in funding for safety and security assessments at public and private schools around the state. The legislation was passed in the wake of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The bill would also set aside nearly $10 million for additional support to the Oxford Community School District following the November mass shooting at the district’s high school.

Why it Matters: Expect an increase in legislation, from security enhancements at schools to “red flag” laws meant to identify potential threats, being debated in Michigan and across the country.

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Full Principal Residence Tax Exemption Available Even if Portion of Home is Rented

  1. The Michigan Court of Appeals, in the case of Keith W. DeForge v. Township of Allouez, recently ruled that homeowners in Michigan can still claim 100% principal residence tax exemption even if the homeowner rents out a portion of their home.

Why it Matters: This ruling clarifies a tax question that impacts the rapidly increasing number of homeowners in Michigan who generate rental income from their homes using services such as Airbnb.

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Michigan’s Movers and Shakers Meet on Mackinac Island

  1. Michigan’s Mackinac Policy Conference wrapped up this week, and from this year’s election for governor to healthcare to housing in Michigan, a wide range of important issues were discussed and debated.

Why it Matters: The Mackinac Policy Conference has always been the place to take the pulse of politics and business in Michigan. A group of Fraser Trebilcock professionals were in attendance this year, and next week we’ll be sharing some of the key takeaways from the conference.


Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Election Law | Klint Kesto
Litigation | Thad Morgan
Administrative & Regulatory | Michael Ashton
Taxation | Paul McCord

FOIA Exemption Denied When Requesting Party is not Party to Civil Litigation

If a public body in Michigan is a plaintiff or defendant in litigation, can the public body deny a Freedom of Information Act request by the legal counsel to another party to the litigation based on a FOIA exemption for requests pertaining “to a civil action in which the requesting party and the public body are parties”? According to the Michigan Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion in the case of Jones Day v Dep’t of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and at least as it relates to the facts of this case, the answer is no.

Background of the Case

The underlying litigation involves a lawsuit brought by the State of Michigan in state court against chemical companies alleging that the companies improperly released toxic synthetic chemicals called polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”), which found their way into Michigan’s water supplies.

The state lawsuit was transferred to federal court and combined with similar cases from other jurisdictions, and a case management order was entered that precluded participation in discovery.

Jones Day, a law firm representing a defendant company, proceeded to file a state FOIA request with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (“EGLE”) seeking documentation related to the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team.

EGLE denied the request, citing MCL 15.243(1)(v), the exemption cited above pertaining to parties to a civil litigation. Jones Day then filed a FOIA complaint in the Court of Claims, and the Court of Claims granted summary disposition in favor of EGLE. Jones Day appealed.

The Court of Appeals Decision

The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court decision. The Court of Appeals relied upon precedent from a previous case, Taylor v Lansing Bd of Water & Light, in which a friend of the plaintiff to a lawsuit against a public body made a FOIA request after the plaintiff’s own FOIA request was denied by the public body defendant on the basis of MCL 15.243(1)(v). In the Taylor case, the Court of Appeals ruled that the exemption could not be used where, as in the Jones Day case, the party making the FOIA request was not a “party.”

In the Jones Day case, the Court of Appeals, in reaching a similar result, explained that “the Legislature did not act to obviate the Taylor decision and prevent FOIA actions from being filed by best friends, counsels of record, or associates despite this Court’s recognition that a ‘distasteful’ result occurs without such a restriction of the term ‘party.’”

Accordingly, in light of this case, and the Michigan case law it relies upon, public bodies should be aware that the MCL 15.243(1)(v) exemption will likely be strictly construed. If the FOIA requester does not meet the precise legal definition of a “party” in litigation, and instead is merely a friend, agent or legal counsel to a party, then the exemption will likely be denied.


Morgan, Thaddeus.jpgThaddeus E. Morgan is a shareholder with Fraser Trebilcock and formerly served as President of the firm. Thad is the firm’s Litigation Department Chair and serves as the firm’s State Capital Group voting representative. He can be reached at tmorgan@fraserlawfirm.com or (517) 377-0877. 

Client Alert: Broker & Consultant Fee Transparency to Group Health Plans

As the health care arena continues to evolve following the ACA and its progeny, one common theme in the regulations has been to increase transparency in the marketplace. Following on that theme, the Department of Labor recently issued its Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2021-03 aimed at the fees charged by group health insurance brokerages and consultants. The language of the Bulletin sets forth the Department’s short to medium term enforcement policy in regard to the amendments made to ERISA section 408(b)(2)(B), which was included as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA). Taken together, these documents set forth one method the Department will take to achieve the government’s goal of requiring group health plan sponsors, who are charged to act in a fiduciary capacity, to consider the costs of the services provided by certain vendors.

Who is affected?

ERISA section 408(b)(2)(B) applies to all group health plans, regardless of group size, and includes both insured and self-funded plans; all of which are “covered plans.” The sole exception applies to certain small employer health reimbursement arrangements.

The new language applies to “covered service providers” who provide plan related services to “covered plans.” Covered service providers include individuals and entities that enter into a contract or arrangement to provide one or more of the following services to a covered plan:

  • Brokerage services with respect to selection of:
    • Insurance products (including vision and dental);
    • Plan management services, vendors, and administrative supports; and
    • Stop-loss, pharmacy benefit, wellness, and other plan services.
  • Consulting services related to the development or implementation of:
    • Plan design, insurance or insurance product selection (including vision and dental);
    • Plan management services, vendors, group purchasing organization agreements, and services; and
    • Stop-loss, pharmacy benefit, wellness, and other plan services.

In addition to providing covered services, the broker, consultant, or other covered service provider must reasonably expect $1,000 or more in direct or indirect compensation in connection with its contract or arrangement with the covered plan.

Additionally, the Bulletin clarifies that only covered service providers who are a party to the contract or arrangement with the covered plan are required to make the disclosure. In this way, the amended statute does not require affiliates or subcontractors, solely by virtue of offering services to the covered plan as an affiliate or subcontractor of the covered service provider, to individually make the disclosures, as they will not have entered into the contract or arrangement with the covered plan.[1]

What information must be disclosed?

Covered service providers must disclose to covered plans specified information regarding the services to be provided and the compensation the covered service provide reasonably expects to receive in connection with its services. At a minimum, this information must include:

  • A description of the services to be provided by the covered service provider;
    • Including, where applicable, information about those services for which the covered service provider will provide or reasonably expects to provide services directly to the covered plan as a fiduciary.
  • A description of the direct compensation that the covered service provider expects to receive in connection with the contract or arrangement with the covered plan. In most instances, such direct compensation will include some form of commission.
  • A description of all indirect compensation that the covered service provider, its affiliates, or subcontractors expect to receive.
    • Where a covered service provider employs the use of affiliates, subcontractors, or both, the disclosure should also include a description of the arrangement between the covered service provider and the affiliate or subcontractor.
    • Indirect compensation disclosures should also include (1) an identification of the services for which such indirect compensation will be received, (2) any formulae relied up in the calculation of such indirect compensation,  (3) identification of the payer of such indirect compensation, and (4) a description of the arrangement and any formula amongst and between the payer of the indirect compensation and the covered service provider, affiliates, or subcontractors.
  • A description of any compensation the covered service provider expects to receive in connection with the termination of the contract, along with a calculation of how any prepayments will be calculated and refunded.

In addition to describing the types of compensation, the covered service provider notice should also include the manner in which such compensation will be received.

Finally, a covered service provider must set forth the services that the covered service provider is rendering to the covered plan as a fiduciary.

When are the disclosures required?

The CAA amendments became applicable on December 27, 2021. Covered service providers, therefore, are required to make their fee disclosures for any new contracts or arrangements as of that date. The Bulletin clarifies that the “effective” date of the contract or arrangement is the date the contract or arrangement was executed, which may not necessarily be the beginning of a new plan year. Therefore, covered plans should consult with and collect the requisite information from their covered service providers for any contracts or arrangements that are written, renewed, or extended in 2022.

Furthermore, in order to meet the objectives of the policy (i.e. allowing covered plans to perform cost-benefit analysis related to the fees charged and services provided by their brokers and consultants), covered service providers are required to make the disclosures set forth above “reasonably in advance” of the date on which the contract or arrangement is entered into, extended, or renewed. Furthermore, any change in such disclosures are required to be made as soon as practicable.

How does a covered plan ensure disclosure?

While the disclosures contemplated by the statutory provision are intended to come from the covered service provider, the fiduciary responsibility rest with the covered plan sponsor. The primary enforcement mechanism, therefore, is to deem nonconforming deals to be prohibited transactions under the statute. However, no such determination shall be made provided covered plans meet the following requirements:

  • “The responsible plan fiduciary did not know that the covered service provider failed or would fail to make required disclosures and reasonably believed that the covered service provider disclosed the information required to be disclosed.
  • The responsible plan fiduciary, upon discovering that the covered service provider failed to disclose the required information, requests in writing that the covered service provider furnish such information.
  • If the covered service provider fails to comply with a written request…within 90 days of the request, the responsible plan fiduciary notifies the Secretary of the covered service provider’s failure…”

Conclusion

As plan fiduciaries consider their options this year, whether its with a new carrier or a renewal, they should begin working with their brokers and consultants to gain a better understanding of the fees that are charged and prepare to answer inquiries about the reasonableness thereof.

[1] Affiliates and subcontractors should review the nature of their relationship to covered plans to ensure that their services do not extend beyond the scope of the services provided on behalf of a covered service provider, thus possibly triggering the need for the affiliate or subcontractor itself to disclose.

This alert serves as a general summary, and does not constitute legal guidance. Please contact us with any specific questions.


Robert D. Burgee is an attorney at Fraser Trebilcock with over a decade of experience counseling clients in business transactions, civil matters, regulatory compliance, and employee matters. Bob also has a background in employee benefits, having been a licensed agent since 2014. You can reach him at 517.377.0848 or at bburgee@fraserlawfirm.com.


Aaron L. Davis works in employee health and welfare benefits. He is also Chair of the firm’s labor law practice and serves as Firm Secretary. He has litigation experience in a diverse range of employment matters, including Title VII, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. You can reach him at 517.377.0822 or email him at adavis@fraserlawfirm.com.

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – May 27, 2022

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – May 27, 2022; Legal, Legislative, and Regulatory Insights


The Republican-led Michigan Senate and House recently passed $2.5 billion in tax cuts, with a party-line vote in the Senate and a more bipartisan vote in the House. The legislation was passed shortly after Governor Whitmer suggested sending $500 rebates to “working families” in Michigan. The proposed tax cuts would include an expansion of Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 6% to 20% in the 2022 tax year; increasing personal tax exemptions by $1,800; and reducing the personal income tax rate from 4.25% to 4% starting in 2023, among other things.

Why it Matters: The jockeying between the governor and legislature revolves around the broader debate over what to do with the billions of dollars the state has available in the form of unexpected surplus, due in large part to federal pandemic relief funding. How the money is spent, or returned to Michigan residents in the form of tax cuts or rebate checks, is sure to be a key issue in the November elections.

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The Michigan legislature recently voted to put the issue of term limits for lawmakers on this year’s November ballot. The plan would permit lawmakers to serve 12 years in Lansing, and all of that time could be spent in the House or Senate, or it could be divided between the two chambers. Voters will also be asked to approve or reject a requirement that state-level office holders submit annual financial disclosures to address conflicts of interest. If approved by voters, elected officials would have to disclose their assets, income and liabilities, and their involvement in any businesses, nonprofits, labor organizations or educational institutions.

Why it Matters: In 1992, Michigan voters voted in favor of a constitutional amendment for term limits. Since then, Michigan House members have been limited to three two-year terms and Michigan Senate members to two four-year terms—a maximum of 14 years between the two chambers. Accordingly, if the new term limit proposal is passed by Michigan voters, it would represent the first substantive change to term limits in 30 years.

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The Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case with significant implications for criminal cases against nine former government officials stemming from the Flint water cases, as well as for criminal procedure, more generally, in Michigan. The criminal defendants, including former Governor Rick Snyder, argue that their constitutional rights were violated when a single grand juror indicted them.

Why it Matters: Beyond the question of whether a one-person grand jury is constitutional, this case also raises interesting separation of power issues, given that the grand juror was a sitting judge.

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In a cash-out merger, the shareholders of the target company cash out and aren’t involved in the ongoing operations of the acquiring company. But what happens when not all the shareholders are happy about the deal? As you might suspect, litigation often ensues, and that’s exactly what happened in a case, Murphy v. Inman, recently decided by the Michigan Supreme Court. It’s an important case because the Court clarified the rights of shareholders bringing claims against directors after a cash-out merger.

Why it Matters: This decision gives shareholders, boards of directors—and their respective advisors—much needed clarity on how actions taken during corporate transactions will be viewed by the courts. First, the Court adopted a two-question test, based on reasoning from Delaware courts, to determine whether a claim should be derivative or direct. Second, it made clear that boards of directors do owe fiduciary duties directly to shareholders during a cash-out merger.

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Three significant developments related to the production and consumption of energy happened recently. First, Governor Whitmer announced a roadmap for making Michigan carbon neutral by 2050. Second, the Attorney General’s office reached a settlement with Consumers Energy that would result in Consumers ending its use of coal by 2025. Third, Governor Whitmer petitioned the U.S. Department of Energy to keep the Palisades Nuclear Plant in southwest Michigan open, arguing that its closure would cost the state 600 well-paying jobs.

Why it Matters: Energy continues to be a major political and economic issue around the world (the war in Ukraine), in the United States (high gas prices), as well as here in Michigan. Energy inflation, together with ongoing efforts to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, pose ongoing challenges and opportunities for politicians, policymakers and business leaders alike.


Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Mergers & Acquisitions | Edward Castellani

Criminal | Election Law | Klint Kesto

Energy, Utilities & Telecommunication | Michael Ashton

Taxation | Mark Kellogg

Former Student Falsely Accused of Sexual Misconduct Wins $5.3 Million Jury Award for Defamation and Civil Conspiracy

A jury in South Carolina awarded a former Clemson University student $5.3 million in connection with defamation and civil conspiracy claims he brought against three individuals stemming from false allegations of sexual misconduct.

While the lawsuit against the individuals did not include a Title IX claim, the underlying circumstances did involve a Title IX investigation. In fact, the male student did bring suit against Clemson for violations of Title IX and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Clemson settled for an undisclosed amount.

This case is noteworthy because it resulted in such a large damage award based on accusations of sexual misconduct, and the resulting fallout from the investigation, which is something colleges and universities must frequently address.

The Facts of the Case

The case involved a female student who accused a male student of sexual misconduct. The male student alleged that their sexual encounter was consensual, and that his accuser only alleged misconduct and filed a Title IX complaint with the school (alleging she had been sexually assaulted while under the influence of alcohol), after her boyfriend learned of the encounter.

The accuser and her boyfriend allegedly began calling the male student a “rapist” to their friends. And the male student was suspended from Clemson and expelled from the university.

The Implications

This case demonstrates that Title IX investigations can be fraught with risks. Such cases often involve allegations like the ones described above, and colleges and universities need to carefully handle such investigations, including any actions they take on the basis of allegations made by the parties involved.

If you have any questions about this case, or Title IX issues in general, please contact Ryan Kauffman.


Fraser Trebilcock Attorney Ryan Kauffman

Ryan K. Kauffman is a Shareholder at Fraser Trebilcock with more than a decade of experience handling complex litigation matters and representing higher education institutions. You can contact him at rkauffman@fraserlawfirm.com or 517.377.0881.

Term Limits and Financial Disclosure Requirements will be on the November Ballot in Michigan

In 1992, Michigan voters voted in favor of a constitutional amendment for term limits. Since then, Michigan House members have been limited to three two-year terms and Michigan Senate members to two four-year terms— a maximum of 14 years between the two chambers.

Those limits may change in light of a vote by the Michigan legislature on May 10 to put the issue of term limits on this year’s November ballot. The plan would permit lawmakers to serve 12 years in Lansing, and all of that time could be spent in the House or Senate, or it could be divided between the two chambers.

Voters will also be asked to approve or reject a requirement that state-level office holders submit annual financial disclosures to address conflicts of interest. If approved by voters, elected officials would have to disclose their assets, income and liabilities, and their involvement in any businesses, nonprofits, labor organizations or educational institutions.

No discussion or debate of the plan took place in either the House or the Senate.

According to reports, the Michigan Legislature worked with the advocacy group Voters for Transparency and Term Limits to bring these issues before Michigan voters in November. The resolution passed 76-28 in the House, and by a 26-6 vote in the Senate.

We will continue to keep you informed about these developments, as well as other issues in the lead up to the November elections.


Fraser Trebilcock attorney and former Michigan State Legislator Klint Kesto has nearly two decades of experience working in both the public and private sectors, including serving as Co-Chair of the CARES Task Force. You can reach him at kkesto@fraserlawfirm.com or 517.377.0868.