Professional Liability

phish

By Jessica C. Engler

The IRS has sent an urgent alert to employers this month that a W-2 phishing scam that many companies fell victim to in 2016 is back in full force for 2017. The IRS warns that this scam is emerging earlier this year and is targeting school districts, tribal organizations, and nonprofits in addition to businesses.

The “W-2 Scam” is carried out by persons who disguise (“spoof”) an email to make it look like it came from a top executive or the receiver’s business colleague. The dummy email is sent to (typically) the organization’s accounting and human resources department, and will ask for a list—or the copies themselves—of the company’s W-2 tax forms, employee’s dates of birth, and Social Security Numbers. If the unsuspecting victim responds with this information, the sender can use this data to file false tax returns, generate revenue on the black market, and perpetuate identity theft.

While this email can take many forms, some example phrasing for the email includes:

  • “Please send me the individual 2016 W-2 (PDF) and earnings summary of all W-2s of our company staff for a quick review”
  • “Hope you had a nice weekend. Do you have PDF copies of the employee’s W-2s? Could you please send to me for a quick review?”
  • “I need you to email me the list of individual W-2 copies of all employees’ wages and income tax statements for 2016 tax year in PDF file format for quick review. Prepare the list and send to me ASAP. I will brief you more about this later.”

The IRS warning indicates that these phishing emails are also including requests for wire transfers this year.

The Security Summit (which comprises the IRS, state tax agencies, and members of the tax industry) recommend that employers and employees stay vigilant of this threat. Employers may consider doing additional training with employees on recognizing these phishing emails.

The IRS instructs any organization that receives a W-2 scam to forward that email to phishing@irs.gov and place “W2 Scam” in the subject line. Organizations that receive the scams or fall victim to the scam can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Compliance Center (IC3), which is operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Organizations should also consider contacting an attorney with experience in data management to assist in the response to affected persons.

middle

By Brittany Buckley Salup

Chief Judge Brian Jackson issued an “Omnibus Order Suspending All Deadlines” for cases pending or to be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.  The Order explains that the court has been inaccessible—a key term in the Federal Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure—since August 12, 2016 due to historic flooding in the region.  Until further notice from the Middle District, all deadlines and delays in cases pending or to be filed in the Middle District are suspended.  This suspension expressly applies to prescriptive and peremptive periods.  In addition, all pending criminal cases in the Middle District are temporarily excluded from the time requirements of the Speedy Trial Act.

The Middle District’s Order follows similar Executive Orders from Governor Edwards, which suspended deadlines in Louisiana state courts due to flooding.  More information about the Governor’s Orders is available here.

A copy of the Middle District’s Order (M.D. La. General Order 2016-10) is available here.

 

 

seal

By Claire Juneau

On August 17, 2016, Governor Edwards amended Executive Order JBE 2016-57 which had suspended the running of prescription, peremption, and all legal delays from August 12, 2016 until September 9, 2016. The amendment to Executive Order JBE 2016-57 modifies the suspension of deadlines as follows:

  • Liberative prescription and peremptive periods continue to be suspended throughout Louisiana until Friday, September 9, 2016.
  • Deadlines in legal proceedings currently pending in state courts, administrative agencies, and boards in Acadia, Ascension, Assumption, Avoyelles, Cameron, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Washington, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana, Parishes, continue to be suspended until Friday September 9, 2016. This suspension includes all deadlines set forth in the Louisiana Civil Code, the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure, Title 9 (Civil Code Ancillaries) Title 13 (Courts and Judicial Procedure), Chapter 11 of Title 18 (Election Campaign Financing); Chapter 10 of Title 23 (Worker’s Compensation); Chapter 5, Part XXI-A of Title 40 (Malpractice Liability for State Services); Chapter 5, Part XXIII, of Title 40 (Medical Malpractice), and Title 49, Chapter 13 (Administrative Procedure) of the Louisiana Revised Statutes. This is a modification from the original Exeuctive Order JBE 2016-57 which suspended deadlines statewide.
  • Except for the suspension of prescriptive and peremptive periods and the suspension of deadlines in the parishes listed above, the suspension provided for in original Executive Order JBE 2016-53 shall end Friday, August 19, 2016. If a party can show an inability to meet the deadlines caused the flooding, the court, administrative agency, or board shall suspend deadlines specific to that matter until September 9, 2016.

A copy of the amendment can be found here: JBE-16-57-Amended-Emergency-Suspension-of-Deadlines-in-Legal-Proceedings

A copy of the original executive order can be found here.

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By J. Eric Lockridge

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently determined that there is no tort liability for negligent spoliation of evidence.  “Regardless of any alleged source of the duty, whether general or specific, public policy in our state precludes the existence of a duty to preserve evidence.  Thus, there is no tort.”  Reynolds v. Bordelon, No. 2014-2362, — So.3d — , 2015 WL 3972370 (La. 6/30/2015).

The lawsuit that led to the Reynolds decision was filed as a result of multi-vehicle accident that occurred in 2008.  Reynolds filed suit against the other driver and against Nissan North America, the manufacturer of his own car, based on the allegation that his airbag did not deploy as it should have.  The petition also alleged that his insurer and his insurer’s custodian for his vehicle were liable for damages relating to their failure to preserve his vehicle for inspection after he specifically put them on notice that the vehicle needed to be preserved.  The trial court eventually sustained the insurer and storage company’s exceptions of no cause of action, which means that the facts stated in the petition, accepted as true, did not entitle the plaintiff to any legal relief against them.

After reviewing the foundation of tort liability under Louisiana law, the history of negligence and intentional spoliation-based claims in Louisiana and other states, and considering many duty and policy-related factors, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded that “Louisiana law does not recognize the duty to preserve evidence in the context of negligent spoliation.”  While the factual scenario presented in the Reynolds case dealt with third-party negligence, the logic could be applied to situations where a party to a litigation negligently allowed spoliation to occur, particularly if it occurred before that party was on notice of a potential claim.  This decision offers no comfort to litigation parties who allow or encourage spoliation.  The Court specifically noted that discovery sanctions and criminal sanctions are available for first-party spoliators, and that Louisiana recognizes an adverse presumption against litigants who had access to evidence and did not make it available or destroyed it.

For more information on spoliation and how it can affect Louisiana litigation, please click here.

By Katie D. Bell

Electronic Discovery, or “E-Discovery”, is not considered the “novel issue” it once was. However, E-Discovery still presents problems that litigants and courts struggle with. Below is a summary of recent Louisiana Federal Court opinions dealing with the issues surrounding E-Discovery.

In Frees, Inc. v. McMillian, 2007 WL 184889 (W.D. La. Jan. 22, 2007), the Western District of Louisiana granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel. In an unfair competition and trade secret theft action, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant, a former employee, had stolen various data files. Plaintiff had unsuccessfully requested production of defendant’s laptop and desktop. The Court granted the motion to compel the defendant to produce these two items because they were the most likely places that the data files would be located. The Court did institute protective measures so as to prevent the disclosure of any irrelevant or personal information.
 

Continue Reading Recent Developments in E-Discovery in Louisiana

By Charles S. McCowan, Jr.

In 1997, the Louisiana Legislature adopted a claims review panel procedure involving “claims” against certified public accountants and firms.  “Claims” as contemplated by the Act are broadly defined as:

(1) "Claim" means any cause of action against a certified public accountant or firm, regardless of the legal basis of the claim, including but not limited to tort, fraud, breach of contract, or any other legal basis, arising out of any engagement to provide professional services, including but not limited to the following:

(a) The providing of attest services as defined in R.S. 37:73(1)(a).
(b) The providing of business or financial advice.
(c) Advice relative to plans or actions to qualify for tax benefits or otherwise reduce the amounts of
tax owed.
(d) Advice relative to the structuring of pension or retirement or insurance plans or other employee
benefits.
(e) The provision, including design, of computer software for accounting or bookkeeping functions.
(f) Any other advice relative to the conduct of any business whether conducted for profit or not.
 

Continue Reading Professional Liability Claims Against Louisiana Certified Public Accountants

By Charles S. McCowan, Jr.

The declared purpose of the Louisiana Accountancy Law, is to promote the reliability of information that is used for guidance in financial transactions or for accounting for or assessing the financial status of private and public clients. To that end, the Louisiana Legislature has decided that it is in the public interest to regulate the qualifications and conduct of those with special competency and skill in the field of accounting and has created the State Board of Certified Public Accountants of Louisiana and given it the responsibility to regulate entry into the practice, the continuum of practice and enforce the provisions of the law with respect to violations of the various prohibitory provisions. In addition to the statutory grants of authority, in carrying out its duties, the Board has promulgated an extensive set of regulations.

Continue Reading Duties and Responsibilities of the State Board of Certified Accountants of Louisiana

By Charles S. McCowan, Jr.

This is the first of a three-part series related to Louisiana law and regulations pertaining to the accounting profession. This part focuses on the historical licensing and regulation of the profession by the State of Louisiana.

The Louisiana statutes and regulations governing accountants have become much more sophisticated and comprehensive through the years. In the early 1900s the State’s emphasis was on the qualifications and admission to the practice of public accounting. This continues to be a focus of the state¹s efforts; however, like other learned professions, the Louisiana legislature has adopted additional provisions recognizing the inevitable fact of life that: "Professions once seemingly inviolate from litigation are no longer sacrosanct. The age old axiom that physicians bury their mistakes, while attorneys and accountants file theirs away, has little relevance in modern day America.”

The purpose of this article is to provide an analysis of Louisiana statutes, regulations and jurisprudence regarding the accounting profession, as accountants, like others who practice skilled professions, are now full members of the “Krewe of Defendants” in the Louisiana litigation parade. The article does not include an analysis of other state or federal jurisdictions, regulatory bodies or professional standards and requirements.
 

Continue Reading Regulation and Liability of Accountants Pursuant to Louisiana Law