News and Insights

Visit regularly for up-to-date information on relevant news, firm announcements and additions to our AZ Health Law Blog.

New changes at the Environmental Protection Agency have begun and are proving to be scary or exciting, depending on who you ask. Scott Pruitt has started as EPA chief after a long career as a lawyer and Republican politician in Oklahoma, a state known for its oil and gas industry. In the past, he has described himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” It came as no surprise, then, when he said that carbon dioxide is not a “primary contributor” to global warming. This statement by the new EPA chief has, unsurprisingly, caused some pushback by climate scientists. In fact, the American Meteorological Society, the nation’s top meteorological association, wrote a letter to Mr. Pruitt, stating that “indisputable findings” show that carbon dioxide is the primary contributor to global warming, adding that they “are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion.” Mr. Pruitt, however, seems to be sticking to his guns. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the EPA, but given the disagreement between its chief and climate scientists, we can expect a fight over the future of environmental regulation.
Whatever happens in the political world, however, should not stop the onward march of the renewable energy industry. For instance, according to the Energy Information Agency, renewable energy sources provided 16.9% of electricity generation through the first half of 2016. This figure will likely come as a surprise to many readers who have wrongly assumed that renewables make up a small fraction of electricity generation.
Many ask, however, whether renewable sources are truly competitive with fossil fuels or whether their competitiveness depends on subsidies. The answer is mixed. While wind and solar get certain tax credits, the oil and gas industry also gets significant tax breaks through obscure parts of the tax code. In fact, it’s most likely that oil and gas gets bigger tax breaks than renewables. Once you take away these tax benefits, renewables are competitive in parts of the country with strong renewable resources. For instance, wind is competitive in the middle of the country which is very windy. In the future, it’s not likely that renewables will replace all fossil fuels or vice versa. Rather, renewables will be a reliable and competitive part of the overall electricity generation mix and natural gas will make up the rest of that mix.

March 21st, 2017

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PHOENIX – The Frutkin Law Firm has become the first Arizona practice to take advantage of the state bar’s trade name rule. It announced it will rebrand as Radix Law on Jan. 1 2017.

There is a long tradition in the practice of law: the name of a firm includes the surnames of the most prominent partners. As law has become such a big business over the past decade, the largest practices in the world are names of partners who have long since passed away.

This tradition was also required by the Arizona Bar until recently. Now, firms can ditch the commas in favor of a more universal trade name.

Radix, in Latin, means “root.” It can mean the root of a tree, the root of knowledge or the root of a number. While the firm’s attorneys come from all over the world, they have decided to be rooted in Arizona.

“Our new name reflects our values,” says Principal Jonathan Frutkin. “We are a business law firm that helps our clients pursue opportunities and fights for them when challenged – and we are rooted right here in Arizona. It is also an acknowledgement that we have grown from being a solo legal practice into a business law firm with almost a dozen lawyers.”

The Frutkin Law Firm was formed in 2007 and now has 11 attorneys with decades of experience. They serve companies, individuals and families throughout Arizona in business and corporate law and related areas, ranging from taxation and asset protection to bankruptcy and estate planning. Radix Law leads the Valley of the Sun in estate planning and trust administration law. Radix Law’s attorneys are respected sources in their field and contribute to local and national media.

About Radix

Radix Law, formerly The Frutkin Law Firm, was founded in 2007 by attorney Jonathan Frutkin with the goal of providing exceptional legal representation to clients throughout Arizona in business and corporate law and related areas. Radix helps businesses, individuals, and families in Phoenix and throughout Arizona with their corporate and business law, bankruptcy, taxation, asset protection, wills, trusts, and estates, and litigation needs. The firm is located at the Kierland Commons in Scottsdale. For more information, visit radixlaw.com

December 30th, 2016

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In recent years, do-it-yourself legal sites have popped up with the premise of providing low-cost alternatives for some items traditionally done by law firms.  As consumers try to find answers to their legal problems without breaking the bank, these DIY sites have become an increasingly attractive option for cash-strapped consumers. What are consumers to make of these sites?  Do they actually provide a decent alternative for at least some of the legal services typically provided by lawyers?  Or are they yet another trap for an unwary consumer?  The popularity of DIY sites has increased so much that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have recently lent their two cents on the topic.  In a letter, the DOJ and FTC suggest that such websites may be a benefit to consumers by potentially providing access to those who would not otherwise be able to afford access and perhaps even lowering the cost of legal services.

While these are noble goals, consumers should be wary.  Many consumers mistakenly believe that when they form a LLC or draft a will on one of these sites that they’ll receive advice from a real lawyer.  This is not the case!  In fact, the DOJ letter specifically states that such websites cannot provide legal advice.  So the DIY sites essentially provide blank forms that the consumer completes.  They’re legally prevented from providing advice that addresses the individual’s particular needs and cannot even tell the individual what form he should use.

So how is someone supposed to know that he will receive no legal help when using a DIY site?  The DOJ answers this question by saying that the websites should have clear disclosure stating that they provide no legal advice and that they’re not a substitute for an attorney.  In my opinion, if such disclaimers worked, we would all understand the terms and conditions of the latest iPhone app we downloaded.  The fact is that consumers will most likely glance over such a disclosure without even reading it.

One might ask, “Don’t these sites help people by providing a completed document that a person can have his attorney review, thereby saving attorney time (and money) on the initial document’s preparation?”  My answer is that they do not.  Often, such an initial document will miss the complexities of the client’s situation, thereby requiring even more time and money to fix.

For example, suppose a brother wants to form a LLC with his sister to own a small business.  She provides him some start-up cash.  In this case, are there certain decisions that can be made by one of them and other decisions that require the consent of both?  Is the sister’s investment an ownership stake or a loan?  What rights does the sister have in the case of bankruptcy or default?  If the sister gets divorced, does her ex-husband get management rights or just a share of the profit?  The list could go on and on, the point being that a “simple” LLC is not always that simple.  In such situations, it may be costlier to fix a bad LLC agreement (or go through litigation) than to consult an attorney in the first place.

One may argue that for people who can’t afford an attorney, a DIY site may be their only option – at least it’s better than having no help.  In reality, however, that’s not the case.  In fact, there are a number of options available for those who cannot afford an attorney – free forms from the Secretary of State website, legal aid, law firm pro bono services, law schools, the state bar, and others.  A call to the state bar would likely result in a number of suggestions for free or low-cost legal help.

The entire debate about DIY legal sites reminds me of the last time I got sick.  I searched the internet’s numerous medical information sites to check on my symptoms.  Given that I have no medical training, I couldn’t tell if I had cancer or the sniffles.  Thankfully for me (and the public), I’m not legally allowed to download a prescription of my choosing from the internet.  My opinion – and it’s only my opinion – is that an individual should also not rely on DIY legal sites to solve their legal problems.  Rather, one should speak to a licensed attorney or use one of the many free or low-cost legal services.

June 22nd, 2016

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Nutrition fact labeling has been a hot button issue over the last several years, with a number of groups advocating for revised labeling standards that allow consumers to better understand what it is that they’re eating.  Most notably, First Lady Michelle Obama has led a push for better food labeling standards.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently reacted by proposing new rules for nutrition fact labeling that could change the way that the American public chooses what foods to eat.  The new rules attempt to make it easier for consumers to understand what they’re eating by increasing the font size of “calories,” “servings per container,” and “serving size.”  In addition, “calories” and “serving size” will now be shown in bold.  The goal is to simplify nutritional labeling and display the information in a format that is easier to understand, thereby helping consumers make better informed decisions.

An interesting change in labeling standards is contained in the new rules.  The FDA states that the law requires serving sizes to be based on what people are actually consuming and not what they should be consuming.  As an example, ice cream sizes have increased over the last couple of decades, and as a result, the serving sizes should increase as well.  Similarly, some beverages list more than one serving per container even though they are typically consumed in one sitting.  In such cases, nutrition facts will be required to be labeled as one serving.  In other cases, some items may be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.  In such cases, the manufacturers will be required to have dual columns that show the nutrition information on a “per serving” basis as well as on a “per package/per unit” basis, thereby allowing consumers to know how many calories and nutrients they’ll consume if they eat one serving versus how much they’ll consume if they eat the entire package.

The FDA has proposed that large manufacturers will have to comply with the changes by July 26, 2018, while smaller manufacturers will have an additional year to comply.  While large manufacturers would presumably have the means necessary to comply with the new rules, smaller manufacturers (whether located in Arizona or elsewhere) may need more time, which is why the FDA has proposed to allow them an additional year to comply.

In years past, various industry groups opposed new changes to the food labeling standards, but most now have a measured response to the new changes.  For instance, the Grocery Manufacturers Association – a trade group that represents many of the nation’s largest food and beverage companies – announced that they will work with the FDA as the changes go through the regulatory process.  Not surprisingly, however, some industry groups, such as the Sugar Association, remain disappointed with the new changes.

In addition to the FDA’s proposed changes to nutrition labeling, a new bill in Congress also aims to change the way we eat.  The Food Date Labeling Act was proposed recently by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME).  The Act would change the way expiration dates work.  Under the Act, a uniform national date labeling system will be established with the goal of reducing confusion, simplifying regulatory compliance for companies, and reducing food waste.  The date labeling system will clearly distinguish between foods that bear a label for peak quality and foods that bear a label for when they may be unsafe to consume.  By reducing the confusion surrounding expiration dates, the Act seeks to maintain food safety while simultaneously reducing food waste and its associated social and economic costs.

According to a press release by Congresswoman Pingree’s office, “the current dizzying array of date labels on food products…confuses consumers and contributes to 90% of Americans prematurely tossing perfectly safe food.”  The Act has received broad support from industry as well as food waste advocates.  For instance, Campbell Soup Company and Nestle USA both support the changes as do food waste advocates such as the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Food Recovery Network.

The Act would have broad implications to consumers, local businesses, and restaurants in Arizona.  For consumers, the Act is intended to reduce grocery bills by reducing food waste.  According to the National Resource Defense Council and the Ad Council, consumers account for more food waste than grocery stores and restaurants, and therefore, have the most to gain from new date labeling standards.  However, local businesses and restaurants also have much to gain.  By reducing food waste, such businesses should be able to lower their food costs.

June 8th, 2016

Posted In: Uncategorized