Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook Names Two New Partners

Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook, one of Berkshire County’s largest law firms, has announced that Dennis G. Egan and Jesse Cook-Dubin have been named as partners.

Both Egan and Cook-Dubin are corporate attorneys who focus their practices in business, banking and financing law.

Egan joined Cohen Kinne in 2012 after practicing at the largest law firm in the Pioneer Valley. In addition to being a very skilled transactions lawyer, who is very active in health law, Egan leads the firm’s Real Estate Division and has been involved in many of the most complex real estate transactions and bank financings in and around the Berkshires. Egan is the Immediate Past Chair of the Berkshire Leadership Program and one of the leaders of the organization of 1Berkshire Strategic Alliance Inc. He volunteers with a number of other organizations in the area.

Cook-Dubin worked for several years as an insolvency specialist at a large Midwestern law firm before moving back to the Berkshires in 2011. He has distinguished himself in complex business transactions, including those involving physician practices. He is also the volunteer President of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.

“It did not take our clients long to realize the value that Dennis and Jesse bring to the table,” said Cohen Kinne partner C. Jeffrey Cook. “Not only are they terrific attorneys and recognized community leaders, but they have quickly become trusted counselors to our clients who operate businesses, financial and cultural institutions, and medical practices throughout western New England and eastern New York. In all my years of practice in the Berkshires, Dennis and Jesse are the two best associates I have ever had and they have come together as a very effective team. I am sure they will continue to be practice leaders who will assure that our firm will continue to enjoy the rapid growth we have experienced because of the talent of our younger lawyers.”

Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook is a firm of 10 lawyers with offices in Pittsfield, Great Barrington and Lenox, Massachusetts. The firm’s primary practice areas include civil litigation, criminal defense, business and banking law, intellectual property, employment law, commercial real estate, education law, and health law.

Christopher Hennessey recent won a Panel decision

Chris Hennessey recently won a panel decision with the World Intellectual Property Organization on behalf of a local organization in a trademark infringement dispute. A foreign company was operating a website under an infringing domain name. Based on the evidence we presented, the panel ruled in favor of our client and ordered the transfer of the infringing site.

Jeff Cook Re-Elected Secretary of Massachusetts Business Roundtable

cook-sqRecently, Jeff Cook was re-elected Secretary of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable.  MBR is a public policy organization comprised of Chief Executive Officers and Senior Executives from some of the state’s largest employers.  MBR’s mission is to strengthen the state’s economic vitality.  MBR’s policy work includes task forces on education initiatives, health care, taxation/regulation, workforce development, and infrastructure issues.

Jeff has been a member of MBR for twenty-five years, and is currently an active member of its Energy Task Force.  Jeff has also worked on the Transportation Task Force, where he contributed to the Pittsfield Airport project.  MBR’s Deputy Director Chris Kealey describes Jeff as offering an invaluable and important perspective on business in western Massachusetts, and how statewide decisions affect trade and commerce in the Berkshires. For more about MBR, please visit its website.

Massachusetts Tries Non-Compete Reform – Again

Massachusetts has tried on numerous occasions to pass non-compete reform.  As recently as July of this year, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Rules proposed S.2418, a bill that dramatically revised H.4434, the bill passed by the House weeks earlier.  The Senate bill contains numerous provisions that would drastically impact employer’s rights to enter into non-compete agreements with their employees, including:

  • Non-competes would be limited to 3 months in length, unless the employee in question has breached a fiduciary or misappropriate employer property, in which case they are capped at 2 years.
  • Non-competes would be prohibited for (1) non-exempt employees, (2) employees who are terminated without cause or laid off, (3) undergraduate or graduate interns, (4) employees 18 years of age or younger, and (5) employees whose average weekly earnings are less than two times the average weekly wage in the Commonwealth.
  • Non-compete agreements must state that the employee has the right to consult with an attorney prior to signing and must be provided to an employee by (1) issuance of a formal offer of employment or (2) 10 business days before start date, whichever is sooner.
  • Non-competes entered into during the course of employment must be supported by consideration beyond continued employment.
  • Non-competes must provide for garden-leave pay in an amount equivalent to at least 100% of the employee’s highest annualized earnings during the previous two years. 

This law, if passed, will dramatically change non-compete law in the Commonwealth. 

  • Employers would be required to inform the employees in writing within 10 days of termination of the employer’s intent to enforce the non-compete.
  • Employers would be required to review the non-compete with the employee at least once every five years.

New Federal Statute Applies to Theft of Trade Secrets

On May 12, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), creating a federal cause of action for trade secret theft and misappropriation.  Previously, companies harmed by stolen trade secrets had to resort to state law remedies.  To succeed on DTSA claims, a plaintiff must first prove that the information in question rises to level of a “trade secret,” something defined broadly to include financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information.  Next, a plaintiff must establish that an individual “misappropriated” that “trade secret,” something defined as disclosure or use of a trade secret that was acquired via “improper means.”  According to the statute, “improper means” includes theft, bribery, misrepresentation, or breach of a duty to maintain secrecy. 

DTSA provides for a comprehensive remedial scheme that includes (1) an ex parte request for seizure of property necessary to prevent the dissemination of misappropriated trade secretes (2) injunctions to prevent actual or threatened use, (3) damages for actual losses, and (4) double damages and attorneys’ fees for willful and malicious misappropriation. 

Misappropriation of trade secrets continues to be a significant issue facing companies.  The likelihood that a company will confront this issue has increased dramatically as technology makes it easier to copy and distribute sensitive information.  Given this reality, DTSA is likely to become an important step toward providing companies with an effective way to protect their trade secrets. 

Department of Labor Makes Drastic Changes to Law Governing Overtime

The United States Department of Labor recently issued its final regulations revising the overtime pay exemptions for employees.

Beginning December 1, 2016, any employee paid less than $913.00 per week ($47,476 per year) will not qualify for the executive, administrative, or professional overtime exemptions regardless of their job duties and level of responsibility. Employees making less than the new threshold must be paid overtime compensation for every hour they work over 40 in each workweek. The DOL estimates 4.2 million additional employees will become eligible for overtime pay because of this change.

Non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay, and commissions can be counted toward up to 10% of the $913.00 threshold, as long as those payments are made on at least a quarterly basis.  Additionally, as of December 1, 2016, the threshold for employees covered by the “highly compensated employee” exemption will increase from $100,000 per year to $134,004. The regulations also provide that these salary thresholds will be updated every three years.

Given the new salary level required to get an exemption from overtime, employers must determine how to address workers who are currently classified as exempt employees but make less than $47,476 per year. This change is crucial because employers who fail to pay employees overtime to which they are entitled are subject to mandatory treble damages, attorneys’ fees, and interest under the Massachusetts Wage Act. Employers should take action immediately to prepare for this change, including updating your exemption classifications and developing strategies to limit overtime exposure.

The lawyers in Cohen Kinne’s employment group regularly advise clients regarding federal and state overtime laws and regulations.  If you are interested in discussing an employment related issue, please contact us.

Cohen Kinne Welcomes Alexander Sohn as Associate

Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook is pleased to announce that Alexander Sohn has joined the firm’s litigation group.  Alex comes to Cohen Kinne SohnAlex-sqsmilewith over five years of experience as a trial attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Pittsfield’s Central Berkshire District Court.  At CPCS, Alex gained extensive trial experience and quickly became known for his outstanding results with judges and juries.

Alex is a graduate of the University of Florida and obtained his law degree, cum laude, from Western New England College School of Law in 2010.  Prior to his legal career, Alex held several management level positions in film production companies in New York and Los Angeles, including New Line Cinema, and was part of the production accounting team for various major films.

“We are always looking to add lawyers with great trial skills to our litigation practice.  Alex’s impressive reputation in the local courts is a natural fit for us because of our active trial practice.  We are very excited to have him join our growing firm.” said Leonard Cohen, a partner at the firm.

Jesse Cook-Dubin Elected President of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., Announces Strategic Plan

Cohen Kinne attorney Jesse Cook-Dubin was elected president of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. at the organization’s annual meeting on May 5, 2016.CookeDubinJessie-sq Jesse succeeds outgoing president Kate Maguire, CEO and Artistic Director of Berkshire Theatre Group. Other new officers elected include Chris Mills of General Dynamics, vice president; Scott Kirchner of Mad Macs, vice president of administration; David Irwin of Adelson & Co., treasurer; and John Valente of the Beacon and Triplex Cinemas, clerk.

Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. is a nonprofit organization with over 200 members, representing a majority of the businesses and cultural institutions in downtown Pittsfield, as well as some of the area’s large employers located outside the downtown footprint. Its mission is to foster the on-going growth and vitality of downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts through vision, leadership and advocacy and to position downtown as the creative and business hub of the Berkshires for the benefit of all.

On May 14, at Downtown Pittsfield Inc.’s annual meeting, Jesse announced a five-year strategic plan to make the center of Pittsfield safer and more appealing to a broader range of people. It is the latest in a line of successful strategic plans for the organization, built upon the 2010-15 plan that was recently completed.

The 2016 plan is built upon four strategies, each of which has an active task force of volunteers working on it: making sure that the public feels and is safe; increasing foot traffic; telling Pittsfield’s story; and improving the cleanliness and attractiveness of the downtown area. “With a strong, walkable urban core, we can attract 20- and 30-somethings, we can slow our loss of population, we can fill positions for our large employers,” Jesse said.

More information about Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.’s strategic plan is available on Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.’s websiteThe Berkshire Eagle, and in Jesse’s editorial for the June 2016 edition of Berkshire Trade & Commerce.

Jeff Cook Receives Robert K. Agar, Jr. Volunteerism Award From Berkshire United Way

Berkshire United Way honored Cohen Kinne partner Jeff Cook as this year’s recipient of the Robert K. Agar, Jr. Volunteerism Award at their Live cook-sqUnited Community Celebration on April 12, 2016. Held at the Berkshire Hills Country Club, the Live United Community Celebration focused on Berkshire United Way’s investments, results, and partnerships in the Berkshires.

Since 1965, Berkshire United Way has annually selected a “Volunteer of the Year,” a local volunteer committed and dedicated to the ideals of volunteerism. Beginning in 1984, a conscious decision was made to reposition the Agar Award as an honor open to any person in Berkshire County who represents the spirit of volunteerism and is always ready, willing, and able to respond to people in need.

In presenting this award, John Bissell, John Bissell, President and CEO of Greylock Federal Credit Union said, “Jeff is a lion among community volunteers. He is constantly willing to shoulder and lead the toughest challenges facing our community…..In addition to his own personal efforts, Jeff has set the standard in his own firm strongly encouraging every employee to engage in community service.” For more information, please visit the Berkshire United Way website.