Steptoe & Johnson LLP

On February 13, 2019, the State Department provided a summary of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which stated that “Secretary Pompeo reiterated the U.S. determination to hold Russia accountable for its use of a chemical weapon in Salisbury, UK through sanctions as required by the CBW Act.”  The sanctions Secretary Pompeo referenced are the second round of sanctions slated to be imposed on Russia under the…
As we have previously written, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA) as a Specially Designated National (SDN) on January 28, 2019. This action will have a significant impact on US persons and businesses involved in any dealings with PdVSA or its subsidiaries. The designation also applies to any entity owned 50% or more by PdVSA, including companies…
  If you get SMS messages on your phone and think you have two-factor authentication, you’re kidding yourself. That’s the message Nick Weaver and David Kris extract from two stories we cover in this week’s episode of The Cyberlaw Podcast – DOJ’s indictment of a couple of kids whose hacker chops are modest but whose social engineering skillz are remarkable. They used those skills to bribe or bamboozle phone companies into changing the phone numbers…
Updating the Year in Review on Legally Enforceable Obligations (LEO), FERC issued an Intent Not to Act on New Mexico Public Regulation Commission’s (NMPRC) LEO standard, which was challenged by a QF’s (Great Divide) Petition for Enforcement under PURPA.  It is not remarkable that FERC decided not to bring an enforcement action against the NMPRC LEO standard, which provides that a QF must demonstrate that it is ready to interconnect and deliver energy before a…
On December 17, 2018, the European Commission (EC) imposed on the clothing company Guess a hefty penalty of EUR 40 million for allegedly severe restrictions relating to the online sales activities of its authorized distributors.  The full text of the Decision was published by the EC on January 25, 2019. While the substance of the Decision does not really bring anything new on the way enforcers have thus far addressed online restraints imposed by brand…
In a complaint filed today, Woody Allen’s company sued Amazon for cancelling a multi-film distribution contract.  Amazon appears to have relied on the contract law doctrine of “frustration of purpose,” telling Allen’s lawyers in an email: Amazon’s performance of the Agreement became impracticable as a result of supervening events, including renewed allegations against Mr. Allen, his own controversial comments, and the increasing refusal of top talent to work with or be associated…
The Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) recently published its 2019 Annual Report, “Beyond the Hype: Building Blockchains for Real World.” The report provides a comprehensive update on the global regulatory landscape surrounding blockchain technology along with an overview of some of the blockchain solutions being built by GBBC members. Steptoe authored an overall insights piece, titled “Regulation in the US: Where are We, and Where are We Going?,” which looks at where the United States…
On January 11, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision narrowing the scope of what qualifies as “protected concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act. With this decision, the Board reversed course on a long line of Obama-era cases expanding  the scope of when an employee’s complaints could be considered to be protected concerted activity, under the Act. The Board also stated its desire to overrule other cases that previously expanded the…
Last month the Texas Department of Banking published an updated supervisory memorandum discussing the application of the state’s money transmitter law to digital assets.  Nearly every state has a money transmitter statute regulating businesses engaged in the transfer of money within that state, but states vary considerably with respect to how their laws apply to digital assets.  A number of states, including Texas, have taken the position that their money transmitter laws apply only to…