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Davis to explore Oklahoma Public Utility Division’s procedures, rules of practice

Eric Davis

Eric Davis is an attorney in the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group and the Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group. He represents clients in a range of regulatory and energy matters.

C. Eric Davis, an attorney in the Firm’s Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group, will give a presentation on Dec. 6 for Continuing Legal Education individuals.

Davis will present at 8:30 a.m. at HalfMoon Education Inc.’s seminar titled “Issues in Oklahoma Energy and Electric Utility Regulation,” discussing Oklahoma Public Utility Division rules of practice and procedure.

“The Corporation Commission determines what many of us pay for electricity and natural gas, and it influences utility companies’ multimillion dollar investment decisions ranging from building new power plants to deploying advanced meters,” Davis said. “Because of its impact, it’s useful to understand how the Commission makes decisions and how its hearings work.”

The seminar will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Friday in Oklahoma City. Those interested in registering can find more information here. Attendees receive CLE credit for participating.

Federal Medicaid match matters to state’s healthcare providers

Introducing Becky-Pasternik-Ikard

Rebecca “Becky” Pasternik-Ikard is a lawyer, a nurse and a Medicaid program director who brings decades of experience to assist Phillips Murrah healthcare clients in copy with reimbursement, including negotiating payments, audits and appeals, and other regulatory issues related to governmental payments of providers.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Rebecca Pasternik-Ikard answers questions about state and federal government’s role in funding Oklahoma’s Medicaid program.

What is the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP)?

The Federal Medical Assistance Percentage is the federal government’s share of the expenditures for medical services and administrative costs for a state Medicaid program and is often called the “federal match.”

Why does it matter to Oklahoma’s healthcare providers?

FMAP matters because each state’s Medicaid program is funded jointly by state and federal dollars. Generally, states receiving a higher FMAP for medical services need fewer state dollars. But a state must have state dollars to leverage federal matching dollars. On a quarterly basis, a state submits to the federal government its Medicaid expenditures paid by state dollars seeking to “draw down” the federal matching dollars.

How often does the FMAP change?

The FMAP for medical services for all states is calculated annually by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), based on a formula in the Social Security Act, and is effective from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 of each year. The FMAP varies from state to state; it can be no lower than 50% and no higher than 83%. So, for every $1 states spend on Medicaid, states can “draw down” at least $1 from the federal government. However, the FMAP for a state’s Medicaid administrative costs is fixed, generally at 50% FMAP. States do receive enhanced FMAP for certain populations, services and a variety of administrative functions.

How does the FMAP specifically impact physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers?

Fluctuations in the FMAP for medical services can have significant impact on all healthcare providers. Significant increases often allow a state to restore, increase or add benefits compensable under the Medicaid program, as well as adjust upward the rates paid to providers. Conversely, depending on a state’s ability to offset the loss of federal funds, a decrease in the FMAP can trigger the elimination or reduction in certain benefits provided to Medicaid enrollees, as well as a decrease in provider rates.

How is the FMAP for medical services calculated?

The FMAP is based on a rolling three-year average of the per capita income of each state as compared to the national average per capita income. However, there is a lag in the data used. For instance, for FY 2019 (effective Oct 1, 2018-Sept. 30, 2019) the FMAP calculation for states was based on state per capita personal income data for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Generally, what this means is that for states with lower per capita incomes relative to the national average, the federal government contributes more to the Medicaid program. Conversely, the federal government contributes less to the Medicaid program in those states with higher per capita incomes. However, the formula is not responsive quickly when a state experiences an economic downturn.

How does the FMAP work in Oklahoma?

With the exception of the FY 2014 FMAP of 64.02%, Oklahoma’s FMAP declined overall from 64.00% in FY 2013 to 58.57% in FY 2018. Oklahoma experienced the largest cumulative FMAP decrease in the nation over this period. This significant loss of federal dollars prompted the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to implement administrative and operational strategies to continue to operate the Medicaid program, resulting in physician and other provider rate reductions of 7.75% in July 2015 and 3% in January 2016. From FY 2018 to FY 2019, Oklahoma had the greatest FMAP increase of any state of 3.81%, from 58.57% ($1.43 in federal dollars for every state dollar spent in medical services) to 62.38% ($1.66 in federal dollars for every state dollar spent in medical services). This influx of federal matching dollars and OHCA’s management of its administrative and program budgets allowed OHCA to restore the last provider rate reduction of 3%. From FY 2019 to FY 2020, Oklahoma experienced another significant FMAP increase of 3.64% from 62.38% ($1.66 in federal dollars for every state dollar spent in medical services) to 66.02% ($1.94 in federal dollars for every state dollar spent in medical services). Once again, provider rates were increased. The good news is that, due to Oklahoma’s experience with shifting FMAPs, a Rate Preservation Fund of $29.4 million was created this year, to help offset future FMAP decreases and mitigate potential provider rate reductions.

Rebecca Pasternik-Ikard is an attorney at Phillips Murrah.

Medicaid, work and community engagement

This column was originally published in The Journal Record on November 27, 2019.


Introducing Becky-Pasternik-Ikard

Rebecca “Becky” Pasternik-Ikard is a lawyer, a nurse and a Medicaid program director who brings decades of experience to assist Phillips Murrah healthcare clients in copy with reimbursement, including negotiating payments, audits and appeals, and other regulatory issues related to governmental payments of providers.

By Phillips Murrah Of Counsel Attorney Becky Pasternik-Ikard

Physicians, hospitals and other health care providers continue to experience not only shrinking reimbursement rates, but also an increasingly formidable regulatory presence. A recent controversial Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services policy reform permits states to require certain Medicaid beneficiaries to engage in meaningful work or in volunteer activities as a condition for continued eligibility.

This policy is a fundamental shift in Medicaid eligibility, eliciting criticism from the health care community that employment should not be a condition for coverage and access to medical treatment.

Although overall Medicaid enrollment has declined over the past two years, Medicaid enrollment has increased since the Affordable Care Act, driven primarily by newly eligible adults gaining coverage under Medicaid expansion, with the highest enrollment increases seen in Medicaid expansion states. This increase includes not only the Medicaid expansion population, but also those individuals who were currently eligible, but not enrolled. These people learned of coverage due to extensive outreach efforts by expansion states.

In its Jan. 11, 2018 State Medicaid Director letter entitled Opportunities to Promote Work and Community Engagement among Medicaid Beneficiaries, CMS announced the new policy and clarified that states could predicate continued Medicaid eligibility on participation in work requirements, including community service, caregiving, education, job training, and substance use disorder treatment. The basis for this policy is Section 1901 of the Social Security Act. Divisive reactions have opponents characterizing it as inconsistent with Medicaid’s objective of health coverage and an impermissible Medicaid enrollment reduction strategy.

Eighteen states have sought approval to implement work requirements. Although CMS has approved all requests submitted by Medicaid expansion states, the implementation of three, Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire, has been interrupted or stopped due to legal challenge.

Kentucky, a Medicaid expansion state, received CMS approval the day after the new policy was announced. Kentucky had submitted a Section 1115 waiver authority request in 2017 incorporating work requirements. Shortly after Kentucky’s January 2018 approval, a legal challenge was filed. Kentucky’s implementation has been blocked twice by a federal district court judge and is under appeal. Kentucky Gov.-elect Andy Beshear has declared plans to rescind Medicaid work requirements.

In July 2017, Indiana submitted its request to CMS proposing work requirements for its Medicaid expansion enrollees. Although Indiana received CMS approval in February 2018, implementation did not begin until January 2019. In September 2019, a lawsuit was filed challenging Indiana’s program. Indiana has suspended its work requirements pending the outcome of the litigation.

In March 2018, CMS approved Arkansas’ June 2017 request to amend its Section 1115 waiver to implement work requirements. Implementation began in June 2018. In August 2018, a lawsuit was filed challenging Arkansas’ approval. A year after approval, the federal district court set it aside. The matter is under appeal.

In May 2018, New Hampshire became the fourth state to win approval for work requirements, with implementation scheduled in March, but it was postponed due to a lawsuit filed the same month. Consistent with the rulings for Kentucky and Arkansas, in July 2019, the same federal district court judge set aside the approval for New Hampshire.

State leadership and Medicaid programs nationwide await the outcome following the Oct. 11 oral arguments related to the appeals for Arkansas and Kentucky. Oklahoma, a non-expansion state, has a pending waiver request to impose work requirements on certain Medicaid beneficiaries. If approved, this would add barriers to access and continuity of care, which are likely to place additional administrative and financial burdens on hospitals, physicians and other health care providers.

Becky Pasternik-Ikard is the former CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and former state Medicaid director. She currently practices Of Counsel for Phillips Murrah law firm in Oklahoma City.

Your Racehorse Tested Positive for a Regulated Substance, Time Is of the Essence

Mary Westman is an Oklahoma attorney, Morgan horse breeder and registered nurse with an MBA. Mary provides legal representation in all aspects of equine-related businesses and activities including legal advising, business formations, preparing or reviewing contracts, litigating equine disputes and equine welfare advocacy.

This article will briefly discuss the regulation of drugs in Oklahoma horse racing and the critical steps to be followed should a test come back positive for a regulated substance.

The Oklahoma Horse Racing Act (OHRA), Okla. Stat. tit 3A, §200 et seq., provides the framework by which horse racing is conducted in Oklahoma. Among other things, the OHRA establishes the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission (the Commission), which is charged with regulating horse racing within the state by creating and enforcing rules and regulations. The OHRA’s stated purpose and intent is set forth as follows:

In the interest of the public health, safety, and welfare, it is hereby declared to be the purpose and intent of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Act to vest in the Commission plenary power to promulgate rules and regulations for the forceful control of race meetings held in this state. The rules and regulations shall:

  1. encourage agriculture and the breeding of horses in this state; and
  2. maintain race meetings held in this state of the highest quality and free of any horse racing practices which are corrupt, incompetent, dishonest, or unprincipled; and
  3. dissipate any cloud of association with the undesirable and maintain the appearance as well as the fact of complete honesty and integrity of horse racing in this state; and
  4. generate public revenues. Okla. Stat. tit. 3A, § 203.7.

Under the authority granted to it by the Oklahoma legislature, the Commission creates and periodically changes the rules of racing. The rules, revised in both August and September of this year, are comprehensive and can be found on the Commission’s website. Rules and regulations related to prohibited practices and equine testing are outlined in chapter 45. According to the Commission’s rules, the purpose of chapter 45 is “to protect the integrity of horse racing, safeguard the health of horses, and defend the interests of the public and racing participants through the prohibition or control of all substances. …” OAC 325:45-1-1.

It is beyond the scope of this article to list each prohibited or controlled substance outlined in chapter 45, but anyone licensed to race horses in Oklahoma should be well acquainted with all that chapter 45 regulates. When a horse tests positive for a regulated substance, the burden to prove no violation occurred shifts to the trainer or owner. OAC 325:45-1-4(g).

As mentioned above, the Commission not only creates the rules of racing, it also enforces them through a quasi-judicial process. Just as chapter 45 outlines the rules for regulating substances, the Commission rules also outline the process for investigating and appealing a positive drug test. Failure to follow the rules, to include the time frames for requesting a split test, will result in a waiver of the right to appeal any action that is taken because of the positive test.

In addition to preserving the right to appeal, timely investigation of a positive drug test is also important from the standpoint of evaluating whether or not the horse’s environment contributed to the positive drug test. To introduce mitigating evidence of environmental contamination, you must be able to test the stall, bedding, feed, supplements and even the horse’s handlers in order to show the horse was not intentionally given a prohibited or regulated substance. The more time that passes between the date of collection and the date of investigation, the more difficult it will be for a credible argument of environmental contamination to be made.

In case an investigation is necessary, good records should be kept of stall management, feed and supplement lot numbers, medication administration, and when grooms and other handlers worked with the horse, etc. Moreover, trainers should ensure that measures are taken to restrict access to the horses in their charge to protect against the nefarious actions of third parties.

Timeliness is the theme of this article on defending against a positive drug test. It all starts with keeping timely and accurate records on the management of the horse. In the event of a positive drug test, it then moves to the timely, written request for a split sample testing. And then, of course, it moves on to the timely appeal process. A well-researched and drafted appeal can go nowhere if the time frames outlined in the Commission’s rules are not strictly observed.

This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This article originally appeared in Oklahoma Horses magazine as a part of Mary’s regular legal column.

The ABCs of the FLSA’s new overtime rules

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on November 21, 2019.


attorney Martin J Lopez III

Martin J. Lopez III is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Martin J. Lopez III

The Fair Labor Standards Act is the federal law regulating employee pay. Among other things, the FLSA covers minimum wages, maximum hours, overtime compensation and child labor.

The current federal minimum wage for most employees is $7.25 per hour. The FLSA requires employers to pay overtime, one-and-a-half times an employee’s regular hourly rate, when employees work more than 40 hours in a workweek. The FLSA also establishes categories of employees who are exempt from its overtime pay requirements, one of which is known as the white collar exemption. This includes executives, administrative employees, educational establishments, professional employees, computer employees and highly compensated employees.

Currently, exempt employees must be paid a salary of at least $455 per week. Being paid on a salary basis means that an employee must receive a full salary for any week in which work is performed, and they are not eligible for overtime. An exempt employee’s salary may not be reduced due to absences from work except in specific limited situations.

On Sept. 24, the U.S. Department of Labor announced its final rules for the revisions to the overtime regulations for the white collar exemptions. This change, effective Jan. 1, prospectively makes roughly 1.3 million American workers newly eligible for overtime pay. The rule updates the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt employees from the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements and allows employers to count a portion of certain bonuses and commissions toward meeting the salary level. These thresholds were last updated in 2004.

In the final rule, the Department of Labor is:

• Raising the standard salary level from the currently enforced weekly level of $455 to $684 (equivalent to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker).

• Raising the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees from the currently enforced annual level of $100,000 to $107,432.

• Allowing employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) paid at least annually to satisfy up to 10% of the standard salary level, in recognition of evolving pay practices.

• Revising the special salary levels for workers in U.S. territories and the motion picture industry.

In light of this, employers should review their employee records for any of its exempt workers making less than the new salary threshold level and determine what changes should be made.

Martin J. Lopez III is an attorney at the law firm of Phillips Murrah.

Phillips Murrah named among 2020 Best Law Firms in 45 practice areas

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that our law firm has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 “Best Law Firms” for professional excellence for the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area and, for the first time, the Dallas/Fort Worth area in the following practice areas:

Oklahoma City

Tier 1

  • Administrative / Regulatory Law
  • Banking and Finance Law
  • Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law
  • Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships)
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Commercial Transactions / UCC Law
  • Corporate Law
  • Energy Law
  • Energy Regulatory Law
  • Government Relations Practice
  • Insurance Law
  • Litigation – Bankruptcy
  • Litigation – Real Estate
  • Litigation – Tax
  • Natural Resources Law
  • Oil & Gas Law
  • Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
  • Real Estate Law
  • Trusts & Estates Law

Tier 2

  • Construction Law
  • Employment Law – Management
  • Health Care Law
  • Land Use & Zoning Law
  • Litigation – Banking & Finance
  • Litigation – Labor & Employment
  • Litigation – Land Use & Zoning
  • Mergers & Acquisitions Law
  • Public Finance Law
  • Securities Regulation
  • Tax Law
  • Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Tier 3

  • Bet-the-Company Litigation
  • Environmental Law
  • Family Law
  • Labor Law – Management
  • Litigation – Antitrust
  • Litigation – ERISA
  • Litigation – Trusts & Estates
  • Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants
  • Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants
  • Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants
  • Securities / Capital Markets Law
  • Technology Law
  • Venture Capital Law

Dallas/Fort Worth

Tier 3

  • Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law

 

To be eligible for a ranking, a law firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top four percent of practicing attorneys in the United States.

Earlier in the year, Phillips Murrah announced that 48 of our attorneys are recognized by Best Lawyers in America for 2020.

Firms included in the 2020 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence, quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise. The “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a combination of client feedback, information provided on the Law Firm Survey and the Law Firm Leaders Survey and Best Lawyers peer-review.

Wolfe reflects on Firm growth in Dallas market for Texas Lawyer article

Tom Wolfe is a trial attorney and commercial litigator whose practice is focused on complex business cases including product liability, oil and gas, mass tort and class action defense. Tom is also the president and managing partner at Phillips Murrah.

Thomas G. Wolfe, Managing Partner at Phillips Murrah law firm, was interviewed by Brenda Sapino Jeffreys for an article for Texas Lawyer on Law.com, giving insights on the Firm’s venture into the Texas legal market and on business strategies the Firm has found successful.

Read more below:

What do you view as the two biggest opportunities for your firm, and what are the two biggest threats?

For Phillips Murrah, our biggest opportunity is easy: TEXAS.  We opened our Dallas office about a year-and-a-half ago, and as a new entrant to the Texas legal market, we see virtually unlimited opportunities to gain clients, expand existing relationships and add top talent. Over the past 18 months, we have grown our Texas office from one full-time lawyer to five while increasing the quantity of work being handled for Texas-based companies more than tenfold. While much of that work is for new clients, we are also providing an expanding range of service to existing clients based in Texas and elsewhere.

The second opportunity for the firm is the ability to provide existing Oklahoma-based clients with niche services from Texas-based lawyers. In some cases, there are only a handful of Oklahoma lawyers in a niche practice while the pool of practitioners in Texas is much larger.

While Texas presents a huge opportunity, the size of the legal market and the number of competitors also serve as a threat. As a roughly 75-lawyer firm, we cannot chase every opportunity. We must remain focused and chose carefully.

Growth also presents a challenge to our firm culture, which has been a cornerstone for our success. As Phillips Murrah added, and then added to, a second office, we have worked diligently to include Oklahoma lawyers on teams serving Texas-based clients and vice versa. Since opening in Dallas, half of our Oklahoma lawyers have worked on relationships managed by a Texas lawyer while everyone in our Dallas office has worked on a relationship managed from our Oklahoma City headquarters. Fortunately, Oklahoma City is as close to Dallas as Austin and much closer than Houston.

The full article is exclusive to Law.com subscribers. Click here to view the full article.

Davis to present on Oklahoma open records laws issues

Eric Davis

Eric Davis is an attorney in the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group and the Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group. He represents clients in a range of regulatory and energy matters.

C. Eric Davis, an attorney in the Firm’s Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group, will give a presentation on Oklahoma open records laws Oct. 18 for Continuing Legal Education individuals.

Davis will present at 10:15 a.m. at the National Business Institute’s seminar titled “Ensuring Local Governments Comply with the Law,” focusing on public records issues.

“Oklahoma’s open records laws help make government more transparent,” Davis said. “Most documents generated when conducting government business are subject to disclosure, even texts and emails.

“Whether you’re a public official needing to maintain records, or a member of the public seeking access, it’s important to understand the public’s right to see government documents.”

The seminar will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday in Oklahoma City. Those interested in registering can find more information here. Attendees receive CLE credit for participating.

Phillips Murrah rowing team takes silver in 2019 Oklahoma Regatta Festival

Law & Oarder, Phillips Murrah’s rowing team, wins Second Place in the 2019 Oklahoma Regatta Festival.

Phillips Murrah’s rowing team Law & Oarder ended the Fall 2019 season on top, placing second in the annual regatta competition.

The team competed on Oct. 4 at the 2019 Oklahoma Regatta Festival held at the OKC Boathouse District and achieved a 500-meter run of 2:00:06, up five seconds from last year.

“Another great season in the books,” said Deena Baker, Legal Assistant and Law & Oarder team captain. “We had a few new team members this season which is always exciting, and then to top it off with another medal after a lot of hard work.

“Friday night was a blast, being in a neck-in-neck race in the finale between First and Third Place. Way to go team Law & Oarder!”

In all eleven seasons the Firm’s rowing team has competed, team members consisted of both attorneys and staff members.

“This being my first season on the rowing team, I was thrilled to stand on the winners’ podium after a hard fought race,” Attorney Martin J. Lopez III said. “Being a part of the rowing team was a phenomenal opportunity to compete alongside my coworkers against other Oklahoma City companies.

“There’s so much excitement about the end-of-season regatta—it was a thrilling experience to take part in it.”

The team will resume practice in the Spring for the Stars & Stripes Festival in June 2020.

Check out video of the team crossing the finishline here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

 

Three main methods of acquiring business

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on October 10, 2019.


Travis Harrison

Travis E. Harrison is a transactional attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of transactional matters.

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Travis E. Harrison

Acquiring a business is done through three main methods: merging with the selling company, referred to as the target company; purchasing the assets of the target company; or purchasing the stock or other equity interests of the target company. Each method has pros and cons depending on the legal, tax and business implications. Therefore, it is imperative the parties carefully consider these at the outset.

A merger is simply a combination of two legal entities becoming one. The one that survives the merger, called the surviving entity, assumes all assets and liabilities of the other. The logistics of a merger are driven by state statute and case law, which informs the parties of the legal requirements and procedures. For example, an Oklahoma limited liability company that is the surviving entity must file articles of merger or consolidation with the Oklahoma secretary of state containing details of the merger and entities involved. Additionally, the parties should review the organizational documents to ensure compliance with any contractual procedures.

Purchasing the assets of the target company means the buyer acquires the assets of the target company, including real property, IP, equipment, inventory and licenses. The buyer also acquires contractual liabilities and tax obligations. This method affords the parties great flexibility for the buyer to choose specific assets and liabilities, and to carve out liabilities the target company should keep. However, this method can be more complicated because it may need preparation of ancillary agreements to transfer contracts, tangible property and title to certain assets.

Purchasing the stock of the target company means the buyer acquires all of the target company’s assets and liabilities. In this method, the stock purchase buyer essentially acquires the target company rather than the components of the business. A stock sale can benefit sellers where it effectively transfers all liabilities without requiring all of the formalities in an asset purchase agreement, such as documents to retitle assets to the buyer. A stock acquisition generally will not have the same statutory constraints of a merger.

Each method has unique advantages and disadvantages depending on the specifics of the deal. The parties need to analyze and evaluate all implications for each method. Careful consideration and planning leads to the best deal for both sides and prevents unnecessary complications down the line.

Travis E. Harrison is an attorney with the law firm of Phillips Murrah.

Gardner addresses current issues regarding Oklahoma Native American law

Melissa Gardner is a Director who practices in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group. She represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

Director Melissa R. Gardner participated in a seminar in September for the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Continuing Legal Education individuals focusing on matters relevant to the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma.

“My presentation covered the statutory landscape for Native American law,” Gardner said. “I discussed all of the Congressional acts that control the United States’s legal position in regards to the tribes.”

On the topic of tribes, Gardner addressed the most recent Supreme Court case involving the tribes, Sharp v. Murphy, and emphasized possible, incredible implications on the state of Oklahoma and 19 million acres lying East of Oklahoma City.

The case is pending and raises the question of whether Congress disestablished the Muscogee Nation reservation. Click here for more information on issues surrounding the case.

Gardner is a Director and an attorney in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group. She represents energy companies in a variety of matters in both Oklahoma and Texas.

Attorney Ashley Schovanec in article on potential Oklahoma civil lawsuit award caps

Attorney Ashley Schovanec Web

Ashley M. Schovanec is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

Ashley M. Schovanec, Phillips Murrah Litigation Attorney, was quoted in a Journal Record article by Steve Metzer regarding the decision by Chris Kannady, chairman of the Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee, to consider a legislative compromise to a ruling that made caps on certain damages in civil lawsuits unconstitutional.

Read Schovanec’s comments below:

Ashley M. Schovanec, a litigation attorney with the firm of Phillips Murrah, said another result of the Supreme Court’s decision might be that businesses will be more likely to settle lawsuits than contest them on legal grounds,

Because the risk of large verdicts just went up, cases may settle earlier because of the uncertainty associated with leaving a damages calculation up to a jury,” she said.

Read the full article from the Journal Record.

Buying in to medical practices entails special planning

Erica K. Halley

Erica K. Halley represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Erica K. Halley answers questions about the basics of investing in a medical practice.

What does it mean to buy in to a medical practice?

Small health care practices are typically owned by one or more of the health care providers at the practice. Such practices are usually organized as professional corporations (PCs) or professional limited liability companies (PLLCs). Although PCs and often PLLCs are considered corporations for legal and tax purposes, where the owners are technically “shareholders,” owners of a medical practice are colloquially referred to as “partners.” For a junior provider in a small practice, the pathway to partnership and the partnership itself can take on many different forms, but the key concerns are generally the same in every case.

Health care providers interested in purchasing ownership in a practice should invest with a comprehensive understanding of the valuation of the business, the compensation structure among partners and the exit strategies available to each of the partners. Retaining advisers who can alleviate this burden, such as an accountant and an attorney having experience in medical practice transactions, will ensure the tax implications are favorable and the exposure to risk is minimized.

How are medical practices valued and how do partners buy in?

Ordinarily, valuations consider the values of the hard assets, the accounts receivables and other intangibles, and the goodwill of the practice. Unlike other types of companies, it is common in health care practices for all partners to share ownership equally. This means a new partner to an existing two-partner practice will own a full 33.33% of the practice either immediately or shortly after the buy-in.

How the new partner pays for his or her share of the business varies. Sometimes, buy-ins are structured over time. For example, if a buy-in were to take place over the course of three years, the new partner would pay one-third of the total purchase price every year, and he or she would slowly purchase their interest in the practice, not becoming an equal partner with full voting power until the third payment in the third year. Alternatively, a practice may grant the new partner his or her full ownership (with full voting power) at the outset, and treat the buy-in like a loan being paid off over time. In either event, the payoff of the purchase price is frequently in the form of income-shifting or plain reductions in salary and/or bonuses.

How are partners paid?

Compensation structures in medical practices also differ across the board. Many times, a partner’s compensation is determined, at least in part, by the partner’s “productivity” in the practice according to how much revenue each provider generates, how many patients each provider sees, how many hours each provider works, or a combination of any of the foregoing. Other variables used in determining partner compensation include the management duties of the partners, seniority, special training and allocations of expenses. Such formulas among the partners ought to be negotiated and agreed upon prior to a buy-in.

How do partners get out of practices?

Before partners buy in, they need to understand how to get out — and how the other partners can get out at their expense. Shareholder agreements in professional corporations and operating agreements in professional limited liability companies usually set forth the procedures for a partner leaving the practice in the event of employment termination, retirement and death, as well as the calculations for valuing the exiting-partner’s ownership. In most cases, the other partners will be ultimately responsible for buying that partner (or his/her estate) out of the business. In addition, practices often bind their partners to noncompetition covenants, which restrict them from competing with the practice after they leave the practice.

 

Erica K. Halley is an attorney with Phillips Murrah.

Norman selected for LOYAL XV Class

Kendra Norman Web

Kendra M. Norman represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

Leadership Oklahoma City recently selected members for Linking OKC’s Young Adult Leaders’ (LOYAL) 2019-20 class, and Phillips Murrah attorney Kendra M. Norman made the cut.

“I see my role in LOYAL as a community member and community leader who wants to experience personal growth with respect to leadership skills as well as further develop skills to improve the community,” Norman said. “I’m so excited to make new contacts and learn from others in different areas and professions as well.”

The LOYAL Program runs from September through April and focuses on enhancing personal leadership skills and cultivating community leadership skills by giving participants unique opportunities to learn leadership skills from Oklahoma’s most influential and accomplished business people, public servants, and non-profit managers.

“When you become an attorney, you join the legal profession and view yourself as an attorney, not just at work, but all the time,” Norman said. “No matter if you’re at work or at home, you are always an attorney and it’s a persona that you take on for life.

“But I’m so much more than just an attorney. I wanted to join the LOYAL program to help me make an impact on the community outside of this profession. I’m a leader in the Oklahoma City community and volunteer in several capacities, so I wanted to further develop those skills so that I can help improve the community and be a better leader and board member.”

Norman is a transactional attorney who represents clients in a broad range of matters in the areas of Mergers and Acquisitions, Real Estate Law, Tax Law, Clean Energy Law, and Private Wealth, Estate Planning and Business Succession.

Other Phillips Murrah graduates of Leadership Oklahoma City programs include Jim Roth, Signature Program Class XXII, and G. Calvin Sharpe, Signature Program Class XXIII.

Phillips Murrah welcomes three new attorneys to legal team

Phillips Murrah is proud to welcome Justin G. Bates, Kara K. Laster, and Phoebe B. Mitchell to our Firm.

Phillips Murrah welcomed Justin and Phoebe to the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group as associate attorneys. Each represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

Justin attended the University of Oklahoma College of Law where he earned American Jurisprudence Awards for Civil Procedure II and Torts. He served as a member of the American Indian Law Review and was a member of the Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society. Justin also had the privilege of arguing in the final rounds of both the 2017 1L moot court competition and the 2018 Calvert Competition before an esteemed panel of Oklahoma justices.

Justin was born and raised in the metro area, where he currently lives. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, watching college football, discussing what could have been for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and spending time with friends and family.

Phoebe attended the University of Oklahoma College of Law where she earned the American Jurisprudence award for Civil Procedure II and was on the Dean’s Honor Roll. She served as the Research Editor and Candidate Mentor on the Oklahoma Law Review and was a member of the Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society. Phoebe also served as a mentor on the Dean’s Leadership Council, was selected as a Dean’s Leadership Fellow, and was selected to serve on the Academic Appeals Board.

While in law school, Phoebe had the opportunity to clerk as a judicial intern for the Honorable Judge Rob Hudson of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Phoebe was born and raised in Oklahoma City and received a Bachelor’s Degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She enjoys Thunder basketball, OU football and cheering on her Vanderbilt Commodores in her spare time.

Kara has joined Phillips Murrah’s Transactional Practice Group as an associate attorney where she represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

Kara was part of the dual degree program at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and Price College of Business, achieving both her J.D. and M.B.A. During her third and fourth years of school, Kara worked as a Graduate Assistant for the Editor-in-Chief of the Southern Law Journal and business law professor at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. She was a member of the Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society, received the Elkouri Scholarship, and graduated with honors.

Kara was born and raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, snow skiing, spending time at the lake with friends and family, and attending OSU sporting events.

Norman elected Chapter Adviser for University of Oklahoma sorority

Alpha Omicron Pi’s house at the University of Oklahoma campus

Alpha Omicron Pi’s Xi Chapter members recently elected Phillips Murrah Attorney Kendra M. Norman to serve as Chapter Adviser for the sorority’s University of Oklahoma house.

Chapter Adviser is elected annually and advises the Chapter President, the Leader’s Council—which consists of women elected as leaders of the chapter—as well as the chapter as a whole, which is made up of over 250 women.

“I serve as a resource, a role model, and a coach to the chapter and its members,” Norman said. “I have the privilege of working one-on-one with the amazing women of Xi Chapter and have gotten to watch them grow as leaders, achieve their goals, and become professionals, and I am so proud to call each one of them my sisters.”

The Chapter Adviser also serves as the chairman of the chapter’s Alumnae Advisory Committee, comprised of alumnae who mentor the women on the Leader’s Council individually. Norman has served on the committee for about five years in various leadership roles.

“Alpha Omicron Pi’s motto is ‘Inspire Ambition,’ and I truly take that to heart as I practice law at Phillips Murrah P.C. and volunteer with Xi Chapter of AOII,” she said. “I find that being a collegiate member and now an alumna member of AOII has been an empowering experience, and it is amazing to see what women can do when they work together and build each other up.

“I am thrilled to be able to take on this new challenge and to have this opportunity to work side by side with the women of Xi Chapter as well as Inspire Ambition through my service.”

Norman represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters in the Firm’s downtown Oklahoma City office.

Attorney Lauren Voth leads SmartTalks presentation on medical marijuana in the workplace

SmartTalks Virtual User Group Meeting:
Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

Thursday, Aug. 15
12 PM to 1 PM (CST)

Free to participate with registration

 

Employers can still enforce drug-free workplace policies and implement drug-testing policies even after their state legalizes Medical Marijuana.  However, you must ensure your policies comply with state law.

Phillips Murrah Attorney Lauren Symcox Voth will review what your company can do to ensure the safety and security of your workforce and organization even after the legalization of medical marijuana.

To register, click here.

Presenter:

Lauren Voth

Lauren Symcox Voth

Lauren Symcox Voth is a member of Phillip’s Murrah P.C. Labor and Employment Practice Group. She represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in litigation, administrative matters, mediations and negotiations. Specifically, Lauren has experience representing large and small corporations in employment-related matters.

Attorney Mary Holloway Richard delivers presentation on behavioral health protections

Mary Holloway

Mary Richard represents institutional and non-institutional providers of health services, as well as patients and their families.

Mary Holloway Richard, Phillips Murrah healthcare law attorney, participated in a CLE webinar panel for healthcare counsel on Wednesday.

Strafford Publications presented the webinar on protecting patients’ behavioral health information, and disclosure requirements and limitations.

Richard’s presentation defines best practices for healthcare providers in situations where a potential breach in patient privacy may arise.

The panel addressed the distinction between instances when the release of behavioral health information is permissible or required.

A slideshow of the presentation is available to view here, and those interested in viewing the webinar may do so via Strafford’s website here.

For more information about Phillips Murrah’s Healthcare Law practice, click here.

Child support payments based on several variables

A headshot of Robert K. Campbell, a lawyer focused in the area of family law.

Robert K. Campbell’s legal practice is focused in the area of family law, specifically concentrated in matters of divorce, legal separation and custody issues.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Robert K. Campbell answers questions about the basics of arranging and handling Oklahoma child support.

Who pays child support in a divorce proceeding?

Oklahoma law requires both parents to provide financial support for their children during a divorce. That being said, typically it is one parent paying the other parent. There are, however, situations wherein neither parent may owe the other parent child support.

How is the amount of child support calculated?

The child support amount is calculated based upon the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines. The Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines will calculate the child support obligation of each parent.

What does the Oklahoma child support calculation take into consideration when determining the amount of child support?

There are several variables that go into the Oklahoma Child Support Guideline calculation. The primary variables determine the base child support amount consist of the parties’ gross monthly income, the number of minor children of the parties, and the number of overnights each parent has with the children. There are other variables that can be taken into consideration. A common example of these are health insurance premiums and child care costs.

What is considered gross income for child support purposes?

Oklahoma’s definition of gross income is broad and intended to include earned income and passive income. Gross income consists of wages, salaries, tips, commissions, bonuses, etc. Passive income can include dividends, pensions, rent, interest income, trust income, gifts, gambling winnings, lottery winnings, etc.

If both parents agree, can the child support agreement differ from the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines calculations?

Typically, an agreed amount other than the guidelines will likely be approved if it is in the best interest of the minor child and the amount of support indicated by the guidelines is unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances; both parties are represented by counsel and have agreed to a different amount; or one party is represented by counsel and the deviation benefits the unrepresented party.

How long does a parent have to pay child support?

In Oklahoma, the law typically provides that a child is entitled to support by the parents until the child reaches the age of 18, or graduates high school, whichever occurs later; however, it shall not extend beyond the age of 20. There are certain situations where the law may provide support to an adult child with a disability beyond the age of majority. If you are paying support for more than one child, your payment amount does not drop automatically when one child no longer qualifies for support. You must take affirmative steps to recalculate future support for the remaining child or children and ask the court to enter a revised support order. When the last child no longer qualifies for child support, the support obligation ends if there is no past due support owed.

Can child support be modified?

Yes. In Oklahoma, either parent may request a modification of the amount of child support based upon a “material change in circumstances.” The increase or decrease in either parent’s income may constitute a material change in circumstances warranting a modification.

What happens if a parent who is ordered to pay child support fails to pay?

The parent who fails or refuses to pay their child support obligation can be cited for indirect contempt of court, which if found guilty can result in a $500 fine and/or up to six months in jail. Additionally, state licenses can be revoked, suspended or not renewed.

 

Robert K. Campbell is a family law attorney with Phillips Murrah.

Employers should examine paid parental leave policies

The notorious absence of any federally mandated paid family leave in the United States was a significant issue during the 2016 presidential election. Recent legislative proposals indicate that the issue will only gain steam through 2020 and beyond. Paid parental leave is not a partisan issue, as demonstrated by legislators on both sides of the aisle introducing bills in 2019, including Marco Rubio and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Phillips Murrah litigation attorney Hillary Clifton discusses holiday legal hazards.

Hilary Hudson Clifton is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters. Click photo to visit her attorney profile.

With parental leave policies under particular scrutiny, it is a good idea for employers to examine their existing policies. As it looks ever more likely that paid leave will be federally mandated in the not-too-distant future, now might be the right time for employers without a paid leave policy to consider implementing one.

Though some states have passed laws requiring paid parental leave benefits, Oklahoma is not among them, and employers in Oklahoma currently offering paid leave to new parents do so voluntarily. Still, employers could find themselves in legal trouble if their policies impermissibly distinguish between different classes of parents. For example, while it might be tempting to offer a certain period of paid maternity leave to a mother, and a different period of paternity leave to a father, employers must be careful to draft policies that do not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and other potentially protected categories.

Paid parental leave to care for a new child, sometimes referred to as bonding time, should apply equally to all new parents, including biological mothers and fathers, adoptive parents, and same-sex couples. However, with biological mothers requiring medical attention and recovery time related to pregnancy and childbirth, it is not discriminatory to offer biological mothers an additional period of paid leave, provided the policy specifies that such leave is for the mother’s medical/physical needs.

Increasingly, employers around the country are opting for generous parental leave policies to attract and retain qualified employees. In that regard, employers considering a policy that offers a birth mother significant paid leave for recovery but little time for bonding and childcare might consider whether such a policy could encourage fathers or adoptive parents to look elsewhere for job opportunities.

With no federal or state mandate in Oklahoma, there remains room for any employer to adopt a policy in line with its particular needs and preferences. That said, well-intentioned employers should take measures to avoid inadvertent discrimination in their policies.

Hilary H. Clifton is a litigation attorney with the law firm of Phillips Murrah.


Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on July 18, 2019.

How to determine whether to hold or terminate an oil and gas lease

When a landowner leases property to an energy company, the lease agreement typically contains a held-by-production provision, also known as a habendum clause. In Oklahoma, habendum clauses in oil and gas leases establish that after the primary lease term has ended, the lease shall remain in force as long as the land is capable of producing a minimum amount of oil or gas. But how do courts decide whether to hold or end such a lease?

Habendum clauses typically describe the lease term as, “from the date hereof and as long thereafter as oil or gas … is produced from said land.” When the term “produced” is used in a “thereafter” provision of the habendum clause, it has been determined by courts to mean production in “paying quantities.”

However, “paying quantities” is not determined by a specific dollar amount. Rather, it is defined as an amount of production sufficient to yield a profit to the lessee beyond lifting expenses, which include costs of operating the pumps, gross production taxes and electricity.

To determine whether a lease is commercially producing and, therefore, may be held by production, there are four factors that courts take into account: the accounting period, revenue during that period, expenses during that period, and equitable considerations.

The accounting period chosen for any production analysis varies and is determined by examining facts and circumstances specific to the lease. Accounting periods can make or break a case when trying to ascertain whether there was production in paying quantities. Thus, to reflect the production status, it is crucial to determine a sufficient amount of time that would provide information that would allow a “reasonable and prudent operator” to decide whether to continue or cease operation.

For example, in Hoyt v. Continental Oil Co., the accounting period was 14 months. In Smith v. Marshall Oil Corp., the accounting period was 35 months.

Once an accounting period is established, all revenue generated by the lease during that period is considered. Next, lifting expenses are considered and compared against revenue to see which is greater. However, this consideration does not include overriding royalties, overhead, and depreciation.

Lastly, if the lease is unprofitable, the court will examine any equitable considerations to determine if any justify maintaining the lease. These considerations are very specific to the circumstances of the lease that may affect profitability, which could include market conditions, changes in public policy, pipeline access, and conflict resolution activity.

If, after examining all factors, it is determined that the oil and gas lease is returning a profit over lifting expenses, the lease will not be vulnerable to termination and shall be allowed to continue beyond the primary lease term.

Originally published in The Journal Record on July 5, 2019.

Deadline Monday for pharmacies’ annual inventory of controlled dangerous substances

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Martin J. Lopez III discusses requirements pharmacies must abide by when submitting controlled substance inventories and the consequences they may face if they neglect to do so.

attorney Martin J Lopez III

Martin J. Lopez III is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

There seems to be increasing regulation of pharmacies in recent years, and this has been heightened by the responses to the opioid crisis. What are the various inventory requirements of the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy (OSBP)?

According to state regulation, and because of the dangerous propensities of these controlled medications, OSBP requires pharmacies to perform inventories much like any retailer, although there are some distinctions based upon the nature of the pharmacy’s product. The regulation, Oklahoma Administrative Code 535:15-3-10, sets forth four distinct circumstances where inventories must be performed: The first is an annual inventory of controlled dangerous substances (“CDS”). Most relevant for all pharmacies at this particular time, the OSBP requires an inventory of all CDS be performed between May 1 and July 1 of each year; this annual inventory must be included with the pharmacy’s annual license renewal application. This annual license renewal application must be in writing, must contain the names of the pharmacy’s owners and shall provide any other information deemed relevant by the board — including the CDS inventory. Inventory is required for a Change of Ownership or a change of the Pharmacist-in-Charge (PIC) and must be sent to the board within 10 days. The OSBP requires the inventory include the new manager’s name and registration number and recommends that it include the outgoing manager’s name, registration number, and current place of employment. The OSBP further recommends that both the incoming and outgoing managers sign the inventory. Inventory also may be triggered by circumstances such as theft. In the case of suspected loss, theft, or other event, the OSBP may require an inventory be performed and sent to the board within ten days of the completion of the inventory. Inventory is also required when a pharmacy closes and must be sent to the board within 10 days of the pharmacy’s closing.

What is a controlled dangerous substance for the purposes of the annual inventory to be performed between May 1 and July 1?

Generally, a CDS is a drug, substance or immediate precursor (a substance that serves as a chemical intermediary to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance) in Schedules I through V of the Oklahoma Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substance Act, found at Title 63, Sections 2-203 through 2-212 of the Oklahoma Statutes; these Schedules range from those with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use (includes many “street” drugs like heroin) to those with low potential for abuse and which are accepted for medical use (such as pseudoephedrine—such as brands commonly known as Sudafed PE and Allegra D.

What happens if a pharmacy misses or fails to complete an inventory or doesn’t perform or submit the inventory on time? For example, what happens if a pharmacy doesn’t perform inventories of its controlled dangerous substances between May 1 and July 1?

If a pharmacy fails to comply with the annual CDS inventory, both the PIC and the pharmacy itself are deemed to have violated the administrative code. A violation of the administrative code amounts to a violation of the Oklahoma Pharmacy Act, over which the OSBP may take a number of actions, including a reprimand, probation, suspension, permanent revocation of a pharmacy’s license, or other disciplinary action in its discretion; the OSPB also can levy fines up to $3,000.

Martin J. Lopez III is an attorney with Phillips Murrah law firm.

OCBA Young Lawyers Division deems Phillips Murrah “Friend of the YLD”

Ben Grubb, YLD Chair, Hilary Clifton & David Cheek, Awards Committee Chair

YLD Chair Ben Grubb, Phillips Murrah Attorney Hilary Clifton and Awards Committee Chair David Cheek

The Oklahoma County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division honored Phillips Murrah as a “Friend of the YLD” at the annual OCBA Awards Luncheon on June 21.

“Phillips Murrah was chosen for this award because of their consistent support of the Harvest Food Drive and the Regional Food Bank,” said Debbie Gorden, OCBA Executive Director. “They have also continued to sponsor the events of the Chili Cook-Off and Striking Out Hunger Bowling Tournament by monetary donations as well as team participation.”

Many Phillips Murrah attorneys have dedicated their time to supporting OCBA’s mission. Multiple attorneys have even served on the OCBA Board of Directors.

“The Firm is honored to be acknowledged by OCBA Young Lawyers’ Division as a Friend of the YLD,” said Cody J. Cooper, Phillips Murrah Attorney and Past Chair of YLD. “Our attorneys are motivated to give back to Oklahoma’s community and privileged to support the YLD with their ongoing service efforts.”

Read more about the Firm’s past support of OCBA at the links below:

Journal Record awards Phillips Murrah law firm top Reader Rankings honors

PM Reader Rankings attendees 2019

Phillips Murrah attorneys and executive leaders attend The Journal Record’s Reader Rankings Gala where the Firm won in five categories.

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce our Firm received top honors in five of The Journal Record’s Reader Rankings categories.

“It’s an honor to be recognized in our community for the challenging work our attorneys do every day,” Marketing Director Dave Rhea said.

Phillips Murrah received awards for Best Civil Litigation Firm, Best Family Law Firm, Best Intellectual Property Firm, Best Malpractice Firm and Best Overall Leadership at Reader Rankings Gala on June 20.

“We take pride in providing exceptional legal services while striving to provide a positive, balanced atmosphere for our attorneys and staff,” said Thomas G. Wolfe, Phillips Murrah President and Managing Partner.

The Reader Rankings program recognizes and celebrates the achievements of Oklahoma businesses and entrepreneurs.

Journal Record readers nominate and vote for the best businesses and organizations across a wide variety of categories encompassing the areas of construction and design, entertainment, finance/accounting, general business, health care, higher education, hospitality, legal services, real estate and information technology.

To learn more about the workplace culture and opportunities at Phillips Murrah, visit our Careers pagehttps://phillipsmurrah.com/careers.

Hasenfratz inducted into American College of Real Estate Lawyers

Sally Hasenfrats

Sally Hasenfratz is a Director in the firm. She is a veteran real estate and transactional attorney with over 25 years of experience.

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce Director and Shareholder Sally A. Hasenfratz has been elected as a Fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers.

Admission to ACREL is by invitation only, following a rigorous screening process and significant peer review. Members are elected based on recognition locally and nationally as a distinguished real estate practitioner, high standards of professional and ethical conduct, and contributions within both the legal and non-legal communities to the improvement of the practice of commercial real estate law.

Sally is the leader of the Firm’s Real Estate Practice Group, where she focuses her practice on the acquisition, development, leasing and financing of all types of commercial real estate. She is a co-founder and past president of CREW-OKC, Inc., which is the local chapter CREW Network, a global organization formed to transform the commercial real estate by advancing women in the industry.

Sally has receive a number of other honors such as being named in Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers in Real Estate, The Best Lawyers in America (real estate, construction, land use and commercial transactions), and Super Lawyers (real estate, top 25 women lawyers in Oklahoma, top 50 lawyers in Oklahoma).

She brings to her transactional practice an LL.M. degree in taxation, which allows her to strategize with her clients from a broad view of their projects, helping them to plan, structure and execute each piece of the deal to maximize business objectives.

For more information about ACREL, visit their website here.

Maule to present at nonprofit business seminar

Byrona Maule

Byrona J. Maule is a Director and litigation attorney as well as a member of the Firm’s Labor & Employment and Healthcare practice groups.

Byrona J. Maule, Director and member in the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, will give a presentation on the current state of human resources on June 4 at a Nonprofit Accounting and Finance Seminar hosted by Arledge & Associates, P.C.

Accounting and finance professionals are invited to attend the seminar which is tailored to address tax and accounting issues specific to the nonprofit sector.

The seminar will cover a wide range of topics including audits, tax law changes and Financial Accounting Standards Board updates. Sessions will also cover employment law issues for nonprofits, donor relations matters and online marketing.

Byrona represents executives and companies in a wide range of business and litigation matters with a strong emphasis on employment matters, ensuring their compliance before various state and federal regulatory boards.

For more information about the seminar, click here.

Federal income tax challenges for medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma

Jessica Cory web

Jessica N. Cory represents businesses and individuals in a wide range of transactional matters, with an emphasis on tax planning.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Jessica N. Cory explores the conflict between federal and state law as it pertains to Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses.

What is the primary federal tax issue for Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses?

Jessica Cory, attorney with Phillips Murrah law firm answers: The primary tax issue for Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses stems from the conflicting treatment of the marijuana industry under federal and state law. Although the approval of State Question 788 last summer legalized the use, growth and sale of medical marijuana for state purposes, marijuana remains an illegal drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Special tax provisions apply to penalize anything deemed illegal drug trafficking under federal law, including licensed medical marijuana businesses.

What are the specific federal tax burdens a medical marijuana business will face?

Internal Revenue Code Section 280E represents the biggest tax challenge for medical marijuana businesses. Generally, the Internal Revenue Code allows a taxpayer to take a deduction for all “ordinary and necessary” business expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year. Congress has created an exception to this rule in certain instances, however.

One such exception is Code Section 280E, which prohibits a taxpayer engaged in the business of “trafficking in controlled substances” from taking a deduction for ordinary business expenses. Because the federal Controlled Substances Act defines marijuana as a Schedule I drug, Code Section 280E severely limits the types of deductions available to a medical marijuana business.

Although Code Section 280E prevents a marijuana business from taking normal business deductions, it does not bar a business from offsetting its gross receipts with its cost of goods sold (“COGS”). This means a business can at least reduce its potential taxable income by its direct costs of production. However, the Internal Revenue Code has issued guidance strictly limiting the types of costs a taxpayer engaging in a marijuana business can allocate to COGS, to prevent an end-run around Code Section 280E.

Case law supports this narrower interpretation of COGS for the marijuana industry, including prohibiting resellers of marijuana from including any indirect costs — costs other than the price paid for inventory plus any transportation or other necessary acquisition costs — in COGS.

Is there anything marijuana business owners can do to minimize their federal tax burden?

Yes, a tax professional can help marijuana businesses develop strategies for minimizing the impact of Code Section 280E. For example, a tax adviser can help a business differentiate between COGS and business deductions to take full advantage of the COGS offset allowed under federal law. In addition, a tax professional may be able to help a company structure its business to separate out its different activities to avoid having Code Section 280E apply too broadly. It is also essential for marijuana businesses to keep careful records, particularly if the business also engages in additional activities unrelated to growing, processing or selling marijuana.

Has there been any effort in Congress to fix the disparity in treatment under federal and state law?

Members of Congress have repeatedly introduced legislation to exempt marijuana businesses lawfully operating under state law from the parameters of Section 280E. For example, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment through Entrusting States (“STATES”) Act, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect people operating within the bounds of state cannabis laws, was recently reintroduced. Unfortunately, despite bipartisan support and the backing of several 2020 presidential candidates, the odds are not in favor of passage at this time.

Jessica Cory is an attorney with Phillips Murrah law firm.

Who should define the terms of an oil and gas lease?

Whose job is it to determine which expenses can be deducted from royalty payments under the terms of an oil and gas lease? Is it the lessee or the operator? People argue both positions and all parties desire clarity in who bears this burden.

Molly Tipton

Molly Tipton is an attorney in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group. She represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

Unfortunately, there are many interpretations of the differing forms of deductions language in leases, and the courts have not had the opportunity to make a decision. Many operators have recently requested input from the lessee on royalty valuation, but some lessees may balk at this idea because current practice typically provides that the operator cuts the checks.

Pursuant to 52 O.S. § 570.8(A), a working interest owner in a gas well shall furnish to the operator the name, address, royalty interest, taxpayer identification number, and payment status of royalty interest owners for whom they hold a lease. While this language does not place the burden on the working interest owner to tell the operator how royalty proceeds should be valued under the terms of the lease, it is understandable that an operator wishes for input from the lessee, as they are a party to the lease.

However, when an operator asks a lessee to determine how royalty proceeds should be valued under the terms of the lease, the lessee may fear liability to the royalty interest owner in the event that the operator is paying the royalty contrary to how the lessor interprets the terms of the lease.

The lessee should take comfort in the language in 52 O.S. § 570.9(D), which states that any working interest owner that pays or causes to be paid royalty proceeds for gas production in accordance with the Production Revenue Standards Act valued according to the terms of such working interest owner’s lease shall be relieved of all liability to the royalty interest owners for any further payment of proceeds from such production.

The valuation of royalties will affect both the royalty owner and the lessee, and without any guidance from the courts, there is no definitive answer as to who should define the exact terms of the lease. One can understand why neither the operator, nor the lessee, wants the burden of defining the lease terms, as they affect royalty deductions. Only time will tell whose job it is after all.

 


By Phillips Murrah Attorney Molly E. Tipton

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on May 30, 2019.

Firm supports Big Brothers Big Sisters 2019 Bowl for Kid’s Sake campaign

Bowling Night attendees

Director Jennifer Miller, Director Melissa Gardner, Amy Bradt, and Director Zac Bradt wait for their turns at Bowling Night.

Months of fundraising events culminated into a night of bowling for Phillips Murrah employees, families and friends.

The Firm celebrated its annual fundraising efforts for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids’ Sake campaign on May 16 with a Bowling Night event at Dust Bowl Lanes.

Director Byrona Maule spearheaded the campaign, raising $4,700.

“Thank you for your generous support of Bowl for Kids’ Sake. It is the biggest fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma. The Phillips Murrah family is just that, a family. But not everyone is blessed with a family like ours – and that is where Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma assists.”

The Firm hosts a series of firm-wide events to garner support for the campaign and raise money to help the organization’s cause.

“The money raised from Bowl For Kids’ Sake is used to support one-to-one mentoring. Big Brothers Big Sisters evidence-based mentoring programs are designed to create positive, measurable outcomes for youth, including educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors, higher aspirations, greater confidence and better relationships. They match children, ages 6-18, (“Littles”) with caring adult role models (“Bigs”). The Bigs share experiences with the Littles that expand the Littles world in new ways.”

To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma or to make a donation, visit their website here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

 

Phillips Murrah law firm names new Director and Shareholder

Cindy Murray Web

Cindy Hastie Murray

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 8, 2019) – Phillips Murrah proudly announces the promotion of Cindy Hastie Murray to a Director and Shareholder for the Firm. Murray’s selection brings the Firm’s total number of Directors to 40.

Cindy is a member of the Firm’s Real Estate Practice Group. She represents individuals as well as privately-held and public companies in a wide range of commercial real estate matters, including purchasing and selling commercial real estate and assisting both landlords and tenants in leasing matters.

“After having been Of Counsel with Phillips Murrah, practicing with my dad in the Norman office for many years, I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to join the many fine attorneys in the Oklahoma City office and look forward to collaborating with them on a daily basis,” Cindy said.

While still in law school, Cindy co-authored The ABC’s of the UCC: Related and Supplementary Consumer Law, ABA 1999 with Professor Frederick H. Miller. She also clerked for the late Justice Marian P. Opala at the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 1999.

Born in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and raised in Oklahoma City and Edmond, Cindy lives in Norman with her family.