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Category Archives: Money

Why Your Retail Experience Just Changed Forever — Amazon Swallows Whole Foods

The Whole Foods Market in Midtown New York. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Last Friday, Amazon.com AMZN +0.93% sent another shock wave rippling through all retailers. The e-commerce giant announced the intention to purchase health foods grocer Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Share prices for Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Costco all tumbled. The New York Times described Amazon as the “new breed of Silicon Valley conglomerates.”

The size of the deal is atypical. Since listing its stock publicly in 1997, Amazon has acquired nearly 80 other companies, including movie-and-TV information provider IMDB, the video game streaming site Twitch, and the audiobook service Audible, among others. In all earlier acquisitions, Amazon has eschewed big takeovers. The biggest deal thus far has been the 2009 purchase of online shoe retailer Zappos.com, for roughly $1.2 billion — dwarfed significantly by the Whole Foods announcement.

Stranger still was the market reaction. Economists and financial analysts routinely conduct “event studies,” examining how markets react to firm announcement, whether the market views the investment announced by a company as value-enhancing or value-destroying.

To successfully acquire a target company, bidders often resort to paying an acquisition premium, that is, the difference between the estimated real value of the target and the actual price paid to obtain it. Amazon’s offer represents a 27% premium to Whole Foods’ closing price on Thursday. Similarly, when Microsoft MSFT +0.51% acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, it represented a 50% premium. Last year, when AT&T T -1.32% announced their acquisition of Time Warner, it also paid a 35% premium.

In the short-term, therefore, the target tends to win, while the bidder loses. For example, as expected, LinkedIn’s stock rose 47% to $192.21 while Microsoft’s stock fell 2.6% to $50.14 immediately following Microsoft’s announcement. Between October 19 and October 26, 2016, AT&T’s market capitalization shrank by nearly $20 billion, while Time Warner’s surged by $8 billion. Traditionally, that is exactly what happens after a takeover is announced. Except, that is, when you are Amazon.

On Friday, Amazon’s shares jumped by 2.4%, adding another $11 billion to its market valuation, thus making the whole acquisition nearly free. Whole Foods’ stock, meanwhile, soared by 29% to $42.68 a share, the highest level since May 2015. Then on Monday, it closed even higher, at $43.22 a share.

So exactly what is so special about Whole Foods — which has been struggling with a long slump in sales and a recent reshuffling of its top management — that could take Amazon to new heights? Why are investors warm to what CNBC’s Jim Cramer has called “the most disruptive deal in ages?”

Not All Acquisitions Are Alike

In 2001, Harvard Business School’s Joseph Bower wrote an influential piece in the Harvard Business Review where he described how managers often mistakenly lump all mergers and acquisitions (M&A) together, which in fact, represents very different strategic activities, each presenting differing challenges. Mixing them only makes it harder for an M&A to pull off. That explains, in part, the abysmal track record confirmed by nearly all studies: 70% to 90% of mergers and acquisitions fail.

When a CEO wants to boost corporate performance, the most common form of M&A in a mature industry is to consolidate capacity. In May 2016, Nissan acquired a 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan said, “We have the potential to be in [the] top three.” Such is the business logic of “to eat or be eaten.” The parent company closes the less competitive facilities, eliminates overlapping functions, shuts down idle capacity, and improves operational efficiencies. The goal is to achieve greater economies of scale to lower overall costs.

Alternatively, top management may use M&As to jump-start long-term growth by embarking on a “geographic roll-up” or “product-market extension.” The parent company lets the newly acquired entity leverage the existing model to turbocharge growth. When Spinbrush was acquired, it gained immediate access to the distribution channels that P&G had nurtured over the years. When VMware was acquired, it tapped into a long list of existing EMC customers. Few changes with respect to strategy or operating models were required on either side. Synergy was immediate and apparent.

Obviously, what may seem a perfect match on paper may not be so in reality. The success of Pepsi-Cola’s acquisition of Frito-Lay, owing to the direct store delivery logistics system which PepsiCo had honed over the years, didn’t translate well when PepsiCo later acquired Quaker Oats. As the latter acquisition unfolded, managers at PepsiCo painfully discovered that its traditional warehouse delivery method had very little in common with that of Quaker’s, and consequently, the acquisition failed to meet the financial expectations.

Most interesting perhaps is the third type of M&A. It entails investing in a company whose business model has yet to be proven. The target company is often an upstart poised to disrupt an existing industry. The acquisition is as much about preempting future competition as it is about buying a disruptive business model. That’s what drove Wal-Mart to acquire Jet.com for $3 billion in 2016. The same can be said for Unilever’s $1 billion takeover of the Dollar Shave Club, or for General Motor’s $500 million investment in Lyft—made in the hopes of doubling down its ride-sharing efforts. Growth prospects notwithstanding, these startups were far from achieving profitability. However, they offered a promise to pivot the outmoded business of the established companies.

Acquire to Reinvent

Viewed in this light, Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is truly in a class of its own. None of the conventional reasons can explain the acquisition. For one, Amazon won’t be consolidating the grocery sector. By the end of 2016, Walmart commanded the lion’s share with 14.45% in the food and grocery market. Whole Foods had a paltry 1.21%, while Amazon’s share was negligible at 0.19%. The product categories between Amazon and Whole Foods are also so distant that it’s hard to imagine a viable “one-stop shopping” strategy. It’s unlikely that quinoa lovers would pick up an e-reader or set of Wi-Fi speakers while shopping at Whole Foods. And Whole Foods itself is definitely not going to disrupt Amazon.

 

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WARNING: Bullshit alert – how do they get away with this crap? JOANNA GAINS TO QUIT FIXER UPPER AND SELL FACE CREAM

Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper Breaches Her HGTV Contract, But You’ll Never Guess Why

UPDATED WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: HGTV has ousted Joanna Gaines for breaking her contractual agreement, not even Chip knew what was going on. News broke of this legal whirlwind just a few days ago. Apparently, things have been going downhill for a while; but now it’s safe to say the boat has sunken.


It all started late last November when Joanna Gaines, host of the popular HGTV show Fixer Upper, signed a deal with Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner. The deal states that Joanna’s New Cosmetics Line will be picked up and promoted by the shopping channel QVC. Joanna is very proud of her line. She has been quoted as saying, “This is more than just a beauty line. This is what every woman has been dreaming of for most of her adult life.”

The problem is: HGTV and QVC are rival competitors. There is a clause in Joanna’s HGTV contract that clearly says she is forbidden from promoting or doing business with any other channel or media company. It was later discovered that not even her husband, Chip, knew what she was constructing in the background. When her hidden secret surfaced, it caused a rift in their marriage. Because of this, HGTV has decided to let him carry on the show by himself, without her.

The decision doesn’t seem to bother Joanna at all. She says the show was just a stepping stone to her real dream; which is running her beauty line. When the executives at HGTV discovered she has no intention of canning her cosmetics business, they fired back with a law suit. The law suit claims that she is contractually obligated to request permission of the network before she can start any new business. In response, Gaines has filed a counter suit. She says the only reason HGTV is giving her a hard time is because her miracle face crème really works, and they want to own a portion of her company.

What Is Her Beauty Product And What Does It Do?.

We were able to do a little snooping and found out what this mystery line was all about. The company is called Luminary and it is a cutting-edge Wrinkle Reducer And Anti-Aging Serum. Her product line is becoming so popular, even top beauty experts such as Bethany Mota and Michelle Phan are singing Luminary’s praises.

“Something was just telling me this is the next chapter of my life.” Joanna said in a recent interview. She continued, “There are lots of skin products out there that didn’t work for me… So, I got some of the world’s leading skin experts together to create Luminary. And this one actually works. I truly feel like the show was holding me back from realizing my true potential. But my new path feels right.”

But What About Chip?

Chip is such a great husband that he’s decided to decline HGTV’s offer to do the show by himself. Instead he’s opted to work alongside wife and become the director of operations at her new company.

Since her secret has been leaked to the public, Joanna has decided to break ties with QVC and focus on promoting Luminary herself.

We asked Joanna if she could provide coupons that would allow our loyal readers to try Luminary at a discount. Her response was better than we could have imagined. Joanna went a step further by agreeing to give 150 of our readers a supply of Luminary absolutely Free! You just cover shipping. TRY OFFER FREE NOW

Gaines said she is certain her magical face cream will work wonders for anyone who tries it. And she is so certain, that she is willing to let you try it for free.

So We Decided To Put her rising product to the test

Our interns sent out a companywide email asking both men and women if they’d like to try Luminary for our test. Some wanted to try it, some wanted to see how it worked for other people first. However, nobody wanted to be the first to try it… Except one brave soul. Brenda Talarico, our 54-year-old Senior Editor. She volunteered to go first and give this magical elixir a shot.

Here Are Brenda’s Results:

DAY ONE:

“It’s just the first day and I could already see a big difference. Within seconds my loose, saggy skin began to tighten and firm up. I could literally feel the difference as soon as I put it on. It was a slight tingle, but nothing over-powering. To be honest it was actually kind of soothing and therapeutic. My husband even took notice, he said I look just like I did when we met 25 years ago! I’m already in love with Luminary and it’s just day one… Let’s see how tomorrow goes…”

DAY SEVEN:

After five days of using Luminary, I was shocked at the drastic results.

“Within my first 5 days of using Luminary, I was a total believer. Now it’s day 7 and I’m still seeing my appearance improve daily. I used to have blotchy, dry skin… But now my skin-tone is even, and moisturized. Those yucky fine-lines and dark circles under my eyes are beginning to vanish too. My results haven’t stopped yet, so I’m going to keep going and see how young I can truly look.”

DAY FOURTEEN:

“This is incredible! I ran into an old friend from college and she told me I look exactly the same as I did back then… She went on to ask me which plastic surgeon I used. I explained to her that I didn’t have any cosmetic surgery done, but she didn’t believe me… I had to show her my bottle of Luminary just to prove it to her. Wow! This stuff is truly amazing. Words can’t even begin to describe.”

Brenda’s Final Thoughts:

“I’m only 54 and had already given up skin products… I was convinced that none of them worked… However, I must admit; Luminary has proved me wrong… It has truly improved the texture of my skin dramatically. The dark spots have all disappeared and the puffy bags under my eyes have been deflated. I’m so glad I put my skepticism to the side and decided to give this amazing face saver a try. – Brenda Talarico, Senior Editor – PEOPLE Magazine

The Verdict:

Using the Luminary system has removed over 87% of Brenda’s fine lines and wrinkles. It has also tightened and smoothed out the skin on her face and neck. All while removing the sagging, aging, and dehydration from her skin

Here’s How It Works:

Decades worth of sound science has been used to develop Luminary. This incredible face cream contains high concentrations of Proprietary Biosphere and QuSome, which are well known for their age defying properties. This topical treatment also contains Dermaxyl (better known as a facelift in a jar), and Ester-C (an active anti-aging compound in Biosphere). When these ingredients combine, wrinkles and fine lines stand absolutely no chance whatsoever.

But Will This Work For You?

The short answer is yes. We asked Joanna if Luminary will work for anybody, and here is what she had to say. “If you have a face, and your face has skin, Luminary will work for you. Guaranteed. It doesn’t matter your skin type, skin condition, race, or age. Luminary was created with everybody in mind. As a mixed-race person, that was the first thing I made sure of.” – Joanna Gaines

NOTE: In order to achieve the best results, you have to use the entireLuminary system for a minimum of 30 days.

There are less than 150 free bottles of Luminary left, so act now in order to claim yours. .

offer

(*EXCLUSIVE OFFER FOR OUR READERS*)

Note: Brittany used both Luminary to erase her wrinkles, we suggest to use both products together to get the best results possible.

Update: Only 6 Trials Still Available. Free Trial Promotion Ends: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Receive A Free Bottle Of Luminary

Take advantage of our exclusive link and pay only $4.95 for shipping!
Risk FREE Trial!

This special offer ends: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

 

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What exactly did happen to Uncle Ed? Or, Fear and Loathing while growing moss between the fingers in the Pacific NorthWest.

What exactly did happen to Uncle Ed? Or, Fear and Loathing while growing moss between the fingers in the Pacific NorthWest.

by Stephen Ulrich

Another beautiful rainy June day in Vancouver.   Washington, not Canada.  For some reason, we live here.  OK, I know why we live here:  Family, friends, Wide Open Spaces, Affordability…… certainly NOT the weather.

The month of February where it didn’t get over 28’F for two weeks, and marked the wettest weather in recorded history, was entertaining in it’s own right.  Not unlike Oakland (where I was born) boasting the Greatest Basketball Team of all time, the Pacific Northwest is smashing records left and right.  Trump be damned (please) we are hellbent on being singularly responsible for refuting global warming…. but I digress.  Suffice it to say that grey weather in the farking winter is just fine, but the middle of June?  No esta’ bien!

While waiting for my Gardner’s aid, helper boy, skilled laborer, (i.e. my hands) to arrive, I find that the caffeine has once again drawn my fingers to the keyboard.  I was, honestly, just stopping by to check the weather to see if it could possibly be drier this afternoon so we could plant the Dogwood.  Dogwoods are a most resplendent ornamental tree, and given the grey nature of the sky in this area, they are a modest accoutrement for an otherwise dreary backyard skyscape.  No wonder the wife has “bedazzled” the interior of our spacious abode with the maximum lighting the square footage would allow.  The photo above depicts the exact amount of light normally required to depilate the nose and body hairs from an adult male homo-sapien.

The weather being confirmed as abysmal for the remainder of the day, the timing of the planting of said Dogwood has become secondary to its placement.  According to those in the know, the root system of a Dogwood is extremely shallow and likely not to require the three-foot pipes full of rocks I was intending to supply to direct the water to a deeper root system.  This is a blessing not to be taken lightly.  What it means is that I really don’t have to install a separate drip line/system for a Dogwood, rather it needs to be insured that the lawn gets watered regularly during those hot dry summer months which are apparently feigning complete avoidance of the entire area, all up in here!

Now my lovely and attractive wife is concerned that the placement of the Dogwood will not only interfere with the Badminton net/players that grace our yard at least twice a year, but endanger our view of the entire sky itself. I guess if we lay down under it?

The trees are gorgeous.  It is 80 degrees in San Francisco and I miss it.  The waterfalls are beautiful here and the trees are green all year long.   Except for the ones that lose their leaves completely. How am I supposed to spend the day in the garage working on my boat to enjoy the sunny lake we are visiting on Sunday when it is raining outside?  Maybe I should eat something.

What DID ever happen to Uncle Ed?

 

 

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What did I ever do to deserve this girl?


by Stephen Ulrich –

My wife is the most wonderful, inelligent, strong, loving, attentive, patient, beautiful, sexy, and dependable partner a man could ever ask for. Did I mention that I like her too?  And that her job pays for my health insurance?  It just doesn’t get any better than this.

I must admit I did work my ass off during the selection process.  Being a crusty 30 year veteran of nuts and bolts sales and marketing, I treated dating and Match.com like any other sales vetting process. The process was not romantic at all.  I sent out a simple statement “I like your smile” to dozens of probablle matches, and evaluated their responses for creativity and suitability.  There were dozens of meetings for coffee, scores of dates, and not a minor amount of frustration.

The sample population ran from those who wanted to boss me around, those who wanted a sugardaddy, those who wanted a “friend” to those who had a monicum of possibility.  A couple that were really suitable in my mind, did not share that opinion of me, but most never got to the second date stage.

When I first communicated with Mary, I thought “what a lovely, solid, professional girl.”  She had a great job, was quite sharp, was well polished in her commnication and seemed to be honest and of good character.  We had both been on Match for so long that we had pretty much given up the ghost, but felt it was worth “one last try.”

Our first meeting was coffee (per usual) at a Starbucks that ended up beind just below the window of ther apartment building.  Coffee after dinner, turned into another quick snack, followed by a nightcap at one of my local blues bars.  There had been no planning, but my flute happened to be in my car, and the band was on a break.  A quick conversation with the band leader sent me scurring to my car, only to arrive back to the table with a dozen red roses (from a street vendor) and a little black box containing my axe.   A couple of songs later, it was announced that “we would like to invite our friend Steve to come up and sit in on a song with us” and up I went.  They performed “Sweet Home Chicago” in the key of C so it was easy for me, and I’ll have to admit I crushed the song.

Arriving back to the table my date was suitably impressed, we kissed, and the rest is history. The storybook date was followed by her announcement that her entire month of November was spoken for……hmmm. Not the follow-up that I had expected, but it never got me down and the fact that it didnt ended up working to my advantage, as the month long absence never materialized either.  Aparantely there were plans with an old lover in Australia that were far more in her mind than his, but that again was MUCH to my advantage.

As the months, then years flew by I asked her to marry me.  She refused.  I asked again.  She refused again.  I am persistant, and for the sake of brevity in this writing suffice it to say that she did finally relent.  The wedding was as storybook as the first date had been.  

There have been ups and downs.  It is told that I am not the easiest man to live with. There is a certain critical nature, and inate arrogance in my otherwise perfect Arian demeanor that some find less than attractive.  That, and my propensity to consume massive amounts of spirits at even the slightest suggestion of a party, or celebration, or boredom, or frustration, or…  left me asleep on the couch far to many an evening. That, by the grace of a higher power I choose to call God, has been lifted and life has gotten far better as a result.

I have mastered the three words that make a marriage work, “that’s right dear.”  The work on my cynicism is, regrettably, ongoing. It is, however, generally accepted that it’s good to be me.  My wife is as good as they come, my dog is the same, we live in a beautiful home with great family and friends, and our basketball team is among the greatest this planet is likely to ever see.

Then there’s the Vancouver WA weather, but as stated previously, I’m still working on the negativity. 🙂

The secret to a wonderful marriage is simple.  Work your ass off to find the best woman in the world.  Get lucky beyond your wildest expectations. Work your ass off to get her to marry you. Get lucky again.  Work your ass off to keep your head out of said ass, and give FAR more often and far more than you percieve to be the “fair” 50% and there is hope for you yet!

 

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Can we use the shootings as an excuse to unite the parties?

Here we go again.

By Stephen Ulrich –

Washington (CNN)Rep. Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer and members of the Capitol police force were shot Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia, during Republicans’ early-morning practice ahead of a charity baseball game.

 

Another day, another shooting.  This time it was not a terrorist.  We think.  Who knows, who cares?  It has gotten so that I really dread watching the news any more. I have scores of friends who have dropped out of the social media sites, like FaceBook, etc.  They, like me, are weary of the election, the divisiveness, the killings.  We are weary of the hatred.  We are weary of ISIS, Conspiracy, Investigations, Russia, FBI, CIA. …   the word “recuse.”

Recuse:  challenge (a judge, prosecutor, or juror) as unqualified to perform legal duties because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.  We have attorney generals that cannot be impartial?  God save us.

Back to that – God, indeed, save us.  Whatever your belief, whether it is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Rhastafarian, Buhddist, or you just believe that the Mountains, Creator, or something is bigger and more powerful than I am.  Please compel it in whatever way you feel drawn to , to have it save us.

Save us from the hate, the shootings, the blaming, the contempt. Yes, the contempt.  I remember when people could respectfully disagree and still break bread and hug each other and  mean it.  It has gotten so bad, there are households that have broken up over Trump vs Clinton?  Goodness people, grow up!

People are dying in the streets and we are debating whether we feel the Warriors should go to the White House or get in a last snub at the president.  I’m not a fan (of the current holder of the office) but for goodness sake, GET OVER IT! First of all, it is the office of the President of the United States, not one single man.  Also consider this – What if Trump decides he doesnt want to handle the drama, and DOESN’T INVITE THEM?  What are we going to spew the pages of twitter with then?

We could, however slim the odds, use this latest horror to unify us.  There IS somewhere, back there somewhere, a great Country of hard working people that overcame all odds and braved all adversities to occupy this land.  Then, when the europeans that moved over took it from them…………..(oops.  That’s another story).

We could use this as a rallying point to begin to unify the two “parties.”  To acknowledge our differences but respect and cherish our bonds and the commonality of the human condition.  We all, after all, do want the same thing right?  We want to be fed, have a safe roof over our heads, have the love of community and family…we are a very blessed nation.  Yet we whine like two year old spoiled children being deprived a sucker.

In the imortal words of Antsy McClain “Can’t we all just get along?”

 

 

 

 

 

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With Trump out of the Paris climate deal, France looks to poach top researchers

Last week, President Donald Trump announced he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. Other world leaders are not hesitating to capitalize on that decision.

The day before Trump’s announcement to leave the international commitment to fight climate change, French President Emmanuel Macron trolled Trump, retooling the U.S. president’s campaign catchphrase in a speech, encouraging everyone to “Make Our Planet Great Again.”

This week, Macron doubled down on the sentiment and launched a website to help those passionate about climate change research emigrate to France.

And what’s the address to this digital one-stop shop for those looking to move to France?

www.MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain.fr.

Oh snap! GIF via “The Maury Show.”

The site serves as a clearing house for information about education, work, and research opportunities as well as links to the necessary applications and documents one would need to emigrate to France.

For those unsure if France is right for them or overwhelmed by the daunting process of emigration, users can describe where they’re from and the work or research they do and receive information appropriate to their situation. There are different pages for students, researchers, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs.

While this particular call to acton is not limited to Americans, Macron has previously invited American scientists to continue their research in France.

Macron made an appeal in February, before he was elected president, encouraging Americans to consider working in France in the wake of Trump’s skepticism about climate change.

GIF via Tristan Oliver/YouTube.

With the launch of the site, it’s clear Macron is standing by his campaign promise and looking around the globe for top talent, no matter whose toes he may step on.

And his offer to researchers isn’t just lip service; there are funding opportunities to back it up.

After successfully submitting project proposals and other relevant documents, senior and junior researchers may be eligible for a four-year grant covering their salary, staff and student salaries, and work expenses, up to 1.5 million euros.

That may be a difficult offer to turn down, especially as America’s local and federal governments grapple with potential budget cuts, especially for climate related research.

A NASA flight crew member works inside a NASA Operation IceBridge DC-8 research airplane. NASA’s Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Macron and 193 other world leaders have committed to getting serious about climate change.

Trump’s efforts to put politics over the planet will not stop climate change or the people working to solve it.

No matter our countries of origin, this is a global problem that will require global solutions. Kudos to Macron and other world leaders who are giving this issue the time, attention, and resources it deserves.

Share image: Twitter, Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images .
 

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Republicans think disabled Americans are gaming the system, so they want to make the ADA harder to enforce

by Jake Flanagin –

The Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives is considering a major reform of the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990—a federal law which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the public sphere (at work, in schools, riding public transit, and in all spaces open to the general public, including privately-owned businesses). For example, under the ADA, businesses open to the public, such as restaurants or pharmacies, need to be wheelchair accessible.

The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (HR 620) seems like a rather innocuous bill at first glance—it compels the Department of Justice to formulate a program that educates state and local officials and business owners on “strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability.” A prime example of fatty, ostensibly meaningless Washington wonk-speak. But it goes further—the bill, if passed, would prohibit civil suits arising out of a failure to provide adequate access to public accommodations for the disabled unless the plaintiff provides offending property owners with a written notice specifying the deficiency. Owners would then have 60 days to respond with a written plan for improvement, and an additional 120 days to correct the deficiency, or at least demonstrate sufficient progress towards a correction.

As of now, if a disabled individual cannot access a business open to the public, they can immediately file a complaint with the Justice Department, which will investigate and determine whether a legitimate ADA violation has occurred. If a violation is identified, most plaintiffs opt to mediate with the offending business under the Justice Department’s moderation. If a business fails to cooperate, the Justice Department may sue on the disabled individual’s behalf. These individuals may also file lawsuits against businesses in civil court without federal involvement, sidestepping the entire mediation process.

“The cornerstone of current enforcement options is that the violation can often be resolved swiftly,” Robyn Powell, an attorney and disability law and policy consultant who disabled herself, writes for Rewire. With the passage of HR 620, individuals with disabilities will be forced to wait 180 days, and likely longer, to seek vindication of their federally-protected civil rights.

Sponsored by Texas representative Ted Poe, a Republican, along with two Republican and three Democratic colleagues all from Texas and California, HR 620 aims to “curb frivolous lawsuits filed by cash-hungry attorneys and plaintiffs that abuse the ADA,” according to a a Jan. 2017 press release.

Poe contends that most small business owners in the US “believe that they are in compliance with the ADA and have even passed local and state inspections.” However, “certain attorneys and their pool of serial plaintiffs troll for minor, easily correctable ADA infractions so they can file a lawsuit and make some cash.” He points to an alleged “whole industry” comprised of “people who prey on small business owners and file unnecessary, abusive lawsuits.”

And he’s not entirely wrong. Indeed, according to a report compiled by attorneys with the employment/labor law firm Seyfarth Shaw, ADA Title III lawsuits—the aforementioned suits filed in civil court sans Justice Department intervention—surged 37% in 2016. But only a fractional minority of these suits were filed by so-called serial plaintiffs, with only 12 having filed more than 100 ADA Title III suits respectively. (A group including two broader disabled-rights advocacy organizations, among some notable ADA abusers.)

While frivolous ADA Title III suits, also known as “drive-by lawsuits,” are certainly a problem worth addressing, disabled-rights advocates view HR 620 as a bill that addresses symptoms over root cause.

“There is no active monitoring of ADA compliance,” writes Kim Sauder, a disability studies scholar, in a Dec. 2016 entry published to her blog, Crippled Scholar. “Dealing with infractions of laws governing accessibility [in the US] is often primarily done through complaints. So while the law may say what needs to be done, unless someone actually complains there is little incentive to actively comply. There is no independent body doing regular inspections and meting out fines for non-compliance.”

In effect, measures like HR 620, which stifle the complaints process, actively obstruct enforcement of the ADA as it is currently formulated. “Enforcement depends on people with disabilities who know their rights to challenge violations,” Robyn Powell explains. “Filing lawsuits is timely and expensive. Finding an attorney that is knowledgeable about the ADA is very challenging. I say this because I believe it is fairly safe to assume that there are far more ADA violations occurring than we will ever hear of. As a disabled woman, I encounter violations daily.”

Still, a few notable cases of ADA abuse (such as Florida’s prolific drive-by plaintiff, Howard Cohan), supplemented by high-profile exposés that only substantially consider one side of the issue, have instilled a widespread misconception: That ADA regulations are overwhelmingly weaponized against small-business owners to the enrichment of a few slick-haired lawyers and system-gaming plaintiffs. It’s a bilateral shoving-match that excludes the individuals the ADA was specifically crafted to protect.

Parking regulations are among the most frequently cited in arguments against the current system of ADA enforcement. “What opponents don’t understand is that the width of parking spaces matter for people with disabilities who drive, such as myself,” Powell says. “I drive a wheelchair-accesible van. If someone parks too close, I am literally stuck because no one besides me can drive my van. This has happened to me more times than I [can] count, leaving me stranded outside for hours, until the person returns to their car.”

The solution disabled-rights advocates call for revamps ADA enforcement methods entirely, sidelining citizen complaints as the chief vehicle for compliance, and inspiring more evenly-spread regulation. “It would be better if government took an active role in monitoring and enforcing accessibility legislation,” says Kim Sauder. “It would likely create a more accessible environment. It would also remove the need for mass lawsuits. It would also remove the proprietor-as-victim narrative because the law would be enforced more uniformly. People would not be able to opine that they had been hit with an infraction when the guy down the street did not.”

Of course, this is a long shot in the current political climate. The Trump administration, and our Republican-dominated legislature, have demonstrated an outsized affinity for the interests of small-business owners—at least on paper—and an active hostility towards federal regulation. Neither is likely to recognize stricter federal regulation as a solution to any problem, not least enforcement of the ADA.

 

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