Category Archives: Business Law

Investing in Bitcoin – Cryptocurrencies

Clients have been asking me about investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently provided some helpful advice.  ftc-seal

You do your best to keep up with the latest financial news. You’ve been hearing more about cryptocurrencies and asking yourself “Hmmm.” Of course, it’s not just Bitcoin. There are now hundreds of cryptocurrencies, which are a type of digital currency, on the market. They’ve been publicized as a fast and inexpensive way to pay online, but many are now also being marketed as investment opportunities. But before you decide to purchase cryptocurrency as an investment, here are a few things to consider:

  • Cryptocurrencies aren’t backed by a government or central bank. Unlike most traditional currencies, such as the dollar or yen, the value of a cryptocurrency is not tied to promises by a government or a central bank.
  • If you store your cryptocurrency online, you don’t have the same protections as a bank account. Holdings in online “wallets” are not insured by the government like U.S. bank deposits are.
  • A cryptocurrency’s value can change constantly and dramatically. An investment that may be worth thousands of dollars on Tuesday could be worth only hundreds on Wednesday. If the value goes down, there’s no guarantee it will rise again.
  • Nothing about cryptocurrencies makes them a foolproof investment. Just like with any investment opportunity, there are no guarantees.
  • No one can guarantee you’ll make money off your investment. Anyone who promises you a guaranteed return or profit is likely scamming you. Just because the cryptocurrency is well-known or has celebrities endorsing it doesn’t mean it’s a good investment.
  • Not all cryptocurrencies or the companies behind them are the same. Before you decide to invest in a cryptocurrency, look into the claims the company is making. Do an internet search with the name of the company and the cryptocurrency with words like review, scam, or complaint. Look through several pages of search results.

Read more about Investing Online.

Want to learn more about the technology underlying cryptocurrencies? See my earlier blog post Blockchain Technology Overview

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.


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Blockchain Technology Overview

When and if to use blockchain

Aiming to clarify blockchain, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently released an introduction to blockchain, which underpins Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Credit: K. Irvine/NIST/Shutterstock


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Online Dating and Relationship Scams

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, but if an online love interest asks you for money, it’s probably a

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives thousands of reports each year about romance scammers who create fake online relationships only to rob their victims.

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites and chat rooms to meet people, but scammers use them too, and eventually the scammers ask for money.

The FTC’s new infographic, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation, lists common signs of online dating scams and how to handle them.

How to Recognize a Scam

The relationship may not be what you think, especially if your sweetheart:

  • wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or IM
  • claims love in a heartbeat
  • claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas
  • plans to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour

Scammers also like to say they’re out of the country for business or military service.

What You Can Do About It

You may lose your heart, but you don’t have to lose your shirt, too. Don’t wire money to cover:

  • travel
  • medical emergencies
  • hotel bills
  • hospital bills for a child or other relative
  • visas or other official documents
  • or losses from a temporary financial setback

Don’t send money to tide someone over after a mugging or robbery, and don’t do anyone a favor by making an online purchase or forwarding a package to another country. One request leads to another, and delays and disappointments will follow. In the end, your money will be gone along with the person you thought you knew.

Report relationship scams to:

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week January 29-February 2

It is tax time.  The tax scammers are gearing-up.  Learn how to protect yourself during Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week January 29-February 2, 2018.IRS

Tax identity theft occurs when a person uses someone else’s Social Security number to either file a tax return and claim the victim’s refund, or to earn wages that are reported as the victim’s income, leaving the victim with the tax bill.

The Federal Trade Commision, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and others throughout the week are hosting free webinars and Twitter chats focused on steps consumers and businesses can take to help avoid tax identity theft and recover if it occurs. There will also be discussions about ways to identify and avoid IRS imposter scams that target consumers and businesses.

The events include:

  • January 29 at 2 p.m. ET: A webinar for consumers on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, how to protect yourself, and how to recover, co-hosted by the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center.
  • January 30 at 2:30 p.m. ET: A webinar for older adults and other consumers on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, co-hosted by the FTC, AARP Fraud Watch Network, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
  • January 31 at 11 a.m. ET: A Twitter chat for service members, veterans, and their families, co-hosted by the FTC and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Join the conversation at #VeteranIDTheft.
  • January 31 at 1 p.m. ET: A closed webinar co-hosted by the FTC, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, focused on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams. This webinar is only available to Veterans Administration employees and patients.
  • February 1 at 1 p.m. ET: A webinar for small businesses, Protecting Sensitive Business and Customer Data: Practical Identity Safety Practices for Your Business, co-hosted by the FTC and IRS focused on tax identity theft, imposter scams targeting businesses, cybersecurity practices to reduce your risk, and data breach response.
  • February 1 at 3 p.m. ET: A Twitter chat for consumers on protecting yourself from tax identity theft, co-hosted by the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center. Join the conversation at #IDTheftChat.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Answers to Frequent Questions about CHP

Considering Combined Heat and Power (CHP) to save money, enhance reliability, and benefit the environment?  The EPA CHP Partnership and Prince Law Offices can help. 

 CHP Partnership Logo

What is CHP?

Typically, nearly two-thirds of the energy used to generate electricity is wasted in the form of heat discharged to the atmosphere. Additional energy is wasted during the distribution of electricity to end users. CHP is on-site electricity generation that captures the heat that would otherwise be wasted to provide useful thermal energy—such as steam or hot water—that can be used for space heating, cooling, domestic hot water and industrial processes. In this way, and by avoiding distribution losses, CHP can achieve efficiencies of over 80 percent, compared to 50 percent for conventional technologies (i.e., grid-supplied electricity and an on-site boiler).

Learn more in Discover CHP.

What are the benefits of CHP?

CHP offers a number of benefits compared to conventional electricity and thermal energy production, including:

  • Efficiency Benefits. CHP requires less fuel to produce a given energy output and avoids transmission and distribution losses that occur when electricity travels over power lines.
  • Environmental Benefits. Because less fuel is burned to produce each unit of energy output and because transmission and distribution losses are avoided, CHP reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.
  • Economic Benefits. CHP can save facilities considerable money on their energy bills due to its high efficiency, and it can provide a hedge against electricity cost increases.
  • Reliability Benefits. Unreliable electricity service represents a quantifiable business, safety, and health risk for some companies and organizations. CHP is an on-site generation resource and can be designed to support continued operations in the event of a disaster or grid disruption by continuing to provide reliable electricity.

Learn more in CHP Benefits.

Where does CHP make sense?

CHP is ideally suited for energy users that have both electric and thermal energy demands.

CHP is used in many different types and sizes of facilities nationwide, including:

  • Commercial buildings—office buildings, hotels, health clubs, nursing homes
  • Residential—condominiums, co-ops, apartments, planned communities
  • Institutions—colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons, military bases
  • Municipal—district energy systems, wastewater treatment facilities, K-12 schools
  • Manufacturers—chemical, refining, ethanol, pulp and paper, food processing, glass manufacturing

Learn more in Discover CHP.

Desire more specific assistance regarding CHP, renewable energy projects, energy law, or real estate law, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.


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PaPUC Initiates Further Study of Supplier Consolidated Billing by Electric Generation Suppliers

puc_sealOn January 18, 2018, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) initiated further study of customer billing practices by competitive electric generations suppliers (EGSs) – directing an en banc hearing be conducted before the Commission to explore, among other things, the legality, merits and potential implementation of supplier consolidated billing (SCB).

The Commission voted 5-0 to deny a petition filed by NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), requesting approval of SCB, but also approved a joint motion by Chairman Gladys M. Brown and Commissioner Norman J. Kennard to further explore the the merits of possible alternatives to SCB.

Under SCB, customers would receive a single, consolidated bill from their chosen EGS that would include both their electric distribution company’s (EDC) distribution charges and their EGS’s generation and transmission charges.  Currently in Pennsylvania, EDCs handle all customer billing, with the EDC joint bill including any generation and transmission charges for customers with competitive EGSs.

The joint motion by Chairman Brown and Commissioner Kennard outlined the ongoing exploration of the issue by the Commission.

“We continue to be of the opinion previously expressed by the Commission as part of our retail electricity market investigation that SCB will facilitate the offering of innovative new products and services and will also help the supplier in establishing a brand identity with the customer,” Commissioner Kennard stated in the joint motion. “In order to continue the consideration of SCB and other programs that can promote a competitive market and benefit customers, we find that it is necessary to seek further information.”

The Commissioners’ joint motion directs the PUC’s Law Bureau and Office of Competitive Market Oversight (OCMO) to organize an en banc hearing, to occur on or before June 14, 2018, to allow invited parties the opportunity to provide additional information on SCB or SCB alternatives.  The Commission plans to issue a Secretarial Letter with more details on the en banc hearing.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy law and PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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After Three Years, PennEast Pipeline Approved by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Construction to Begin

FERCThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an Order under section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act approving construction of the PennEast Pipeline.

PennEast Pipeline Logo

Anthony Cox, Chair of the PennEast Pipeline Company LLC Board of Managers said “They will reap the benefits of accessing one of the most affordable and abundant supplies of natural gas in all of North America. PennEast will lower gas and electricity costs, increase reliability, improve air quality, and make the region more competitive for jobs in the coming decades.”

The approximately 120-mile pipeline route begins in the Marcellus Shale production area near Dallas, Pennsylvania, and connects with the existing underground Transcontinental Pipeline near Pennington, New Jersey. The route includes 24 municipalities in Pennsylvania and six in New Jersey.

Access to additional natural gas supplies via PennEast Pipeline should reduce the cost of gas in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, even during non-peak periods. Natural gas prices in the market areas worsen during periods of peak demand, such as the sustained recent cold snap, where natural gas prices spiked 31 times higher in New Jersey than supplies in the Pennsylvania production areas. This is due to pipeline constraints and inadequate supply to meet demand.

Since 2005, natural gas use has more than doubled in New Jersey and increased five-fold in Pennsylvania for electric generation. As a result, carbon emissions are dropping to their lowest level in nearly three decades while air quality has improved across the region. A diverse fuel supply and the reliability of the electric grid are the primary reasons PJM Interconnection, the largest electric grid operator in the world, cited in an October 2016 report to FERC that the PennEast Pipeline is needed for grid reliability.

FERC issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) first under the Obama Administration in July 2016, and finalized its recommendations after nearly nine months of additional public input. The Final EIS in April 2017 affirmed that construction and operation of the PennEast Pipeline would have minimal environmental impact, which would be reduced to “less than significant levels” with PennEast’s and FERC’s mitigation measures.  The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Democrat Governor Tom Wolf issued its 401 Water Quality Certification in February, and in May, the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 3 added that the Final EIS included “improved safeguards for the protection of human health and the environment.”

Additionally, the PennEast Pipeline Company updated its estimated in-service date to 2019, with construction still beginning in 2018. The original project timeline allowed for many variables, though did not anticipate the many months without a voting quorum at FERC.

“In the coming days, we will work to finalize fair and positive compensation agreements with landowners,” added Cox. “In the weeks ahead, survey crews will collect remaining field data in support of our permit applications to ensure minimal environmental and community impact. We look forward to continuing our work with state, bi-state and regional permitting agencies and expect those permit reviews to be conducted on the merits of the application, without outside interference.”

If you or your business have questions regarding energy law or real estate law, including right of way and easement negotiations, condemnations or eminent domain, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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