Robert Hill Law Wins for CVS – Dark Store “Theory” is a Faulty Theory

By Robert A. Hill, property tax attorney and president, Robert Hill Law, Ltd.

Robert Hill Law recently won a significant case for CVS Pharmacy in Appleton, Wisconsin.

The case represents another victory for uniformity in property taxation in Wisconsin.

The City promoted the specious theory known as the “Dark Store Loophole” to argue that retailers like CVS should be taxed based upon the investment value of the CVS store instead of the market value of the real estate housing CVS as the tenant.

I argued that it is only sales of real estate which matter and that the circuit court was required by Wisconsin law to “Tax it at its sale value.” I am pleased to report that the Wisconsin Court of Appeals agreed with the circuit court on December 28th, 2016. Read the State of Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision by clicking here.

Follow our company profile on LinkedIn for related news and updates.

Author Bio:

Robert “Bob” Hill has, for over twenty five years, successfully represented major companies in property tax appeals through both negotiations with tax assessors and litigation. His dedication to his clients has helped businesses throughout the United States save tens of millions in property taxes. Mr. Hill has earned Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer review rating of AV-Preeminent for his legal knowledge, communication skills, high ethical standards, and his representation of clients in significant property tax cases.

Robert Hill Law Wins for Menards by Proving that Comparable Sales Matter

By Robert A. Hill, property tax attorney and president, Robert Hill Law, Ltd.

For the past ten years, big box retail stores, national and regional alike, have suffered dramatically reduced sale prices for the real estate they leave behind when they decide – for whatever reason – to close a location. This decade-long shift in sale pricing for mega-warehouse retail property is, to a considerable degree, caused by today’s “click-and-ship-not-sticks-and-bricks” retail economy. This shift in consumer preference appears to have caused a market phenomenon negatively affecting the overall utility, and the transferability, of the mega-warehouse retail store: a phenomenon which has mutated traditional big box retail stores; (i.e., mega-warehouses with cash registers inside) into mega-warehouse stores with silent cash registers inside (i.e., warehouses with vast storage space).

Unlike traditional retail – which focuses on shopper convenience, customer service, and overall buyer experience – the function of a mega-warehouse store is to house products for sale. In a mega-warehouse store, it is the consumer who must wade through a bevy of options while browsing through the warehouse. Appealing to do-it-yourself consumers, this retail model works if the retailer’s costs can be kept to a minimum while providing maximum cost savings to the consumer.

Modern property assessment practices have not kept pace with ever-growing shopper fondness for the “click-and-ship” retail model. Cost per-square-foot assessment considerations are modeled after traditional retail models at $80-90 per-square-foot. Yet, since the warehouse and the retail space are the same for mega-warehouse stores, prices for this property type average $24-28 per square foot and the argument for fairness becomes apparent. To be sure, not every square foot of a mega-warehouse directly generates revenue; it behaves more like an industrial warehouse. Therefore, total square foot formulas – modeled after a singular (i.e., traditional) retail model – are short sighted. Moreover, they are unfair.

For the past twenty-five years, Robert Hill Law has been an unrelenting champion of “Sales Matter” when assessing mega-warehouse retail properties. Robert Hill Law’s primary motivation is rooted in substantial justice: we must not permit government’s self-serving inclination to consider the total sales volume (“value-in-use”) of a store owned and occupied by a national retailer to affect (inflate) its real property assessments. In plain terms, a retailer’s sales revenues are incidents of ownership, not measures of value inherent to the property itself. Property assessment must be based on “market value” of the subject property. By trying to use sales revenues as a surrogate to determine property value, government assessors are ignoring the relevant “market.” The relevant “market” is not the approximate success of a “going concern” in relation to other going concerns. Rather, the relevant market is the property at its highest and best use in relation to other comparable properties. Therefore, a retailer’s sales revenue is irrelevant to answering the market-driven question: “What will you pay me for my property that has a big box warehouse store on it?”

If uniformity is to be maintained – a big “if” in some states – assessors must come to accept the fact they are to determine the market value of the real estate and not simply establish a “pecking order” based on the occupant’s business profits. Assessors must adhere to the fundamental legal principle that requires government to “Tax it at its sale value” – An apt and sternly-worded admonition several state supreme courts have been forced to preach in unanimous opinions each time government assessors get greedy by taxing an occupant’s business instead of the real estate which houses the business.

With assessors conflating a property’s intrinsic value with its market value, one is left to wonder who will be next if we allow this type of tax discrimination to go on? Consider this hypothetical situation: Richie Cunningham’s family in Milwaukee generates $2.5 million dollars in a web-based business operated from their home. Their neighbor, Potsie Weber, sells his identical home across the street for $250,000.

The following year, the Milwaukee County Assessor raises the Cunningham family’s assessment from $250,000 to $2,500,000. When Richie Cunningham asks why his assessment is not based on the recent sale price of Potsie Weber’s identical home, the county assessor informs him that, unlike Potsie Weber’s assessment, the value of his real property is based on the sales generated in his home and not by what the home would sell for in the open market because the assessor claims the law gives him the “discretion” to choose which residential properties are governed by actual sales of real estate and which are not.

Allowing assessors to determine property tax assessments by different valuation methodologies undoubtedly will accomplish many things fiscally for county and city government. But the cost to the state comes in the form of tax discrimination against taxpayers already paying a disproportionate share of property taxes every year their national (or regional) retail stores remain open. And, as Richie Cunningham’s situation illustrates, maintaining any semblance of uniformity among taxpayers requires that real estate sales of the “sticks, bricks, and dirt” remain the sole measuring stick by which all valuation for property tax assessments are set.

“Tax it at its sale value” is the law in Wisconsin, and in most states, precisely because it is the only way to objectively determine what real estate sells for in the open market. National and regional retailers are often treated unfairly because they are not locally-based. Indeed, few local retailers deploy a mega-warehouse model, so cost-per-foot assessments are fair to them. But, their product inventories are managed differently and they are assessed based on actual sales of similarly used real estate, which results in a much lower price per-square-foot valuation for property tax assessment purposes than non-local retailers bear.

Robert Hill Law is centered on ensuring that property tax assessors throughout the Upper Midwest (and the U.S.) establish and deploy a uniform assessment model; one focused on a formula which respects, rather than attempts to undermine, the actual sale prices achieved by sellers in the overwhelming number of sales of this property type that have occurred nationally since 2005. Robert Hill’s mantra: “Assessed properties must be treated uniformly and you cannot do this if some are treated as real estate and others are treated as businesses who can afford to pay more than their competition, even though the buildings themselves are all-but-identical to the local retailer next door.”

To illustrate the point, the Minnesota Tax Court ruled in September of 2015 that a Menards store located in Moorhead Minnesota had been over-assessed by at least 4 million dollars for several years. Robert Hill Law, with Paradigm Tax Group, litigated a reduction of approximately $16 million on behalf of Menards. The Minnesota Tax Court and the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed these mega-warehouse retailers should be assessed based on the sale prices of comparable mega-warehouses as evidenced by sales of like property: Not by the value-in-use methodologies the county suggested as a ready substitute.

And in a case Robert Hill tried in late February of 2017; involving a Menard’s mega-warehouse in Cottage Grove, Minnesota; he introduced into evidence the comprehensive study done by Brett A. Harrington of International Appraisal Company.  Harrington’s study, entitled “Big Box Retail Properties Sales Transaction Analysis,”  marshals together an overwhelming number of market (sales) data to explain how and why mega-warehouse retailers should see assessed values closer to $30-40 per-square-foot (instead of the $80-90 per-square-foot used by value-in-use assessors).

As our economy gravitates more toward a “click-and-ship” retail future, which all-but-eliminates the need for mega-warehouses with cash registers, Robert Hill Law will remain dedicated to ensuring property tax assessments are uniform and fair to all taxpayers: big and small, locally based or not.

Follow our company profile on LinkedIn for related news and updates.

Author Bio:

Robert “Bob” Hill has, for over twenty five years, successfully represented major companies in property tax appeals through both negotiations with tax assessors and litigation. His dedication to his clients has helped businesses throughout the United States save tens of millions in property taxes. Mr. Hill has earned Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer review rating of AV-Preeminent for his legal knowledge, communication skills, high ethical standards, and his representation of clients in significant property tax cases.

Robert Hill wins big case for Menards

In a seminal decision, the Minnesota Tax Court ruled that a Menards store located in Moorhead Minnesota had been overassesed by at least 4 million dollars for a number of years. Robert Hill Law, in conjunction with Paradigm Tax Group, successfully prosecuted a reduction of approximately 16 million dollars on behalf of Menards.

Robert Hill said, “Today’s ruling reflects our Tax Court’s recognition that big box retail stores are being overassessed in general because, unlike other types of retail facilities, they are not typically income producing and suffer from various forms of obsolescence. I’m pleased to have represented Menards in this important case.”

If you’d like to read the official Minnesota Tax Court opinion, or Bob’s brief for the case, follow the links below.

Read the official Minnesota Tax Court opinion

Read the Robert Hill Law brief

Prosecuted for Whistleblowing

Over three years ago, to redress their grievances in having been maliciously prosecuted as revenge for their whistleblowing activities, Lawrence and Sinuon Leiendecker (Leiendeckers) sued Asian Women United of Minnesota (AWUM), its board of directors (“BODs”) and a number of their constituents for various claims including malicious prosecution.  The Leiendeckers survived rule 12 motions to dismiss with the District Court ruling in October 2012 that: “Plaintiffs have alleged facts that would clearly and convincingly show that Defendants’ conduct constituted a tort, i.e. malicious prosecution, and so are not entitled to immunity under Minn. Stat. § 554.03 at this stage of the proceedings.” (Dist. Ct. Oct. 1 2012 Order/Mem. at 13-14.)

Significantly, the Court found that the Leiendeckers: (1) had sufficiently alleged facts that any of the probable cause determinations that may have been made by courts in the underlying actions “were not ‘proper’ because they were based upon knowingly misleading statements made by Defendants” (id. at 15) and, (2) had “clearly alleged that the Conversion Case and the Malpractice Case were subjectively motivated by bad faith”, (id.).  Considering that they clearly and convincingly pled factual circumstances showing that Defendants’ conduct constituted intentional torts, this would have been more than sufficient under normal circumstances for the Leiendeckers to proceed in seeking redress from the Court.

However, the Leiendeckers’ case is not being litigated under normal circumstances.  Instead, because the Leiendeckers’ well-pleaded claims against Defendants allege public participation abuses, the Leiendeckers are being deprived of having their grievances developed through the normal civil litigation process afforded to all other civil litigants.  This is what anti-SLAPP statutes do to honest litigants seeking redress of their grievances – it summarily punishes them prior to a determination of any wrongdoing; and even when they otherwise survive motions to dismiss under the established rules.

The this past August, the Leiendeckers moved the District Court to declare that Minnesota’s anti-SLAPP statute section 554.02 is unconstitutional, both facially and as applied because it: (1) is a content-based restriction of First Amendment activity; (2) is an unconstitutional prior restraint; (3) is not narrowly tailored to further a compelling government interest; (4) is facially overbroad; (5) violates equal protection rights; (6) violates the jury-trial right; and (7) violates separation of powers. The Leiendekcers’ pray that the unconstitutional citadel of the Minnesota anti-SLAPP law falls so that they may be treated just like everyone else that comes before the courts in this state seeking redress of their grievances.

If you are interested, please read the brief submitted to the court regarding this case.

***If you have any information regarding the claims made against any named (or unnamed) defendant in this legal action please contact: Robert Hill at bob@roberthilllaw.com or (952) 426-7373.

Thank You!

 

Real Estate Newsletter from Paradigm Tax Group

Here are 4 articles highlighted in the most recent issue of the Paradigm tax Group newsletter.

Ohio Supreme Court Rules: Grain Storage Bins Are Not Taxable As Real Property

  • An Ohio Supreme Court decision made earlier this month ruled that grain storage bins are personal property pursuant to state law and may not be taxed as real property. Read the full article.

Pennsylvania School Districts Target Apartment Complexes for ‘Spot’ Tax Assessment Appeals

  • Under current law, Pennsylvania school districts have the authority to pursue a tax assessment appeal on a property that they believe is under-assessed, called a ‘spot’ appeal. Because school districts don’t have the education funding they need, especially with rising pension costs, they are increasingly relying on the method in order to generate more money. Read the full article.

Legislators Push to Eliminate Prop 13 “Loophole”

  • Once again, California legislators are fighting a “loophole” in Proposition 13 that some believe allow commercial property buyers to avoid paying higher property taxes. Read the full article.

Study Shows Economic Benefit of 1031 Exchanges

  • In an effort to dissuade Congress from eliminating 1031 Like-Kind Exchanges, a stipulation under the U.S. tax code that allows an investor to exchange a business or investment asset for another that is similar and to defer all capital gains taxes, The Real Estate Roundtable has just come out in support of a new study detailing the benefits of retaining the provision and the negative consequences of eliminating it. Read the full article.
Big Box Store

Big-Box Stores: If You Build Them, Buyers Won’t Come

Update: Robert Hill wins for Menards.

“Big-box stores” have proven to be a very difficult valuation problem for many assessors over the past five years, as the temptation to assess them at estimated market values in line with smaller, income producing retail stores (or multi-tenant shopping centers), is often too great to pass up. The problem with this approach is that, unlike other types of retail properties, big box stores are not built to be income-producing real estate, and suffer from various forms of functional and economic obsolescence, practically from the moment the lights are turned on and the store opened.

Some general merchandisers, such as Menards and Mills Fleet Farm, have been in the big box retail market for a long time, and have experienced this market-based truth each time they decide to close a store and put it up for sale. Others, such as Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Costco, Office Depot, and Best Buy, are just beginning to experience this market-driven reality as they begin to close big box stores in favor of moving to smaller, more intimate spaces to attract customers whose tastes and standards are changing rapidly.

All of these national retailers have long understood that, at least originally, customers liked the idea of purchasing their building supplies, dry goods, home furnishings, and, in some cases, groceries, under one roof. Some, such as Best Buy, decided to offer a deep selection in a single category of merchandise. Either way, the convenience, accompanied by the lower retail prices the bulk warehouse-style sales concept afforded, caused consumers to abandon local retailers in favor of big box stores.

This trend dominated the retail landscape nation-wide for the better part of two decades. Then came the Great Recession, and perhaps more importantly, the convenience and affordability of switching to “on-line” shopping.

As consumer trends continued to evolve away from “one-stop shopping,” so too did the demand for big box stores. Consequently, these stores began closing at a rapid rate, and their “functional inutility” in the retail marketplace led to diminished pricing for the resale of the real estate itself: a seminal fact some assessors have been slow to acknowledge.

Moreover, reconfiguring these buildings for multi-tenant use is very costly, due to the need to redistribute central electrical and heating controls, restrooms, entryways, security systems, etc. This high cost of retrofit has left these properties with very few options in a resale scenario. They are not built to sell for continued use as retail centers, since they have no potential to become income-producing retail properties, and often are not in prime locations for an alternative highest & best use, such as distribution warehouse space.

Rather, they were built to generate an income stream by an AAA credit tenant. Hence, when they do sell, the sales prices invariably reflect a tremendous discount off of actual construction costs, which has been demonstrated multiple times in recent years through the fee simple sales of more than 50 Target, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Costco, Home Depot, and Menards stores, in locations nation-wide.

Given that the vast majority of these sales range from $20.00 to $25.00/sf., property tax practitioners are well-advised to alert their clients to the necessity of ensuring that the assessed value(s) of their clients’ big box stores must begin to reflect each of these market realities.

If you or your clients need help in this regard, please check out my website at www.Roberthilllaw.com, where you will find a recent authoritative article that addresses how to appraise big box stores in light of recent market trends, case law from states such as Michigan and Indiana where the issues associated with big box store functional and economic obsolescence already have been successfully litigated to reflect actual unit pricing for this property type, and perhaps most importantly, verified sales data illustrating why the Field of Dreams’ adage, “If you build it, they will come,” does not seem to apply to sales of big box stores; at least not if the smaller and more personal retail trends continue into the future.

Follow our company profile on LinkedIn for related news and updates.

Industrial Plant

Out-Of-State Comparables Value Large Industrial Plants

One of the most difficult challenges property tax practitioners face is to convince a particular state tribunal that relying upon comparable sales from other states is a proper method for determining the market value of large manufacturing plants. In McNeilus Truck & Mfg. v. County of Dodge, 705 N.W.2d 410, 414 (Minn. 2005), the Minnesota Supreme Court addressed this issue by stating that “the tax court’s de facto evidentiary rule barring out-of-state comparables violates the tax court’s obligation to assess property at market value.” The Minnesota Supreme Court thus reversed the tax court’s decision to ignore such sales, reasoning that the “market real buyers examine is not always limited by distance or location, nor by state lines. Such an arbitrary and artificial limit may not reflect market principles and creates grave risk of distorting property valuation.” Id. (emphasis added).

The property the Minnesota Tax Court assessed in the McNeilus case was a 650,000-plus square foot manufacturing/assembly plant located in Dodge Center, Minnesota. Given the fact there had been only one confirmed sale of a 500,000-plus square foot manufacturing plant in Minnesota in the decade prior to the 2001-2002 assessment dates under appeal, our expert had little choice but to include five sales of 500,000-plus square foot manufacturing facilities located in Illinois and Wisconsin in his sales comparison approach to value.

Not surprisingly, the county objected to the use of any of these out-of-state comparable sales, despite the fact that each of these manufacturing facilities bore many of the same physical characteristics and locational attributes as the subject, and, perhaps more importantly, despite the fact that each plant sold for prices that clearly reflected the sales price the McNeilus plant would likely have achieved if it were ever placed on the open market. The Minnesota Tax Court agreed with the county’s position that such sales were not relevant regardless of their similarity to the subject, and in the process created the de facto evidentiary rule prohibiting the use of comparable sales outside of Minnesota the Minnesota Supreme Court later rejected.

In rejecting such a per se exclusionary rule of market evidence, the McNeilus court recognized that “the appraiser must assess the actual market a hypothetical buyer of the subject property would look at, and consider comparable sales of properties in that market.” Id. at 413-414. The court pointed out that “a buyer searching for a distribution center to serve a national market for the buyer’s products might consider properties located in places as far apart as Denver and St. Louis as similarly situated …. Thus, what commentators have termed ‘economic proximity’ and not mere physical proximity, makes two pieces of real estate comparable.” Id. Since the tax court had failed to consider any of the economically proximate sales we offered to demonstrate the market value of the subject property, the Supreme Court remanded the case so that the tax court could exercise its “obligation to assess property at market value.” Id.

Following the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision, the tax court was able to accept the principle that out-of-state sales do reflect actual market conditions for large manufacturing facilities, and that a prudent purchaser will not pay more for a property than it will cost to buy a similar substitute property, regardless of whether it’s located in Minnesota or in economic proximity to our state. As such, the single digit sale prices presented to the trial court did indicate what a prudent buyer would pay to purchase a parcel of real property that bears the same set of physical and geographic characteristics as the comparable sales. As a result, there was a 50 percent reduction in the client’s assessment; a significant market value reduction – and property tax savings – the owners of the McNeilus plant continue to enjoy to this day.

The Morning Digest from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

Big wheels line up in transportation push

From FINANCE AND COMMERCE: When Minnesota Republicans took control of the state Legislature in 2010, the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit line was one of the first targets to draw fire. The new leadership argued it was unwise to build a new line when roads and bridges needed so much work. As the years went by, the line between Eden Prairie and Minneapolis picked up new critics. … Despite this friction, organizers in January assembled transportation advocates of all stripes into a unified coalition pushing for an overarching funding package. The Move MN alliance has since grown to more than 160 members representing roads and bridges, transit, bicyclists and pedestrians – as well as businesses and social activist organizations. Move MN was unsuccessful in its bid for more funding during the 2014 session- in part because the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, a key supporter in earlier transportation efforts, was more focused on repealing a battery of tax increases and ensuring existing money is being spent wisely.

http://finance-commerce.com/2014/08/big-wheels-line-up-in-transportation-push/

With an economy on the upswing, Dayton is tough target

From the MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE: Minnesota Republicans hoping to seize control of the governor’s residence have a problem when it comes to the economy: The news is too good. With business on the upswing and a state unemployment rate that’s among the lowest in the nation, Republicans lack a key issue voters often gravitate to during election season. … With fewer than three months until the general election, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Leadership Fund, the political arm of the state chamber, has not yet decided whether it will make an endorsement in the gubernatorial race, said interim president Bill Blazar. Its priority this fall is to help elect candidates who are “pro-business, pro-jobs,” Blazar said.

http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/272436491.html

Gov. Dayton pushes education, labor-force agenda for 2nd term (MPR)

From the FARGO (N.D.) FORUM: When Mark Dayton ran for governor in 2010, he said he wanted to improve the state’s economy, spend more on schools, make the tax system fairer and end the cycle of recurring state budget deficits. Two years ago, Dayton followed through by raising income taxes on Minnesota’s top earners. He used the money from the tax increase to balance the state budget, fund statewide all-day kindergarten and increase spending for schools. During this year’s session, Dayton pushed a billion-dollar public works construction bill. Lately, he’s been taking a victory lap to promote some of the projects it pays for.

http://www.inforum.com/content/gov-dayton-pushes-education-labor-force-agenda-2nd-term

 

Opinions & Editorials… 

Editorial: Transportation should be a topic on the campaign trail in Minnesota

The MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE says: Traffic congestion, crumbling roadway pavement and insufficient transit options have almost replaced the weather as Minnesotans’ most frequent complaints. But unlike the weather, there’s a good deal that Minnesotans can do to remedy their transportation problems – provided they don’t wait so long that improvement becomes unaffordable. That’s why we’re rooting for focus on transportation in the 10 weeks and two days before the Nov. 4 election, particularly from candidates for governor and the state House. … There’s much to dislike about the gas tax. It’s regressive, falling hardest on Minnesotans who drive long distances to jobs that pay not quite enough to secure their hold on the middle class. It fails to keep up with inflation and falls as vehicle fuel economy increases. It’s become a political hot potato. That’s why only one Legislature in the past 26 years had the gumption to raise it, and that 2008 move required a gubernatorial veto override and a push from the state Chamber of Commerce.

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/editorials/272370981.html

Editorial: Minnesota: Better ways to budget — and consider tradeoffs

The ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS says: There’s too little talk in Minnesota about how state spending continues to grow. That has to change. “Smart Budgeting” recommendations released last week — part of this summer’s Minnesota Policy Blueprint series from the Center of the American Experiment — are a good place to start the conversation. The proposals should help a needed discussion in a state where total spending in the current fiscal-year budget grew by 9.8 percent over the previous budget, when you adjust for both population and inflation. That translates to $1,130 for every Minnesotan during the 2014-15 biennium.

http://www.twincities.com/opinion/ci_26388770/minnesota-better-ways-budget-and-consider-tradeoffs

Editorial: Is GOP unity possible? Governor’s race says yes

The ROCHESTER POST-BULLETIN says: When Republican gubernatorial candidates visited the Post-Bulletin in recent weeks, one of the questions we asked them was this: With three credible contenders challenging the party-endorsed candidate on the ballot, what will unify the party after the primary election? “Mark Dayton is the unifying factor,” said Rep. Kurt Zellers, who gave the most concise response. We liked that answer because it looked beyond the perceived disharmony within the party that had its first seriously contested gubernatorial primary since 1994.

http://www.postbulletin.com/opinion/our-view-is-gop-unity-possible-governor-s-race-says/article_3bc32805-6be8-53fc-ab68-642cc10d6f20.html

Editorial: Judicial politics

The NEW ULM JOURNAL says: Minnesota’s constitution states that judges are to be elected, just like any other political officer. But in practice, judges in Minnesota usually attain the bench by appointment and rarely face much opposition in succeeding elections. Most are re-elected until they reach retirement age in mid-term. Then they resign and a successor is appointed, starting the process over again. It is a system that works well. Judicial candidates undergo scrutiny by a knowledgeable, non-partisan panel, which recommends three finalists to the governor, who interviews the finalists and almost always selects the judge from among the three.

http://www.nujournal.com/page/content.detail/id/552856/Judicial-politics.html?nav=5127

Around the nation…

New jitters over Russian entry into Ukraine send US stocks lower in early trading; Eye on Fed

From Fox News: Stocks are little edging lower in early trading amid concerns of an escalation in the Ukrainian crisis after a Russian aid convoy entered the country. Investors are also looking ahead to a meeting of central bankers for clues about when the U.S. Federal Reserve might start raising interest rates.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/08/22/new-jitters-over-russian-entry-into-ukraine-send-us-stocks-lower-in-early/

 

Bishop: Slain US journalist Foley opened our eyes

From the Chicago Sun-Time: Slain U.S. journalist James Foley was living his faith by bringing images to the world of people suffering from war and oppressive regimes, a Roman Catholic bishop said Sunday at a Mass in his honor. Bishop Peter Libasci said even after Foley was captured for the first time in Libya in 2011, he “went back again that we might open our eyes.”

http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/29458548-418/bishop-slain-us-journalist-foley-opened-our-eyes.html#.U_pshPlr7Wc

Around the world…

Islamic authority: Extremists no ‘Islamic State’

From the Chicago Sun-Time: The top Islamic authority in Egypt, revered by many Muslims worldwide, launched an Internet-based campaign Sunday challenging an extremist group in Syria and Iraq by saying it should not be called an “Islamic State.”

http://www.suntimes.com/news/world/29455219-418/islamic-authority-extremists-no-islamic-state.html#.U_psvvlr7Wc

 

Russia Lashes Out At U.S. ‘Monopoly’ on Humanitarianism With Aid Convoy to Ukraine

From Time: On Friday morning, as hundreds of Russian trucks trundled across the border into Ukraine, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin gave a briefing to explain why Moscow was sending the convoy without permission from the government in Kiev. The decision had caused such panic in the West that an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council had been scheduled Friday afternoon to discuss what Ukraine called a “direct invasion.” Churkin batted these concerns away, and only once gave a hint as to convoy’s larger purpose.

http://time.com/3166682/russia-ukraine-trucks-putin/

The economy…

Roche to buy U.S. biotech firm InterMune for $8.3 billion

From Reuters: Roche Holding AG has agreed to buy U.S. biotech company InterMune Inc for $8.3 billion in cash, marking the latest multibillion-dollar deal in a consolidating pharmaceutical sector. The Swiss drugmaker said on Sunday it would pay $74.00 a share through a tender offer for InterMune, representing a premium of 38 percent to the closing price on Aug. 22.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/24/us-intermune-roche-idUSKBN0GO0PI20140824

 

Mortgage rates hit 2014 low

From CNN: The average rate for a 30-year loan now stands at 4.1%, according to Freddie Mac. That matched its lowest level since June 2013, when it stood at 3.93%. The average 15-year fixed was 3.23%. The government’s stimulus program has helped keep borrowing costs down. The Federal Reserve has been purchasing Treasury Bonds and mortgaged-backed securities for years, providing a steady market for mortgages.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/21/real_estate/mortgage-rate-drop/index.html?iid=SF_E_River

In Human Resources now…

No silver bullet, but HR seen as key to solving talent shortage

From HR Hero: More and more employers are suffering from a shortage of talent at the same time jobseekers are struggling to find work. That seemingly implausible situation has become the reality in many fields as the world of work deals with a still-struggling economy and epic change brought on by rapid technological advances.

http://www.hrhero.com/hl/articles/2014/08/22/no-silver-bullet-but-hr-seen-as-key-to-solving-talent-shortage/

 

Noncompetes need consideration when executed after employment starts

From HR.BLR.com: In March 2007, Mid-Atlantic Systems of CPA, Inc., hired David Socko as a salesman. Mid-Atlantic and Socko entered into an employment agreement containing a two-year covenant not to compete. Socko resigned in February 2009, but Mid-Atlantic rehired him several months later. The parties entered into another employment agreement with a two-year noncompete provision. On December 28, 2010, Mid-Atlantic had Socko sign a third employment agreement. The agreement prohibited him from competing with Mid-Atlantic in Pennsylvania and several other mid-Atlantic states for two years after the end of his employment.

http://hr.blr.com/HR-news/Staffing-Training/Employment-Contracts/Noncompetes-consideration-executed-after-employmen