No-one will sue me or blame me

Posted by 27 December, 2014 (0) Comment

Business is easier to do when people are getting on yet it pays to keep everyone happy when relationships start to falter. This article is about money, the fact that it talks when opinions differ and why it is a foreign language for some.

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I’ve had an idea…..but I can’t do it on my own

 

Inventors are not just stuck in sheds. Some of them are hugely creative and have big idea after big idea. I am contacted by inventors when they want to protect an idea they’ve created. Most of them are in “start-up” mode and it takes time for the income to pour in.

However, they still need services to help them lift off and it is not uncommon to reach bartering agreements or agree profit or equity shares with those that help them out. Wonderful isn’t it? In an ideal World, yes, in the real World it depends. Recently, I’ve been contacted by two different companies who both had similar issues with such agreements . They were both being taken to court when such “contracts” had gone sour, they were very loose unwritten agreements.

We can’t agree about everything

 

But it pays to sit down and agree the basics. The first indication that something was going wrong was the receipt of a legal document outlining a case of a service provided that hadn’t been paid for. In each case the inventor thought they had “come to an agreement” yet the complainant asserted that nothing had been written down and they expected a prompt realisation of profits, which is rare. Both inventors were upset as well as being annoyed. One was being asked for £40,000 in fees for work they had “ordered”. The other was being invoiced for £18,000 fees for time spent “assisting” the start-uo.

Even after the first legal notice was issued, the inventor contacted the person that was “owed” the £40,000 and came to another agreement. They were somewhat surprised to learn, soon after, that the complainant had obtained a judgement against them and bailiffs were chasing them for money they didn’t have. Sometimes, the courts do odd things. Launching an appeal has proved fruitless for at lease one company facing a wind up order. Their business was closed down by a judge before the appeal date arrived. It is beyond belief.

You owe me, I sue you

 

Eventually, the money was found yet it had been earmarked for marketing so the launch had to be delayed in one case. The debts were paid when they may not have been legally liable to pay them. They were forced to settle because they didn’t have the resources to defend themselves.

Defending yourself doesn’t have to be ridiculously costly but it does take up time. High quality legal resources have to be paid for. It’s not only about what you sign, it’s about what you agree.  Verbal agreements are often considered binding by one party and failure to defend a corner means louder voices are likely to be heard. The balance between defending and paying up doesn’t always leave defendants between a rock and a hard place. I have plenty of clients who have successfully defended  spurious allegations.

Wrap up; Contracts aren’t always big documents and verbal agreements are often taken seriously. It’s really difficult to juggle all the tasks when unexpected legal issues arise. Not to mention the upset if you don’t know where to turn.

Top tip; Do not ignore issues that are on the “too difficult list”. They have a habit of resurfacing  and investor shareholders hate that too. It is not fair but the deepest pockets usually win.

Categories : After The Event,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Advisers “advice” drops client in it

Posted by 5 October, 2013 (0) Comment

This article about how insurances with the same “brand name” can look the same to the untrained eye, how pressure to provide quotations often stresses brokers, how lucrative industries carry the highest risks, and how you can reduce them.

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No two businesses are the same

 

Recently I was asked for “professional insurance” by two distinctly different businesses. One business advised multinationals on which businesses they should merge or acquire, and the other helped people in the UK to buy a business by finding them and introducing the investor to the current business owner. Both thought they were in mergers and acquisitions. This is seen as a very high risk industry by underwriters, and very few insurance providers will provide cover for such a high risk area.

The first business specialised in Anglo-Chinese business relations and was introduced to me by an accountant who understood exactly what I did. The introduction was made after the business had received a quotation that amounted to 18% of their annual turnover. You might think that is ridiculous, and it is, yet I have seen solicitors charged 38% of their turnover for insurance because of the ridiculous way solicitors are made to buy insurance.

Pressure cooker environment?

 

In each case, there was pressure to provide documentation to 3rd parties who wanted to work with these companies, yet insisted that they had appropriate insurance cover first. This is not at all unusual, in fact, about 50% of my clients have insurance requirements imposed on them by third parties. Yet they were all able to explain why they needed it and when the deadline was. So we make time to provide real advice.

Some of those I have been able to help were initially tempted to get the first insurance they could find that “ticked the box” of those demanding evidence that they were insured. Lot’s of people tell others “my insurance costs less than yours”. Giving in to the cost saving temptation means that businesses have ticked “a box” yet not actually protected their assets, income or reputation. Insurance that isn’t fit for purpose rarely pays out. Unless you are very lucky.

It actually takes as much as 30 days to arrange some insurances, because the insurance underwriters that understand emerging risks are in such short supply. After all, it is not car insurance, which has been commoditised and is available at the click of a finger 24/7, 365 – if you have a debit card.

Why are rates so high?

 

When talking to business owners looking for protection we first assess their requirements and then provide them with some ballpark estimates of the annual cost of protections. We do this because we are experienced enough to have a good idea of the rates achievable, and we know that some business owners haven’t budgeted for bespoke insurance. Some are shocked at the scale of the investment and we are often explaining that the situation is nothing to do with them. So who’s fault is it?

Some sectors have suffered from enormous losses because of the lack of care, skill, or diligence of the people operating in those sectors. Once insurance companies have “taken a hiding” from a particular sector, they might withdraw. You’ve probably read about how flood insurance is in such short supply. It actually isn’t, we have plenty of underwriters who will provide cover in reputed “flood zones”. Yet the media paint a different picture, and people believe what they hear often enough.

What the media don’t report is the high earning sectors that have suffered huge losses do not have many underwriters vying for their business, even if it is unique. This means that their rates will increase because there is demand, yet not much supply. Insurers need to come clean about the issues they resolve in a sector if they are to build trust and reduce risk.

Wrap up: Even if you are in a sector that has suffered losses there is plenty you can do to achieve the most competitive rates available. The first thing is to investigate losses that have happened in the sector in the past, and then work out exactly how to reduce them, using risk management. If you are unsure how to do this contact us and we will help where we can, or point you in the right direction.

Top Tip: When thinking of diving into a new sector, always speak to a set of good advisers first because solicitors, accountants, business advisers, perhaps even insurance brokers, may have experience in the sector or, at least, are able to point you in the direction of those that do. By asking the right questions you will find out more than your challengers know. The tax predicament, propensity to litigate and insurance rates will have a bearing on the profits you are able to make in any particular line of business.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Will Intellectual Property lead the UK out of recession?

Posted by 12 July, 2013 (0) Comment

This article is about the true value of intellectual property, the risks and advantages when leveraging it, and the solutions available.

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Intellectual property is Marvellous

 

Every week I meet someone who has had a great idea.  Not all of them will make as much money as Coca Cola, yet some of them are simply amazing. Naturally, these conversations are private and confidential, and I am often asked to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), before I am party to the secret. I don’t mind doing this because it helps build trust with entrepreneurs and inventors.

I think it is vital to protect the intellectual property in any country, UK Plc. seem to have more nurtured good ideas than most. The gentleman who designs Apple products is British, although he is an employee of Apple, so he is handsomely rewarded for giving them the rights and it makes sense to leverage an idea by partnering with someone who has the means to make the most of it.

The UK authorities are aware of just how much tax revenue they make when ideas created in the UK are well protected in the UK, so they have invested in grants making it worthwhile to protect intellectual property, because they make money when we make money.

Intellectual property risks examples

 

One inventor has designed a new water bottle for athletes. Another has invented one with a filter that means that it can be filled from a puddle, yet still be drinkable. When they initially approached me they had similar concerns, someone might copy it and they wanted to enforce their patent, design and trademark rights. Perhaps another manufacturer would try to flood the market with cheap copies that would damage the brand if people were injured whilst using an inferior bottle.

Social Media searches helped another inventor determine people who were jealous of the invention and were using very similar names to promote their product. In each case they can enforce their rights because they arrange protection to close down the miscreants or, at least, stop the fake or suspiciously named goods reaching consumers.

Sometimes this is achievable by a warning shot across the bows, commonly known as a cease and desist letter; this doesn’t always work. Authorities will act upon injunctions and stop goods leaving a factory, impound them at a distributors warehouse or prevent them being loaded onto a ship if the Intellectual Property owner has the means to enforce their rights. Sometimes this is avoided by the miscreants and the legal costs of enforcement mount up.

Some inventors have told me that they believe people will think twice when they have signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and that is certainly true for the vast majority of people. Large companies and corporations have taken advantage of the little guys and will stop at nothing to make a buck. Just a little research unearths companies who brought their manufacturing process back to the UK from abroad to find that aggressive companies in England started copying their top four selling items and promoting them on the internet.

Whoever let the copycat have the designs probably signed an NDA. It will take time to find out who the culprit was or if the data was stolen by hacking, employees or “external forces” have been known to do this. Without legal costs protection in place, even though they had protected their unique features and registered their designs, it costs a considerable amount of money, time and effort, to stop this happening.

The same applied to an Irish game designer, doing business in the UK, who was courted by a US publisher with a hawkish side. It cost $380,000 to get the game they “copied” removed from the shelves and they eventually gained a licence agreement for a share of the sales of his original ideas.

Intellectual property advantages

 

It is understandable that some companies do not want to register a patent because they know that there are really aggressive companies, especially in the US, who have a habit of copying ideas as soon as they are registered.  I don’t mean registered as a patent, I mean patent applied for. How they find out about such things is fraudulent, of course, and I share tweets noting those that get caught or the sectors that are at the biggest risk.  Savvy intellectual property advisors often recommend that registering be left until the last minute, yet this also carries the risk that someone else may have come up with the idea on a completely opposite of the world, and register it first, obtaining Worldwide rights, if they have the ability to do so.

When discussing these issues I let people know that there are ways of protecting such inventions without them being fully registered.  Get a registration in first, and inventors or designers can enforce their rights before they are registered. This makes patent attorneys and intellectual property lawyers very happy because it gives them a significant tool in their armoury and also enables them to generate fees when the protection process takes too long.

Large companies do not wait for small companies to enter the market before they attack them. A client is in the UK and bought a US Company and made it their branded subsidiary. The players who had the largest share of that particular US market instantly issued “malicious” proceedings against the UK Company before they had even started promoting their products.

 

Wrap Up: Intellectual Property is a real bargaining chip, if it is adequately protected.  Aggressors often try to tie new entrants up in legal process – which is a huge cost – especially in the US, to prevent them from spending their money on marketing and eroding the established leaders market share.

Top Tip: Having a non-disclosure agreement is great, yet you will need to enforce it if someone breaches confidentiality or trade secrets. This is simple yet not easy. Registering patents, marks, brands, domain names, or other unique features of a product or service, and the way it is marketed, can all form part of Intellectual Property protection.

 

 

 

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Directors need a law degree to understand their liabilities

Posted by 19 April, 2013 (0) Comment

When the going gets tough, everybody gets the blame. This article is about how recessions bring increases in claims, why this happens and why insurers are always well prepared.

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Out of touch, means out of pocket!

 

There’s a growing debate on Directors protection (they need protecting from regulators looking to fill Government coffers), fuelled by an article in a legal publication. Directors are finding that the cover they thought protected them actually doesn’t, because of small print. Lawyers are not being paid as a result and they’re starting to wonder “why?”

TheLawyer.com are a bit late in noticing this issue – we highlighted it back in 2010 when we wrote about the withdrawal of legal defence for mad Bernie Madoff.  In mad Bernie’s case, Lloyds of London spent £4 million defending him before they pounced on the opportunity to withdraw cover, when one of his co-defendants pleaded guilty to fraud and admitted Madoff was purposely stealing client money, rather than accidentally stealing people’s money.

I agree with most of the comments in the article, yet the paragraph that says that insurance “will cover all Directors defence costs” only mentions one exception to the rule. There is always more than one exclusion – plus each policy is different. If they weren’t, insurers would be suing each other for breach on copyright, at the very least. And that’s another legal matter entirely.

How do insurers avoid getting caught out?

 

Insurers were prepared for this recession, as a result of the last recession. They’d worked out what caused the majority of claims last time and reduced, excluded or watered down the options they made available thereafter. They sneak most such changes into renewal documents because they know brokers and policyholders don’t read them.

It doesn’t help that a lot of Directors have been advised that a limited company protects them personally. No it doesn’t, as I keep telling them….gently, it covers shareholders. Directors that are shareholders do not get the benefit of shareholder protection. After all, they are supposed to be running the business and keeping an eye on everyone else in it, not turning a blind eye to rogue Directors riding roughshod over clients, employees and shareholders.

 

Wrap up: Not all Directors are the same so why would their insurance be? Work out what could go wrong before embarking on a search for comprehensive cover. It doesn’t exist.

Top tip: Insurers rarely lose so peek at their exclusions to see what they are prepared to take  a chance on.

P.S. Look out for our next blog which highlights how a lady reported the obliteration of a garden wall to a home-owner, shared a cup of tea with them and the “investigating officer”, then (after excusing herself) be unveiled as the perpetrator – only thanks to a neighbour’s CCTV.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

Insurer’s blind eye leaves business owners vulnerable

Posted by 12 October, 2012 (0) Comment

This article looks at why it’s vital for companies to protect their reputation. Employee accusations can really hurt, especially if word spreads that you’ve acted immorally, just because someone is being vindictive.

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Who protects the boss?

 

It’s a real nightmare for business owners when employees get upset. Business is Business yet allegations of discrimination or mistreatment can be quite frightening. This is especially so if word were to get out that a business acted questionably or immorally, simply because someone is disgruntled or being vindictive.

Rumours can easily reach clients, and frequently do, so we often help business people who want to nip these issues in the bud. They reduce the chances of unexpected legal costs, by asking us to help them reduce the impact, if malicious rumours are being spread about them. This is a sensible approach, that proves extremely cost effective, should it ever happen.

Does it always work?

 

Usually it does… yet recently I found an insurance company who wasn’t providing the cover I expected. I was discussing the merits of a policy with the company that issued it. When I congratulated them on having more generous cover than their competitors they seemed surprised.

They went on to look into the policy, and informed me that their generosity was a typo and the cover they mentioned didn’t apply. This was a real shame because I had already mentioned it to my client. Of course I had to withdraw my recommendation.

What about those that have already invested in this protection?

 

I pushed a bit further and decided to enquire “what are you going to tell those that have already purchased this cover?” Nothing, they told me. “not even at renewal?”. Nope, they said.

So there are now businesses up and down the UK whose insurer knows their contract might be inadequate yet their insurer doesn’t care. Regrettably, this is quite often the case. I’ve reported to the FSA and I’ll let you know how I get on if they ever answer my letter.

Wrap up: Insurance companies have very little idea about customer service because they don’t deal direct with business people.

Top tip: At least annually, you should aim to review the risks to your business assets and business income, and think about what could cause damage to your reputation too.

Who to share this with: Managing Directors, Business Owners & Human Resources specialists.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Liability Insurance,Personal Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Business owner deflated by sinister claims tactics – part II

Posted by 27 March, 2012 (0) Comment

This is the second part of a two part blog about another dirty little secret of insurance. The attempted application of this one even shocked me, and I’ve had 21 years experience of exposing their secrets. You can read part one here.

Read on to find out how this scenario unfolded, how the secret affects both businesses and families, and what you can do to avoid being kept in the dark.

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Bicycle Theft Leads To Flat Service – Part 2

Having carefully selected the appropriate policy for a client whose family relied heavily on their bikes, it was a big headache when an excessive deduction was presented by the insurer, when our client’s bikes were stolen. This large deduction was not in the policy wording, which is of course a contract between insurer and their policyholder. Rather been dealing with the claim validators, we went straight to the management of the insurance company claims department. We know where they hide (whoops, I mean hang out!).

Case Study of one of our clientsThe claims department agreed that the deduction was not in the policy wording and fair wear and tear would be 20 percent. New bikes were ordered and a long argument avoided

The bicycle suppliers were instructed to send the new bikes directly to the client who was happy that he didn’t have to fork out an unreasonable amount to put himself back to where he was before the theft occurred.

Making sure that people are not financially affected by the unexpected is the main priority for us. Keeping inconvenience to a minimum is an important part of our service.

Deductions are plain wrong as they mean claimants do not get the return they were promised when they were prudent and invested in insurance. Avoiding reduced settlements is not easy, as it seems that staff in insurance claims departments are trained to make claimants feel uneasy.

Free Insurance Healthcheck

Cynics might say that insurance companies purposely make it uncomfortable for people trying to get their valid claims settled. By making them stick to the letter of their own contract these hurdles can be overcome.

An amicable discussion about fact and contract is the way forward.

 

I personally have 20+ years of experience in dealing with claims department and actually help them stick to their procedures whilst getting claims settled. I also agree with the use of new technology, including lie detecting to sniff out fraudulent claims. If you have nothing to hide, it’s fine.

Wrap up: Thousands of business owners are still waiting for their damage and lost profit claims to be settled following the London riots last year. It is prudent to assess if there are risks to your way of working because of the actions of others.

Top Tip: If you have already been given a bike by your employer or company under the bike to work scheme make sure adequate cover is in place. When it comes to finding a replacement the bike should have been insured by the company or the rider. If a road accident is caused by a cyclist’s wobble who pays for the resultant damage and injuries?

Who to share this with: Business owners or bicycle users.

 

Categories : All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Customer Service,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,