My family and I traveled to Wheelwright, KY this summer for a mission trip with St. Winifred’s Church, in Mt. Lebanon’s.
I took 500+ photos while I was there. I just prepared this presentation: 2015 Mission Trip: Wheelwright, KY: A City’s Turnaround During a Poverty War
I welcome comment.
All donations to Wheelwright can be made out to “World Servants Organization” and mailed to Stephanie Boyd, P.O. Box 73, Wheelwright, KY 41669. Mark “proceeds to benefit: Wheelwright, KY” on check.
MAZURKRAEMER Business Law Opens Mt. Lebanon Office and Hosts Open House
Pittsburgh, PA, November 9, 2015
MAZURKRAEMER BUSINESS LAW proudly announces the opening of it law office at 603 Washington Road, Suite 500, Pittsburgh, PA 15228 right in the heart of the Uptown Business District in Mount Lebanon Township. MAZURKRAEMER is a boutique, tech-savvy, entrepreneurial business, litigation, and bankruptcy law and consulting firm that counsels entrepreneurs and companies at every stage of the business cycle in a broad range of business transactions.
The firm’s core values (as symbolized in its logo) are Connection, Collaboration, and Community. We are thrilled to set foot in Mt. Lebanon’s business community. The firm also has a second office located on Main Street in Weirton, WV. Dedicated to reinvigorating our economy, the firm’s mission is to collaborate with each business to help it thrive. Attorneys embrace technologies to keep clients informed, connected and competitive.
Attorney Salene Mazur Kraemer, Mount Lebanon resident and native of Weirton, WV, is the founding principal of the firm. Attorney Amy Kerr Parker is a Southside resident. MAZURKRAEMER attorneys bring over 15 years of legal and business experience on complex, multi-million dollar matters at sophisticated law firms, both large and small, in Philadelphia, Wilmington, DE, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. When problems arise, our attorneys can aggressively defend and prosecute complex business and employment litigation.
MAZURKRAEMER Business Law is hosting a Light -Up Night Open House at its office on November 19, 2015 from 3-7 p.m. The firm warmly welcomes the community. Come enjoy food, drink, music, and holiday merriment. Children are welcome. Join immediately afterward in Light-Up Night festivities, sponsored by the Mount Lebanon Uptown Business District. For more information about the firm, visit www.mazurkraemer.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412.427.7075.
MAZURKRAEMER BUSINESS LAW
Connection. Collaboration. Community.
MAZURKRAEMER BUSINESS LAW is excited to the announce the opening of a new second office location at 3364 Main Street, Weirton, WV 26062. I am a native of Weirton and 1992 graduate of Weir High School.
My firm’s core values (as symbolized in our updated logo) are Connection, Collaboration, and Community. My partner Amy Kerr Parker and I became business lawyers, in part, because we feel called to serve our communities. An office on Weirton’s Main Street is a dream come true! I think about when my grandfathers and father moved to Weirton to work in Weirton Steel, which is also located on Main Street.
We are dedicated to reinvigorating our economy; our mission is to collaborate with each business to help it thrive. We embrace technologies to keep our clients informed, connected and competitive.
Come check out our new space. Photos to follow!
Please join us for hot chocolate, cookies and candy before and during the Weirton Light-Up Christmas parade, on November 28, 2015 at 5 p.m. Parade starts at 6 p.m.
By Daniel Hart, Paralegal and Salene Mazur Kraemer, Esquire.
In October 2015, every Pittsburgh local news outlet and national entertainment magazine reported on the bankruptcy fraud story of Abby Lee Miller. We have previously written here about her Chapter 11 Case: “Dance Mom” Instructor Abby Lee Miller Files for Chapter 11 Protection: Public Disclosure of Private Facts: Abby is the controversial star of the reality television show, “Dance Moms”. Her often abrasive personality is in contrast to the glitter of dance and beauty of her young dancers. She is quick to throw scathing insults at any of the children and their sometimes overly zealous Dance mothers.
Abby Lee filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010, in Bankruptcy Court here in Pittsburgh. After some television surfing by a local bankruptcy judge and a subsequent investigation by local authorities, Abby may have committed bankruptcy fraud.
What is bankruptcy fraud? It is a white-collar crime that generally has taken four general forms:
- Debtors conceal assets to avoid having to forfeit them;
- Individuals intentionally file false or incomplete forms (underreporting income, overstating liabilities);
- Individuals file multiple times using false information or real information in several states;
- Debtors bribe a court-appointed trustee.
Nearly 70% of all bankruptcy fraud involves the first form, the concealment of assets. At the 341 meeting of creditors in each bankruptcy case, a debtor is required to testify under oath as to the accuracy of his or her bankruptcy petition and schedules. A bankruptcy trustee appointed by the United States Department of Justice probes each debtor about the facts and circumstances surrounding each case.
A bankruptcy trustee can only liquidate unexempt assets that are a part of the debtor’s “bankruptcy estate”. If the asset is not listed on the debtor’s schedules or the debtor does not reveal the asset, it can fly under the radar.
I tell each of my bankruptcy clients always to “tell the truth, reveal everything, err on the side of caution.” “You don’t want to end up in jail over this filing.”
The effects of bankruptcy fraud are often passed on to businesses, financial institutions, and the general consumer in the form of higher interest rates, greater loan fees, and higher taxes.
Bankruptcy fraud is a criminal offense. When a bankruptcy trustee suspects fraud but does not have enough evidence, he/she can compel testimony and document production from just about anyone through a Bankruptcy Rule 2004 examination. If fraud is suspected, the trustee refers the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The agency will undergo its own investigation. A debtor guilty of bankruptcy fraud faces stiff penalties as outlined at 18 U.S.C. §152 which can result in a fine up to $250,000 for each count of fraud, or up to a five-year prison sentence, or both.
A federal grand jury indicted Abby Miller on 20 counts of bankruptcy fraud, alleging she concealed about $755,000 in assets and made false bankruptcy declarations. Federal Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Agresti nearly approve Miller’s Chapter 11 reorganization plan but then he was channel surfing one night and saw commercials for the new season of “Dance Moms”. Miller claimed in her bankruptcy reorganization plan that she did not have a signed contract for a new season and that her income from the show was “volatile.”
It is alleged that Abby did in fact, have a signed contract and steady income. During the past three years while the the bankruptcy proceeding was pending, as required by the Department of Justice for all debtors, Miller was required to deposit her income into a special DIP (Debtor in Possession) account and report that income to the court on a monthly basis. Instead, it is alleged that she set up other bank accounts and funneled her income from the TV show and other ventures into those accounts.
If found guilty, Abby Lee faces up to five years in prison, not to mention outrageous fines given 20 counts. The surprising twist in this case is that Abby’s bankruptcy plan, we believe, provided for a 100% payout to unsecured creditors (a rarity); it appears that she would have had no need to hide assets; she was obligated to pay unsecured creditors 100% anyway! We shall see!
By: Daniel Hart and Salene Mazur Kraemer
On September 11, 2015, the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (Bankruptcy Case no. 15-16558) in the United States Bankruptcy Court for Western District of Pennsylvania, thus triggering an automatic stay or injunction pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 362 of the Bankruptcy Code that halts actions by creditors, with certain exceptions, to collect debts from the debtor who has declared bankruptcy. “Don’t Touch the Debtor”.
The museum intends to remain as a debtor-in-possession and continue operating during the pendency of the Chapter 11 Case. The museum’s mission is to enrich the lives of children by creating learning opportunities through play. It aims to achieve this mission by creating meaningful interactive play-based experiences within the museum and beyond its walls for all young children and their families. The museum has been nationally recognized for its lasting impact.
The museum filed for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy because it borrowed more money then it could pay back to renovate a new home in Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall. Sources say the bankruptcy filing has two main objectives: (i) to shed the majority of the $60 million it owes holders of its debt, and (ii) to negotiate a deal whereby the museum turns over maintenance and repairs of Memorial Hall to the city, which owns it.
The museum owes about half of its debts to a group of bondholders. It formulated a plan to pay back these bondholders about $11.5 million of the $60 million debt. Filing for bankruptcy was a tactic used to get this bondholder group to agree to the plan. Also, the museum is launching a $10 million fund-raising rescue plan. In addition to paying off the debt, the museum intends to use the money to pay professional fees associated with the bankruptcy and to make some exhibit upgrades. It remains to be seen whether this strategy will solve the museum’s problems.
PASSION LED US HERE.
ONE NEIGHBORHOOD AT A TIME.
These were the words I noticed in front of the Starbucks Reserve: Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle, WA. The sidewalk lettering stopped me in my tracks. Unbeknownst to me at the time, these words are Starbuck’s Mission Statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit- one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.”
I traveled to Seattle over the Labor Day weekend for a law school friend’s wedding. I happened to be staying around the corner from the Reserve. During the trip, I also accidentally visited the original Starbucks Coffee Tea and Spices store #2 at 1912 Pike Place Public Market. There was a long waiting line that extended outside the coffee shop.
After I returned to Pittsburgh, I pulled out a book I had bought 8 years ago. The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary by Joseph Michelli.
As a business owner and lawyer and consultant, I have always marveled at Starbucks personally and professionally. The continuous winding waiting lines regardless of location, the Starbucks on every corner in London inside buildings that are over 300 years old, the Starbucks locator app on your phone.
Like millions of others, I pay the $3-4 a cup several times a week just to have The Starbucks Experience. I bought into this Experience in the early 2000’s and continue to seek it out. My son’s first wave was to Kelly the “barista” at the Southside Starbucks on 1400 East Carson Street, Pittsburgh, PA which was only a block from my first house.
For me, Starbucks has always been a “third place”, as Dr. Michelli describes it, away from home and work, where I can find both solitude and social interaction. I studied for bars there and my turnaround certification. I felt my baby’s first kick in a coffee shop and I have spent 100’s of office hours working from inside a Starbucks (thanks for the free Wi-fi). I like the ambience and the connection and sense of opportunity. Some of my best work was completed at a Starbucks.
Dr. Michelli says Starbucks has “revolutionized the coffee industry” and “rewritten the conventional rules of management”. What is Starbucks doing right?
1.Unique Corporate Culture. Michelli says first, it has a unique corporate culture valuing empowerment, entrepreneurship, quality and service that defines firm values. Starbucks “aspires to enrich the human spirit” , embracing diversity and creating a great work environment for Starbucks partners (employees). Employees want to “make a huge difference in people’s lives in a million small ways– just little moments like smiling as we hand you a drink, hand-crafting your beverage, providing a comfy chair to get away from it all without going very far.”
Michelli says that Starbucks is doing “something extremely simple and awe-inspiringly powerful- people want to do the right thing, create and offer quality things, they want to do good in the world, and if you give them the opportunity and resources to do so, they will shine.”
Passion. Product. People. Experience. Community. These are the drivers of Starbucks, Michelli says.
Michelli also talks about cultural alignment. “The mission statement, principles, and behaviors laid out as ways of being are not programmatic. They are just the way you live your life. That is difficult to fake. Ultimately, the organization will self-select, in a way, toward a group of partners who are like-minded.” I have often thought about like-mindedness in the law firm culture and friendship circles.
2. Employee Empowerment. Second, Michelli says, Starbucks has been able to pass down these values to partners/employees, who in turn create a unique and personal experience for customers. Employees build an “emotional connection” with its customers. “Our people have done a wonderful job of knowing your drink, your name and your kids’ names.”
Michelli reports that “it is by design, not default, that leadership creates powerful experiences for its partners. It is expected that partners will pass on the dignity and respect that they are afforded into interactions with their customers.”
I will never forget the days after my dad had a stroke. The baristas at “my local Starbucks” knew what had happened. One day, I was crying inconsolably and they just comp’d my drink. I will never forget the barista’s face. Compassion.
TIPS FOR BUSINESS OWNERS:
- What are the core values for your business? What is your “way of being”?
- How can you make your experience for your customers unique and personal? Is there an emotional connection?
- Are you selling a product or service or an “experience”?
- Do you know your customers’ names?
- Do your employees/partners have skin in the game? Do you view your employees as partners?
- Are your employees like-minded? Are your customers like-minded?
The values of my business are similar to the Starbucks value set. Passion. Product. People. Experience. Community. See story behind our logo here. We aim to create a community of support for the businesses whom we represent. We want our clients to feel like valued clients. We hire like-minded lawyers and staff. Many clients and referral sources seem to mirror us.
3. Timing. Sometimes in business, timing is everything. In college, one of my favorite courses was called Creating Community. We talked then about the then crisis in “rugged individualism” and too many people “bowling alone”. With social media, text messaging and virtual working, I think there is an absolute scarcity of in-person, face-to-face or voice-to-voice connection. Starbucks helps to ameliorate what I view as a serious social crisis.
I am grateful to Starbucks. Because of my time there, I have been able to accomplish things I never dreamed I would. Starbucks-may you have another 40 years of revolutionary business practices!
co-authors: Daniel Hart and Salene Kraemer
The story behind the Chapter 11 filing of PTC Seamless Tube Corporation (Seamless) is a cautionary tale for Steel Valley businesses, both big and small, as to the dangers of overexpansion and the importance of business planning. Here is what you can learn from it:
On April 26, 2015, Seamless filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Seamless estimates its assets to be between $50-100 million with liabilities between $100-500 million.
Seamless is a subsidiary of PTC Group Holdings Corp.. It manufactures steel tubing, tubular shapes, bar products, fabricated parts, and precision components. In 2013, Seamless invested more than $102 million to reopen a manufacturing plant in Kentucky. This project involved the acquisition of a large manufacturing facility, property adjacent to the existing site, re-working the layout of the facility and the installation of manufacturing equipment.
After the initial wave of enthusiasm, Seamless faced problems which eventually led to the bankruptcy filing. Just a year and a half after initial construction, Seamless was forced to lay off nearly twenty-five percent (25%) of its workforce. These layoffs were part of a slowdown at the plant as the company was forced to re-bid on the installation of costly equipment and a miss-estimation on the price of oil. Seamless substantially underestimated costs. The opening also was eight months behind schedule. Thus, Seamless tripped restrictions in its credit agreement, leaving it unable to borrow more money. The operations of the KY plant never were in full swing before Seamless declared bankruptcy.
It appears that the filing for Chapter 11 relief occurred, at least in large part, because of overexpansion into this new Kentucky facility and not performing sufficient due diligence regarding the price of equipment and oil. Also, as of late March 2015, Seamless was also named as a defendant in lawsuit. As with many Chapter 11 debtors, the filing of this lawsuit likely also played a part in the decision to file for bankruptcy.
PTC Group Holdings Corp. is fortunate that Seamless’ bankruptcy has not yet affected the business of its other, much more profitable subsidiary, PTC Alliance. As separate entities under the parent business, Seamless and PTC Alliance operate distinctly as separate businesses. Thus, PTC Alliance is still operating and producing strong results.
- CAUTIOUSLY EXPAND. Expansion in business can be a great thing. It shows that your business is in a growth stage. However, a business at the expansion stage must thoroughly vet forecasts of future demand for product. By performing the necessary due diligence, a business can plan for the proper expansion of its business and all the details that go into an expansion, i.e. size of new business location, needed number of employees, costs of equipment, supplies, utilities, etc…
- TWO DIFFERENT BUSINESSES; TWO DIFFERENT BUSINESS ENTITIES. Take note also regarding PTC Group Holdings Corp.’s business model. By strategically place two different businesses into two separate business entities, PTC Group Holdings Corp. avoided dragging its successful subsidiary, PTC Alliance, into the murky waters of Seamless.
BUSINESS OWNERS: Think Before You Leap. Before you make a material business decision, thoroughly vet the project with a board of directors, trusted advisors, accountants and/or lawyers. Obtain impartial advice. Discuss the advantages/disadvantages. Contemplate and be prepared for worst case scenarios.