Trump Org. criminal case, Starbucks union fight, publishing trial: 3 legal stories to watch

Alexis Keenan

·Reporter

Mon, 15 August 2022 at 8:15 pm

This week in legal business news Yahoo Finance is following Donald Trump’s defense of multiple probes, including a criminal case moving forward against his family-run real estate firm and its ex-chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.

We’re also keeping an eye on the Justice Department’s antitrust case seeking to halt the $2.2 billion merger of publishing giants Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, which began Aug. 1 and might come to a close this week.

Meanwhile, an ongoing battle between Starbucks (SBUX) and organized labor has escalated, with the coffee giant bringing new allegations against union organizers on Monday.

Starbucks seeks to halt union election

Starbucks’ nationwide battle with organized labor intensified on Monday, when the coffee chain asked the National Labor Relations Board to temporarily halt workers from casting mail-in union election ballots.

Starbucks, which has seen 216 of its locations unionize since December, claims in the letter that Kansas City area officials improperly colluded with NLRB officials by secretly coordinating for workers to cast in-person votes at the board’s offices when votes were supposed to happen by mail.

A customer exits a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, U.S., December 7, 2021.  REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario
A customer exits a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, U.S., December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario

Starbucks Workers United, which has unionized more than 200 Starbucks stores, called the coffee chain’s allegations an attempt to deflect from the company’s own anti-union stance.

“Workers have spoken loud and clear by winning 82% of union elections,” Starbucks Workers United said in a press release. “Ultimately, this is Starbucks’ latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize.”

On Tuesday the NLRB is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Starbucks request, which is just one of hundreds of unfair labor practice claims the labor union and Starbucks have filed against each other before the labor board.

Publishing industry fate on trial

A trial to decide the future dominance of publishing industry heavyweights could conclude this week.

Penguin Random House, the world’s largest book publisher, began defending its plan to acquire rival Simon & Schuster in a federal antitrust trial that began on Aug. 1 and is expected to take about three weeks. The publisher hopes to prevail against the Justice Department’s attempt to thwart the $2.2 billion deal, fighting back against accusations that the merger would lower authors’ pay and limit consumer choice.

Novelist Stephen King walks outside a court on the day he testifies in an antitrust case against a publisher merger, at the U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., August 2, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
Novelist Stephen King walks outside a court on the day he testifies in an antitrust case against a publisher merger, at the U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., August 2, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

The two publishers contend that there’s a highly competitive market for acquiring top manuscripts, and that their merger could enable traditional publishers to compete with digital giants like Amazon and Disney.

A win for the companies would reduce the number of U.S. publishers from five to four and put Penguin Random House in control of close to half the market for publishing rights acquisitions.

Judge Florence Y. Pan, who will decide the case, has heard testimony from legendary novelist Stephen King — author of books including “The Shining,” “Carrie,” and “Misery” — as well Andrew Solomon, who won the National Book Award for “Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.”

Trump Organization must face tax fraud trial

Legal pressures on Trump ramped up on Friday, when a New York judge refused to dismiss the Manhattan District Attorney’s criminal tax fraud case against the Trump Organization and its former long-time CFO Allen Weisselberg.

Manhattan prosecutors handing the criminal case say the Trump Organization and Weisselberg reported artificially inflated values on their real estate holdings to obtain favorable mortgage loans, and depressed values to reduce the company’s tax burden. Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and Trump characterized the suit as politically motivated.

Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg exits after his arraignment hearing in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., July 1, 2021.    REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg exits after his arraignment hearing in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The case contains similar allegations to an investigation into Trump and his business by New York Attorney General Letitia James, which alleges that both the former president and the Trump Organization misled lenders, insurers, or others with faulty real estate valuations.

Last week, in a court-ordered deposition, Trump made 440 assertions of his Fifth Amendment right to refrain from answering the attorney general office’s questions. The deposition came the same week that FBI agents searched Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida residence, reportedly looking for classified material he’d taken from the White House.

“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question,” Trump wrote on his social media site, Truth Social. “When your family, your company, and all of the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice.”

The Manhattan DA’s case is set for jury selection beginning Oct. 24.

Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.

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