Here's why only 4 US states are called 'Commonwealths,' and the significance behind the label


  • Only four US states have legal names that include the term Commonwealth: Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
  • Here’s the historical (and global) significance behind the label.  

Maybe you first came across the term on a US history test or while watching a documentary.

But have you ever stopped to ponder what the word “Commonwealth” really means and why it’s applied to some states and territories but not others?

The global and historical answer behind it might surprise you.

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The Commonwealth states

There are four US states whose legal names include the term Commonwealth: Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. However, this term does not affect laws or life in these states today, nor did it when they were first created either.

According to the Massachusetts State Government, the term “Commonwealth” was incorporated into their constitution in 1780 and was used to express the ideal that “the people [of Massachusetts] … form themselves into a free, sovereign, and independent body politic, or state.”

This framing of the state as a commonwealth derives from language of 17th-century thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and refers to the goal of creating a political community for the common good.

This was common language for politicians at the time aiming to express the ideals of a democratic state, but the term has never had an effect on the legal relationship of the state to the government.

The states of Pennsylvania and Virginia included similar language in their state constitutions in 1776, as did Kentucky in 1850.

Commonwealth territories

The question of commonwealths becomes a bit more complicated when we move beyond the continental United States to look at a few of its island territories.

The US has five major territories: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of these five, only two of them are considered commonwealths — the Northern Mariana Island and Puerto Rico.

Like their state counterparts, the use of the term commonwealth in the full titles of these territories does not affect their legal status.  

Though it legally has no significance, the title of “commonwealth” has come into question during disputes over the future of Puerto Rico’s status as a territory — namely, in the debate over whether the territory should remain as it is, become independent, or become a fully integrated US State.

Some supporters of Puerto Rico’s independence have supported a kind of fusion status that would utilize the term commonwealth and grant the territory rights similar to those of a Free Associated State, including the right to manage their own international affairs while still maintaining a special relationship with the United States.

Beyond the US

The term commonwealth is also still used beyond the US, notably in the Commonwealth of Nations – a 53 country intergovernmental group which includes countries such as Canada, Australia, South Africa, and India — where nearly all the countries share a history of being ruled by the British Empire as a territory or colony.

While most of these commonwealth countries are independent from the United Kingdom today, Queen Elizabeth II still serves as head of state for 16 countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, including Canada, Jamaica, and New Zealand.

Despite these countries having no legal obligation to one another, they do share a set of common goals. In its charter, the group commits to “the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity to improve the lives of all peoples of the Commonwealth.” Again, the term commonwealth here is used to emphasize the vision of a democratic and prosperous political community.

These countries also share a common appreciation for friendly competition and participate every four years in a sporting event — much like the Olympics — called the Commonwealth Games. Hosted most recently in Australia in 2018, athletes from these commonwealth countries come together to compete in sports like swimming and diving, table tennis, and gymnastics.

While the term commonwealth can be almost entirely dismissed as a remnant of political language from centuries ago, it is also a lasting reminder of the goals and ideals of politicians who shaped these nations — and a reminder of what those nations are still striving to achieve every day.

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Thousands of current and former HP sales people will receive over $5,000 thanks to a $25 million lawsuit over messed up pay (HPQ, HPE)

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  • Business Insider continues to obtain more details on the settlement by HP and HPE to salespeople after a nine-year lawsuit battle.
  • We have now learned that 2,189 current and former California HP employees will be receiving settlement payments, with an average payment of $5,430.06. Some will be receiving much more and some less.
  • The case involved former salespeople first launching a lawsuit nine years ago claiming that HP’s computer systems weren’t tracking commissions properly and they weren’t getting paid in a timely manner.

HP and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will pay 2,189 of its current and former California sales employees settlement fees, with an average payment of $5,430.06, after it settled their lawsuit for $25 million, court officials say.

Some will be receiving much more and some far less.

The case involved former salespeople alleging that HP’s computer systems weren’t tracking commissions properly and they weren’t getting paid in a timely manner. They filed suit some nine years ago.

However, in 2016 Business Insider reported that sales people were still complaining about messed up pay, after HP had split into two companies. The sources that we talked to at the time were not aware that other salespeople were suing.

Read: CEO Satya Nadella says that Microsoft is embracing Amazon’s Alexa instead of fighting it — and he wants to be friends with Google, too

Those sources told us in 2016 that the wacky pay situation had gotten so bad that some people were behind on their mortgages and facing foreclosure, others were late on their alimony. One salesperson was even told that he actually owed his employer money, over $130,000, after the first quarter of 2016, sources told us.

Business Insider again reported on these issues in 2017, after an HP executive sent an email to the troops apologizing. (That executive has since left the company.)

Several months after Business Insider’s second report, HP and HPE agreed to the $25 million settlement deal. And it took another year for the legal volley to officially end and for the court to approve the deal. That happened earlier this week.

In addition to the $25 million penalty fee, HP and HPE said they are currently overhauling their sales and commission-tracking computer systems. The companies told the court that they have already spent or budgeted between $60 million and $70 million through their fiscal 2018 on the new systems and expect to pay another $5 million in fiscal 2019, according to legal documents.

The new system is known as the Incentive Compensation Environment or “ICE”, according to court documents. And it integrates with cloud financial software from startup Anaplan, with inventory-tracking software from startup Zyme and with Salesforce (although HP Inc., the PC and printer HP company, has since ditched Salesforce for Microsoft Dynamics).

Penalties, not back pay

The settlement wasn’t backpay, but a penalty, and each person’s share depended on their wages, Jonathan Parrott tells us. Parrott is an attorney at the Franklin Azar law office working for the plaintiffs.

Of the $25 million that HP and HPE agreed to pay, nearly half went to the lawyers and legal fees. And a few million went to state agency penalty fees as well. The named plaintiff, Jeffery Wall — the one who sued before the suit was turned into class action status for thousands of people — was paid an additional $25,000, settlement documents show.

HP Enterprise, Hewlett PackardWhen the settlement was originally agreed to, back in December, 2017, there were some 1,323 people as plaintiffs in the class action suit and payments to people ranged from the lowest of $144 to the highest of $81,237.

However the final payments wound up quite a bit lower because the court agreed to add another 866 salespeople as plaintiffs to the case. All of them split a kitty of about $11.5 million, out of the $25 million. (The rest went to lawyers fees and government agency penalty fees).

So the total number of salespeople who went to court over pay issues at HP and HPE was nearly 2,200 people. 

Parrott told us another interesting fact about this settlement as well: Although plaintiffs included both former and current HP/HPE sales employees, only the ones who left the company received significant cash. Most the money for current employees is being paid as a per-employee penalty fee to the state, he said.

Even so, many class action suits representing this many people result in only a small token payment to the plaintiffs, Parrott says, as would be expected whenever legal fees take a big chunk of the award and everyone else shares the rest.

A spokesperson for HPE did not respond for an immediate request for comment on the payment amount but previously told Business Insider: “HPE is pleased that the mediated resolution in this dispute that was reached by the parties in 2017 has been approved by the Court.”

SEE ALSO: Hewlett Packard Enterprise has frustrated its salespeople with issues about their pay — again

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William Barr answered 2 questions during his confirmation hearing that could spell trouble for Trump in the Russia investigation

William Barr

  • BuzzFeed News published a bombshell report on Thursday night, alleging that President Donald Trump instructed his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about how long the Trump Tower Moscow deal had been worked on.
  • Following the release of that report, people began sharing a clip from William Barr’s confirmation hearing. Barr is Trump’s nominee for attorney general. If confirmed, he would oversee the special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation.
  • In an exchange with Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar from Wisconsin, Barr answers questions on what he considers obstruction of justice.

During his Tuesday hearing, William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, answered a series of questions from Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota about obstruction of justice.

In June 2018, Barr sent an unsolicited memo about obstruction of justice to the White House. The memo addressed the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election in Trump’s favor.

The memo, which has prompted skepticism from Democrats over Barr’s ability to serve as attorney general, questions the scope of Mueller’s investigation — and whether the special counsel can probe Trump about obstruction of justice.

During the hearing this week, Democrats questioned Barr about the memo — including the following exchange with Klobuchar — and where he did acknowledge that a president can obstruct justice.

“In your memo, you talk about the Comey decision and you talk about obstruction of justice, and you already went over that, which I appreciate,” Klobuchar says. “You wrote on page one that a president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?

“That — yes,” Barr replies. “Or any, well any person who persuades another.”

“You also said that a president — or any person — convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction,” Klobuchar continues. “Is that right?”

“Yes,” Barr says.

“OK. And on page two you said that a president deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence would be an obstruction?”

“Yes,” Barr says.

“OK. So what if a president told a witness not to cooperate with an investigation or hinted at a pardon?” Klobuchar asks.

“I’d have to know the specific — I’d have to know the specific facts,” Barr replies.

“OK, you wrote on page one that if a president knowingly destroys or alters evidence that would be obstruction.”

“Yes,” Barr says.

“OK. So what if the president drafted a misleading statement to conceal the purpose of a meeting?” she asks. “Would that be obstruction?”

“Again, I’d have to know the specifics,” Barr says.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and who is a close ally to Trump, posed a similar question to Barr:

“If there was some reason to believe that the president tried to coach somebody not to testify or to testify falsely that could be obstruction of justice?”

“Yes,” Barr responded.

The exchanges — focused specifically on the first two questions about witnesses — was being shared Thursday night, after a new report from BuzzFeed News alleged that President Donald Trump instructed his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about how long the Trump Organization was in talks for a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.

If these allegations, told to BuzzFeed News by two law-enforcement sources, prove to be true, this could point to obstruction of justice as Democratic lawmakers pointed out on Twitter.

SEE ALSO: Trump reportedly instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow deal

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Guam's Catholic Church has filed for bankruptcy as it faces a tsunami of sex abuse claims from more than 190 accusers

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  • Guam’s Catholic Church filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, a move that will help sidestep a court showdown in dozens of child sexual abuse lawsuits.
  • A lawyer for the church said the bankruptcy was filed with federal court in Guam, a US island territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific, that has a long history of close ties to the US military.
  • The church faces multimillion-dollar lawsuits for sexual abuse from about 190 accusers.
  • The Vatican is also being targeted, with local media reporting more than 200 child sex abuse cases have been filed on Guam in the last two years naming the Holy See.

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Guam’s Catholic Church filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, a move that will allow the archdiocese to avoid trial in dozens of child sexual abuse lawsuits and enter settlement negotiations.

Ford Elsaesser, an attorney representing the church, said the Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition was filed with federal court in Guam.

The church faces multimillion-dollar lawsuits for sexual abuse from about 190 accusers.

Elsaesser couldn’t put a figure on the dollar amount the church is hoping to raise for its settlement. But it said its current assets are valued at $22.9 million with liabilities of $45.6 million. The church also plans to sell non-essential real estate and add the proceeds to the settlement fund.

The Chapter 11 reorganization also allows the church to continue its operations, keeping parishes and parochial schools open, Elsaesser said. This bankruptcy filing will halt current lawsuits and create a deadline for abuse victims to file new claims before the church settles with accusers.

During the reorganization phase, a notice will be given to everyone who may have a claim but has not filed, Elsaesser said. The deadline to file is estimated to take place in May to June. An unclaimed trust fund will also be established for future claimants who did not file within the bankruptcy deadline, he said.

Last November, Archbishop Michael Byrnes announced the church’s decision to file for bankruptcy after mediation efforts to try to settle claims failed.

“This path will bring the greatest measure of justice to the greatest number of victims,” Byrnes said last year. “That’s the heart of what we’re doing.”

Byrnes said the bankruptcy will provide finality for victim survivors.

The Chapter 11 reorganization also allows the church to continue its operations where parishes and parochial schools will remain open.

When the announcement was made in November, attorney Leander James, who is working with alleged victims in Guam, praised the move.

“We welcome the announcement,” James said in a statement. “Bankruptcy provides the only realistic path to settlement of pending and future claims.”

Pope Francis named a temporary administrator for Guam in 2016 after Archbishop Anthony Apuron was accused by former altar boys of sexually abusing them when he was a priest. Dozens of cases involving other priests on the island have since come to light.

Apuron’s nephew, Mark Apuron, is one of those who alleges sexual abuse. His attorney David Lujan amended his civil complaint on Monday, to include the Vatican, according to The Guam Daily Post. The civil complaint names the Holy See, Archdiocese of Agana, Capuchin Franciscans, and former Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron.

The Vatican was named in the complaint because the Holy See “had direct control over the former Guam archbishop with the power to appoint and remove the Catholic leadership on Guam,” The Guam Daily Post reported. However The US Foreign Sovereignties Act makes it difficult to pursue a lawsuit against a foreign nation like the Vatican.

Earlier last year, the Vatican removed the suspended Apuron from office and ordered him not to return to the Pacific island after convicting him of charges in a Vatican sex abuse trial.

The Vatican didn’t say what exactly Apuron had been convicted of, and the sentence was far lighter than those given to high-profile elderly prelates found guilty of molesting minors.

Apuron, 73, has denied the allegations and has not been criminally charged. He appealed his case, according to the Guam Daily Post, and Pope Francis has not made a decision yet said appeal.

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Federal prosecutors are leading a criminal investigation into Huawei and allegations that it stole trade secrets from US companies


  • Federal prosecutors are investigating the Chinese electronics giant Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from US companies, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday
  • One such incident includes Huawei supposedly stealing robotic technology that T-Mobile uses to test its smartphones, according to the report. 
  • The report says that the investigation is advanced and may soon lead to an indictment.

Federal prosecutors are investigating Chinese electronics giant Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from US companies, according to a Wall Street Journal report

One aspect of the criminal probe involves allegations that Huawei stole robotic technology used for testing smartphones from a T-Mobile facility in Washington, according to the report which cited anonymous sources. The report says that the investigation is advanced and may soon lead to an indictment. 

Huawei is one of the world’s leading smartphone makers. The company has been at the center of growing trade tensions between the US and China, and has faced long running accusations in the US that its technology could be used by Beijing to spy on American citizens and businesses — charges which Huawei has strenuously denied. 

In December, Huawei’s CFO was arrested during a stopover in Canada on allegations of violating trade sanctions with Iran.

The federal investigation apparently stems from civil lawsuits against Huawei, in particular a Seattle-based case which found the Chinese tech company liable for stealing robotic technology from T-Mobile’s Bellevue, Washington lab. 

A Huawei spokesperson told Business Insider on Wednesday: “We’re not going to comment on such reports in the press. Huawei and T-Mobile have settled their disputes in 2017 following a jury verdict finding neither damage, unjust enrichment nor willful and malicious conduct for T-Mobile’s trade secret claim.”

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A man allegedly shipped a package with more than a pound of meth to Apple’s Grand Central Station store in New York and was arrested when he tried to pick it up (AAPL)

apple grand central store

  • Richard Dean Desain, a 32-year-old from Los Angeles, was arrested on July 9, 2018, after he allegedly tried to pick up a package of crystal methamphetamine that had arrived at Apple’s Grand Central Terminal store in New York City.
  • According to NYC special narcotics prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan, Desain was connected to “multiple large-scale shipments of methamphetamine to New York City and the surrounding area.”
  • After a nine-month investigation, a new indictment handed down Monday from the Manhattan Supreme Court said Desain “allegedly conspired to supply methamphetamine to New York City-based drug distribution networks from August of 2017 to July 9, 2018.”
  • Desain has been charged with conspiracy in the second and fourth charges, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second and third degrees.

Every day, thousands of people go to Apple’s retail stores to pick up hot tech gadgets and other flashy products. 

But Apple’s store in New York’s Grand Central Station received a visitor seeking to pick up a different kind of merchandise this summer: More than a pound of meth, according to law enforcement officials. 

According to a press release issued by New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor on Monday, Richard Dean Desain, a 32-year-old from Los Angeles, was arrested at the Apple story in July when he allegedly arrived to pick up the shipment. According to the prosecutor, Desain had arranged for multiple shipments of meth “worth tens of thousands of dollars” to be distributed around the New York City area, though it’s not entirely clear if one of the packages arrived at the Apple store by design or by accident.

At his arraignment on Monday, Desain pleaded not guilty; he is currently being held on $100,000 bail.

On July 7, 2018, an Apple employee at the Grand Central Terminal retail store opened a package addressed to “R De Sain” that, according to special narcotics prosecutor “ultimately proved to contain 559 grams (more than a pound) of methamphetamine.” According to Brennan’s office, someone had tried to reroute this package to a nearby Duane Reade pharmacy, but was unsuccessful.

The Apple store employee who discovered the package immediately reported it to the NYPD, and two days later, on July 8, Desain was arrested when he walked into the Grand Central Apple store while attempting to retrieve it. Brennan’s office says police recovered “an additional quantity of methamphetamine weighing more than 100 grams from his person” during the arrest.

Apple Meth

A new indictment was handed down Monday from the Manhattan Supreme Court — the culmination of a nine-month investigation — alleged that Desain had been arranging the shipments of crystal meth around New York City and the surrounding area, including New Jersey, using package delivery services. The shipping labels said the packages were from “Dean Desain” of “Dean’s List.”

Authorities say they had wiretapped at least one of Desain’s phones, and intercepted text messages where Desain had sent information about pricing and “standard sizes.”

The indictment filed Monday charges Desain with conspiracy in the second and fourth charges, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second and third degrees. 

SEE ALSO: The best new technology we saw at CES 2019

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Norwegian authorities are investigating allegations that Tidal's streaming numbers for Beyonce and Kanye West albums were inflated

Kanye West Jay Z Tidal

  • Tidal, the music streaming platform owned by Jay-Z, is being investigated by Norwegian authorities for allegedly manipulating and inflating streaming play counts, according to Reuters.
  • Although the official investigation was just launched, the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv has been investigating Tidal’s numbers, and reported on the issue last year.
  • The newspaper claimed that Tidal had over-reported the play counts for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” by “several hundred million,” and used over a million fake accounts to manipulate streaming numbers.

Norwegian police have launched an investigation into Jay-Z’s music streaming service as a result of allegations that play counts were over-reported to make the platform seem more successful and popular than it actually is, according to Reuters.

Claims that Tidal was fabricating its numbers were first leveled against the platform last year by a Norwegian newspaper, but an official criminal investigation was launched Monday, Reuters reports. The newspaper, Dagens Naeringsliv, concluded after a year-long investigation that the listener numbers Tidal reported were “manipulated to the tune of several hundred million false plays.”

Read more: Jay Z’s music service Tidal says accusations it wildly inflated Beyoncé and Kanye West’s streaming stats are a ‘smear campaign’

Specifically, the publication found the biggest discrepancies in Tidal’s reported numbers for two particular albums: Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo.”

The albums, which were both released in 2016, premiered exclusively on Tidal. In its reported numbers, which are the same given to record labels and investors, Tidal said the albums had racked up hundreds of millions of streams within the first 15 days of release — 306 million for Beyonce and 205 million for West.

But the Norwegian paper worked with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and concluded the data didn’t add up. By over-reporting numbers, Tidal could garner “massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists,” the newspaper said.

Tidal has called the allegations false, and slammed the Norwegian newspaper for launching a targeted “smear campaign.” In a statement provided to Business Insider, Tidal said Monday it was “not a suspect” in the Norwegian police’s investigation.

Norwegian authorities confirmed to Reuters they had opened an investigation into “whether someone has manipulated the number of times certain songs have been played.” No one has been charged, but at least four former Tidal employees have already been questioned, Engadget reported.

Tidal has struggled, despite its impressive roster of well-known celebrity backers (including Madonna and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin). The streaming service was originally known as WiMP, but was acquired by Jay Z in 2015 and launched as Tidal to rival music streaming services from Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, and Apple Music.

Allegations of problems at Tidal were reported by Norway’s Dagens Næringsliv newspaper first in 2016. The publication reported Tidal was behind on paying more than 100 outstanding bills to record labels, ad agencies, and banks. The newspaper then reported in 2017 that Tidal inflated the number of how many subscribers the service had.

Tidal grew in popularity by brokering deals with artists to exclusively release their music on the streaming platform. However, West cut ties with Tidal is 2017, and alleged the service owed him more than $3 million. West turned to a small streaming app called WAV when it was time to release his next album, “Ye,”in 2018.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft’s Bing search engine reportedly had a child porn problem

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A lawsuit accuses the CEO behind the blockbuster 'Borderlands' video games of lewd behavior and pocketing a secret $12 million bonus

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  • Video game studio Gearbox Software is engaged in contentious legal battle with the company’s former general counsel, Wade Callender.
  • Gearbox initially filed a lawsuit against Callender alleging that he misused company funds for to pay for tuition, a home loan, and other personal expenses.
  • In a countersuit, Callender leveled multiple serious allegations against Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford, accusing Pitchford of taking a $12 million bonus that was intended as an advance against profits of “Borderlands 2,” its blockbuster video game. 
  • Callender’s suit also alleges that Pitchford once left a USB drive in a Dallas restaurant containing underage pornography — though Pitchford separately told a podcast interview that the model featured in the video was “barely legal.” 
  • In a statement issued to Kotaku, Gearbox said the allegations have “no basis in reality or law,” and the company plans to settle the matter in court.

A messy split between a video game Gearbox and its former general counsel has led to a legal battle, resulting in some serious allegations against Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford. 

Kotaku reports that Wade Callender, former general counsel for Gearbox Software, has filed a lawsuit against Pitchford over several allegations involving the video game studio, as well as a co-owned joint real estate venture. Among other things, Callender alleges that Pitchford secretly took a $12 million bonus from publisher Take-Two Interactive that was intended to fund development of Gearbox’s blockbuster game, “Borderlands 2.” 

More seriously, Callender’s lawsuit also makes allegations of improper personal conduct against Pitchford, including claims that Pitchford once left a USB drive in a Dallas restaurant that contained confidential Gearbox documents, as well as info belonging to business partners including Sega, Sony, and Microsoft — and that “upon information and belief,” Randy Pitchford’s USB drive also contained Randy Pitchford’s personal collection of ‘underage’ pornography,” says the lawsuit. 

The suit also says that Pitchford hosted parties where “adult men have reportedly exposed themselves to minors, to the amusement of Randy Pitchford.”

Gearbox shared the following statement with Kotaku in response to the allegations: “The allegations made by a disgruntled former employee are absurd, with no basis in reality or law. We look forward to addressing this meritless lawsuit in court and have no further comment at this time.”

Later on Friday, Gearbox also told Kotaku that it would pursue action against Callender directly over his claims about Pitchford’s personal conduct:

“Gearbox will be filing a grievance with the State Bar of Texas against our former general counsel Wade for disciplinary proceedings for filing a lawsuit that includes accusations that he knows to be untrue,” reads the statement, in part. 

Gearbox did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

The background of the case

Callender joined Gearbox in 2010 and served as general counsel and vice president of legal affairs until August 2018. Callender and Pitchford were long-time friends for over 40 years, but the friendship fell apart over the last two years, according to Callender’s lawsuit. An old Twitter post from Pitchford appears to back up that assertion. 

In November, Gearbox filed a lawsuit against Callender, claiming that he had violated the company’s trust and used company funds for tuition, a home loan agreement, legal fees, and other personal expenses. The suit claims that Gearbox had agreed to pay Callender’s tuition for an MBA program and home loan in exchange for his continued employment at the firm, but he left less than a year after obtaining his degree. 

Gearbox is asking for more than $1 million in damages, accounting for money Callender allegedly spent on firearms and family vacations, as well as other expenditures. 

“As an executive with the company and fully knowing that Gearbox’s special trust in him would result in Gearbox’s assured payment of his personal charges passed off as business expenses,” Gearbox’s lawsuit reads. “From 2016 up until his resignation in July 2018, Callender incurred thousands of dollars’ worth of charges from Disneyland, Frisco Gun Club, Gun Gear To Go, and, just to name a few.”

In December, more than a month after Gearbox filed its original suit, Callender countered with his own lawsuit, with claims that he had been “shamefully” exploited by Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford. He claims that he was instructed to help hide from employees the $12 million payment, which had been intended as an advance on “Borderlands 2” royalties.

The USB drive

In an interview with “The Piff Pod,” a stage magic podcast, Pitchford gave what appears  side of the story with regards to the USB flash drive. The podcast episode was uploaded a day after Callender filed his lawsuit. 

According to a report in Ars Technica, Pitchford said that he left a USB stick containing confidential documents at a Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament restaurant. The stick was found by an employee, who accessed the drive, which contained information about future Gearbox projects — as well as pornographic material, he said.

However, it was a video featuring a model who goes by the online handle “Only 18,” he said. Pitchford, a stage magic enthusiast, told “The Piff Pod” that he had saved this particular video to the USB drive because he believed that the model used a sexually-explicit magic trick in the video, and he was trying to crack the secret. He described it as “barely legal porn,” seemingly in an attempt to refute allegations that it was child pornography. 

Callender also alleged that Pitchford used Gearbox funds to host “Peacock Parties” at his home, where adult men had exposed themselves to minors. As the Dallas Morning News reports, Pitchford and his wife made a regular habit of hosting a private “Peacock Theater” in their home, featuring magicians and variety acts, though the content is not described as sexually explicit.

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Alphabet's board of directors is being sued for allegations that it covered up claims of sexual harassment by top executives (GOOG, GOOGL)

google Larry Page and Sergey Brin

  • Alphabet’s board of directors are being sued over allegations of covering up company executives accused of sexual harassment or discrimination. 
  • The lawsuit, on behalf of an Alphabet shareholder, cites Android creator Andy Rubin’s alleged $90 million exit package following an internal investigation into his behavior.
  • “Rubin was allowed to quietly resign by defendants Larry Page and Sergey Brin after an internal investigation found the allegations of sexual harassment by Rubin to be credible,” according to the California court filing. 

The board members of Google-parent company Alphabet are being sued over allegations that the company routinely covered up claims of sexual harassment by executives, including Android creator Andy Rubin who received a $90 million exit package and a “hero’s farewell” following an internal investigation about his behavior.

The lawsuit, filed in California state court on Thursday by an Alphabet shareholder, alleges that the board of directors and top executives, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, failed in their responsibility to investors by letting the harassment carry on. 

“Alphabet’s Board knew about allegations of sexual harassment by  numerous high‐level executives at Google, which the Company found to be ‘credible’ after performing internal investigations and review, and yet failed to disclose the finding that the allegations were credible, and  instead allowed the high ‐level executives to resign with lavish pay packages,” the complaint says. 

In October, The New York Times published details about the allegation that led to Rubin’s dismissal — including his pressuring a woman with whom he had an extramarital relationship into performing oral sex. The Times report also exposed that Rubin was given a $90 million exit package by the company even after an internal investigation found the woman’s complaint to be credible. 

Read more: Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, reportedly had bondage sex videos on his work computer, paid women for ‘ownership relationships,’ and allegedly pressured an employee into oral sex

News of how Alphabet handled the allegations led to thousands of employees staging a walkout in protest last November. 

“Because of Rubin’s importance to Google’s financial results, he was treated differently than other employees by Google’s Board and senior management,” the suit says. “He was given more deference and was lavished with compensation.”

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as remedies such as eliminating the dual class stock structure that gives Alphabet founders Page and Brin control of the company.  The suit is the first brought against Alphabet’s board, according to Bloomberg, which first reported news of the lawsuit. 

Louise Renne, a former San Francisco City Attorney who is representing the plaintiff, did not answer questions about the lawsuit. Alphabet was did not immediately return a request for comment. 

SEE ALSO: Here are the Facebook execs who insiders think might leave next

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One of the world's largest law firms poached a senior partner to build out a marijuana practice — and he's hiring

Eric Berlin

  • Dentons, one of the world’s largest law firms, poached a senior partner from Jones Day to build a dedicated marijuana practice. 
  • The partner, Eric P. Berlin, told Business Insider that he’s “really looking to be the number one firm” in the cannabis industry.
  • Berlin worked on the four-way merger that became TILT last year, and was instrumental in crafting Illinois’ medical marijuana law. 

One of the world’s largest law firms poached a senior partner to build out a dedicated marijuana practice, Business Insider has learned.

Eric P. Berlin, formerly a partner at Jones Day, joined Dentons in January as a partner in the Chicago office. As part of his new role, Berlin will spearhead the firm’s work with cannabis industry clients, along with Kathryn Ashton, the chair of Dentons’ healthcare practice, and Kelly Fair, a member of Dentons’ litigation practice in San Francisco.

Read more: Big law firms are building out specialized pot practices to chase down a red-hot market for weed deals

“Dentons was interested in building what would be widely regarded as the number one practice for the more sophisticated clients in, or impacted by, the cannabis industry,” Berlin told Business Insider in an interview. “There was a synergy there — I was interested in being able to do that.”

Berlin said he knew Ashton from working with cannabis clients in the Chicago area. After a period of “courtship,” Berlin said Dentons’ sold him on building out the new practice group.

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A tangled web of regulations 

Berlin first started taking a serious look at marijuana after he read research that showed how patients suffering from myriad digestive issues — as well as multiple sclerosis — had used the drug for palliative relief.

As the president of the University of Chicago’s GI Research Foundation, Berlin started to take on pro bono work to help craft Illinois’ medical marijuana law roughly a decade ago.

After that legislation passed, he started to take on some clients who were applying for medical marijuana licenses. Starting in 2014, as Colorado legalized marijuana for adult use, Berlin said he “saw where the industry was going.”

Read more: Marijuana companies are using a ‘backdoor’ strategy to tap the public markets — and it’s fueling an M&A boom

“I knew there was going to be a building demand for sophisticated legal services, the kinds of normal legal services we to provide to all sorts of clients,” Berlin said. And besides the business opportunity, he found the ever-shifting, tangled web of regulations around marijuana intellectually fascinating. 

As part of his work at his former firm, Jones Day, Berlin worked on the four-way merger between Briteside Holdings, Sea Hunter Therapeutics, Santé Veritas Holdings, and Baker Technologies — which became TILT — a publicly traded company, among other M&A transactions.

He’s also helped counsel clients both within, and impacted by, the marijuana industry, including the California-based vape company Hmbldt “work through the maze of federal uncertainty.”


Getting prepared ‘well ahead of the market’

Berlin has big goals for his new role — even though, as he admits, he’s still getting settled in. 

“What we’re forming is a truly comprehensive group, where we’ll provide all the legal expertise that is needed in the industry globally,” said Berlin. “We’ll have the personnel in place to provide all of that.”

He’ll have his work cut out for him. A number of top law firms, including AmLaw 100 firms Duane Morris and Baker Botts, have established cannabis practices to chase down an opportunity that could hit $80 billion in the next decade, according to analysts from investment bank Cowen. 

But what will set the new practice apart, said Berlin, is that it will be composed of lawyers with specific cannabis industry expertise.

“This is not cannabis criminal lawyers trying to become commercial lawyers. This isn’t commercial lawyers who know nothing about the cannabis industry, trying to be cannabis lawyers. We have the expertise all the way around,” said Berlin. 

Read more: A cannabis CEO who led turnarounds at FAO Schwarz and Patagonia explains why he’s looking to poach ‘nimble’ people from small companies — rather than big-name execs

On that note, Berlin said one his first tasks this year will be to do some hiring from outside the firm. 

Berlin’s location in Chicago could prove to be fruitful as well, as Illinois’ new governor, J.B. Pritzker, has said marijuana legalization would be one of his top priorities for his first year in office

“Right now there are very few firms that provide the really high-level counseling and transactional work cannabis companies need,” Berlin said. “That’s complicated, layered M&A, reverse takeovers into Canada, going public, and all the banking that has to do with that. We want to be able to provide all of that for our clients.” 

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