Fall Conference 2020: Allyship and Black Lives Matter—Racism, Bias, and Xenophobia in Our Communities

On September 26, 2020, as part of AABANY’s 11th Annual Fall Conference, the AABANY Real Estate Committee and Issues Committee hosted a plenary session on the ongoing racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd and the rise in xenophobia against Asian Americans since the beginning of the pandemic. The panel included:  

  • Margaret T. Ling, Development Director and Real Estate Committee Co-Chair at AABANY and Senior Counsel at Big Apple Abstract Corp. (Moderator)
  • Letitia James, 67th Attorney General for the State of New York
  • Rahul Agarwal, Executive Assistant United States Attorney at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey
  • Paula T. Edgar, Attorney, CEO of PGE LLC, and Partner of Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
  • Chris Kwok, Co-Chair of the Issues Committee and Asia Practice Committee at AABANY and a mediator and arbitrator with JAMS
  • Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights

The esteemed panel discussed their experience addressing the issues of racism, bias, and xenophobia in their different capacities as government officials, bar association leaders, and diversion and inclusion specialists, especially in the context of the ongoing pandemic. As the opening speaker, Paula Edgar provided an informative presentation on systemic racism, the varying responses of Corporate America, and the importance for companies and law firms to invest in resources for diversity training as part of an urgent call to incorporate actionable plans into their missions for equity and inclusion. More importantly, allyship transcends performative activism, or surface-level activism, on social media and demands a sustained and active approach to listen to the experiences of marginalized communities, educate oneself on race-related history and issues, and speak out against any injustice. 

In highlighting the importance of using our vote at this historical moment, New York State Attorney General Letitia James suggested that the participation of more people of color in law-enforcement can be one of the ways to sustain the BLM movement and push for substantive, lasting changes. Some of the projects at the Attorney General’s Office include a lawsuit against the US Postal Service for their attempt to delay the vote-by-mail ballots and an effort to advocate for immigrants to ensure that they are counted in the 2020 US Census. Attorney General James emphasized the need to stay hopeful and utilize our vote as citizens to protect our democracy. 

Rahul Agarwal focused on the recent rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and stressed the importance of active reporting on the part of community members to help law enforcement personnel investigate these crimes and open cases. Rahul explained that the law enforcement community takes reports on hate crimes very seriously because the perpetrators’ hatred often affects many individuals, and since the targeted population can become fearful, it is crucial for law enforcement to act quickly. 

Noting from a survey the significant increase in people’s perception and experience with racial inequality since 2016, Carmelyn Malalis described the active outreach by the New York City Commission on Human Rights to marginalized communities and its employment of staffers who speak a total of over 30 different languages at the Commission to increase community engagement. Echoing Attorney General James’ comment on the value of allyship, Commissioner Malalis added that allyship also means recognizing that the constructed narratives about marginalized groups are often inconsistent with the lived experiences of people in those communities. She emphasized the need to actively work on dismantling one’s biased preconceptions. 

Referring to the Stop AAPI Hate’s recent record of about 2,600 hate crimes and incidents against Asian Americans in the past six months, Chris Kwok suggested that the actual number is most likely a lot higher since there has been insufficient attention directed towards AAPI hate crimes and a general lack of active reporting in the AAPI community. Chris highlighted the importance for Asian Americans to support the BLM movement since we are all fighting to challenge white supremacy and ensure justice in the United States. He concludes by emphasizing the need to say “BLM”— since black lives had been defined as property for decades, we, as allies in the BLM movement, should acknowledge the hashtag’s reflection of that history and recognition of the equal rights that every person deserves.

Thank you to Margaret, Attorney General James, Commissioner Malalis, Rahul, Paula, and Chris, for this insightful panel discussion. Thanks also to the AABANY Real Estate Committee and Issues Committee for organizing this event. To view a recording of the plenary session, click here or on the image above.

Fall Conference 2020: COVID-19 and Global Financial Distress: Where do We Go From Here?

On September 26, 2020, as part of AABANY’s 11th Annual Fall Conference, the AABANY Commercial Bankruptcy and Restructuring Committee hosted a panel discussion entitled “COVID-19 and Global Financial Distress: Where do We Go From Here?” The panel included: 

  • Courina Yulisa, Bankruptcy and Restructuring Associate at Dorsey & Whitney LLP (Moderator)
  • William Hao, Counsel in Alston & Bird’s Financial Restructuring & Reorganization Group
  • Vijar Kohli, Co-founder of Golden Door Asset Management
  • Vincent Roldan, Partner at Mandelbaum Salsburg’s Bankruptcy and Creditors Rights, and Banking and Financial Services groups

The panelists observed a general increase in commercial bankruptcy filings accompanied by a decrease in individual Chapter 11 filings compared to last year. As the opening panelist, William Hao remarked that the phenomenon was partly due to court closures during the pandemic, which made it harder to complete filings. New York City in particular, as Vijar Kohli and Vincent Roldan explained, has been suffering from a significant reduction in traffic, negatively affecting traffic-dependent industries such as hotels and has led to a domino effect on retailers, landlords and suppliers. The absence of employees entering and leaving office buildings signaled the slow reopening of businesses. The panelists also discussed the increased accessibility of Subchapter 5 under the CARES Act to small businesses in addition to larger corporations to speed up the recovery process. And while there has been heightened pressure on landlords since the pandemic began, Vijar suggested that tenants pay attention to details such as rent payment deadlines in existing contracts and openly negotiate with landlords to lessen the COVID-imposed financial impact. 

Regarding corporate strategies to preserve and increase liquidity, Vijar noted that the most significant move has been to preserve cash by increasing sales or reducing expenses. Since the protracted business recovery has added more uncertainty to the long-term trajectory of their business profitability, the lack of capital is still unfortunately a difficult problem to resolve. Vincent described the recent changes in the restaurant industry, where establishments have been transitioning to providing delivery-only services to cut production costs. Despite these challenges, William mentioned that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) can be helpful in getting capital temporarily, and again stressed that strategic negotiations with landlords can be particularly instrumental in preserving capital. 

The panelists foresaw a slow recovery timeline for small businesses and that real estate businesses, in particular, may take up to two to three years—also depending on the vaccine distribution timeline—to bounce back to a normal level of business operations. No major changes are likely in the next three months, since the next stimulus plans would not include much for businesses and thus it is up to businesses to ensure their own survival right now. Vincent stated that companies need to pay attention to signs of economic distress to plan their next moves and contact bankruptcy lawyers to know their rights. And unlike the 2008 financial crisis, Vijar explained that this year’s economic downturns have also been accompanied by high rates of unemployment and the replacement of local, small businesses with new technology companies. 

Thank you to Courina, William, Vijar, and Vincent, for this insightful panel discussion. And thank you to the AABANY Commercial Bankruptcy and Restructuring Committee, co-chaired by William and Vincent, for organizing this event. To view a recording of the panel, click here or on the image above.

Congratulations to AABANY Members Listed as Rising Stars in the New York Metro Edition of 2020 Super Lawyers

AABANY congratulates the AABANY members who have been named Rising Stars in the New York Metro 2020 edition. Rising Stars are selected through a rigorous selection process that includes being nominated by their peers, evaluated by third-party research in 12 key categories, and reviewed by a Blue Ribbon Panel of attorneys. Two point five percent of attorneys are named Rising Stars.

Please join us in congratulating the following AABANY members on their achievements:

  • Moses M. Ahn, Liakas Law, P.C.
  • Keala Fumiko Chan, Chan Hubbard PLLC
  • Shruti Chopra, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Co-Chair of AABANY’s Mentorship Program
  • Mulan Cui, Winston & Strawn LLP
  • Han Deng, Reed Smith LLP
  • Anthony K.C. Fong, Law Office of Anthony K.C. Fong, Esq.
  • Flora Go, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
  • Ligee Gu, Halperin Battaglia Benzija, LLP
  • Lawrence S. Han, Rivkin Radler LLP 
  • Claire Huynh, Condon & Forsyth LLP
  • Kail Jethmalani, Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP 
  • Albert K. Kim, William Schwitzer & Associates
  • Kathleen Y. Kim, Winston & Strawn LLP
  • Joyce E. Kung, Sive, Paget & Riesel P.C.
  • Olivia Sul Ki Lee, Lee Anav Chung White Kim Ruger & Richter LLP
  • Darley Maw, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Co-Chair of AABANY’s Young Lawyers Committee
  • Alysha M. Naik, Latham & Watkins LLP
  • Claudia Pak, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
  • Sun Ah (Michelle) Park, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
  • Nicholas Tam, Shaub, Ahmuty, Citrin & Spratt LLP
  • Shengyang Wu, Caesar and Napoli, P.C.
  • Stacy Wu, Law Office of Stacy L. Wu
  • Melissa Yang, Rakower Law PLLC
  • Ji-Young (Rachel) Yoo, Law Offices of Rachel J. Yoo, LLC
  • Honghui S. Yu, Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP

To view the 2020 digital edition of Super Lawyers, click here.