Is a weak/any franchise law better than no franchise law?

October 31, 2010

In my opinion, no.

Why I believe this goes back a little ways.

No Law: In 1998, Mr. Ken Fong, McDonald’s Canada, VP and Corporate Counsel formed an industry  committee together to discuss ways and means to have industry disputes heard in other than the Courts. I attended as the founder and president of the Canadian Alliance of Franchise Operators, CAFO the 1st and only national franchisee advocacy group.

In Feb 1999, I was vigorously questioned by a couple of the 2nd Tier attorneys on the committee about my unwillingness to accept a “disclosure-only” law solution. The industry wanted a law to give an impression of order and oversight in what was seen as the “wild west of the business world”. They wanted what I subsequently defined as a McLaw: toothless legislation designed to protect the dominant parties.

It became apparent at that meeting that CAFO either:

  1. agreed with their desire for a McLaw or
  2. CAFO/Les was not welcomed at the meeting.

I quickly showed the work we had done on the corporate Identification of a proposed industry dispute resolution process, thanked Mr. Fong and shook his hand, and left the meeting.

McLaw passed: In June 2000, I sat with some other franchisees in the opposition guest gallery at the Ontario legislative assembly and watched the Canadian Franchise Association get the law they wanted: Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Law), 2000.

However, the Ontario judiciary are not easily intimidated, black-balled  or threatened.

Judge-made law: Provincial court justices are smart, independent-minded (no elections) and not easily fooled. Since 2000, they have tended to assume that the Wishart Act was passed as a sincere piece of legislation and that its intent was to protect franchisees.

I listened to Chief Justice Winkler last year at the Ontario Bar Association’ Franchise Law Conference in Toronto and he was just great! He told the +100 attorneys that every justice knows the “deal” about franchising because they have all had franchisee clients before being called to the bench. One of the two attorneys at side seemed a little ill-at-ease.

I can hardly wait for Thursday to see what Ms. Debi M. Sutin (Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP) and Ian N. Roher (Teplitsky, Colson LLP) as co-chairs will be presenting.

Record attendance again in 2010, I bet.

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Sotos LLP: The McDonalds of CDN franchisee lawyers?

November 27, 2009

I have learned directly, personally, in-their-armpits relationships from the best in franchising.

Ted Gorski, McDonald’s, CollegePro Painters, Nutri-Lawn, Tony Martin, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Sam Grange, John Lorinc, Paul Herminston, Katherine Swinton, Canadian Franchise Association, Country Style, Gillian Hadfield, Michael Webster, Jay Harris, etc. They’re all brilliant in their areas of expertise.

When I got into a corner and thought I needed legal help I hired the best I couldn’t afford. John Sotos was my on-and-off-again lawyer from 1998 t0 2000 and I learned a great many things from John and his partner David Sterns. Both John and Michael told me to look at and talk to the banks. Oddly enough, the first lawyer I talked to about franchising in 1982 is now a Ontario Superior Court justice in Barrie. I like lawyers but they’ve got to cover their rent too, you know!

Many franchisees want to fight.

That’s good…and bad at the same time.

Many franchisees think in terms of black and white; now or never; us/them.

That’s good…and bad at the same time.

Many franchisees would rather choose a “white knight” professional instead of a group of franchisees plotting their own course.

That’s not good…and really, really horribly bad.

The McDonald’s U.S.A. president described his corporation as a real estate company with an interest in hamburgers. Let me repeat: McDonald’s is a landlord (to franchisees) with an interest in fast food.

I learned that the economics of modern litigation is very similar.

  1. The franchise industry legal cash flows = 95% by franchisors,
  2. Once the retainer is paid any consultants are shown the door (only one expert, please),
  3. Franchisees are one-shot clients (v. repeat business for franchisors),
  4. Disclosure laws are a God-send for billable hours, and
  5. The industry has a very, very long memory for those that oppose it’s interests.

All lawyers are businesspeople that operate in a near-monopoly on certain words and concepts.

Learning these terms is not hard if you have (1) a learning tool and (2) a willingness to face some difficult facts.

Most let their emotions rule their decision making (ie. denial and fear) but in their defense, aren’t really conscious of doing so. They’ve been conditioned to be on their knees and look to Daddy for acceptance.

Education is the only way out.

WikiFranchise.org


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