Highlights From President Donald Trump's Inaugural Address

U.S. President Donald Trump was sworn is as 45th President of the United States. During his inaugural address he told Americans they "will never be ignored again." He thanked his guests for being in Washington, D.C. for his inauguration. He even said President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been magnificent.  He told Americans being sworn in as president has very special meaning.

President Donald Trump Signs First Law

Now President Donald Trump signed his first bill into law.

The bill allows retired Gen. James Mattis to serve as defense secretary.  White House officials say it waves the legal requirement that Mattis be out of the military for seven years before taking the defense secretary role.

The signing ceremony happened moments after Trump was sworn in as 45th President of the United States of America.

How Much Commission Is a Structured Settlement Broker Paid and Why Does It Matter

Thousands of structured settlements are funded each year in settlement of personal injury cases. But almost never does anyone ask, “How much commission does a structured settlement broker or agency get paid when they write a structured settlement annuity which is then used to fund a personal injury settlement program?” The answer to that question and why it is important are the subjects of this report by Mark Wahlstrom, host of “Speaking of Settlements.”

Wahlstrom points out that the answer is easy for brokers and planners who work in the structured settlement field. The answer: four percent. It is a flat commission on the total amount of the premium paid to the agent who has the contract with the insurance company underwriting the annuity. Wahlstrom explains that if he wrote an annuity for $100,000, his general agent would get a $4,000 commission. Wahlstrom would then get a slice of the commission based on his contract with the general agent.

The four-percent commission has been the standard since structured settlements began in the 1980s. The agent gets paid at the time of sale because this is a one-time transaction. Wahlstrom says the commission question needs some attention because of “two big factors that are confronting financial services companies.” The first is transparency and pricing. The second is suitability and fiduciary standards in product design. Both of these issues will be covered in future editions of “Speaking of Settlements.” This report discusses why these issues matter.

The importance of transparency and pricing is apparent from a reading of Spencer v. Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and a consideration of the issues in the recent class action suit against AIG. “Law firms and outside entities are increasingly looking at how structured settlement annuity contracts’ commission arrangements and pricing each fail to disclose to all parties how this product pays the agents and settlement professionals.” The damage claims in both cases relate to disclosure and how the amount of the commission affects the injured parties. Wahlstrom’s point is that the industry is very antiquated in how it discloses compensation arrangements for the people setting up the contracts. This lack of transparency will not be acceptable in the world as it is developing, where there is increasing pressure for transparency. “Our old way of doing business, I think, is ending.”

As for product suitability and fiduciary standards, that factor is here. Annuity and financial professionals have already been hit hard after the Department of Labor passed tough new rules for anyone managing retirement accounts. These regulations might be softened a bit during the Trump administration, Wahlstrom suggests. However, “the genie is out of the bottle.” There will probably be continuing pressure to impose fiduciary standards more widely in financial arrangements like structured settlements. Wahlstrom also suggests that bar associations,  plaintiffs’ attorneys, and courts will push for the imposition of fiduciary standards in structured settlement arrangements of all kinds.

Wahlstrom cautions his fellow structured settlement professionals that they will need be able to explain who they work for in these transactions; who pays their compensation; how does the compensation affect the net return on injury settlements; is the compensation suitable and consistent with fiduciary standards; and does the injured party understand each of these elements, and does the party consent based on full disclosure?

Mark Wahlstrom, President of Wahlstrom & Associates, founded of one of the nation's first plaintiff only structured settlement firms in 1983 and is a renowned specialist in settlement planning, structured settlement annuities, structured legal fees, and the administration of large, complex multi-claimant settlements using qualified settlement funds and trusts. He has also become widely known over the last decade for his innovative development of an online broadcast platform, Sequence Media Group, upon which he has produced hundreds of hours of shows for The Legal Broadcast Network, and The Settlement Channel, with the content being of interest to attorneys, paralegals, judges and settlement professionals all over the United States. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.

Drug Kingpin "El Chapo" Guzman Extradited to U.S.

Mexican druglord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has been extradited to the United States. The infamous head of the Sinaloa Cartel, known for his elaborate prison escapes and ability to evade the laws for years will appear before a federal judge in Brooklyn Friday.

CBS News reports late Thursday The Drug Enforcement Administration flew the drug kingpin to New York from Ciudad Juarez. CNN reports the Brooklyn Bridge will be closed while Guzman is being transported to court. Guzman faces 17 counts -- from murder conspiracy, drug importation, firearms distribution to money laundering, according to CNN.

CBS News reports Guzman's attorney Andres Granados said the Mexican government extradited him to distract people from gasoline protests. Granados told CBS it was a political move and Guzman's attorneys weren't notified.

'A Dog's Purpose' Premiere Cancelled Amid Animal Abuse Allegations

The fallout continues for new movie A Dog's Purpose after a video released by TMZ shows what many are calling disturbing animal cruelty.

Multiple media outlets report Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures have cancelled the Los Angeles premiere and press junket of the movie.

The TMZ released video from November 2015, shot outside Winnipeg, Canada appears to show a German Shepherd named Hercules being forced into rushing, turbulent water. You can see apparently the dog is frightened and doesn't want to go in. Later, the Shepherd is in the water and appears to go under when handlers scream "Cut it! Cut it!" They apparently rush to save the dog from drowning.

ABC News reports the rushing water was meant to simulate river rapids for a scene, which was later taken out of the movie.

Animal rights group, PETA, is asking for people to boycott the movie which comes out Jan. 27. PETA says Birds & Animal Unlimited (BAU) supplied animals for the movie.

E! News reports Universal Pictures sent them a statement saying the video in question is still being reviewed and cancelled the premiere in the best interest of the movie.