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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 70 "Take Off! Pre-Tarmac" Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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3/11/11
Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table. What's the Law?™ raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals.

To join this mailing list, please send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

Case 170: Take Off! Pre-Tarmac

Mark Green O.T.D., a Philadelphian native specialized in geriatric Occupational Therapy. His keen understanding of his clientele, cheerful optimism, honesty, warmth and professional approach earned him repute across the country. Renowned for his innovative communication and memory skills - training methods to decelerate the progression of dementia, Green was invited to lecture at the Orlando Conference of Professional Care Management Providers.

Mark settled down at Gate B-16 in Philadelphia International 45 min before boarding time and flipped out his ASUS™ laptop to review his PowerPoint presentation. Green though, struggled to keep his eyes open.

Directly across the three yard aisle, sat the graying Dr. Stern preparing his own dissertation on CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) patients. "I'm hopping over to Starbucks and will be back shortly. I will bring you back a Cappuccino. " Green said to Stern. "Please do keep an eye on my belongings." The two exchanged friendly smiles and Green was off.

Green returned to the gate fifteen minutes later, eyed Stern standing on line, waiting to board the US-AIR flight, both carry-ons at his side...but Mark's ASUS™ was gone.

Stern had been staring down at his Blackberry™ replying to an email looked up and the ASUS™ had taken off.

What's the Law?

Please email us with your comments, questions, and answers at weekly@projectfellow.org .

Read next week's issue for the answer!

LAST WEEK'S CASE

CASE 169: Grandma's Cuisine

Swiveling back and forth behind his long wooden mahogany desk, Morris Berger Esq. was busy pricing gourmet caterers. Grandma's 100th birthday celebration was an event Morris took extremely seriously. Taking stock of his precocious children, his cheerful extended family and his personal financial success, he felt indebted to his beloved and spirited grandmother. Grandma's fight for life and herculean stamina, particularly during the 1940's inspired a fervent awe deep in Morris' heart.

November 1st 2010 promised to be a solemn and respectful recognition of her vision and impassioned dedication towards rebuilding her healthy Jewish family anew. Cuisine caterers offered a five-course meal along the Baltimore waterfront for $100 a plate, while Pretty Palate priced at $95. Berger conjectured telling Cuisine that his competitor could do it for $90, hoping Cuisine would meet him or do better; yet he was unsure if Grandma would approve such conduct.

What's the Law?

The Answer

Morris may not attempt to fool Cuisine Caterers into offering him a better deal. However, if Morris would have unscrupulously fooled Cuisine Caterers into matching or offering less than $90, Cuisine Caterers may not demand remuneration when learning that Berger fooled him. If Cuisine Caterers wishes to rescind on the contract, they must seek Halachic guidance.

Detailed Explanation

Grandma's Cuisine implicates the following two laws:

1. It is forbidden to fool your fellow in business. Unless absolutely necessary it is wrong to engage in a venture that could put one's fellow out of business [Choshen Mishpat 228:6].

2. Consider the following scenario.

The Seventeenth Century Aschkenazic luminary, Rav Yair Chaim Bachrach (1638-1702), in Chavos Yair (69) and R. David ben Samuel HaLevi Segal, zt"l c. 1586 - 1667 Poland in Taz (332) discuss the following true episode.

A put up his home for sale. B offered 300. A bargained and claimed that C already bid 350. B swore not to sell for less than 400. A closed deal at 410 , paid the money and received the title deed. Subsequently, A discovered that C never bid 350. Claiming that his final 410 offer was contingent on C's alleged 350 bid; A demanded remuneration of 110.

The Chavos Yair and Taz rule that while B was unscrupulous and will have to deal with the Heavenly Court, A should have realized that false and sharp bargaining schemes are common shrewd business practices. He should have been more astute, known the business and either stuck to his original 300 offer or investigate if the 350 offer was indeed legit. As A willingly paid 410 for the home, it is too late to rescind and he has no subsequent legal recourse to recoup the 110 [Pischei Teshuva 207:9].

Caution: [See Mishpat HaShalom 227:3 for specific limitations to this rule.]

Application

Morris Berger must deal honestly and not pretend he received a $90 offer instead of a $95 bid in order to secure a better deal. However, if Berger would have unscrupulously haggled Cuisine Caterers so, and Cuisine willingly agreed to match him at $90 or do better and finalized the deal, Cuisine has no legal recourse on the $5 difference. Cuisine should have known the bargaining business and not taken Berger's word blindly.

Nonetheless, if Cuisine Caters claims that their final offer was based on false pretenses and wish to completely annul the contract, Halachic guidance should be sought.

[Answered by Dayan Chaim Kohn & The Fellow-Yesharim Research Center]

Note:

Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.

To join this mailing list, please send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

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