Category: Press Releases

03 Oct 2018

Another Historic First:  Armenian Bar Hangs Shingle on Pro Bono Office in Glendale

The provision of pro bono legal services to worldwide Armenian communities has long been at the center of the Armenian Bar Association’s mission and practice. In an unprecedented and most welcome development, the Armenian Bar is pleased to announce the establishment of a physical office space in the city of Glendale where members of the public may visit to inquire about general legal issues, personal situations, and unique predicaments. The areas of assistance span the spectrum of legal disciplines, from immigration to family law, landlord/tenant to government benefits, employment to personal injury, housing to elder rights, and beyond.
The Armenian Bar’s pro bono office is located in the city’s Adult Recreation Center, located at 201 E. Colorado Street, Glendale, CA 91205, and is managed by Juris Doctor degree recipient, Brigitte Malatjalian. Office hours are conducted on Thursdays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. A recent Southwestern University School of Law graduate, Ms. Malatjalian stated, “I am excited to be part of this very important initiative whose principal aim is to ensure stability and build confidence in the community. We are confident that these invaluable services will help break the barrier between the hesitation of asking for help and the blessing of receiving supportive assistance.”
Stationing the pro bono office within city facilities is due to the grace and goodwill of the mutually-beneficial relationship enjoyed by the Armenian Bar and the city of Glendale. The Bar’s regular presence at the Adult Recreation Center means that those in need have one more public service within easy reach.
Soon after the Armenian Bar was born nearly 30 years ago, two of the some of the first words out of its mouth were pro bono. In the three decades that have passed, the Armenian Bar’s pro bono programs have consisted of many legal clinics in different cities, wide-ranging public lectures, easy-to-read informational pamphlets, both in Armenian and in English, and television and print media presentations.
In the words of the Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair, Mesrop Khoudagoulian, “The backbone of the Association’s pro bono services is the selflessness and generosity of our members who take our calls for assistance, put down everything else they’re doing, and step up to the plate to help in any way they can, as if the person in need is a paying client or a member of their own family. Our members are the best!”
For further information, please contact (818) 937-3151 or Info@ArmenianBar.org.
03 Oct 2018

Armenian Bar Association & American University of Armenia Launch Legal Clinic

Stepan S. Khzrtian, Esq. (LL.M ‘10), founding partner of LegalLab, leading a workshop at the launch.

YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ On September 27, 2018 lawyers and entrepreneurs came together to mark the opening of the Technology and Innovation Legal Clinic of the American University of Armenia (AUA) LL.M Program. The event was hosted by the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC). The Legal Clinic is funded by the generous contribution of the Armenian Bar Association.

Opening remarks were delivered by Adelaida Baghdasaryan, LL.M Program Chair, and Dr. Michael Kouchakdjian, Director of EPIC. A workshop followed led by Stepan S. Khzrtian, Esq. (LL.M ‘10), founding partner of LegalLab. The workshop content was specifically designed to incite interest in launching a startup on the spot and to cover topics of relevance to U.S. corporate laws for Armenian tech startups.

Khzrtian kicked-off the workshop by announcing the launch of a new tech startup seeking on-the-spot answers to questions as to what it would be doing and what it would look like. Two participants came forth as the budding startup founders of “I.F.Car, Inc.,” a Delaware C-Corp. “We will be engaged in promoting innovation through seminars and trainings,” said one founder, “… and invent flying cars in the process through cutting-edge research!” added the other founder. Seated on opposite sides of the hall, these two founders were just meeting each other on the spot. A corporate lawyer chimed in, “but first, let’s see what each founder will bring in to the startup and how the shares of this new corporation will be allocated between you two.”

Engaging the creative entrepreneurial minds and the methodical legal thinking assembled in the hall, Khzrtian guided the participants through a high-level overview of some of the most important concepts of relevance to startup founders and lawyers. Topics covered ranged from the pre-incorporation founders’ agreement to incorporation documents, on to issuing capital stock and devising employee options, instituting and enforcing confidentiality and intellectual property protection, and raising capital through convertible notes and SAFEs. Throughout the discussion, Khzrtian also made reference to the relevant provisions in the Armenian law.

By the end of the workshop, the participants had successfully set-up a new corporation with all the pillar components of a corporation  in place, including shareholders and seed capital, a Board of Directors, C-suite management, and options-incentivized CTO and advisor.


SAN FRANCISCO-  On August 15, 2018, American University of Armenia President Armen Der Kiureghian with Hosts David Balabanian and the Armenian Bar Association discussed AUA’s impact on New Armenia at a cocktail and networking reception. View Photo Gallery.

 

26 Sep 2018

Armenian Bar Association’s Midyear Meeting to Showcase the StartUp Revolution

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Ambassador Hovhannissian.

NEW YORK CITY – New York City will host in inimitable Hye-fashion the Armenian Bar Association’s 2018 Midyear Meeting with its feature presentation of a groundbreaking continuing legal education classic entitled “The StartUp Revolution: What Are Your Rights and How to Protect Them.” The Association is most pleased to announce that the Honorable Grigor Hovhannissian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United States, will undertake a significant role in the program by captaining a team of panel experts on  “Challenges and Opportunities Facing Startups in Armenia.”

The Association designed this inter-active program to advance Armenia’s and its Diaspora’s impressive and imperative initiative of expanding the young republic’s footprint on the global technology terrain.   The special assembly will bring together trailblazers in the fields of intellectual property law, technology, business, and government from the United States, Armenia, Russia and Australia, to share their knowledge and expertise with the startup ecosystems of Armenia and beyond.

Ambassador Hovhannissian, who is the originator and an active supporter of the Armenian Global Innovation Hub establishment initiative, will be joined on the panel by Brian Barnier, Director and Head of Analytics at ValueBridge Advisors, Karén Gyulbudaghyan, Founding Partner at Strategic Value Ventures, and Hovanes Margarian, Esq. of the Margarian Law Firm.  Panel moderator is the uber-accomplished Emma Arakelyan, CEO & Co-Founder of Orion Worldwide Innovations, LLC, former EY Advisory Partner and Accenture Managing Director.  Ms. Arakelyan has also made creative and indefatigable contributions in helping to organize the weekend’s composition of talent. The panel will address topics such as raising capital (though IPOs, ICOs, and crowdfunding), challenges and emerging opportunities for the  burgeoning strata of IT startups in Armenia, global connectiveness, and local and international support networks, both on the governmental and non-aligned levels.

Three additional panels will highlight other aspects of the exciting and fast-developing tech economy: “Establishing and Growing Your Startup Practice,” “How to Protect Your Intellectual Property,” and “How to Protect Your Trade Secrets and Best Practices in IP Litigation.”  Specific information about these panels will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Armenia’s tech scene, and the people who populate it and expand its frontiers, have brought us to the most positive and promising of turning points and cutting edges, just as Armenia itself enters a new era of unbounded optimism and opportunity,” stressed Souren A. Israelyan, Esq., a Co-Vice Chair of the board of the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Chapter of the Armenian Bar Association and a member of the Midyear Meeting organizing committee.

The Midyear Meeting will take place in New York City on October 13th, 2018, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. EDT.  It will be preceded by a special visit to the Metropolitan Museum, where meeting participants will be treated to a private lecture and public tour of the new Armenia! exhibit, followed by a sumptuous reception at the Liederkranz Foundation.   Additionally, three live webcast locations in Armenia have been secured in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor.

For information about the program or to register to attend in person in New York City, visit armenianbar.org/event/armenian-bar-midyear-meeting-new-york-city.

Local event contact:

Souren A. Israelyan / (718) 751-5254 / si@israelyanlaw.com

Emma Arakelyan / (917) 539-7124 / emma.arakelyan@orionwi.com

Denise G. Darmanian / (212) 692-0872 / nyfed@aol.com

25 Jul 2018

NALSA ELECTS NEW BOARD

LOS ANGELES – On July 21, 2018, the National Armenian Law Students Association (NALSA) held its annual elections for officers, and elected Michael Guloyan from Southwestern as the chair of NALSA.  

The Armenian Bar welcomed Michael to its Board as the student representative. The group also elected its other officers.  “We have a very enthusiastic group this year” said ArmenBar Vice Chairperson Lucy Varpetian adding that “we’re looking forward to working with them closely.” 

The Armenian Bar would like to extend a special thank you to Sarkis Yeretsian, who completed his term as NALSA chair.  Also a big thank you to Aleksan Giragosian, who as co-chair of the Student Affairs Committee is assisting this group navigate the transition.  Lastly, thank you to Davit Zargaryan for his vision for creating this group.

Learn more about the Armenian Law Student Groups here or check out our Student resources tab on our home page for opportunities to get involved.

Seated Bottom (L-R): ArmenBar Board Member Armen Hovannian, Christina Isagholian (NALSA Secretary/U.C. Hastings), Silvia Bazrkanian (NALSA Vice-Chair/U.C. Hastings), Michael Guloyan (NALSA Chairperson/Southwestern), Tara Moossaian (NALSA West Coast Representative/U.S.C.), Sarkis Yeretsian (NALSA Chair Ex-Officio/Loyola) Seated Top (L-R):  Phillip Shaverdian (U.C.L.A.); ArmenBar Vice Chairwoman Lucy Varpetian, Hasmik Hmayakyan (Loyola), Susanna Saakian (Loyola), Aleksan, Harut Voskanyan (Southwestern),ArmenBar Treasurer Saro Kerkonian Not pictured:  Garabed Koosherian (NALSA East Coast Representative/Boston College),  Tro Semerjian (Thomas Jefferson), Dina Dimirjian (U.C. Davis), Karapet Galajian (Pepperdine), Joseph Kazazian (La Verne)

 

 

18 Jul 2018

Travel should be a basic right for all civilians

Article originally published in the San Francisco Examiner.

We traveled to a place that was majestic and breathtakingly beautiful where few have been fortunate enough to visit. You cannot go there by plane because the neighboring country has threatened to shoot down all civilian aircraft that fly there. To make matters even more interesting, if you tried to navigate your way in a car using Google Maps, the app will essentially tell you that this mystical place does not exist.

What we saw and experienced was surreal. Stunning green rolling hills and mountainous landscapes that rival those of Switzerland and happy people who are making the most of their humble life circumstances. It’s a place where $1,000 lost in cash is returned to its rightful owner without a second thought, where a female-majority Supreme Court is constantly looking to the West to improve its decision-making processes, and where the Human Rights Defender protects the rights of not only the people in his country, but those of all humanity, including enemy combatants.

We are not talking about a fictitious utopia, but rather a real place — The Republic of Artsakh — a country we visited in May with the Armenian Bar Association for its annual meeting. We traveled there with a delegation of nearly 50 people, including judges, lawyers, human rights advocates, journalists, doctors and students.

If you have not heard of Artsakh, you’re likely not alone. Artsakh is a highly contested, landlocked region just north of Iran, east of the Republic of Armenia and west of Azerbaijan. Less than 100 years ago, Artsakh was a part of Armenia (and had been for millennia). Nonetheless, Artsakh was arbitrarily carved out of Armenia in 1921 by the Soviet Union and given to Azerbaijan as an autonomous province, as part of the Soviet divide and conquer strategy.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, in December 1991, Artsakh held an independence referendum in which 82 percent of all voters participated and 99 percent voted for independence. In response, Azerbaijan launched an all-out war against the Republic. A cease fire agreement took hold in 1994, which is still currently in place.

Due to political reasons, no United Nations member states have recognized the nation. Despite this fact, Artsakh has thrived as a forward thinking, progressive, democratic state that celebrates the rule of law.

Since declaring independence in 1991, Artsakh has successfully declared more than 10 parliamentary and presidential elections — all of which have been praised by international observers as free, fair, and transparent.

For about a quarter century now, Artsakh has been governing its own affairs and establishing democratic values and institutions. Recently the late Anthony Bourdain visited Artsakh as part of CNN’s “Parts Unknown” and exposed the treasures of Artsakh’s authentic Armenian cuisine, history and hospitality to worldwide viewership. It’s a place where many other tourists from around the world would also visit; however, there is one major fact that poses a special hindrance: the absence of air travel to and from Artsakh.

The Republic has an airport near the capital city of Stepanakert, which was reconstructed in 2009 and is currently operational. Artsakh authorities announced that they planned to launch commercial flights in 2011.

However, due to threats by Azerbaijan to shoot down any civilian aircraft, the airport has remained closed since 1994. Undeniably, the reality of air travel provides tremendous social benefits to people, including providing humanitarian aid and access for families to reunite and visit loved ones. More than that, however, air transport is a fundamental pillar of our global society, and civilians living or visiting Artsakh should have that basic right as well.

United Nations’ Article 13 has specifically declared travel as a human right. Article 13 of the U.N.s’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the following: “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of the state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

A policy imposed by a neighboring country that essentially blocks, threatens or in any way prevents people from traveling to and from a territory is not just a violation of a global U.N. agreement, but is an offense to the moral imperatives of our globalized world. Although the Republic of Artsakh is not recognized by U.N. member states, the human rights of the people of Artsakh still need to be protected.

The lack of an operating airport struck us more than any other observation during our time there. Given the windy and mountainous terrain, traveling by car from neighboring Armenia can be difficult and time-consuming (upwards of six hours). Travel by air would give people who otherwise would be unable to travel by car the ability to get to Artsakh in less than 35 minutes. Air travel also facilitates the exchange of ideas, culture, art and cuisine and fosters the development of infrastructure and commerce.

We write this article knowing full well the threat of being placed on Azerbaijan’s “PNG” list which identifies people as personas non grata, for simply having travelled to part of one’s ancestral homeland.

According to Azerbaijan, traveling to Artsakh without Baku’s permission is considered a criminal offense and the country has compiled a list of some 700 government officials, journalists, activists and celebrities (as was done to Bourdain) who have been outlawed. Unfortunately, many freedoms and rights are not respected by Azerbaijan’s government.

We believe the rest of the world would agree that all human beings deserve the right to access civilian air travel free from threats from a neighboring country to shoot down and murder civilians. It is time for Azerbaijan to enter the 21st century and publicly acknowledge that basic human right.

Alex Bastian is deputy chief of staff for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and Vanna Kitsinian is a Los Angeles-based civil litigation attorney and Armenian Bar Association board member.

21 Jun 2018

Armenbar Approves The Establishment Of The Artsakh Law Initiative Committee (“ALIC”)

At its 29th Annual Meeting held in the majestic mountain city of Shushi, the Armenian Bar’s Board of Governors unanimously approved the establishment of the Artsakh Law Initiative Committee—otherwise known as ALIC, an acronym with the symbolic meaning of a positive “wave” in Armenian.

“This newly-formed committee comes at the ideal time of Artsakh’s emergence as the magnificent example of a nation and people deserving of dignity, poise and recognition.  We will pour all of our goodwill and know-how into seeing that Artsakh’s legal structures and institutions are strong, transparent, and inspiring of its citizens’ confidence.” said Armenian Bar Co-Vice Chairperson Lucy Varpetian.

Armenian Bar Chairman Gerard Kassabian offered the following historical perspective, “In a show of just how important the continuing peace and developing prosperity of Artsakh are to the Armenian Bar, in 2015, we amended our official mission statement for the first time since our inception in 1989.  In our Arstakh Amendment, the Armenian Bar has declared that we steadfastly recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Artsakh and that we will endeavor to bring about the international recognition of its undeniable statehood and its acceptance among the family of nations.”

As for the structure and organization of the new committee, ALIC Chairman Saro Kerkonian had this to say, “ALIC will centralize the numerous legal initiatives that our devoted group of lawyers and specialists has undertaken in Artsakh and the programs—some  that are already underway–will be developed under the authority granted by the Board of Governors.  The health and longevity of Artsakh are our top priorities and we will do everything humanly possible to help with that and, in so doing, the phrase ‘one nation, one people’ will take on true meaning.”

With the guidance and leadership of the Honorable Ruben Melikyan, Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender and Ombudsman–and a veteran Armenian Bar member– the Association has already implemented and funded two programs in Artsakh:  the first is a dynamic legal clinic offering free services in the capital city of Stepanakert, in collaboration with Artsakh State University.   The clinic was launched in October 2017 and, through its staff of dedicated teachers and gifted students, provides much-needed professional assistance to Artsakh residents who might not otherwise have access to or knowledge about the legal system.   At its Board of Governors meeting in Yerevan, on May 28, 2018, between celebrations of the First Republic of Armenia, the Board renewed the organization’s commitment to the Artsakh Pro Bono Legal Clinic by authorizing the funding of the clinic office and staff for an additional year.

The second program actually transports young Armenian Bar members to Artsakh, where they will live and work during an 8-week internship program at the office of the Artsakh Human Rights Defender.   From a field of several highly-qualified candidates, UCLA law student Anahid Sargsyan and Notre Dame law student Davit Avagyan were chosen as the Armenian Bar’s inaugural legal interns.   They will spend two months learning and assisting Mr. Melikyan and the Human Rights Defender’s office with legal research, evidence gathering and legal document preparation.

The Board of Governors also agreed to furnish logistical and monetary support to a moot court team from Artsakh State University, which will participate in a mock trial competition in Nuremberg, Germany.   The funds will go towards underwriting the costs of travel and lodging for the team.  Also, while in Stepanakert, delegations of Armenian Bar members met with Artsakh’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Masis Mayilyan, and with Chief Justice Narine Narimanyan and the Associate Justices of Artsakh’s Supreme Court, which notably consists of a female majority.

Following the success of the meeting with Artsakh’s Supreme Court, swift consensus was reached among the Board members that arrangements will be made in the near futrure to facilitate a judicial exchange whereby Artsakh Supreme Court Justices will be brought to the United States to meet their colleagues in the Supreme, Appellate and Trial Courts in America.

Alex Hrag Bastian, a key Armenian Bar representative who works in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office summed up the importance of ALIC, “A strong and independent judiciary is a pillar of any country’s democracy and we have chosen to invest who we are and what we do best into the development of Artsakh’s legal institutions.  We are proud to partner with the Justice Ministry and the Supreme Court to enable this exchange, which will be of benefit to all who participate.  We can’t wait to open our doors and welcome in our sisters and brothers from Artsakh!”

For those interested in supporting the work of the Armenian Bar Association’s Artsakh Law Initiative Committee, please contact us at Info@ArmenianBar.org or make a donation here.

21 Jun 2018

Armenian Bar Association Welcomes Next Generation of Leadership at Exceptional Annual Meeting in Armenia and Artsakh

The great American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson could have imagined Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian Bar Association when he condensed into a crisp, six-word serving the taste of victory during the tender month of May.

“What potent blood hath modest May.”

It was, after all, May’s potent blood that unveiled the unimaginable miracle of the Republic of Armenia 100 years ago. That same blood poured knowingly into the epic sacrifice and dignified glory of Artsakh’s national liberation struggle which began 30 years ago this May. And it surged last month, free and unfettered, through the gateway of the all-encompassing epiphany which continues to course through the full body of the rejuvenated modern-day Republic.

Modest May’s potent blood most recently delivered nearly 50 members of the Armenian Bar Association to the earth and the wind and the fire of the dynamic duo of Armenia and Arstakh, to a land and people for which the organization stands and bows, indivisible in its devotion, singular in its commitment to the posterity and promise of Mer Hayrenik.

During its pilgrimage from May 23-June 2, 2018, the Armenian Bar dredged deeper than ever before into the homeland’s hallowed fields of professional love and labor, which peaked at the 29th Annual Meeting among the green-swept hills and dales of the all-mighty Shushi.

Emerging from a rich array of partnership initiatives which took shape in local universities, judicial chambers and courtrooms, civic auditoriums, government offices, and public welfare centers, a new executive leadership team of the Armenian Bar has been installed for the 2018-2019 year.

Chairman Gerard V. Kassabian of Beverly Hills, CA, with the winds and gales of Dikranagerd at his back and in his horizon, is a top-rated lawyer who owns and operates a law firm bearing his name, specializing in trusts and estates, real estate, and family law.

“In Shushi, Artsakh, I was handed the torch that my esteemed predecessors entrusted upon me to illuminate the proverbial path, the mission of our Armenian Bar Association. We are determined to fearlessly and fiercely defend and uphold the rights of our compatriots wherever they may be.” Gerard Kassabian

Vice-Chairperson Kathy L. Ossian of Detroit, MI, with the determined terrain of Efkere, Kghi and Palou at her base, is the founder and CEO of Ossian Law, P.C., a firm focused exclusively on Information Technology Law.

“Holding our annual meeting in the Republic of Artsakh and our first newly-constituted Board meeting in Yerevan on the historic 100th anniversary of the first Republic of Armenia has renewed my commitment to help make the Armenian Bar Association even stronger, more relevant and open to all lawyers of Armenian descent as we pursue our important mission.” Kathy Ossian

Vice-Chairperson Lucy Varpetian of Los Angeles, CA, with indigenous first breaths and final farewells in Afyon-Karahisar, Aintab and Sepastia, is a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Glendale City Attorney’s Office, with extensive experience in city governance including advising the municipality’s City Council and its Civil Service Commission.

“In 1989, the Armenian Bar Association answered the call when the soon-to-be new Republic of Armenia embarked on its road to independence and sought assistance with building infrastructure. In 2018, Արցախն էր մեզ կանչում.” Lucy Varpetian

Treasurer Saro K. Kerkonian of Los Angeles, CA, with deep roots and fallen family trees in Aintab, Marash and Sassoun is a workers’ compensation law specialist certified by the State Bar of California and works as a Senior Trial Attorney as house-counsel for Farmers Insurance Company.

“As the Armenian Bar Association celebrates next year the 30th anniversary of its founding by Raffi Hovannisian, it is a distinct honor and privilege to be part of an organization whose members represent every segment of the Armenian community, united in purpose, independent, with an unwavering commitment in service to the Armenian people, Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian Cause.” Saro Kerkonian

Secretary Liz Al-Dajani of Evanston, IL, with the resilient DNA of Sis, is a principal of Kerkonian Dajani, LLC, where she leverages her prior career as an appellate law clerk and her interest in cross-border transactions, now specializing in state and federal appellate advocacy as well as Middle East business transactions.

“I saw in the bright and cheery eyes of the children of Armenia the eyes of my own three young sons in Chicago. During our magical trip to Armenia and Artsakh, they all became one gleaming symbol of the now happy face of our homeland. Next time, their eyes will meet face-to-face and the divisions between Diaspora and Hayastan will melt away into our unity of nation, faith and future.” Liz Al-Dajani

Beyond the Executive Committee, the Armenian Bar’s Board of Governors is comprised of: Sara Bedirian (Glendale, CA), Harry H. Dikranian (Montreal, Canada), Christine Engustian (East Providence, RI), Garo G. Ghazarian (Encino, CA), Armen K. Hovannisian (Los Angeles, CA), Karnig Kerkonian (Evanston, IL), Mesrop Khoudagoulian (Glendale, CA), Vanna Kitsinian (Encino, CA), Gary T. Moomjian (Jericho, NY), Tina Odjaghian (Woodland Hills, CA), Scott A. Ohnegian (Morristown, NJ), Raffi Sarrafian (Chicago, IL), and student member Sarkis Yeretsian (Los Angeles, CA).

21 Jun 2018

Beverly Hills Soiree and CLE Event held by ArmenBar and Sister Associations

On Thursday, March 29, 2018, the Armenian Bar Association had another successful CLE+Soiree event at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. This time, it was with the participation of sister bar associations including the Arab American, Eastern European and Iranian American. 

Check out our photo gallery here.

The event began at 6:30 p.m. with a continuing legal education lecture that offered the scarcely found elimination of bias one-hour CLE credit, which was presented by Prof. John Tehranian, the Paul W. Wildman Chair, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School. The presentation entitled “White Today, Gone Tomorrow? Selective Colorblindness, the Legal Construction of Race and the Debate over a New Middle Eastern North African Category (MENA) on the U.S. Census,” touched on many of the biases that white people from other regions of the world encounter because they are treated like “low-grade white people,” as stated by the Professor, meaning held to the standards of white people when criticized, yet treated as non-white when it comes to benefits of being white. In our midst were Federal District Court and Los Angeles Superior Court judges. The crowd was very receptive to the topic and had many follow-up questions for the professor. 

After the presentation, the guests enjoyed the rest of the evening under the stars and wonderful weather of Beverly Hills.  the guests mingled with members and guests of the four sister bar associations. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and refreshments were offered to the guests along with a full bar.

The CLE+Soiree series of events of the Armenian Bar Association are organized by Gerard V. Kassabian. For this particular event, Gerard teamed up with sister bar associations for a joint event by:

– Arab American Lawyers Association of Southern California;

– Armenian Bar Association;

– Eastern European Bar Association; and

– Iranian American Bar Association.

For future CLE+Soiree events, contact Gerard at Gerard@KassabianLaw.com.

The Armenian Bar Association conveyed its thanks to its sponsor Mr. Shant Baboujian, Business Banking Team Lead of City National Bank. 

21 Jun 2018

Building Trust in Antitrust in New Armenia

This is an exciting time for Armenia. Armenians around the world have been following the news and reading articles about the “New” Armenia. My intent is not to address what has been sufficiently covered already such as the peaceful revolution that took place two months ago or the election of a new prime minister. The purpose of this article is to discuss critical next steps. The newly elected Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and his newly appointed Cabinet have a very challenging road ahead. With this article, I want to highlight one of the most important areas on which the new administration must focus their efforts: the promotion and enforcement of antitrust laws (also known as competition laws).

Antitrust laws play an integral role in any democratic society. They are meant to promote and protect competition in the marketplace. In any healthy economy, there must be robust competition where sellers of goods and services compete against each other for customers. The idea is that competition will force sellers to offer their goods or services at competitive prices. Also, to stay in business, sellers will be compelled to maintain the quality of their products and make improvements over time. Otherwise, their customers will shop elsewhere for less expensive and/or higher quality products.

Without antitrust laws or, equally detrimental, without the enforcement of antitrust laws, as has been the case in Armenia, the entire society is adversely impacted. In a nation where the government does not regulate the marketplace and enforce competition, monopolies and oligopolies inevitably will emerge. These are market structures where there is very limited or no competition and, thus, either one firm or a few firms dominate the relevant market. As a result, sellers have no incentive to (i) offer their goods or services at competitive rates, (ii) improve the quality of their products, or (iii) innovate new products and ideas. In such scenarios, they are the “only game in town” and consumers are forced to purchase their needs from them at artificially high prices.

In addition to the economic harm to consumers vis-a-vis supracompetitive prices and lower product quality, the failure of a government to enforce the country’s antitrust laws harms smaller businesses. Monopolistic firms have dominant control in their respective markets and can create significant barriers to entry for competing businesses. Such barriers will exclude new rivals, undermine the expansion of any existing competitors, and ultimately allow the monopolistic firm to increase prices and offer substandard goods or services.

To be clear, there are antitrust laws in Armenia today. The government passed the Law on Protection of Economic Competition (“LPEC”) in December 2000. The State Commission for Protection of Economic Competition (“SCPEC”) is tasked with protecting and promoting economic competition and consumer protection, ensuring a fair and free economic marketplace and preventing anticompetitive practices. However, as mentioned above, the lack of strict enforcement of antitrust laws is equally harmful to both businesses and consumers as the absence of such laws.

The new administration needs to ensure that antitrust laws are strictly enforced in every industry in the country. The days of monopolies and oligopolies should be put in the past and, with the help of antitrust authorities and private litigants, each industry should see a rise in competition among businesses. Additionally, the government must de-monopolize imports of essentials goods to Armenia. This is an important step toward free and open markets where competing businesses can not only survive but thrive. This will subsequently result in competitive prices for goods and services sold in the country and lead to a favorable domestic business environment, which is crucial not only for local businesses but, also, to attract foreign investments.

As stated above, Mr. Pashinyan faces many challenges in his new role as prime minister. Armenians, in Armenia and in the Diaspora, have very high expectations of Mr. Pashinyan and the actions he will take during his tenure. The overhaul of the antitrust system in the country is one of the most critical steps that Mr. Pashinyan, in coordination with the SCPEC and Ministry of Economy, need to prioritize in order to promote market competition and improve the state of the economy and general consumer welfare. 

Grant Petrosyan is an antitrust attorney at the New York office of Constantine Cannon LLP. Grant is also the Co-Chair of the Young Lawyers Committee of the Armenian Bar Association. To learn more about YLC, please contact him at gpetrosyan11@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the firm or its clients. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

21 Jun 2018

Chicago Rises to Honor The Life and Legacy of Chairman Emeritus Vicken I. Simonian

On the evening of Saturday, April 7, 2018, Armenian Bar Association members from across the country gathered at the beautiful showroom of Oscar Isberian Rug Gallery in the heart of Chicago’s historic downtown Loop to celebrate the life and legacy of its Chairman Emeritus Vicken I. Simonian.  

“Vicken brought an infectious spirit of enthusiasm, camaraderie and fellowship to everything he did for the Armenian Bar Association.  Tonight, we celebrate Vicken’s life and carry on his legacy of service through this fundraiser for the scholarship fund which bares his name,” said organizing committee Chairman Raffi Sarrafian.  

The event marked the second annual gathering in Chicago in support of the Vicken I. Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship Fund.  The festivities have quickly become a premier event for the Chicago Armenian community bringing together over 100 in attendance.  

The Armenian Bar Association took the opportunity to recognize and honor Oscar Tatosian, the newly appointed Honorary Consul General for the Republic of Armenia in Chicago, who has been a great friend and supporter of the work of the Armenian Bar Association.   Consul General Tatosian, who is the proprietor of the Oscar Isberian Rug Gallery, was presented with an inspiring work of art from renowned Armenian artist Seeroon Yeretsian of Los Angeles.

The evening was also highlighted by an exciting live and silent auction which featured a signed autographed jersey from famed Arsenal Football Club star Henrikh Mkhitarian.  Members and guests were treated to a delicious Armenian dinner prepared by Ani Kerkonian and were graced with the rich Armenian musical heritage by Mark Gavoor and his band.

Special guests of honor in attendance included, United States District Court Judge Sam Der Yeghiayan, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Zaven Sinanian, Illinois Judge…  Professor Ann Lousin of the John Marshall School of Law.

“The evening was a huge success!  We wish to thank all of the donors who participated in the auctions and contributed generously to Vicken’s scholarship fund.  Tonight, we are closer than ever to reaching our goal of making Vicken’s scholarship an endowment. We look forward to next year’s event with great anticipation,” said Elizabeth Al-Dajani, Secretary of the Armenian Bar Association and organizing committee member.