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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 28, 2023 • Issue 23:08:02

Payments, a retrospective:
Legal ease: The Green Sheet opens doors for legal advice and learning

By Adam Atlas
Attorney at Law

The Green Sheet got me here. It’s time to say thank you and share some of the lessons learned. Twenty years ago, on a lark, I offered to write a legal column for the magazine. This is that column, where I have covered everything from NDAs to ISO agreements, ISO bankruptcies and countless other topics.

Readers from small and large ISOs have reached out over the years to ask for advice or just to unlock a legal puzzle, and I've had the privilege to receive these inquiries and support innumerable ISOs on their legal ups and downs for a couple of decades. For readers new and old, here are a few stories that are keepers from which we can all learn a thing or two—legally.

Fintech client in prison

He didn’t follow our advice. He participated in an illegal scheme, and now he is serving hard time in a federal prison. This young man was quite possibly the most intelligent and well-read person I have ever worked with. As federal agents came through his front door demanding that he unlock his phone, he knew more of the legal precedents around search and seizure law than I did—and held his ground admirably.

Rewinding from that fateful moment, my client had an online fintech business involving cutting edge technology. His razor-sharp mind and flawless memory made him excellent in his business. But he partnered with people operating an illegal scheme and ended up being guilty of bilking innocent people out of large amounts of money.

I did not know about these shenanigans until after the fact. The client I knew was a brilliant young fintech entrepreneur. Bad choices caught up with him and put an end to his business and his freedom.

Payments folks are a privileged bunch. ISOs and fintechs brush up against millions of dollars every day. Most participants hope to earn a legitimate few basis points here and there. Sometimes, however, temptation strikes, and the fintech business operator wants more than just a piece of the face-value of the transactions they support. Avoid this. Stay in your lane, and you are likely to avoid the worst outcomes like the one for this bright young man now behind bars.

Liquid lunches in Belize

High-risk processors will search all over the world for the right acquirer. A client of ours found an open-minded bank in Belize that was able to process high-risk merchants. My client’s processing business operated with excellent profit for a time. Then, as often happens in off-shore high-risk, the bank stopped processing and held back millions of dollars from the processor.

The processor was destroyed, and its merchants were livid. The processor proceeded to sue the bank before a court in Belize. Who better to serve as an expert witness than the undersigned, Adam Atlas, Esq.? My client always enjoyed lunch with one or two drinks. Preparing for trial, we sat in a palapa bar perched over the azure blue ocean, looking at the villa he lost because of the bank.

The courtroom was something out of a colonial-era movie. Sweltering heat, no air conditioning and a judge who (rightfully) commanded absolute respect. When I had the audacity, as an (out of town) expert on the stand to suggest that the court find in favor of my client, the judge dressed me down and put me in my place by reminding me that he and only he would decide my client’s fate. After the hearing, more drinks. The court held in favor of my client. Collecting from the bank proved, however, to be impossible.

Being right and holding a judgment in your favor does not mean you will collect. I don’t need to teach the high-risk folks about the ups and downs of high-risk processing. That’s their regular fare.

ISO widows

From the early days through to the present, all my engagement letters state that I provide free legal advice to ISO widows. In the past, the vast majority of ISOs were run by men. That is not true anymore, and in my practice I answer to mostly women in leading positions within our clients.

Our firm is also a mostly female firm. In any case, a handful of ISO widows have reached out to me over the years, and we have been able to provide free advice to assist them in picking up where their husbands left off. It’s been a privilege to advise these ISOs and to assist their widows in a small way.

The lesson here is to have a succession plan. An ISO business succession plan includes having a will, but it also involves grooming a successor who can run your ISO business if you cannot. There are numerous daughters and sons running ISOs where we advised their fathers, and we continue to advise the children who have taken over.

Take time to think about who will run your business when you move on and train them early-on. As my mom says, "It’s better to give with a warm hand than a cold hand."

Thank you from Adam Atlas, Esq.

Payments is a small community. It’s a community that is entrusted with the payments of an entire nation. It’s been a privilege to be a member of that community for all these years advising clients through moments of extraordinary excitement and also extreme anguish.

I’m not a pastor or a rabbi, but my memorable moments are probably not much different from those of clergy to our community. Thank you for the trust you have given me as readers of this column and as clients. Thank you to The Green Sheet, which has held true to its focus on payments for 40 years!

Now, being up to my neck in crypto and other novel fintech files, I see no end in sight for this invaluable forum for learning and exchange of news and ideas called The Green Sheet. Bravo! Let me raise a glass to the next 40 years! end of article

In publishing The Green Sheet, neither the author nor the publisher are engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. For further information on this article, please contact Adam Atlas, Attorney at Law email: atlas@adamatlas.com, Tel. 514-842-0886.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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