In House

In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

American Apparel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this morning. The once-hip retailer popularized metallic spandex leggings and made-in-LA t-shirts in the early 2000s but has struggled with waning sales and tumbling stock prices. The company warned investors in August that it might not have the funds needed to meet its debt obligations.

Chapter 11 protection should allow American Apparel to keep open its Los Angeles manufacturing centers and 130 retail stores while it undergoes a debt-for-equity conversion. The company's current troubles are just one more reminder of how unfavorable market forces, poor planning, and questionable (to put it mildly) leadership can tank a promising company.

A government shut down over Planned Parenthood has been averted. Yesterday, Congress went to the brink of shutting down the federal government over Planned Parenthood funding and pulled back at the last minute. But the compromise could only be temporary, according to The Washington Post. And of course, there's always the possibility that another political disagreement could lead to a funding impasse in the future and subsequent shutdown.

What is in-house counsel to do when the government shuts down?

When corporations break the law, individuals will be held accountable. That's the gist of a DOJ memo released this month affirming the Department's commitment to pursuing individuals for corporate wrongdoing. (It's almost like the saw the VW emissions fraud coming, or finally learned from years of criticism over their handling of Wall Street rule breaking.)

The so-called Yates memo, named after its author, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, marks a notable change from past practice. It sets out "six key steps" to strengthen the Department's focus on individuals when investigating corporate wrongs. Here are the highlights:

For years, Volkswagen sold millions of cars designed to evade environmental controls. The company installed "defeat device" software which cheated emissions tests and disabled pollution controls when its diesel cars were on the road, allowing them to release 40 times the legal pollution limits. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling environmentalists!

It's safe to say that Volkswagen's emissions fraud has been a complete disaster -- and not just for the environment. VW's weak position in the United States is bound to become even weaker and the company's stock lost almost a quarter of its value. Now VW must recall millions of vehicles, face up to billions in fines, and possibly face criminal prosecution. Here's what you can learn from Volkswagen's debacle.

When it comes to international business, the arm of anti-bribery and corruption laws is long, reaching transactions across the world. And the arms of the law are growing more numerous. It's no longer just America's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that companies have to worry about. Canada and Brazil both have strong anti-bribery laws, while the U.K.'s Bribery Act is stricter than that of any other country. Companies don't need to just worry about themselves, either. Third-parties can open up corporate actors to liability for bribery and corruption violations.

No wonder many companies rank auditing third parties as their number one challenge. A recent survey by KPMG highlights those challenges, showing where companies are falling short in their international anti-bribery and corruption compliance efforts.

Armani has been making headlines recently, but it's not because of New York Fashion Week. Instead, the Italian fashion house is accused of something very unfashionable: discriminating against its general counsel and then firing him when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Fabio Silva, Armani's ex-GC, is currently suing the company for $75 million, claiming he was subject to anti-Mexican discrimination and retaliation when he complained. His suit also claims he was fired just minutes after informing the company he had cancer.

A dancing baby may have just made IP enforcement a bit more difficult. The baby in question, 18 month-old Holden Lenz, was caught bopping to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" in a 29-second YouTube video. When Universal Music Group told his mother to take the video down for copyright infringement, she sued, alleging that the video was clearly protected by fair use and that Universal had illegally misrepresented the law in its notice.

And she won. On Monday, the Ninth Circuit ruled that copyright holders must consider fair use before issuing take down notices, leading to potentially big changes in how companies protect their intellectual property rights.

Here's a simple tip for corporate communications: don't start emails to your team with "Wuddup my n*****." In fact, don't use the "N word" at all. Ever. Especially not when you're working high up in a diversity-starved, struggling tech company.

It's not a hard lesson, but it's one that Yahoo's Jerry Shen failed to learn. Shen worked as a director of engineering and joined Yahoo after his fantasy football app was bought up by the purple, exclamatory tech company. He recently sent an N.W.A.-themed email throughout the company. It started with "Wuddup" and didn't get much better from there. Shen was fired the same day.

Microsoft has a new president and chief legal officer. Brad Smith, the tech company's longtime general counsel, has moved into the C-suite, becoming Microsoft's new prez and CLO. Smith joined Microsoft in 1993, back when the Internet barely existed and photographers could still get Bill Gates to lie seductively across the top of an IBM machine.

Having served as Microsoft's general counsel since 2002, Smith is no stranger to the company's legal troubles. But despite being the legal face of the sometimes aggressive tech giant, Smith is widely known as a diplomat and a thoughtful strategist, having been described as "Microsoft's peacemaker" by The Seattle Times.

Fortune magazine released its annual Most Powerful Women list yesterday. The list surveys 50 successful female business women who represent $1 trillion dollars in stock and include over 27 female CEOs (with a bonus shout out to Taylor Swift).

Sadly, none of the top 50 are lawyers. But all of them have robust legal departments that would make a great home for any ambitious in-house attorney. Here are the top 3 most powerful women in America and an overview of the legal departments that support them: