In House

In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Some have criticized President Barack Obama's immigration plan as unconstitutional. Others argue that it doesn't go far enough.

But for most people, the bottom line is the bottom line. Instead of pondering politics, they are wondering if the immigration overhaul, and other efforts that have been tossed around Congress, will help or hurt their company. On the one hand, you'd think that a higher supply of labor could only be good for businesses. But for some industries, the ideal immigration solution lies somewhere between open doors and bigger fences at the borders.

Take a look at the tech industry, for example.

Microsoft, like many companies, allegedly uses a complex web of overseas subsidiaries to shield itself from U.S. taxes. This is accomplished through "transfer pricing," which allows subsidiaries of the same company to buy and sell with each other in a way that maximizes profit for the parent company.

The IRS is none too pleased with all this and has begun to audit companies' transfer prices. Well, Microsoft is none too pleased with that, and filed a complaint in federal court yesterday to get the IRS to disclose transfer pricing documents.

America is still murmuring about Emil Michael, the Uber executive who developed a case of foot-in-mouth disease at a dinner party last week. BuzzFeed reported that Michael wanted to create a team within Uber to dig up dirt on journalists critical of the ridesharing service and publicly embarrass them.

That went about as well as you'd expect, with angry customers claiming they'd deleted the app and Senator Al Franken asking more questions about what Uber does with all of that private data.

So what's a company to do?

Apple was hit with a $23.6 million loss in federal court on Tuesday, with a ruling that the tech company infringed on five patents owned by Mobile Telecommunications Technologies (MTel).

According to Inside Counsel, the Texas federal court found that Apple infringed on five of MTel's two-way pager network patents from the '90s by using MTel's tech in its iPhones and "other devices." So iPads and iPods? In any case, Apple has to pay up for six years of patent infringement.

How did Apple lose this patent case when it has won so many others?

The potential legal pitfalls of a company's social media presence are matched only by the seemingly endless variety of social media platforms about which to worry.

Facebook and Twitter should certainly be in your wheelhouse by now, but you may or may not be familiar with Instagram, a mobile-based video and photo sharing platform. Even if you're not entirely up to speed on social networking, you may remember Instagram as the company Facebook purchased in 2012 for a cool $1 billion.

Despite being owned by Facebook, Instagram is still operated as a stand-alone social network. As such, it has its own set of potential issues for general counsel to be aware of. Like what? Here are three things to watch out for on your company's Instagram profile:

When you're the CEO of a new company, when is the time to sell your shares and make some actual cash? The answer is probably "not very soon" -- at least not so soon that it looks like there's some impropriety.

Case in point: Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, the company that makes those Facebook games where you grow pumpkins or mine diamonds, or something. Thanks to some questionable conduct, some of Zynga's directors are in Delaware Chancery Court.

In 2005, Halliburton hired Anthony Menendez to be the Director of Technical Accounting Research and Training in the Finance and Accounting department. Menendez trained field accountants and monitored accounting issues. A few months after he was hired, he reported to his boss, the Chief Accounting Officer (CAO), that some of Halliburton's accounting practices deviated from Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

You'll recall that back in September, Judge Carl Barbier laid out a comprehensive, 153-page order filled with 111 pages of facts that concluded BP was grossly negligent in the operation of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, leading to the largest marine oil spill in history.

BP petitioned Barbier to reconsider his finding of gross negligence (after being caught manipulating the line spacing to get more words into a brief). In a November 13 order, Barbier declined to amend his giant order.

This meant the end of Conde Nast's internship programs. As part of a massive wave of unpaid/underpaid intern lawsuits, you have to wonder if this will mean more large corporations will wise up and stop offering illegal internships.

Conde Nast just squashed the beef in a class action brought by former interns, agreeing to fork over $5.8 million to put the suit behind them. The class includes roughly 7,500 ex-interns who worked at Vogue, Vanity Fair, and other similar publications, reports Capital New York.

The settlement is a bit of a surprise: We didn't see a whole lot of legal maneuvering before the rumors of a settlement swirled earlier this year, and similarly exploited (ahem, allegedly exploited) interns from Hearst Magazines had their class decertified. Conde Nast must have decided that $5.8 million was a small price to pay to avoid the litigation and public relations nightmare.

The Fair Labor Standards Act exempts "highly compensated employees" from overtime requirements. So what qualifies as "highly compensated"? And what's the difference between a salary and a stipend? Technical questions, to be sure, but ones that have a huge impact on determining whether an employee is entitled to overtime.

The First Circuit answered these questions earlier this month in Litz v. The Saint Consulting Group.