In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

December 2013 Archives

Top 10 In House Legal Stories of 2013

The end of the year is a time for us to reflect on the issues that resonated with us the most. For In-House readers, those issues entailed compensation and experience of serving as in-house counsel.

Here are the Top Ten In House stories of 2013:

Former Alex and Ani GC Files Wrongful Termination Suit

Robert Rainville, a former general counsel for Alex and Ani, filed a lawsuit against the Rhode Island-based lifestyle brand, claiming wrongful termination in addition to breach of contract with regard to stock and bonuses.

The case is a good reminder for in-house counsel to formalize "perk promises" and to also make work boundaries clear.

Everything You Need to Know About Managing Social Media in 10 Posts

You've got a hefty to-do list, from reviewing your company's non-disclosure agreements to negotiating a licensing agreement for the accounting software. Plus, there's the upcoming push for a beefed-up compliance department.

The last thing on your mind is some twerp's tweet, but as we've seen repeatedly in 2013, social media is going to play an ever-increasing role in your day-to-day life. Updating your policies, quelling online rebellion without irking the NLRB, and protecting your company's brands are just some of the nightmares.

We've seen and covered it all. Here are 10 posts from the past that cover (almost) everything you need to know about managing social media at your company:

EA Slapped With Securities Class Action After Battlefield 4 Flop

To us gamers, Battlefield has long occupied the second-fiddle status to Activision's Call of Duty franchise. Think Pepsi to Coke, market-wise. But Battlefield 4 had a chance to be different. With the release of two new gaming consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, this was a new war altogether, and BF4 was shaping up to be a contender, with 21 awards at the annual E3 tradeshow, including GameSpot's Best of E3 award.

On November 15, the game dropped for the PlayStation 4, both literally and figuratively, and a week later for the Xbox One. Gameplay was plagued with glitches, online play (the core feature of the game) was unreliable, and made worse by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack that crashed the servers.

In retrospect, the game wasn't ready for release. The flaws were so bad that EA had to pull programmers off of other games, and delay other releases, to work on fixing the glitches. This, of course, hurts sales for both BF4 and the other delayed games.

Top 3 PR Lessons From Justine Sacco's Twitter Nightmare

Justine Sacco, a former PR executive at IAC/InterActiveCorp, sparked a firestorm of controversy after posting a joke on Twitter about AIDS in Africa on Friday.

Dubbed "the tweet heard 'round the world," Sacco sent the following message to her 500 followers before she boarded a flight for Cape Town: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" By the time she arrived in South Africa, the tweet had gone viral. Soon after, she was fired.

Here are three PR lessons to learn from the PR executive's Twitter nightmare:

Ex-Skadden Lawyer Wins $28.6M From Xerox GC Ex-Husband for Beating

A Connecticut jury has awarded $28.6 million to the ex-wife of John Michael Farren, a former Bush administration lawyer and general counsel for Xerox Corp. The staggering award came after the jury held Farren liable for her near-fatal beating at their mansion in 2010.

By all appearances, Farren and his wife Mary Margaret Farren had a picture-perfect life. But as the case makes clear, life for the Farrens was anything but an idyllic fantasy.

Kan. Regents' Social Media Policy Flawed, but Not for Free Speech

It all started with an inappropriate tweet by Kansas University Professor David Guth. Understandably upset over the shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, Guth tweeted:

"The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you."

Yeah. A bit of a nightmare, PR-wise, for the board. The professor's tweet appeared to wish death upon the children of NRA members. Guth clarified that he had no such wish, but he was put on leave anyway (and has since returned). Meantime, the Kansas Board of Regents realized that they had no social media policy in place.

Whoops.

FDA Roundup: Antibacterial Soap, ADHD Erections, Food Safety Flop

It's been an even more interesting week than usual in terms of FDA regulations. This week's roundup includes the FDA possibly saying "adios" to antibacterial soap, a warning about painful, long-lasting erections caused by ADD/ADHD medications, and a last-minute backtracking on food production rules promulgated pursuant to the Food Safety Modernization Act.

One of those three topics sounds far more miserable than the other two, eh?

The law department holiday party has come and gone, and executives are starting to leave for the holidays. Don't make your remaining days in the office until the holiday break a waste of time -- use this time wisely to get yourself organized for the new year.

Organization and planning are often over-looked as time suckers but in reality, they are just as important, if not more important than the handling of your day-to-day tasks. Take some time at year end to bring 2013 to a close, and prep for 2014.

As company executives start to take time off away from the office, take these not-so-busy days ahead to set new goals for 2014. The key to achieving your goals, is to set realistic expectations (think: under-promise, over-deliver).

In addition to looking at the end result, create a plan for getting there -- you need to plan all the little baby steps in between. Here are the top five resolutions you can make as in-house counsel for an even more productive (and profitable) 2014.

1 in 5 Americans Has Been Injured on the Job: FindLaw Survey

More than one in five Americans say they have been injured on the job, a new survey from FindLaw.com reveals. Balking at the idea that injuries are limited to manufacturing and construction work, the survey results show that traditional workplaces are rife with potential hazards.

The survey's findings serve as a worker's compensation wake-up call for in-house counsel.

Steven Fabrizio, a veteran attorney in the entertainment industry, is taking his work in content protection to new heights as he has accepted a position as senior executive vice president and global general counsel of the Motion Picture Association of America, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Recognized "as one of the preeminent copyright and content protection lawyers in the country," Fabrizio has represented the MPAA as lead outside counsel as a partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Jenner & Block.

This Week in FDA Regulations: 23andMe, Drugs, Antibiotics in Meat

It's been awhile since our last FDA round-up, so there's plenty to talk about.

Selling genetics tests without prior FDA approval? That's a paddlin'. And speaking of FDA approval, two drugs recently approved by the agency, one for Hepatitis C, and one for pain, are receiving opposite reactions from the public. And finally, antibiotic-free meat production may in our nation's future. Maybe.

Curious? Read on.

If you have eyes and ears, then you've probably seen, heard about, or wasted many hours of your life playing Angry Birds. Well, you're not alone. Rovio Entertainment Ltd., the owners of the Angry Birds trademark, said that its games have been downloaded over 1 billion times, with 3.33 million hours per day wasted on mindless Angry Bird gaming.

Angry All Around

So, with such a valuable trademark to protect, when it found out about Angry Clubs, a golf equipment company, with a logo curiously evocative of the Angry Birds trademark, Rovio sued to protect its assets.

Subtle Age Discrimination: Is Your Company Engaging in It?

With aging baby boomers getting pushed out of their jobs early, age discrimination claims with the EEOC are up a staggering 38%, according to new statistical data compiled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Last year, 22,857 people filed age-related complaints with the EEOC, compared with 16,548 in 2006.

For in-house counsel, the data begs the question: Is your company engaging in subtle age discrimination without even realizing it?

In a decisive move, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, of the New York Court of Appeals announced a rule change that affects in-house attorneys, and their ability to do pro bono work, reports The New York Times. And we're left wondering, will other states follow suit?

The New Rule

The New York rule allows attorneys who are not admitted to the NY Bar, but who work in corporate law departments in the state, to do pro bono work. The sole requirements are that the attorney is admitted to another state bar, and in good standing, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Chief Judge Lippman stated: "These are some of the best most talented lawyers in our state, and in our country ... So many of them are not necessarily from New York or admitted here, but yet their corporations are committed to the work," reports The Wall Street Journal.

Innovation Act Passes House: What it Does, Doesn't Do

That Innovation Act we talked about back in October? It just passed, 325-91 in the House. It's expected to have support in the Senate and White House as well, so if your company ever deals with IP or patents, this is a law worth getting acquainted with.

What does H.R. 3309 do? Stomps patent trolls. Somewhat. Fee-shifting, delayed discovery, heightened pleading, true owner transparency, and pinch-hitting for customers in litigation are all included in the bill. Read on for the fine points.

#BringBackMiles: You Need Twitter Accounts for All Company Brands

Pace Salsa really is the best. Hot Pace Picante? Mmmm ... so good.

It also has (had?) a Twitter account: @Pace_Foods, which stirred up quite the controversy over the weekend. Kyle Kinane, a stand-up comedian, noticed that a ten-month old tweet, accusing the company of using homophobic advertising, was favorited by @Pace_Foods, and responded to with, "GRAB THE SOUTHWEST BY THE BOTTLE."

Kinane tweeted back. Same response. So he did it again, and again, with each anti-Pace tweet being favorited and responded to with the ALL-CAPS command. What followed was insane: direct messages from company employees, a firing (#BringBackMiles), an unfiring, a company saboteur trying to get a fellow employee fired, and of course, free salsa appearing on the comedian's doorstep.

Here's the kicker: neither Pace, nor its parent company Campbell's, was involved. It was all a prank, reports The Huffington Post.

In mid-November a photo of a sign at Burger King that stated, "Now hiring must be Mexican" went viral -- and not in a good way. Burger King quickly replied by issuing a statement explaining that it was an old photo that was taken by a disgruntled employee; they also noted that it happened at a location owned by a franchisee, but was assured that the employee was "immediately terminated as a result."

KFFM, a Washington radio station, posted the photo and took a survey asking if the sign was offensive. At the height of the controversy, about 82% of respondents found the sign offensive according to Latina, but at the time of this writing, about 54% found the sign offensive. That may have everything to do with how Burger King reacted.

'Giving Tuesday': 5 Ways Your Company Can Participate

Move over "Movember," hello "Giving Tuesday." The spirit of generosity is in full swing -- just with less stubble. That's right, the second annual #GivingTuesday is today.

For those of you who can't keep your hashtag events straight, #GT is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the season of charity. It falls on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The general idea is to balance your "getting" with "giving."

To make the most of your company's #GivingTuesday, keep these tips in mind:

Breaking News! GCs make a ton of money. We can hear you now: "Tell us something we don't know!"

Yes, it's not polite to talk about money. But we're a lawyer site, and um, we'll, let's just say you all are not in this job because you love dealing with annoying problems and clients. Or not entirely. So let's get to it. How much are GCs really making off with today?